Wednesday, 24 February 2010

different drummers

I'm getting so excited now about the second album.

I'm off over to Ireland in March to do a Showcase for IMRO in Belfast, but I will also be going into the studio to record the live drums for the next album. This is going to be a first for me as I have never worked with a live drummer before. It's gonna be an experience I think. I'm so used to building beats synthetically by now that it will be difficult to hand over the duty to another person, but the songs that are coming out just now really need that gristle running through them.

On drumming duty is Alan (another one) from LaFaro, who are also signed to STA. I'm so fucking excited to be working with Alan as the drums on the LaFaro tracks are mind bending. I'm not sure whats going to happen really but it's going to be really enlightening to work with someone who properly knows about beats and maybe doesn't see them as geometrically as me. The thing about working electronically is that, especially in midi, everything is square and graphic and it is hard to break that convention, to move away from the longitude and latitude of the grid and view sounds as animals.

The beats on Warpsichord were pretty formulaic and loop based, which worked for the theme of the album, but things have to get a little bit more weird from here on out. the howl is getting deeper, the synths dirtier and, hopefully, the beats more primal.

so Yeah, Alan from LaFaro is going to teach me things and lend me his mind for a few days this March.

Lookee Lookee:

Also! Another new thing for this album, I'm going to lend out some vocal duties. I've never written a duet until now, well, actually, I did write a terrible duet when I was younger called Bite the Apple for me and Siobhan Donaghy. No one will ever hear this song. EVER. I really want this new one to be a departure from the last and one way to achieve this is to be less greedy. So I will be working with two surprise vocalists for this album. The tracks will turn up somewhere if not on the album proper, then somewhere down the line, but it's gonna be lots of fun to try things out. I'm booking some Can Can girls too.

This one has come around really quickly actually. Just when I thought I would never write another song and writing another album seemed like a fictional hope, loads and LOADS of new material came spinning out. and I think its quite good. What the critics will say is something I can't think about at this point. Some people were really nice about Warpsichord and some didn't like it, which is bound to happen. I hope to fuck they will like this one though.

That Carter woman is making a huge impression on me at the moment so there will be a lot of her in there, Alan Moore too and some Norse mythology. It's gonna be a big mixed assortment of magical realism i hope and to ensure that it works I am saluting all the magpies i see and enquiring after their families.

The IMRO show is on the 25th of March at somewhere in Ireland that I don't know yet, but I will update of course.

And the next item on my agenda is the second single from Warpsichord; Green Tea. This is going to come as a sort of special edition 2 CD set. and it is SO COOL! basically, there will be disc one, which will have the single Edit (minus fucks) an alternate version of the track and four new tracks which have never been released anywhere before! thats exciting, and it will come as a download from iTunes and a limited edition physical release. Disc 2 is going to have a whole different set of things. First, you will have the Green Tea video, made by Stuart Sandford ( ) which is reaaaaaalllllly sexy and naughty, and five remixes from some really talented and lovely people. This is going to be solely a physical release and will be extremely limited edition, so you will have to snap this up if you want it. I hope you will enjoy this package, it's taken a long time and a lot of effort from people to make it really stunning, it's gonna be worth it.

Speak soon.

Be Good.


Thursday, 24 December 2009

It comes this once a year...

Merry Christmas my friends.

This has been a really good year really in summation.

I'm spending Christmas Eve reading 1984 and wrapping presents, while occasionally running to the computer to organize a beat or two.

I am so excited about the music thats coming at the moment, and very excited also to be mixing it where I'm going to mix it. Also terribly excited about who I'm going to be working with on this record. It's dark though, guys. But I think it has to be. Warpsichord was such a colourful camp little record, the next one has to be a marauding monochrome.

I hope you all get everything you want from Santee Clause.

Much Love to everyone.



Sunday, 20 December 2009

Warpsichord Release

The first reviews are coming in for Warpsichord which came out on Friday.

MOstly they have been good, one magazine did a nice bit on it, an Irish Radio Station and the Irish newspaper have been less kind, but still warm. I want to say that it's like sending your children out into the world but it's not like that at all. I have lived with these songs for a long time now, sometimes I forget bits of them or forget the meaning behind a lyric or how I made a certain arrangement and I have to go back and remind myself through the reopening of files or the rereading of diaries.

I'm really glad that it is out now because it has allowed me to divorce from it entirely now. This may sound a negative attitude, but I don't think it is really. As I said, Warpsichord took a long time to come to term, it's gestation stretching over nearly two years from initial writing to release and in that time I did come to feel shackled to it. Performing the same songs at shows, listening to them over and over during the mix and speaking to people about them, I think i had a version of post natal dysphoria. I needed a hefty dialysis and certain events towards the end of this year have allowed me to put it in the ground, not in burial but in the hopes that it might grow unattended. And actually, this funereal action has reinvigorated my interest in the project. I can talk about it with some distance now, listening to the songs from an outsiders viewpoint.

And I never want to hear the Captain America Video again. We listened to it about a million times when shooting the video and i have anxiety when i hear those chords now.

So, the next step in the marathon for this album is the release of the second official, but third unofficial single. This is going to be Green Tea, and I have some remixes in the works for this by some of my favourite people. There are to be some new songs for B-Sides as well. There will be a fourth, but i don't want to say what it is yet. Two videos are in the pipeline, made by some brilliant directors and I'm excited about them.

Work is underway on the new album too. It has about three different titles at the moment, two are strong possibilities. It may end up with a dual title in the Shakespearean fashion, and at the rate the songs are being born it may very well end up as a double album.

I'm reading my old favourite again, Mrs Carter, and I'm enjoying how her potency is bleeding through into my lyrics. Things have gone very dark for me recently, musically and lyrically speaking and I feel like much more of a narrator at this point than a protagonist. I think this time around the stories are going to be a little bit more magical and less reality-based. I'm revisiting old songs and turning them upside down to view them from underneath. It can be quite enlightening to analyze an old set of words and write an answer to them years down the line. I'm a much different person to who I was when I began writing, and while I'm not sure if this is a positive increment; it's certainly significant.

What I would like to do is take the first album and place it at the end of a long range telescope, far into the galaxy, spinning at a million miles an minute until an aureole forms, and then take parts of the halo and respin them. These new webs will form the second album, the darker echos from the edges of it's grandstanding older/younger brother. Pretentious, I know, but I also know that this is what I want.

If you haven't bought the first record, then I hope that you do. I want to make the next one as interesting as I can for you.

Friday, 11 September 2009

Origin of the Howl

"When you close your eyes is it hell that you see?"

("Ghost" from Ginger Snaps Unleashed)

In The Dark Half by Stephen King, Thad Beaumont; an author, keeps a stock of two fully complete but unpublished manuscripts in a vault, so that in the event of writers block a publishing deadline can be met. Its a book I enjoyed to a point, but donated to a friend twenty pages before the end. I just didn't care anymore, I had suffered with it for a long time and my heart just wasn't in it. But the concept of a secret cache of material to be called upon in an emergency is really interesting.

I went through a lot of my old files on my main computer tonight. sifting through for fragments that weren't all THAT bad, and maybe weren't finished as a result of poor timekeeping or a more polished idea being born.

When I am working on a new piece I very rarely come up with its title at the inception point. Its usually much later when the libretto is skeletoned that the title raises its head. As such, most of these files were given nonsense names. Messes of consonants; achieved by mashing the keyboard in a hurry, not fully formed enough to even earn an epithet. I'd mourn for these abortions, but as I learned tonight, some of them deserved better.

I'm resurrecting a few pieces that lacked vocals in their neoteny. I've found pieces of processed trumpet blown by my own small lips, and scars of untrained violin reverbed into significance. Splattering beats chopped and arranged salad style around thudding guitar. I'm quite pleasantly surprised by the songs my mind condemned.

One piece though, innocuously named "fleer" was particularly pregnant. I opened it and not knowing what it was pressed play. What I heard was my voice carrying a moan that I cannot even parody now, and of which I have no memory. Under all the layers of delay and reverb flooding the base vocal, there was still a haunting, not entirely friendly sound.

It reminded me of the video they find aboard the Event Horizon.

About a year ago, I was on some pretty heavy duty medications which affected my concentration and more notably my memory. My creative fires were also doused and it was, all in all, a mostly grey time. A smudge. I think this recording must have been done during that time. It would be indulgent to try to forensically pick apart its archeology, but the Howl was so alien I feel I need to play detective.

I'm not going to interpolate it into any future music, because its too stupid and emotional to be walking. But it gets me thinking about how we make music. The initial melody comes and after that we blend and chop and simmer harmonies and dissonances and rhythms to complement or destroy that original fragment. But where does that initial idea come from? Whether you pick it out on a piano or scream it into a dictaphone, that collection of notes has come from somewhere. Although it would be nice, its probably not a message from another dimension, beamed into our heads and spat out in tongues not our own. There is a possibility that it comes from something which mathematics cannot claim, some primal urge to raise the tone and lower it. Perhaps the vibrations that sound causes in out bodies leads us to change frequencies or quicken pace. Some of my favourite musical moments are the ones where music SHOULD be but isn't, and that sudden silence leaves me panting for the continuation. (Kim Hiorthoys Melke album has plenty of evidence of this) Perhaps the way to music is to shut off the sense of society we have earned. Give into the mammalian urges to grunt and roar and see what happens. Cut the cord. Cut the Chord. Songs can come after, but for that instance of conception it may be that we have to get really dirty and uncivilized. Like sex. To create a life, first you must degrade yourself and become victim to your own urge.

So picture me, scratching the ground with my hoof, snarling and being the monster disregarding all the civility that life has impressed upon me. barking into the microphone, bellowing my Wampum prayer and giving myself over to the self inside.

Which is fine until I close my eyes......

Thursday, 10 September 2009

Jessica Drew

Jessica Drew, like Firestar and X-23, was created for television outside of the Marvel Universe proper. Apparently a rival company began developing a cartoon series called Spider-Woman, obviously derived from Spider-MAN. So Marvel rushed into action and created a Spider-Woman of their own, hastily copyrighting the moniker to put a halt to the rival. And so Jessica Drew, the first official Spider-Woman was born.

I've had a long standing affection for Jessica, and was beside myself when i began collecting again a few years ago to find that Bendis was steadily feeding her back to the world. She was big in the seventies and had her own series then which ran for about fifty issues I think, which is pretty good going. BMB brought her back to the forefront of the collective Marvel mind, much as he did with Ms. Marvel in House of M, and has made her one of the most intriguing characters in the MU today.

Its so heartening to recognize this resurrection. Its one of the things that really excites me about comics and there rolling continuity. A character can seem throwaway and unimportant in their first incarnation, and all it takes is a talented writer to remember them and endorse their relevance with retroactive continuity. A fantastic example of this is the issue of The Sandman which deals with Element Girl. A female analogue of Metamorpho who I had never heard of before reading this series with the ability to transform her body into the various constituent elements of creation. Magnesium, hydrogen, she is an elective shapeshifter whose transmutable body can survive discorporation and dissection, and who is immune to poisons and radiation. Which is a wonderful power, virtual immortality. She comments that she fears she could even survive ground zero. If you want to die, however, you have a problem. This story by Gaiman brings Urania Blackwell out of the obscurity typically bestowed upon female counterparts of established male heroes and tells a heartbreaking story about depression and suicidality. It's a great metaphor, it doesn't necessarily take immortality to render you incapable of self harm. Our human instinct for self-preservation can sometimes be a glorious default but at times a painful obstacle. 

I didn't realize that Element Girl had a wealth of comic appearances in more mainstream adventures before this story. And it was exciting to discover that superheroes fuck up and find themselves fucked up. All those times when your memory deludes you that you USED to be this or USED to be that; but are no longer, the pining for the person you were once and things you could have done before is mirrored in Element Girl. She USED to be a heavy hitter and now she hides agoraphobically in the haven of her apartment waiting for the girl with black hair to arrive. Its the bittersweet illumination that people are only human. The two Dark Knight series by Frank Miller show an ageing and disagreeable cast of superheroes, fractured Supermen, Women of Wonder and BatMen. The grizzly bear of Bruce Wayne gurns and bitches his way in a changed world and adapts by using bigger guns and enforcing a zero tolerance mantra. 

And of course, The Dark Knight film brought to the world of cynics a seedier more hopeless version of the Caped Crusader, a man who has everything to lose and is in fact, just a man. The formerly comically naughty Joker is now replaced with a man suffering psycho/sociopathic mental illness. 

This doesn't need to be a depressing phenomenon though. Quite opposite in tone is the moment in Alias when Spider-Woman, formerly freewheeling darling of seventies California visits private eye Jessica Jones apartment, shocks her with a venom blast and states: "Listen up, bitchcakes. I'm Jessica Drew and what you just got a faceful of was my spider-bite. Where the fuck is Mattie Franklin?" GOD! such a FINE moment. Not that cursing denotes maturity or an evolution of the character necessarily, but it suggests a significant departure from her earlier personality. I was ecstatic! It singled Drew out as a grown up superhero, full of the tics and fractures we familiarize with as human beings. She says 'fuck', she probably fucks even, she probably smokes and has anxiety attacks. Its amazing to marry this to the character i grew up loving. 

And it just grows from there. Bendis allied her with the Avengers, albeit a New Avengers, grittier and darker and, consequently; far more relevant than the traditional Avengers. From there he forced her through the humiliation of being revealed as a double or triple agent, the ostracism this caused in the Civil War and finally the revelation that all these things happened to an imposter. Thats right; The Jessica Drew we have been speaking of since those immortal curses in Jones' apartment (presumably, the actual diary of events remains unclear) was not Jessica Drew. 

Veranke was a Skrull queen, the skrulls being familiar shapeshifting antagonists in the Marvel Universe since the early sixties. The Skrulls are  again party to stark and modernist revisions, casting them as a serious equivalent to real life terrorists rather than the comical rubberfaces they were in earlier issues. Jessica Drew was replaced by Veranke at some point in history and it turns out that under this guise Veranke has led a secret invasion of the earth, resulting in a huge catastrophic showdown in New York where she announces her plans to colonize earth. The earth doesn't see Veranke though, they see a demented Spider-Woman announcing invasion. 

From the end of the invasion Drew is in exile. The world doesn't trust her and she is returned to an earth she too cannot trust. And I couldn't be happier. As her solo series begins anew, we are going to be met with a Spider-Woman who is vicious and angry and raped and bitter. A Lady Snowblood on a Tarantino-esque mission of vengeance. Its like Tom snapping and pulling a knife on Jerry or submitting him to electro shock therapy. The status quo is rocked and everything is changing. Which is exactly how I like it!

I don't think the medium of comics is credited with enough importance, whats sad is when people associate seminal works with the Beano or other frivolous publications. Watchmen was listed as one of the top fifty novels of the 20th century by Time Magazine, Maus won the Pulitzer. These are two seperate worlds. And some of the comics coming out at the moment are so rich in characterization and social comment, some of the things I read are as important to my mind as great works of literature. I challenge you to remain unchilled by the Generation M miniseries, or flaccid before the blood spatter of X-Force. 

I can talk about comics forever, I wrote my dissertation at University on the subject, and I think I'll probably write a lot more about them in the future.

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Wookey and his Shields.

My friend Michael Wookey is finishing his third album. I've known Michael for a while now and my love for him just about balances the fierce jealousy I harbour of his musical gifts.

A few years back a friend gave me a copy of Michael's second album, beautifully titled "You Shield Me from Darkness". It must have been winter at the time, because everytime I hear these songs I have frost on my memory and woolen jumpers embracing my frame. In my technological retardation, the album I have starts with the marauding slur of Keep a Promise rather than the correct lead of I Can Show You Things, and its a song that I find so nourishing. Its typical of its brothers and sisters in the gorgeous chaos of instrumentation, but this patient tells a story not only in words and chord progressions, but also in tone and intent. The spoken count in at the songs alpha and the sombre drone that follows is a theatrical leveling. It widens the eyes, this lacuna of murmur which lasts only seconds until the falling xylophone provides the true genesis, but its this little segue; marking the transition from loaded silence to majestic procession which tickles me. 

Michael is guilty of creating little shanty towns in his songs. Little one act plays with beginnings middles and ends and all the intrigue and event of a rich local history. If sounds were transferrable to the written word these songs would be Dylan Thomas. And there is something very Under Milkwood-y about this album. The characters in Michael's sonic legion are thick with folklore and triumphs and failures. Each song boasts a congregation of sonics, parishioners with dark secrets beneath the floorboards and live skeletons in various closets.

Just as you come to grips with the haunting theremin, grizzled vocal and maudlin sense that something here is really paralyzing, the townsfolk collect and gather round a campfire for the chorus. The depersonalization and seclusion of the verse is replaced by a swinging romance of hope. He choirs his voice as omega draws near and the effect is prayer like. Sanguine is sought after and received as we fade out. There's more than music here, note that I didn't say JUST music, its evident from You Shield Me From Darkness that Michael Wookey is a novelist. And a good one.

I was talking to Mike about my green at the way he works tonight. The difference between us is that Michael truly creates the sounds you hear, through a family of seasoned and mutated instruments he has adopted and birthed over his career. HIs paternity over every ping and crash is in no doubt and is proven by the intimate performance only a father could achieve. 

Michael lives in Paris with his wonderful lady Laura-Jeanne, speaking french and performing his arias for the people of France. I'm so envious of Michael I could literally die. The otherworldliness of is creations is quantified by his fearless residency in a foreign country. I'm eager to experience the beautiful solitude of being surrounded by people but hearing nothing. Well, not HEARING nothing, but perhaps not comprehending anything. Its difficult enough to concentrate on absence of thought, the haven for creatives, in this country with everyone blithering and intruding on my cipher. And I love to hear people talking. Listening to conversations can be exhilarating and informative, and also as pleasurable as symphonies. The lilting dissonances and impulsive changes of pitch and timbre. But at times you need a white noise to find the pebble in the cave. 

Michael speaks far better french than I could imagine, but it must be wonderful to hear people talking and not have to hear what they are saying. 

As well as covetousness; I am suffused with an immense pride and sense of privilege to know Michael personally. After disconnecting from skype tonight, following a conversation with Mike, I took myself outside to indulge my need to fog my lungs and listened to Keep A Promise again. 

Someday I am going to sit down with him, perhaps; if I am lucky, in Paris, and talk about this song and the stories it tells me. 

You should talk to Michael too.

Monday, 7 September 2009

The importance of reading a book

I'm writing again, which is a huge relief. 

After finishing what is probably my seventh Angela Carter book, I am suffused with a level of creativity I had thought impossible. One of my Dad's friends, a lyricist, said once that words were like cats: they come when they want to. Which is exactly the same with music. I have tried for the best part of a year to write something leading enough to turn into an album. Something with enough of a comet tail to steer my spaceship into the next quadrant.

Wise Children got the ball rolling. When I read this I remembered how liberating fiction could be. A notion that is strange for me to forget seeing as I am surrounded by fiction everyday. Nora and Dora Chance were the two slutty old ladies who got my pen hand wriggling again, but it was Fevvers who sent it shooting out of the cannon. Fitting, what with her wings and all. 

I've written a garden of lyrics and poems informed by Angela Carter's canon in the past few weeks. And I realize that without novels and stories, music is just noise. 

For Warpsichord, i took a lot of inspiration from classical horror and science fiction. The God Song and Cuckoos were direct reflections of John Wyndham (Chocky and Midwich Cuckoos respectively) and Franks Monster was plainly Shelley. Also present were the tones of Marvel Comics, which I have collected and obsessed over since my childhood, when one Sunday afternoon i travelled back from London on a train with my brother and filled my mind with his What If story featuring Phoenix of the X-Men. 

Its probably really cheeky, but when i read a story or identify with a character so completely I am compelled to absorb them and turn them into actors in my own story. Not necessarily rewrite their story, but put it into my own flourished and overtly camp words. When i wrote Hawkeye, I was writing about a couple of things, most plainly; Clint Barton of the Avengers and, perhaps more covertly, about a terrible relationship I just about survived with my skin still on. I whored Barton to my purposes, and I feel a little guilty for it. 

I get a funny feeling in my stomach when i think of all the books and comic books I haven't read yet. Music and literature are the only two things in this world that thicken my blood. And they are essentially two ends of the same piece of string. My ideal eternity would be me and a computer and some instruments and a horde of books. As long as I could dwindle the hours until twilight with singing till i bled and reading till my eyes melted I would be happy. I could cope with nihilism, I could weather apocalypse if i could sing and read. For all my fear of old age and the certainty i harbour that old age is something I will not see, I would relish the opportunity to indulge my interests in my end days.

Generally, in the past I thought the only relevant song was one that conveyed a message of import. I would lace my songs with hidden barbs of 'morality'; in inverted commas because my notions of morality are heavily flawed and immature, feeling that there was no point unless a political perspective was announced. I think in my neotonous mind I was trying to make myself in the image of protestors I had nothing in common with. I never marched for Pride, I never survived a blitzkrieg or held my breath. It's only now in this current equinox (soon to be eclipsed by greater knowledge no doubt) that i come to my senses and see that a song is a story. A political view is served by fable and a moral missive is issued by folklore and myth. 

I don't think I'll ever be able to parody a politic. I'm too uneducated at this lofty age of 27, I'm too muddy in the mind to strike a philosophical question to its core; Sartre makes sense until I forget the terminology and I am too cowardly for atheism. 

In many ways; to survive, I need NOT to know things, because the result is wonder. A quality far too lacking in our society, too lost in its literal slavery. It's not that I believe Fevvers stories or wish upon poor departed Carter an intangible and invisible position as narrator. 

I don't need to believe in God or aliens, but the potential is so inspiring.