Music and music-related blog

Posts tagged “The Drill Sergeant

February News

So, with the inevitability and predictability of an out-of-control lorry, I have changed my mind again about how to proceed with these ‘as yet unreleased tracks’. To whit, unreleased tracks are usually unreleased for a reason. I wrote about Intelligent Fast Failure a while back, well this is Stupid Slow Failure. So, it might have taken a few months of dancing around the obvious, but I got there in the end. 

There’s something of the famine road about these posts; a few words on one course of action, a few words a few weeks later on why that course of action was madness, and back and forth… Never going anywhere though. Hum. Just as well I’m such an amazing procrastinator or I’d do all sorts of stupid things. Blah.

Oh, hang on, I’m playing on Cooking by Candlelight next week. That’ll be nice.

8 p.m. till 10 p.m. on

Gigs and artistic ego

A few years ago, back in the early days just after ‘Cusp’ had been released, I was being interviewed, and the interviewer mentioned Kate Bush and how she preferred to work in studio rather than playing live. And what did I think of gigging? ‘Oh yeah, I love it, it’s my favourite part of this.’ ‘So, you’re an exhibitionist?’ Eh. Hm. I was a bit taken aback, and the talk moved on then, but the (half not joking) comment stayed with me. I suppose the charge of exhibitionism can be levelled at musicians more than other ‘creative types’, especially musicians performing their own work, but in true esprit d’escalierI have thought of an answer now.

There’s a showbiz cliché that the audience are as important as the performer(s). Before I started gigging, I used think this was the most cringey phoniness and false humility, but now I wholeheartedly agree with it. A gig is a collective experience and a good, moving or memorable one doesn’t rise or fall on the walking disaster of emotions and bodily functions onstage (i.e. the billed act), but on the atmosphere and the collective emotional space that everyone there creates (I can’t believe I just wrote that. Writing how you talk is tricky. Ah well).

When you work alone, motivation doesn’t always come easily, especially with the spectre of ‘will anyone actually listen to this?’ hanging over you. A quick glance on Bandcamp, Mixcloud, Soundcloud, Spotify, et-bloody-cetera will apprise you of the fact that thousands, literally thousands, of albums are released, or ‘put up’ every day, outside of the ‘proper’ music industry of big and small record labels, physical releases, and all that old-fashioned stuff. 8800 albums today on Bandcamp alone, and counting (as I write, it’s midday in New York), and that’s not taking into account the songs, demos, mixtapes that find a home/outlet on another music-delivery service, or the thousands (millions?) of people worldwide who write, play and record in their bedrooms (and probably also wonder ‘will anyone actually listen to this?’).

For me, music is about communication, and now, with the sole exception of playing a gig, my (music-related) communication exists online, as does most of my musical consumption. Yes, it’s wonderful, and so cheap it’s nearly free, and sooo convenient and all of that. But I’ve never been moved to tears by convenience, and I frequently am at gigs (not my own!), because of this elusive and beautiful atmosphere and collective emotional space that everyone there creates, not to mention the music that has brought everyone there.

Hands up, I like when my (music) work is valued. God knows, there’s no financial validation, so a round of applause is nice as a substitute. But (another cliché that is also true), music makes me happy, and sometimes when playing, I see (or imagine, with my massive and delusional ego) that someone on the other side of the DI box breaks into a smile. On bad days, that’s just my ego, salving my conscience, doing loop-de-loops of self-deception to ascribe good motives to the self-absorbed and self-indulgent path I’m on. ‘More claps! More cheers! Throw roses at me!!!’ On good days, I’m trying to do something positive, make nice music, and explore and/or work through elements of ‘the human condition'(gawd!). I’ve struggled with the two ends of the false spectrum of ‘making yourself happy’ and ‘making others happy’ (still do and probably always will), but my rational brain tells me that this spectrum is a huge over-simplification.

So, yeah, onwards. Back to work.

‘GAPS’ – previously unreleased tracks

Thrilling news! I begin recording tomorrow on an EP of previously unreleased material. Probably album length, but not cohesive enough to be classed as an album. Blah. It is kind of exciting, for a sad sack like me; these unfinished… bits… have been kind of bothering me for a while. Anyway, onwards.

More exciting than that (if that is possible), is that the previous month of ‘shaking up the head and exploring the process of writing’ (gawd!) has been instructive, enlightening, and useful. I think I need to trick my brain into not realising what I’m doing. That brain, bloody know-it-all, always making a nuisance of itself. 



Trying to shake the head up a bit with La Música. It’s always a dilemma; ‘Am I taking too long on this? Or should I spend more time?’ Writing lyrics can take blemmin ages, depending on what you’re trying to write about. Improvisation is great, and magic can happen in a matter of minutes, but knowing where to progress to (or if progression is even necessary) is usually a bit more tricky.

For the last few weeks I’ve been trying to produce (as in, create, as opposed to ‘silky smooth production’. That is a challenge for another day) a lot of varied…stuff. Messes mainly. The dreaded over-thinking always rears its over-thinking head though.

Luckily I live with an expert in ‘throwing ideas at the wall at a hundred-and-ten miles an hour’ and there is something to be said for getting less precious about it. Not everything has to be perfect. If you don’t know what to do, do something you’ve never done before. Intelligent Fast Failure is a…hmmm…kind of a ‘creative philosophy’ (I dunno what else you’d call it); the more you experiment, try, fail, and try again, the greater your chances of hitting on ‘X’. So the ‘faster’ and more ‘intelligently’ you fail, the less time you’re going to waste going round and round in circles, all perspective hopelessly lost. 

Making an advanced sketch of a track in two/three sessions. Making three rough sketches in an hour. Useful and absolutely terrifying concepts. 

I may be gone some time.

Whatchoo readin’ fawr?

For this reason! Learnin me some proper production and mastering ting. It’s all a bit of grey fog, still. No more, I tells ya.

Mel did a fantastic FANTASTIC job with “Echo”, and she’s mastering “Below The Sea” as we speak. Her ear is impeccable, clear as day when you listen to her own music too.

She’s based in Brighton now with her fella Herv. Keep an eye and an ear peeled for the two of them.

Gig this Saturday, more waffle

I’m playing in SARC in Belfast this Saturday. Yeow! First gig of 2011. Back to the old sod for a week and a bit too. I’m getting a loan of an electric cello for the night.

On Tuesday, I’ve one last day in the studio (I hope!) to dot all the I’s and cross all the T’s. As for the release, in the words of Homer Simpson, “Can’t somebody else do it?” So I’m making some demo CDs with partial artwork, and away they fly to “the most eligible record labels”. Whoever and wherever they are.


The countdown begins now for the move over to Eindhoven. Eeekkk. Oh yes, it’s exciting (what, living in the same country as my boyfriend!?), but new language, new country, new home, finding work, the prospect of a lotta push push push before there’s a whiff of a gig or anything of the sort. “Comfort-zone” is one of these snappy buzz-phrases all the rage these days, or rather, one’s removal of oneself from said cosy place. “Get out of your comfort-zone, ye big lummock!” And I’m a sucker, a proud, proud sucker, confidently striding over the Discomfort Frontier, with a big knot in my belly and an icy lump in my chest. No looking back though! T minus two months or thereabouts.

Addendum: Make that two and a half months. I have to get cracking on the album in the meantime.