Around and about

As I haven’t blogged in what seems an age, and as I’ve just backed up my phone camera – which had over a thousand pictures on it, I thought it only decent to post what’s probably tgoing to be closer to waffle than diary. This is in reverse order, so the more recent are at the bottom and the oldest at the top. However it does include Royalty, so those who are all pooped out with the Jubilee should beware.

Here then, are a few scattered oddities around and about town and other places:

There’s a vacant lot by Warrior Square Station. Obviously they couldn’t sell it as a building plot – besides, there are so many empty shops nearby you’d have your pick and you definitely wouldn’t want to live there – so instead they have used it for a mini sculpture park. Not that you can walk inside and touch! To me it looks like they had an accident putting razor wire on the fence, but what do I know. The following two shots are, I think, artistically better.

Better viewed from more abstract angles and directions.

Then I come upon this. The Tubman. I’ve never been inside, and I’m not sure I’d want to drink there without a Harry Potter to come to the rescue. I kind of like the decoration in a dark, black goth, sort of way: but it’s not at all jolly hockey sticks, or very welcoming. It’s more a ‘fancy a pint of blood?’ kind of gaff.

Up the street a nadge is this little lane that instantly sparked a number of fantasy plots…

…and just a stones throw away this – which made me wonder at the fantasy plots I was musing over; at humanity and its taste in general, and the locals and their taste in particular. I guess I’m just not a Gnome lover. Elves and Dragons and Wizards, yes: Gnomes, no.

The next day I was walking along the seafront and saw this beautifully painted car. Being presently carless I’m rather jealous, though I’m not sure how I’d feel if I had a bad hangover.

Then, on the 2nd June, we went to Canning Town to play a gig in a venue surrounded by scrap yards (most odd). Still, you can’t deny human ingenuity. One of the scrapyards had cleverly thought of a way to make extra revenue. I’m not convinced ‘Oasis’ is intentionally ironic, though I rather hope it is.

Then came the Jubilee. Locally, excitement was high. Here, Queen Victoria sports the latest in Royal headwear.

Though I’m not a dyed (or should that be died) in the wool Royalist, I do think the Queen is a remarkable woman, and the pageant on the Thames was rather splendid – even though the coverage was so dumbed down and crass the BBC should be spanked. Here though, I was convinced she was spying on me having tea.

Which brings me to yesterday – or, by the time this is posted, the day before yesterday. The last night of the Jubilee celebrations. We played a really good gig at The Rose and Crown in Worthing. The stage was tiny, but the audience wasn’t!

So that’s me up-to-date. Camera phones are wondrous beasts indeed!

Live at The Fiddler’s Elbow.

On the 16th we played The Fiddler’s Elbow to a packed out crowd! Umm, okay, so that’s a porky. Yes, we played The Fiddler’s Elbow, and it was a really good gig. But, as it was a Wednesday night, there were only a few people there. Still, slowly-slowly catch the monkey – or some such platitude.

Anyway, for your delectation and delight, here’s a video of ‘Broken Heart’ a song penned by Codey, a friend I never met who, very sadly, died just before his 18th Birthday.

 

Dubious or what.

In the bog of the smuggler, Pett.

 

We played a gig on Sunday at The Smuggler in Pett. As gigs go it went jolly well. There was a nice lady dancing by the bar, and quite a few more people tapping feet. There was also clapping to which I humbly replied “Thank you,” or “Thank you so much,” in a slightly shy murmur that, no doubt, Freddie Mercury would have howled at.

The odd song arrangement I managed to stuff up went well, too: in that nobody noticed, or if they did they were to polite to say. It’s amazing that you can rehearse until you’re as perfect as perfect can be, and then your brain goes blank when faced with an audience. Ho hum, and c’est la vie and all that.

Anyway, the point of this blog entry is A) I haven’t blogged in a while and thought I should, and B) we had a poster and I thought you should see it. Of course the poster wasn’t just put up in the gents, it was on the noticeboard as well. But where’s the fun in that?

Apocryphal or what.

Kamakura - on the rack in HMV

 

A while back, though not in the dimest past, I found Mick sniggering. On asking him what was so funny he said he’d put a copy of our album ‘Dealing With Liquids’ in the racks at HMV Records in the town centre.

‘Sure you did,’ I said in a disbelieving tone designed to wind him up. Then I forgot. A while later he said there were now three in there and they been marked up at ยฃ10. ‘Hmm,’ said I, as sometimes young Mick can be a little fanciful … a little bit Walter Mitty.

So … I finally found myself near HMV and went to have a look: and now I publically kowtow, and apologise for disbelieving him. There was our CD in all its shrink-wrapped glory. I was almost tempted to buy it so they’d re-order; I was almost tempted to buy it to see if we ever received a royalty statement.

The thrill of seeing your own album in a large record store is worth the cost of putting the album there yourself. Better, anyway, than having them glaring at you from a shelf above your desk.

Word! ๐Ÿ™‚

Rehearsal

Drums awaiting the drummer

We’re now a five piece: rhythm guitar/keys and vocals, keyboards and vocals, lead guitar, bass guitar and drums. Playing live is very different to playing with backing tracks. More fluid and less tight (maybe), but infinitely variable. It’s liberating; fun, and I wouldn’t miss our Tuesday rehearsals if you offered me the world … okay, so I might. But if I had the world I’d be able to rehearse anyway, so ya boo sucks to you! ๐Ÿ˜‰

A nice bit of Sissinghurst

The foodles part of an 'official' Sissinghurst Tea.

 

Living in Bohemia, as I do, I try to live an ever faithful ‘Bohemian‘ lifestyle. Sadly, silk dressing gowns, opium in hookahs, exploring interesting sexualities and oodles of laudanum – and so deliciously forth – are out, primarily because of the cold (outrageous, the cost of heating one’s pile, damned outrageous) and the illegality. I’d move to casablanca where it’s all possible, but Kamakura – the band I howl for – might complain, the cats certainly would, and anyway, gosh I ain’t got the dosh. Casablanca is not what it once was – and certainly not what Evelyn Waugh‘s Brideshead Revisited painted it as.

Erm … where was I? Oh yes.

Sissinghurst in the Weald is known as one of the fave retreats for the Bloomsbury set: Virginia Woolf, Vita Sackville-West, E.M.Forster et all. And so from one we meander to another, to the Sissinghurst Tea. Yes, by far the best thing to take your mind off being without your little luxuries, and being straighter than a die when trying to write opiated poetry and fiction, is a Sissinghurst Tea – the scrumptious and most mouth wateringly drooling part of which is pictured above (oh gawd how delish! Infact the jam was almost teetering on ruinous).

Without doubt a Sissinghurst Tea makes for a truly magical, sensual, and creative afternoon – though for an ‘official’ tea you do need a dispossessed aristocrat to bake the cake (luckily, I had one to hand). For the sipping either Lady Gray or Lapsang Souchong will do, the latter being my preference.

So … take the day off. Relax in a hot bath during the morn (pre or post bath sweaty sexual and sensual massage nice, but not essential). A languid lubuncular lunch should follow and then, after a splendid siesta, prepare for and have your Sissinghurst. You won’t regret it. ๐Ÿ™‚

 

 

Reverie and thought

Possibilities

I was cleaning my netbook earlier. It was making these weird noises as if it was choking, and on taking it apart I found the fan was full of dust and muck. So I cleaned it and then looked at it. Really looked at it. And I went off on a reverie.

Pretty much all I do, all I think and all I create is contained on the hard drive in the picture above. And it suddenly struck me as how remarkable that was, and how fast it’s happened. How incredibly fast.

Take music. When I first got into music there was tape. To record anything of worth you HAD to rent a recording studio, and the equipment therein cost a small fortune – literally. Tracks were laid down on damn great reels of expensive two inch tape and mastered onto reels of quarter inch tape … and there was tape hiss. Oh, if you had another small fortune you could remove most of it, but never all. Hiss was part and parcel of recording, then.

Computers took a while to infiltrate. But the incredible thing was that the programs you used were elegant and tiny. They had to be because RAM was finite, and again, cost an arm and a leg.

Now, any idiot with a laptop can record an album. Without tape hiss. Without tape. Now programs are huge and bloated because elegant code doesn’t matter anymore – RAM is cheap.

Writing.

Then: longhand delivered for someone to type out. Edit it with red pen and re-type. Rinse and repeat. To become a writer you really had to want to write!

Now: open up program of choice and off you go. A gazillion websites inflate ‘writers’ egos. Some even make it. NaNoWriMo (I’ll say no more).

Photography

Then: actual film stock. Twenty four or thirty six shots on a roll. Develop and print in a darkroom.

Now: digital. Snap as many as you want because you’re bound to find one good, usable shot. If not, photoshop it. Bing bang boom, done and dusted. Deliver the ‘product’ by email. No more messengers on motorbikes.

Film

Then: actual film and cameras and crews, etc.

Now: digital cameras and storage. Make a documentary during lunch; a feature film over the weekend. Edit at home (oh, and write the music too, if you fancy it).

Those bits and bobs stuck to the motherboard behind the hard drive in the photo above are enablers. Art is no longer precious or special. Art is everymans and everyman is an artist.

This blog wouldn’t be here without my baby netbook. Neither would my music be available all over the world, or Midnight Dude, the book I wrote a story for and typeset.

I wouldn’t know the wonderful (albeit virtual) people and friends I’ve met on-line, and I wouldn’t have websites to visit and loiter away my life on….

It was at this point my reverie ended. I looked at the cat as I put the back cover on and fumbled with its screws. Percy’s real. He’s not an avatar. Neither is he a trainable toy that follows me around the house meowling until, in a fit of pique, I remove the batteries.

I look out of the window. The garden fence I fixed this morning is still standing. Its real, not virtual. As am I, for my sins. But with the rate of change; with the rate of human invention, for how long? How long will it be until I’m just a virtual plaything? How long before the real and the virtual blur so much it becomes impossible to tell the difference?

Without a shadow of a doubt computers have changed our lives; my life. But is it really for the better, or should the Luddites rise again before it is too late?

Cat, Cats, the Fat Pidgeon, Kamakura, and some odd thoughts.

Percy dreaming of foreign climes

Not the best picture I’ve ever taken. Still, it’s a picture taken today, which was the original point of this blog. That the idea behind ‘Congenerous’ seems to have become ever changing and fluid should allow me to leave out the daily picture, if I feel like it. But I don’t feel like it, yet. Besides, Percy rawks!

There was going to a photo of an amazingly fat Pidgeon who sits on a branch in the tree outside my bedroom window. There was going to be, but by the time I stumbled about finding my phone he (or she) had gone (how do you sex a Pidgeon without getting up close and personal?). You’ll have to wait for that treat, then.

I’ve been listening to the recording I made of our rehearsal yesterday, and, considering it was our third proper rehearsal, it’s damn good. Maybe you think I would say that, being the vocalist. But being ‘real’ about my music is a definite seachange. Normally, even if I know deep down that something is good, I’ll shrug it off as a fluke. I wish (wishing is something else I have to change along with je ne regrette rien, which is utter bollocks and futile) that we’d carried on after the Pestalozzi festival. I wish I’d had the balls to have a go twenty years since. Humph. Obviously I’m an arse for hiding my light under a bush for so long. Obviously. Duh.

Odd thoughts.

  1. I’ve suddenly realised that even if I spent the rest of my life doing nothing but reading I wouldn’t be able to read all the books I have, or those I want to read. Especially now that eBooks are with us. This led to a mild panic. But as there’s nothing I can do about it – I can’t suddenly start reading at a gazzilion words a minute, or give up everything else and do nothing but read – I have to accept it and be more decisive about what I do read.
  2. I’m a lazy git. I want to write – at least one decent novel – and consequently have to stop being a lazy git.
  3. Money doesn’t grow on trees.
  4. ‘shoulda, coulda, woulda’ is balls, as is Je ne regrette rien. Accept what you can’t change and get on with it.
  5. This list of odd thoughts seems to be getting horribly close to New Years resolutions. Stop it!
  6. Cats really make wonderful friends!
  7. ‘Cats’ could be our next single.
  8. Relationships are fragile things; butterflies have stronger wings. Do not take friends for granted.
  9. Patience! F1 2012 will begin sooner or later and there’s nothing you can do to hasten the 1st race.
  10. Must better my punctuation; Eats, Shoots & Leaves is a wonderul book.
  11. Cease waffling.

And that’s that.

Downs and ups, and the price of breathing.

The proof of the pudding....

THE DOWN:

“We didn’t get it.” He spoke down the phone, his tone as light as possible considering he wanted to scream.
“Oh. Well, there it is then,” the reply as upbeat as he’d known it would be, the pain held in check. Both trying to kid the other that the news wasn’t as crushing as it was. The longer the wait the more convinced they were they’d got it – and the wait had been interminable.
“They’ll be others, and it was good practice you know.”
“Yes, but … fuck! I’ll have to send the Porche back.”
“See you tomorrow.”
“Mmm.”

So what have I learned from not getting a job? Firstly: not to talk about anything before it happens, and secondly: not to be downhearted. Damn me I was – for a short while – but there’s no point.

We sent in two versions, we should have concentrated on one. We were very tired when it came to mix and that was a MAJOR mistake. We did pay attention to the brief, but obviously we made errors. So, for your delectation and delight, here is the brief, followed by what they said and the two verions we submitted.

THE BRIEF:

——————————————

HUGE NY Ad Agency needs a SINGER/SONGWRITER SONG for a national NUTRITION/HEALTH BRAND’s TV COMMERCIAL. It’s estimated that this gig will pay $15-$25,000 up front, but the back will bring in more dollars–LOTS of national airplay coming down the pike. This is going to be a little complicated so read VERY carefully!

The TV spot features a male/female DUET singing about taking your nutrition to the next level. It’s starts with a guy, playing guitar. 3 seconds into the spot, he’s joined by a young woman who sings along with him and plays tambourine. She becomes a one-woman band as she begins to ALSO play a kick drum and a keyboard–added in that order, and introduced one at a time (in your arrangement).

All this needs to take place in 30 SECONDS, while they sing the lyrics below! The good news is that this is a DEMO, and the agency folks know the lyrics they’ve been handed by their client are on the fat side. Your job is to keep the CRITICAL parts of the lyric in tact, while cutting SOME fat to bring this song in at exactly 30 seconds. You can trim a “yeah, yeah, yeah” down to just one “yeah,” etc., but you MUST keep “Anthem” and “Go Nutrients” and as much of the original concept as possible and MOST of the lyric in tact. Quoting the Head Creative guy at the agency: “Write a great SONG with as much of the client’s lyrics as possible.” Easy, breezy, nothing to it, and bring it all home in 30 seconds!

Musically, this SONG needs to be UPTEMPO, HIP and FUN, and in a Jason Mraz or Bruno Mars-like style of putting (vocal) doubles or triplets on top of half notes. That could give it a cool, fun, funky feel while helping you get most of the lyrics nailed in 30 seconds. Melodically, your song needs to sound like a HIT with a KILLER HOOK–it needs to be infectious, memorable and singable.

This product will likely generate a series of TV spots, so nailing THIS one COULD get you to the front of the line for others. If your DEMO is chosen to be presented to the agency and client, you’ll need to be able to make minor changes (if needed) on Monday, July 4th so the final version can be presented on Tuesday morning. If you’re not fully available Sunday (dinner time) through Monday (dinner time), please DO NOT submit for this listing! Welcome to the intensely fast-paced, whacky world of music for advertising!

Lyrics:
You take a multivitamin every day
But you want to add a little something (hey hey hey)
So you reach for new Go Nutrients from Anthem
Can I get a funky beat on the bass drum
Take Omega 3 to help your heart
Helps your eyes and brain too…so state of the art
Probiotic for when your system feels out of whack.
Immunity? No problemo! And support that digestive tract. (Uh-huh.)
Fruit & Veggie has antioxidants galore!
Will make you glow for the one you adore. (Grrrrr)
Get on up, throw your hands in the air.
Take your nutrition next level, Start a love affair!! (Yeah yeah yeah.)

ย Broadcast Quality is needed, even though they may ultimately use NY session singers for the vocals. You must own or control 100% of the Master and Composition rights. If you are chosen, the AD AGENCY will contact you DIRECTLY. The agency is not sure at this time if this will be a Work for Hire deal or exactly what form the deal structure will ultimately take. Bottom line, it will certainly be in line with whatever the Industry Standard would be in a situation like this. This is a HUGE agency, and they’re not in the habit of risking their reputation by cheating musicians–it’s not like they’re a record label – LOL!! Please submit one to three songs online or per CD, include lyrics.ย  All submissions will be screened on a YES/NO BASIS. NO CRITIQUES FROM TAXI. Submissions must be received no later than SATURDAY, JULY 2nd, 2011 at 6:00 pm (PDT).

——————————————

Our offerings:
Version 1
Version 2

——————————————

What they said:

Version 1:
Doesn’t sound enough like the referenced artists to get forwarded, and the vocals are a little on the not locked together very well side. We KNOW this had challenging lyrics, to say the least. Thanks for working so hard on this!

Version 2:
Similar problems as the other track had. Also, at times, the vocals sound like several people and not a duet. Sorry to be so picky, but the ad agency will be hearing stuff from a handful of NY’s top ad music people and we can only submit stuff that’s competitive with them.

——————————————

What I think!

Pragmatically, they’re not wrong. I don’t even think they’re broadcast quality – though they were supposed to be demos: ideas to be polished.

As ideas they’re okay though they’re rough and need work. Also, they don’t reflect the singers, we were given as suggestions, enough.

Both mick and I have written for commercials before. Obviously, we need to dust off our muses.

——————————————

THE UP:

I came back through the door after going to the shops, this morning, to find a parcel. Inside was something I wasn’t expecting until next month: a proof copy of my book!

Dare I say W00T! ๐Ÿ™‚

Holding a real, physical, glossy paperback book of your own work is … mindbogglingly fantastic! The feeling is almost sexual in its intensity. The trouble is I don’t have anyone to go and and get drunk with. Mick thinks it’s ‘great,’ looked at it, flicked through it, and then went to the studio. Brigitte grinned, said it ‘looks really nice’ and then made lunch. And the cats weren’t that overjoyed, either.

But I have this persistent warm glow inside, which quite makes up for the lack of champagne and highbrow critique. And, after all, it is only a proof – speaking of which: sods law I immediately found a major mistake (misteak). What it is I shan’t say – you’ll have gnaw at your nails and guess.

THE PRICE OF BREATHING:

So … what have I learnt? Well, you have to take the downs with the ups and learn from them both. Devastating though the rejection was – and the length of time waiting had a lot to do with that – it’s not the end of the world. It’s a lesson and we’ll learn from it (‘scuse me – that sounds so trite I think I need a bucket). It’s a bummer we’re not going to get $25,000 plus royalites (bangs head against the wall) but that’s life … and the very next day I get a proof of my book. See? The universe takes away and then provides. Sort of – ish.

There’s the core of a new religion in here, somewhere. Hmm. I have a book jacket of many colours. Maybe a coat would be nice, too. And a new musical. ๐Ÿ˜‰

On spec.

image

Mick & I are in the studio recording a 30 second commercial for a New York ad agency. If it gets accepted then ‘Rio, oh mio oh mio!’ If it doesn’t then … c’est la vie. Neither of us have worked on commercials in years, and it’s good practice.

We’re recording two versions (should be three) and they have to be in by midnight.

We’ll hear, one way or the other, by Monday morning. Wish us luck! ๐Ÿ™‚

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