Track 2: The Gutter

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Like ‘January Hare’, ‘The Gutter’ is driven by a piano lick repeated throughout the track, although this time the energy levels have been taken up a notch and there are accompanying vocals.  The lyrical content of the song is a reaction against advice very often found in books and online.  We are often told to love ourselves and be satisfied and appreciative of everything we have, regardless of the direness of situations we find ourselves in.  This song suggests that this attitude can be counter productive and stops us from making the best out of ourselves and reaching our true potential.  For the best listening experience, play this loud through a good set of headphones.

Track 1: January Hare

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I decided to open the album with a gentle instrumental.  It stays in one chord throughout and slowly builds as it goes on.  It didn’t want to complicate things too much because sometimes, less is more, as the German band Neu! demonstrated many years ago.  I came up with the title while on a high speed train (whose logo features a hare) in January.  I felt it suited the rolling nature of the tune.

More Than A Few Seconds

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I’d thought of a few ideas for an album title, but settled very quickly on More Than A Few Seconds as it seems to have an association with most, if not all the tracks on the album.  I felt it was suitable as we live in an age in which we never seem to concentrate on anything for longer than a few seconds.  We’re looking for an instant fix for everything, which obviously cannot be realistically possible.  Art for example, needs more than a few seconds to be appreciated.  Debates need more than a few seconds before some sort of conclusion is reached.  The things we read in the news need more than a few seconds before we develop an opinion on a certain issue.  It may need more than a few seconds to figure out how the cover for this album (above) was made.  The tracks on this album will hopefully be listened to for more than a few seconds ;).   You could therefore say that this is a call for attention spans to be strengthened in order to fully appreciate and make the most out of art, information, music and opinions.

As I’ve previously mentioned, there are 12 tracks on this album and they do not follow the conventions of a single musical genre.  Some of them feature conventional elements of guitar based rock, while others use more electronic and ambient sounds.  I find it difficult to stick to one single genre.  I have an idea in my head and then it develops in ways I feel are suitable regardless of trying to keep to a formula.  Unlike Signs of Purity, which was a collection of individually recorded songs, these tracks were put together with the aim of being part of one album and follow a constant train of thought throughout.  I’d therefore say that this is my first ‘proper’ album in terms of completeness.  The themes of the songs include the excuses we make for not improving ourselves, the universal basic income, the futility of taking sides, the refusal to accept an entire set of socio-political views, the difference between how we see ourselves and who we really are as well as other topics that seem to be very rarely included in songs.  I feel that lyrical content in music nowadays has been simplified and isn’t seen to be an important element in a song anymore.  On this album, I’ve tried to speak my mind and invite the listener to reflect on certain arguments, while at the same time, not doing it too agressively.

I will be posting each track of this album one by one on a weekly basis, starting from this Thursday.  As with Signs of  Purity, I will personally e-mail a copy to anybody who is interested in possessing the album in its entirety.  I don’t do this as a career and I don’t intend to make any money out of it.  I therefore have no interest or intention of releasing my work on platforms such as Spotify or itunes.  It’s just a simple personal connection between me and the listener.  Any feedback, positive or negative is welcomed and if I can capture the imagination of just one extra person, then I will see this latest project as a success.

It’s Done!

I can finally announce that all 12 of the new tracks have now been completed and are ready to be published.  I will be posting more detailed information about them along with some artwork in the next few days and have decided to post each track one by one on this site one day a week.

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I Haven’t Given Up!

Well another three months have passed since my last post and as you can see, still no new album ready.  Procrastination is a wonderful thing!  Instead of doing the final bits of mixing and mastering, I decided to drop everything and wait until the World Cup was over, especially as my national team England were doing rather well (but not quite well enough, as we have recently found out ).  As I mentioned in my last post, I’m not under any pressure to get things done, but I really would like to have this album completed once and for all now.  I’m therefore back on it and hopefully these little musical flowers will get unearthed in the next couple of weeks.

The Pros and Cons of Making Music Completely Alone

I mentioned in my previous post that I’d hoped to have the new album done either just before or just after Easter.  Well, the bunny has hopped in and bounced off and there’s still a fair bit to do before the new tracks see the light of day.  There are a number of reasons for that, which are too boring to go into on here.

While I’m pottering about patching things together, I often think about how much easier things could be if I had a couple of collaborators to give a bit of direction to a project or provide me with valuable advice.  I then have conflicting thoughts that suggest that maybe I’m actually better off on my own, left to explore, experiement and be free from anyone bossing me around.  To clear things up a bit, I’ve decided to make a little list of the pros and cons of writing, composing and producing music totally on my own.

PROS: 1: Complete musical autonomy: This is the first one that comes into my head.  I’ve played in bands over the years and I’ve often been frustrated about not being able to take things in the musical direction I would like.  I therefore really appreciate coming up with an idea and being able to at least try it without anybody there to tell me otherwise.

2: I can work at my own pace:  As music is not my profession, I’m not able to work on it all day every day.  I therefore dip in and out of it when I can, which obviously means that projects take longer than they should.  As I’m on my own, I don’t have anyone breathing down my neck and I’m not under pressure from other members to attend rehearsals or learn something in an unrealistically short space of time.

3: I don’t rely on others in order to progress:  Another frustrating thing I’ve experienced in bands is that there can be unreliable members holding the others back. Things like people not turning up for practices on time, if at all and not learning songs properly or forgetting their parts.  When you’re on your own, the only person who can let you down is you.  If you stop, everything stops.

4: Learning new skills:  Since deciding to go it alone I’ve had no choice but to learn many things that aren’t necessary when playing just one instrument in a band.  I’ve learnt how to use a DAW as well as dabbling with instruments I had no interest in learning previously.  I’ve had to force myself to learn how to mix and master tracks, which for me is the trickiest part.  It has so far been fascinating and has even changed the way I listen to music these days.  Not only do you notice the singing, playing and musical arrangements but also the sound engineering and production techniques, which I’ve found have more value than any other aspect of music making and truly make a song what it is.

5: Having my bed less than 2 metres from where I record: So after a session, I can immediately flop on to a nice comfortable bed instead of spending the best part of an hour dragging my gear around town on trams and trains, aaaaaaah!

CONS: 1: No feedback:  This is surely the biggest drawback to making music alone.  If I have an idea and lay it down, there’s nobody there to tell me that it needs tweaking or even binning.  Some of the best pop songs ever made started out as dodgy demos and only became the finished articles we know and love due to feedback from other members suggesting what to keep and what to disregard.

2: No company:  This is definitely something I miss about working with others.  The after session drink is meaningless when it’s just you.

3: No practical aspect: By that I mean there is no pysical playing of instruments with other people.  Some of the greatest songs in history have been the product of improvised jams, which seem to magically take a path of their own when everybody is in the zone.  With me on my own, it becomes more like putting tiny fragments together and turning them into a mosaic, which totally lacks that thrill of being in the moment with other musicians.

4: Live complications: I’ve sometimes thought about how my tracks could be performed live.  There are a few different options, but I can’t say I find any of them attractive.  The first, and most difficult would be to try to do a Jacob Collier style one man multi-instrumentalist performance.  This would require me to buy a ton of new gear (which I simply don’t have the space for) and spend months figuring out how the songs could be performed, not to mention having to improve my playing heavily.  Although the guy is truly amazing, super human one might say, I also think it’s a bit of a gimmick, a sort of means to an end in itself that focuses less on the actual songs and more on the virtuosity, which is fine if that’s your thing but it isn’t partucularly mine.  Another option would be to use my tunes already made as backing tracks minus the vocals and guitar parts and then sing and play over them, which I fear would appear cheap and resemble a sort of glorified karaoke.  The third option would be to get side musicians in to accompany me, but then that’s a whole new project in itself.  So it doesn’t look like my songs will be getting the live treatment any time soon unfortunately.

5: Trapped at home:  Being able to make music at home means that you stay at home and become a bit of a recluse, which can’t be healthy.

So, there they are, my 5 pros and my 5 cons about making music completely alone.  If you can think of any that I’ve missed out, let me know.  It’s been useful to organize my thoughts and make an article out of them.  I’ll carry on as I am for now, I’ve got 12 tracks that need sorting out first!

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Taking Shape

Slowly but surely, the new album is getting pieced together.  If I didn’t have a day job, things would be able to move far more quickly as you would imagine.  The 12 tracks are musically complete and I’ve just started to add vocals to some of them this weekend.  This and the mixing and mastering are the hardest parts of the whole process. They involve painstakingly trying to get the right balance and striving to get the tracks as presentable as possible (I don’t use autotune by the way 😉 ) .  Although lyrically the album follows a general theme, it is much more musically diverse than my earlier material.  I’ve definitely challenged myself this time and I’m really hoping I can do justice to the ideas circling around in my head.  I’m aiming to have it all finished either just before or shortly after Easter.  It will probably depend on how many nasty surprises I have from now until then.

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New Stuff Brewing

It’s been a very long time since I last posted.  Last autumn, I decided to start making some new material and since then I’ve been busy creating it.  I’m aiming to make 12 tracks and would say that I’m about three quarters of the way through them at the moment.  I hope to have them all finished by the end of March and I’m already looking forward to presenting some of them on this site.  As with ‘Signs of Purity’, you will be able to receive a digital copy of the new album simply by emailing me and asking for one personally.  I really like this idea as it means there is a direct personal connection between artist and listener.

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Freedom Without Freedom

Freedom Without Freedom is track 9 on Signs of Purity.  It is one of the three tracks I have recorded this year as opposed to the other 7, which were finished last year.  The few lyrics it has are inspired by a theme that I think about a lot, which is also the subject of a recent book written by the American philosopher Sam Harris.  It’s the idea that although we feel free to do what we want, there is always something that happens uncontrollably inside our brains that influences our decisions before we make them. It’s a hotly debated topic, but thought-provokingly fascinating nonetheless.

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