2012 was bipolar – but I’d do it all again
Well, that was a… colourful year. And who could ask for more? Rather that than the alternative, which is a dreary thought. Death!
So what happened? (I’m still asking myself that, so this summary is as much for my benefit as anything else.)
1) Released 2nd album. Got more, and better, reviews than #1 – which was kind of the idea.
2) Did a brief and eventful tour after release – pretty much broke even: another first. Played a fair few other gigs, mostly solo, some with…
3) A band, which orbited around the songs for roughly 8-9 months and then exploded. With hindsight, it was never going to last, but during that time we played…
4) Live on BBC Introducing: The South (and the single got a little air-time too). This was exciting.
…Besides these bare bullet-points, I’ve just kept on doing it, “it” being more songs. Met some potential collaborators in the last couple of months, had a few tantalising overtures; again, I’m not going into detail yet for fear of The Jinx; in this game, so many promising set-ups tend to evaporate without warning.
But it’s promising just the same. And it’s been a blast – on a gross venal level, the trickle of royalties makes filling in an income tax Self Assessment form such a thrill.
Joking aside, I’m still fuelling off the highs and regret none of the lows – hope you (whoever you are) likewise. Happy New Year.
notes from waaay underground, Sept 2012
It’s hardly an original observation, but we’re in an unprecedented place with music right now. And that’s leaving aside the hopelessly blurred question of illicit downloads.
What we’ve got is an ever-more-entrenched top tier – the trad music biz – with a chokehold on all outlets still, despite everything. Shrinking but sucking up all the gravy, digging in, skimming off as much short-term profit on karaoke, lukewarm EDM and career-path indie as possible… (The money nowadays is in being a middleman – a 360-degree platform, or whatever… basically smoothing a load of unexpected bumps out of this level playing field, or claiming to.) And then there’s practically everyone else. Okay, there are exceptions when someone interesting somehow gets over the fence, but you know what I’m saying.
“Everyone else” being the huge semi-pro DIY mass, squashed in a corner, playing the long game. Doing it for the love of it, waiting for a break, gambling on longevity – or persistence – or bloody-mindedness… (If the volume of ever-accumulating stuff out there on the internet hasn’t made a nonsense of ideas like “back catalogue” and “posterity”, for unknowns anyway.) This in itself isn’t a new thing; it’s the extent of the lower tier that’s new. There simply aren’t enough outlets that pay – either in terms of making a living, or the finer commodity of sustained visibility. Of course the situation could eventually stabilize, even improve; something unexpected might come along and change the game again. Until then, though…
They believe in what they’re doing, these hidden musicians, so they roll the dice and carry on regardless.
As will I, despite the discouraging recent experience of having a band blow up on the launchpad. Discouraging, not fatal – with 20/20 hindsight it’s best in the long run, for reasons I needn’t go into here. Gave me ideas on how I’d like to continue, which is something; time now to get on with it.
Another year, another gamble: thankfully, the work is its own reward. Clearly lots of other people feel the same.
I haven’t fronted a band since Empty Vessels on 14th Dec 2006 at The Montague Arms (SE15): so what’s changed? Happily, very little.
Solo acoustic is a totally different animal – I’d forgotten how charged the atmosphere at a real gig can be. The New Cross Inn on Friday was vibey as ever; I, Ludicrous sounded good – well, their soundcheck did, we’d buggered off back to Brighton in the van by the time they went onstage, I’m ashamed to admit – and the sheer power and physicality of the experience was… well, there aren’t any words. I just love feeling the drum-cracks and noises blast my spine, and aiming my voice right… through… the middle; worth every second, every minor discomfort and expediency.
It went over well, too; nice crowd. It’s good to be back.
oh, and many thanks to Andy Clarke, without whom…
The Facebook link above has the necessary, but bare bones: it’s at The Hydrant in Brighton, suggested donation of £3 for entry, starts 7:30pm – I’m onstage 7:50ish. It’s also the last solo gig I’ll do for a while, all being well.*
It’s also, needless to say, in a good cause: ie. to help prevent Benefits being stripped from those who need them most by a bunch of blinkered, sociopathic Victorian mill-owner types… who wouldn’t know genuine, compassionately-motivated positive intervention if it lined them up against a wall, blindfolded and executed them by firing-squad. Anyway, enough frothing. There’s bands and comedians and stuff – should be a nice night.
*(See previous: got a good band behind me now, locking down tracks from album #2. Speaking of 2nd album, I’ve got the rough mixes and they sound great. Will be mastered and finished within a week.)
Last night’s Interrobang gig was great – good atmosphere and venue, receptive audience, lots of interesting stuff going on.
So – a good place to stop for a week or two, and think about how best to carry on. There’s only so much an acoustic guitar can do, after all; it’s kind of limiting the options. Might be good to try putting a band together… (Although ironically, the new material written for album #2 suits solo acoustic much better, so who knows? The last thing I want is to end up with yet another by-the-numbers indie band.)
With all kinds of as-yet unformed ideas, I’m taking time off from live stuff for a couple of months to try out different approaches. Last night was good enough to make me regret the decision, which proves it’s the right one – if that makes sense.
…and all who sail in her
Thanks to everyone who sent in comments to the BBC Introducing programme this evening. Very much appreciated.
It can be heard on iPlayer for the next week, here:
…And Hands Up starts off the programme.
(In fact, I was disentangling myself from some internet admin guff and very nearly missed my own song. Was in that mix of frantic busy-ness and frustrated inertia that only technology can create – watching lots of coloured bars creeping toward fulfilment, only to be thwarted by tiny circles and error messages… I shudder thinking about it.)
Anyway, all’s well that ends well. The whole programme was great – if you didn’t get a chance to hear it on broadcast, give it a listen on iPlayer.
Started on recording the 2nd album. Apart from the vocals being tentative – and therefore weak – it was a pretty productive session. Once I’ve got all the basic guitar tracks down I can re-record the singing, then start fleshing out the songs; meddle with them till they’re unrecognizable, even. They’re all very new, haven’t been aired live (hence the uncertainty), so I’m not tied to them emotionally; if it feels right, they could be stripped down again, completely re-structured, lose the guitar… Well, it’s a possibility.
Good to be back in London – knowing I could leave – and good to catch up with friends, to be doing music.
So – a rich harvest indeed. The projected new album doesn’t even have a title, and there’s a lot of work still to do. The timing may seem a little odd, given that album #1 hasn’t yet been released; but it’s also satisfying to remind myself what all this is an aid of, namely music and all that shit. (Yeah… I’m not just stroking my own bloated ego here, it’s about laying a pure and pristine offering on the altar of the muse… right?)
Anyway, sounding good so far.
After what feels like several lifetimes’ worth of preparation, the single’s now available to buy. If you go to the Music page you’ll find it available via Bandcamp (complete with lyrics and video). If you feel like searching around various other internet bazaars instead, like Spotify or Amazon, you’ll find it there too.
I also have a few copies left of the promo CD, complete with handmade sleeve and unique enamel paint splatters – but you’ll have to come to a gig if you want one of those.
God, that’s a milestone straddled. There will be a second single called Hands Up out in July – details to follow.