Eclectro

It’s 20th June, which means two things for me: first, it’s release day for Manipulant’s Eclectro album. It is also Day 20 of the Tune-A-Day June challenge, so once I’ve written a tune today, I’m 2/3rds of the way through.

Tune-A-Day

I am quite surprised to still be going with the challenge. Knowing that there are a bunch of people waiting for the next track has helped enormously!  The Tune-A-Day 2017 playlist is currently on Soundcloud. I’m going to run out of space on Soundcloud before I finish the challenge, though, so I’m going to need to do a bit of reorganising of some of my older tracks, starting with removing the ones that I didn’t make public.

Eclectro

Late last night, Manipulant, aka David Speakman, got in touch to let me know that Eclectro was already ‘live’ in Japan, and that it would be available on Amazon and iTunes at the stroke of midnight.  Exciting stuff for me, as I’m on the album’s lead track, Run.

Keeps Me Alive reviewed the album along with a great interview with Manipulant, which you can read here.

As well as me singing, the album features contributions from astrophysicist Dr Fiorella Terenzi, who made an album in 1991 called Music from the Galaxies. The music on that album consists of the radio-wave signals from planets and stars and sounds like an eerie sci-fi movie. Who knew that space would already have the best sounds for its own film sound effects?

 

 

Putting my Business Hat on (Part 2)

Processed with Rookie

Still not a business hat, but I don’t have a bowler hat… this is probably the nearest I’ve got!

In my previous post, I explained how I’ve been in contact with TrickJazz studios, a company making games, and how I had put together a kind of business case for them to use my tune.

Christian Facey, the company’s founder, got back to me at the end of last week to confirm that he wants to go ahead with using my tune Sunset Landscape in one of their new games that they are putting together, called Dreamwalker. (Funny coincidence, that, with it being one of the tracks on my Sleepwalker album!)

The track is scheduled to be on the game’s menu page, which will mean that it is heard many times, so it’s a great opportunity for me. The difference with the series of games that TrickJazz wants to develop is that they plan to include information within the games about which artist’s work you can hear. The games will launch subject to a successful Kickstarter campaign.

I should also mention that at the same time this has been going on, I have been working on some backing vocals for a track by Manipulant, an electronic artist in Pennsylvania, USA.  The track is called Run, and will be on his upcoming album. He’s got another track on the album which features Dr Fiorella Terenzi, who sounds like she is the US/Italian equivalent of the UK’s Dr Brian Cox from her Wikipedia entry. Run is already nearly complete, with just a few adjustments to go with the mix, which Manipulant is doing himself.

If you would like to check out some of Manipulant’s music ahead of the album launch, he already has an album, “Méthode de Narration”, on Bandcamp.

 

Oh *$&@, it’s got swearing on it!

This post is purely personal opinion.  I’ve been doing a bit of thinking about why I don’t typically like songs with swearing in. I don’t think I’m a huge snob… I’m not terribly bothered when people use the occasional swear in normal speech. Well, I might be a bit shocked if it was the vicar doing it, I suppose, or my mother. But normally if I hear something when I’m out and about, I’d just think of the swear words as being part of the person’s everyday vocabulary and mentally translate, without considering the words’ literal meaning.

 

I get the argument that art needs to reflect life, and in real life lots of people swear. Most, maybe, in the UK, where I live. It’s not like I never use any swears myself for emphasis either, when I want to make a point and underline how something makes me feel. I’m not ruling out ever using strong words for making a point in my music, even. I just don’t like there to be swears in the music I listen to, as a general rule… it seems unnecessary, usually.

Part of the issue is that listening to music creates a kind of personal space. Swears in music can feel like a violation of that boundary. Another reason is that I pick up language and absorb it like anything. If I surround myself with foul language, it’s bound to seep into my mental vocabulary, even if I don’t verbalise it. I’d prefer for the strongest language to not get in that far, even, and with music I have an abundance of choice about what I can listen to. Why choose something with swears in?

Music, to me, is a beautiful form of art, as well as being a means of expression. I feel that some swear words are particularly ugly, especially the f-bomb. Given the choice, I prefer to listen to something that reflects my idea of beauty… I don’t automatically reach for the off button the instant there is a swear, but will do if there are lots of them in a short space of time.  If a song is littered with swearing, if it is intended for the swearing to help get a message across, in my view, the song loses impact.

Some songs seem to get away with having the odd swear in. I can’t think of a good example off the top of my head, but, like film violence, if it’s not gratuitous, if it makes sense in the context of the story that is being told, or is done in a humorous way, I can stomach it. I was thinking Fairy Tale of New York might be a good example, but when I checked the lyrics, I found the Pogues hovering over the fine line of using strong insults and coarser language without actually swearing. You might disagree and conclude that they cross the line with some words. It’s a close call.

On the other hand, I object somewhat to cleaned-up versions of songs for the radio, if a version that is available to buy is not going to have the expletives deleted, e.g. if it’s going to be the version on the album. I heard and liked the Ce-Lo Green song Forget You on the radio, but was disappointed when I heard that it was a clean version of the song and discovered what the ‘real words’ were. Some people got caught out buying the ‘non-clean’ version on the basis of radio-play, as well, and were even more disappointed than I was, as I understand it from the grapevine.  I’m not sure what Ce-Lo Green did with his album, but I would feel cheated if I bought an album based on liking a cleaned-up single and then the version on the album was a different version of the song I liked, with expletive non-deleted lyrics. It would mean they were a different artist to who I thought they were. It would almost be a betrayal.

Apparently there is already technology available that would allow you to bleep out offending words, when it works.  Apple also have a patent on software with a similar aim. No problems of course with instrumental music…

Graftwerk

I haven’t said much about how work on the album is going, so here’s a bit more about it.

screen-shot-2016-11-21-at-03-13-01

I’ve been working on the tracks for my debut album for a long time already; some of them have been floating around for a couple of years in one form or another. Originally, I thought I’d be final-mixing through the summer after college finished, but I really needed some time out, so finishing the album fell down the priority list for a while.

Then I had a conversation with a friend, Matt Steady, who has recently left his job to pursue a career in musicianship. “You need a project,” said Matt. “I’ve already got one, but I need to finish it,” was my reply. Matt offered to listen to my tracks and give his opinion. Around the same time, I was asked if I would play a gig in the not too distant future in another city. It turned out that these two things were the carrot and stick that I needed to get going again with the album.

Just over a week ago, after some further tweaking, I sent Matt a set of ten tracks, inviting him to be as brutal as he liked. He gave very positive, constructive feedback, and didn’t tell me to drop any of the tracks from this release. (I’d feared he might).

It’s been all systems go since then. As well as organising business cards to hand out at the gig and continuing to code graphics that can be projected onto a wall during the performance, I’ve been working on refining the mixes, working out the track order, choosing the title (Sleepwalker), designing cover art for the online store and trying to figure out what I’ve missed. There’s a growing to do list.

The most challenging part has been that the whole mixing process relies on your ears being ‘fresh’ and therefore you can’t rush it. At some point during a work session, your ears start to get tired and then start playing tricks on you. Things that you thought were loud enough sound too quiet. Your sense of the overall volume of the piece gets disorientated. This adds extra pressure when you’re working to a fairly tight deadline.

Nonetheless, the aim is to get everything mastered and uploaded this coming week – the sooner the better – with a view to releasing the album before the end of November. More hard graft, but it will be worth it. And next time around, the process will be easier. There will be a next time.

Elliott’s Album

Last academic year, we had a visit at college from Elliott Morris, a ‘locally grown’ artist who is up and coming, constantly touring and sharing his blend of folk and pop sounds on a variety of acoustic stringed instruments. His guitar technique on some songs goes in the direction of John Gomm or Newton Faulkner meets Steve Vai, with a folk twist. At other times, it is more understated, with occasional sharply executed riffs thrown in between rhythmic strumming. I’ll admit it, I was jealous… his ability to provide his own percussion using the body of the guitar as a drum made my finger-picking style seem somewhat lame in comparison. This unlikely Michael Jackson cover is the proof…

Elliott got in touch this week to let me know that he is going to be making his first full length album (he’s already made some EPs) which he’s going to be funding via Pledge Music, in order to afford the studio time and getting the resulting music printed to CD, etc. Getting a full album recorded professionally is quite a major undertaking, so if you like what you hear here, please do consider supporting the project and/or checking out one of his upcoming gigs.