Big Chill Bar, Bristol

29th November 2010

Big Chill label party

[setlist]The Big Chill label take over the Big Chill bar in Bristol for a bit of a festive event.[/setlist]

10:06 to Bohemia

28th November 2010


The Normalites (in real life)

or (to quote the local news) “I knew to expect the unexpected but beyond that I didn’t know what to expect”

or (to borrow from the Dalai Lama) “and in the end all that matters is how did you live how did you love how many tunes did you make in the studio”

A week in Cornwall, in the proverbial studio, acting like a cartoon character, writing songs with Steve Miller.

Writing songs is a bit like fishing. You make a big effort to get somewhere that you think is a good place for fish. Then you stop and hang around and nothing happens for ages and you forget that you’re actually there to catch fish, then all of a sudden the line twitches and a big beauty is pulled up on deck. Then you zone out again. Our fine haul from this eco-friendly line-fish into the ocean of ideas is a whopping four prize gurnard, aka songs. At the moment, for the record, they are called: Dream Baby That hippy reggae one So Long and A Minor House, though all information is subject to change without notice.

We’re working in an old school way, laying down tracks, using the computer like a tape machine, getting as many hooks and licks and lines down as we can; giving Steve plenty to work with when I jump back on the train for the smoke.

The pictures are all landscapes and signs, hopefully indicative of a state of mind, an open space in which to create, hopefully something special, hopefully.

There are no pictures of the studio because the studio is about sound and it doesn’t look as exciting as it feels to be in there, making. There’s just a computer and a mixer and some keyboards and some guitars and drums and all the usual. But of course it’s what comes out of the machines and devices and mouths that’s important. And you can’t take pictures of an idea or a melody any more than you can play a song on the strings of a hillside.

But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t intense beauty and wonder in both, so the pictures go some way to, in abstract, convey the wonderful, simple pleasure of making music with a good friend.

The music will follow in due course, in one form or another, and hopefully it will please you as much as my trip and these pictures and the taking of them and the sharing of them has pleased me.

“There is no wealth but life. Life including all its powers of love, of joy and of admiration.” (Ruskin)

Coco Disconnected Podcast

20th November 2010

We Are Disconnected Podcast number four is from Chris Coco. Check the interview here, and the music here.

It’s been a hard day’s night and I’ve been working on my blog

19th November 2010

It’s been an hard day’s night and I’ve been working on my blog. And in some kind of infinite loop stretching all the way from Liverpool, England to Cupertino, California, Apple Corps have finally resolved their differences with Apple Computer, and allowed The Beatles catalogue to appear on iTunes. So now everyone can download the same songs that their gran bought on vinyl, that their mum bought on CD in immensely inferior quality mp3 with no lovely cover art to look at. It’s 2010 and The Beatles are Top of the Pops (again). Don’t get me wrong, I love The Beatles, grew up with their music, studied their evolution, swinging wildly from wanting to be McCartney to wanting to be Lennon and back again. But this is just not exciting, it’s just immensely tedious. It’s another excuse for programmers to live in the past and play more old music (again). But it has got me thinking. Because every type of history seems to work like a cone, so this applies to music as much as art or photography or politics. We start with fragments, field recordings of folk and blues and music passed down from one generation to another. This is added to by urban kids doing their rebellious, or not so, thing and being recorded and exploited by businessmen, then explodes in the 60s, 70s and 80s with all sorts of innovations, electronic sounds and crazy new recording techniques. Then as we get into the 21st Century it just fans out into a mass of everything all at once, with more music being recorded in the past ten years than in the whole of the rest of human history (or something like that). So I’m thinking, was it easier for Paul and John to write songs in 1962, or even 1969 than it is now, with fragments and contemporaries for inspiration, without the weight of fifty more years worth of songs on their backs? After all, there are only so many ways to play a few chords on a guitar, only so many notes that the human voice can sing in a pleasing fashion one after another. Was it easier to write Hard Day’s Night without having heard all that other music? Would they be too self-conscious to write a chorus that goes – She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah in 2010? I don’t know. Maybe that’s just how history works, the closer you are to stuff the harder it is to see what’s important and what’s just mush. But I think it may be why the contemporary urban sound, the computer music, bass music, dubstep, new house, whatever you want to call it, is so often instrumental or just features sampled voices. It’s like there’s so much stuff to process it just turns into fuzzy sounds, things of the past through a digital filter. It’s so much more difficult to be clear, concise and create a three chord wonder because it really has, mostly, been done before. If you get angry, oh, you’re so 79, so punk; if you get housey, oh that’s so 88, so aciiiied, and so on. I suppose there is no simple answer, and there will be no clarity till another ten years have passed and we can look back and say, for example, gosh, that Mount Kimbie, they changed the way we feel about music, isn’t it great that you can get their first album on (insert name of new format not invented yet). Baked apple anyone?

Now we know how many holes it takes to fill the Albert Hall

18th November 2010

I’m at the Albert Hall, for a rock gala. The Prince of Wales is here. It’s his night. The stage is filled with people from the past – Clapton, May, the bloke from Level 42. The Tories are in power, there’s a ‘feel good’ royal wedding coming up, rock dinosaurs are trading licks on stage and I’m thinking, what’s happened, has nothing changed? And I look around and the whole audience is middle class and white and yes, this is England, and in the minds of these people it may be the real England, but it’s only a thin slice of our island life. It’s a small group who happen to still have a lot of the money and a great deal of power, but, like a giant wireless permanently glued to Radio 2, it does not reflect what our country is really like. Where are the new sounds? Where are the young? The black, the asian, anybody who is not white? Outside in the rain, or just at another venue enjoying some other music, without the prince and the sense of entitlement. And maybe this lot feel privileged as another ageing star is wheeled out to do a turn, but really what they want to see is Queen (with Freddie) at their peak in the 70s; Clapton in his pomp playing Layla with the Dominoes; Ultravox when Midge Ure had hair and a moody raincoat. What they really want is for things to be like they think they used to be. And despite appearances here, they’re not. The coming wedding will not bring the nation together, cuddled up in some warm tweed jacket of Englishness, because that sort of Englishness is only part of what living here is about, because so many people are too involved with other cultural pursuits and ideas, or just too busy living their own lives to ever care about some people who happen to be the relatives of some other people who have got a big house and jewels and stuff getting married; to care about some bloke who used to be in a band who were good playing the guitar on stage; for any of it to make the sort of impact that the people in power would like. So, rant over, time to sit back and enjoy the still silky voice of Tom Jones and sing along to Paloma. Nice.