Tag Archive for 'Music'

Bird Sanctuary / Bridge Will Burn (2018)

On 14th March 2018, I turned 39 years old. Almost no-one in my life believes this. While the wrinkles around my eyes become a little more pronounced, and my hair continues it’s gradual evacuation from my head, it’s heartening to think that most people I know were surprised to learn I was heading towards 40.

I won’t lie. I began this year in something of a mid-life-crisis. Everything seemed to be coming to an end. Not a literal end, obviously, but some feeling of an end. I decided that 2018 would have to be crammed with as much activity as I could possibly manage: A new band, a new project, a new small business, new books, new songs, new blogs, new new new.

During February’s unfinished RPM challenge, I began several songs that didn’t quite fit the direction of the Spy Stories band, and this week, I finished two of them. What to do with them, though?

I decided that in the year between March 14th 2018 and March 14th 2019, I would try to write and record a single per month, and upload and release it to bandcamp. No pressure, no direction; just a fun collection of songs to stretch my songwriting muscles, or even a place to put songs that don’t fit with anything else I’m up to.

And so, with that, I introduce the first in this collection, a double-A side of sorts, Bird Sanctuary / Bridge Will Burn.

Somehow, last night, I wasn’t content to just release the music on bandcamp, but I had that creative itch and experimented a little with videos for each song.

Bird Sanctuary, I created under the creative umbrella of my new “Tiny Spies” project (more on that in a future post). I found a strange film teaching methods of typesetting and cut it to pieces and put it back together again. It’s a strange video, but one I really like.

And then we have the video for Bridge Will Burn, which is a very DIY production to say the least. I had created 2 or 3 takes of me playing with the Rickenbacker and it just felt like a dull performance video, so I recorded takes with another couple of guitars and used the bass-note walk-downs to switch between them. It’s a little rough but it does the trick.

Of course, I’m not going to have time to record videos for each of these 2018/19 singles but I’ll see what I can do when inspiration strikes.

For now, I hope you enjoy these two songs. I certainly had fun creating them. And thank you again to Aga Olek for the violin on Bird Sanctuary.

RPM Challenge: Day 8

A struggle of a day with doubt and strange feelings – but I ended it with more than I began it, so that’s what’s important, I guess. Oh, that and Donuts. Today’s t-shirt: Iceland Airwaves 2012.

RPM Challenge: Day 4

Ok, day 4 of the RPM Challenge and the going is good.

As I mentioned on a previous video, it all averages out to be 2.8 days per song. So far I have 3 in progress and I’d estimate I’m no less than 75% through each of them. So if we say I have 8.4 days to complete these 3 songs, then at the stage I’m currently at with them, it should have taken me around 6.3 days – so a pointless statistic – I’m about 2 days ahead of schedule, though this will be completely blitzed by the next 3 days of little time to work on the project.

I’ve also noticed something else I’ve started throwing in as a silly little extra – a different t-shirt every day…
Day 1 was Belle and Sebastian, Day 2 was Mickey Mouse, Day 3 – Dennis Wilson and today, Big Star. What will it be tomorrow, I wonder.

Anyways, here’s today’s video blog.

Iceland Airwaves: An introduction

Welcome to Iceland

Welcome to Iceland

It has been three years since I’ve been in the cold, windy, but glorious little capital city of Reykjavik, Iceland. Three years of financial and the wilderness of responsibility keeping me from the world’s greatest showcase festival, Iceland Airwaves. Quieten down there, SxSW, I can’t hear you over the plane’s engines. What? I can’t hear you. Shh.

To my count, this will be my 5th Iceland Airwaves festival and the 3rd in which I’ve been working – such as it is. Let’s face it, traveling to a week of new music and Icelandic hot dogs; that really isn’t work, now, is it? Well, I suppose my bag is heavy being, as it is, in possession of 20 of the finest looking and sounding 12” vinyl e.p.s money can buy. And of course, if you’re actually at Airwaves, you can come to Bíó Paradís on Friday at 4pm to catch the author of these much sought after records, Jón Þór, a week before we release it on my label, too many fireworks.

Radio Kampus, I’m delighted to tell you, seem to have entrusted me with the responsibility of sending dispatches from the front lines of these particular festivities. I’ll be reporting back to Warsaw each day with my thoughts on the music I’ve heard. Who should you hear? Who should you avoid? Let’s find out.

Not only will I diligently perform my duties as foreign correspondent, I will also be taking over the Radio Kampus instagram account until Sunday morning – give or take a few posts from the hard-working Kampus elves. Keep an eye out on @radiokampus and the hashtag #2mftakeover for some of these hi-jinks.

Until tomorrow, when I hope to delight you with tales of musical derring-do from Wednesday in the frozen north.

If that is your real name

hmni2Names. They can mean everything or they can mean nothing to the band so titled, or indeed to their audience. They can be serious, political, witty, pithy, nonsensical knowing, ironic, or just ever so simple. Some artists must regret the choice as the weight of their decision dawns on them after the first few years. Others catch the zeitgeist and can come to represent their era or genre. Some names lose any relevance to the reference that produced it – when you think of The Rolling Stones, do you think that they “gather no moss?”, or when you think of Joy Division do you think of the Nazis and sex slavery? R.E.M., or Talking Heads become so synonymous with the bands, we forget those names represent other things.

There are recurring trends and these come and go. There may be a spate of bands using the definite article to prefix anything from a banal noun, to a kinetic verb. Recently there has been a spate of mis-gendered naming of bands, privileged cis white boys claiming irony as they name themselves anything from Girl Band, to Mean Girls, to Cheap Girls. Another example of a trend to come and go, being puns on other celebrity or band names; anything from Dananananaykroyd, to Chet Faker or Eltron John are fair game.

Back in the early 2000s, on their XFM radio show, Ricky Gervais and cohort Stephen Merchant often discussed band names, devising what they believed a sure-fire way to tell if an artist had a great name. Now play along at home, won’t you? Imagine yourself a stage-announcer, at Wembley stadium, something like Live Aid, maybe. You’re announcing the next artists to take the stage: “Ladies and gentlemen, won’t you please welcome to the stage… Queen”, or “The Eagles”, or “AC/DC”, or “…Led Zeppelin”. It’s somewhat less easy to hear: “Ladies and gentlemen listening around the world, won’t you please welcome to the stage… The Flatmates”, or “…Orange Juice”, or “…Arab Strap”. Of course, that I’d often rather be listening to the latter than the former is a discussion for another day.

Thinking back to my own band / artist naming endeavours over the years, I can think of some excellent, and some terrible names I’ve chosen for projects over the years. When Iain, Paul, and I first played together, for a short time we decided upon the moniker “Metronomic”, for a band that were anything but. After that, and somewhat incomprehensibly, we considered “Fourteen Minutes” to be a stronger choice. Thankfully, Andy came along and suggested the enigmatic, “Troika”. Not long after this, I joined a band with a fantastic name, “Skappah-flo”, loosely named after Scapa Flow, a body of water in the Orkney Islands.

Post-Troika, in 2005, Sarah and Dave of Valentine Records – a Manchester label of some repute, came to visit Glasgow and we got ourselves a little drunk, and with some friends tried to record a record in an evening. The names of those tracks have to be seen to be believed; “Tweemo”, “FC Cunto”, and “Kicking Bishop Brennan Up The Arse”, the latter a Father Ted reference that spawned the name of the project, and one of my favourite ever band names, “Nuns are people too”.

As I tried my hand at solo artistry, I did everything I could to avoid using my own name, the reasons for why, have long since evaded my understanding. I tried “A Crowd of One”, “Cinematica”, “Microcassette”, “twentysecondsbeforesleep”, and eventually settled on “beneath us, the waves” in 2009. It didn’t take me long to get bored of that one too, and before long I’d begun writing and performing under my own name.

When I was fortunate to find myself as the final member of a classically infused Varsovian post-rock sextet, we had a mythical struggle to decide upon a name. We each brought lists upon lists to rehearsal, and each suggestion had to win unanimous support. Not one did. One evening, after an enjoyable early rehearsal, I mentioned an upcoming trip home to Scotland, to which one of the band, I forget who – though I suspect Dave – commented on my trip hope to “the Frozen North”. As one, all 6 of us had an epiphany. That’s the name.

And so it was.