Studio Diary #7

Momentum is a powerful thing. Last week I worked five days straight, and really hit my stride. This week, Monday and Tuesday were wiped out by other projects, website tweaking and studio availability. That’s meant today has felt like hard work. I’ve spent hours on one part today, and it felt like a slog. Meh. There’ll always be bad days, but I feel like momentum helps reduce that. A lesson here: even on busy days, where many tasks are competing for time, it pays to do *something* every day.

With that in mind, I’m thinking more about how best to get things done. Over the last few months I’ve researched and refined techniques and tricks to help me get things done. There’s A LOT of stuff I can say on the subject, so I’m thinking about how to make that part of this blog. Earlier today I’ had a really healthy conversation about sharing knowledge and resources, something I was resistant to. It’s not useful* (*key word for a future post) to be possessive about my methods, so starting next week I’ll be aiming to make this blog a useful resource for creative productivity. I’m being honest and saying now that I’m not sure how far I can take that idea, but I’ll certainly try. If one other person improves their creative output after reading this blog, it’ll be worth exploring… stay tuned!

Studio Diary #6

Today is the first day that this opening out into more than just a song. That was the goal to start with of course, but I’ve been so super engrossed in the first song, it started to feel like the only song. Panning out a little and taking a couple of more songs, the album looks like it could take shape.

That’s right. I said album.

It feels like an album is there. What this means in this day and age, I’m not sure, ’album’ sounds a little antiquated, but it’s definitely a cohesive body of work.

Whatever I end up putting out, I can honestly I’ve never been more excited about releasing material. It’s early days, but I feel like my best work is taking shape… that all sounds terribly vague, terribly cryptic, once again I’m dancing about architecture. I’m almost ready to pull the trigger on letting some sounds out into the world. That’s something I’ve not felt up to doing in over two years. My crisis of confidence in my abilities to make records has been well nurtured, but I finally feel myself coming out of it. It’s exciting. I’m excited about my music again, and I hope you will be too. 🙂

Studio Diary #5

Day Five! It’s strange but still familiar to be this deep into a recording project; I haven’t recorded anything of my own in the last couple of years. I know, right. I’ve been really focused on glove performances, and I’d lost my mojo with recording. I’d tried getting something off the ground several times, but nothing would stick. As I mentioned in an earlier post, my “genreless” ambition had, ironically enough, become massively restrictive. Without a place to land in sight, I circled aimlessly in a nondescript airspace.

The song I’ve been working on has really come into shape. It’s a complex, dynamic beast, so it’s taken me a few days to shape the track, but I’ve arrived there now. It’s also been a learning curve, so hopefully the next track will come together quicker. My plan at the moment is to get tracks minus vocals into shape first, cementing the feel and sound of the songs. I’m really keen to have consistency across tracks; finishing one then moving onto the next feels like an inconsistent way of working. Also, I want to tackle the vocals in one body of sessions, so I need all the tracks in order. I’ve got a decent amount of songs to work through, so I’m trying to work out the quickest route through all this.

So tomorrow, I’ll start laying foundations for the next song. It’s all a clear path to the end in my mind; just got to keep my eyes on the prize…

Studio Diary #4

My struggle with guitars is well documented. My guitar playing took a dive as my hand cramps worsened, and I contemplated a musical future without guitars. ICYMI, this is the full story:

All caught up? Good. So the glove thing took off, but behind the scenes, I missed guitars. I still struggled with the acoustic guitar parts, but my earliest Metal influences helped me make sense of my hand issues. Heavy riffing is physically a totally different approach compared to acoustic fingerstyle. So for the last year, I privately toned my rhythm guitar riffing chops. It’s paid off. Today I recorded new guitar parts, specifically a part that I was convinced I wouldn’t be able to manage without serious editing. I’ve regained some dexterity, strength and speed over the last year. My playing has improved, albeit in a different style to where I left off. Thankfully, it’s exactly the place I want to be right now. There’s still pain and tightness to work through, but I played tight and heavy today. And now I’m getting excited about this new music going out into the wild…

Studio Diary #3.

When you start out, you love every minute. You’ll sit up for hours; tweaking, listening, refining. But by the time you’ve turned that passion into the thing that puts food on the table, the landscape is very different. There is an expectant audience. There are the connections you’ve been meaning to follow up for this eventual release. There’s the money you spent getting the gear and/or people together to make it good enough to get to this point. You might have a family too. It’s a lot of stuff that shifts that perspective, and if you let it, it can all zap that inspiration you were flinging about the place carefree only a few years ago.

But that’s the test. Can you sustain it? I used to be daunted by the prospect of committing to dates to record. What if I’m not feeling it? What if I’ve got nothing?

Of course, waiting for inspiration makes for a poor and thin career. It may sound trite, but you just have to get shit done. You’re only as good as you are when you’re getting shit done, those thrice-yearly-best-song-evers don’t pay the rent. Blimey. This is nothing like I imagined it.

Except, it is. Because all that stuff about being in the headspace, about culturing and capturing this special other, it’s a big lie. It’s a lie that helps us all feel better about procrastination. We can dream BIG, but can we get it on tape? Can we have that elusive thing ready, when our schedule requires it?

That, to me, is the whole game. Inspiration when it strikes is not what makes you a great artist. A great artist is someone who turns up on time every day and just works at it, whether they’re ‘feeling’ it or not.

So I turn up every day that I can get to the studio. And I’m not waiting for inspiration to strike. I feel inspired to be there. The turning up, the getting on with it, that inspires. Reigning creativity in is healthy. Give it boundaries, put it on the clock, and it will blossom. Honestly, I’m coming up with the best stuff right now, and it’s not because I feel some magical inspiration. It’s because I’m cultivating it, disciplining it. That’s what great art really needs.

Studio Diary #2.

Today I burrowed deeper into the rabbit hole of the old/new song I started earlier this week. As the saying goes, talking about music is like dancing about architecture… so what do I say here? I remember Richard Thompson saying that you shouldn’t talk to much about songs you’re working on because you could talk them into the bin; seems like sensible advice. What if I describe something in a way that resonates with you, but the song underdelivers based on what you imagine for it? Or is that stuff actually too interesting to pass up on? Hmmmm.

I can say that there is zero lag in my process right now. Working towards this sound, this place that shares common ancestry with modern metal (time will tell if it’ll be judged as truly METTUL) I know exactly where everything goes. I know what the pallette is; I know what won’t work. I used to open all the toy boxes every time, striving towards some vague notion of post-genre music making. Eclectic juxtapositions can work, but my feeling now is that without direction there is no form. I’m not spending any time trying this or that and maybe it’s a drum n bass song maybe it’s a folky song… I know *exactly* what Dyskinetic sounds like, and it sounds like nothing else I’ve ever heard. The best success would that that becomes true for you too; now that, that would be making it…

Studio Diary #1

Wow. I finally started tracking today. The new studio sounds great; mixes sound crisper and clearer, and it’s a much nicer vibe. I started working on one of the Legacy songs, reimagined in a heavier arrangement that really works.

Back up. Legacy?

So there’s a decent pile of songs that date back to the mid naughties. Strong songs that due to the limitations of my production skills (and equipment) never got recorded properly. Revisiting them, they reveal themselves to really robust and still completely relevant. I just had the bad luck of writing them at a time when my recording options were severely limited. So, for future reference, these lost songs are being rebooted, and I’ll be referring to them as Legacy songs. Not sure if they’ll all stand up to being recorded, but the songs are:

  • That You’ll Never Know
  • Country Gothic
  • She Sings Your Songs
  • Ghostships (okay, that was recorded and released, but it never lived up to ambition for it)
  • Two Hours
  • Hold Your Kiss

There’s something really interesting about revisiting songs that I’ve had for years. Little charms reveal themselves, and themes resonate with the now. In a sense I’m stripping them back; the demos of these I did years ago were crude yet complex; far too many sounds clambering for the listener’s attention. I’m rebuilding them to be heavier, more muscular, more direct.

There’s loads of new songs on the way; there won’t just be old material. It’s just that this small handful of songs have never left me, and my abilities and the technology have caught up.

It’s also the first day I’ve tracked heavy guitars live for this project. I’ll dedicate a separate post to what that entails for me now, but I’m pleased with how it sounded today. Pain and discomfort were thankfully mostly at bay, and I played my longest serving, most well worn in guitar. It don’t look like much, but it sure is something; it feels like an extension of me. And today, it sounded like me too. I’ve missed that. 🙂

Studio Diary #1

Just a quick dip in to test out some sounds for a new version of an old song. It’s sounding really good, with a bit more muscle on it’s bones.

It’d be nice to say that I made a big event about starting, but it’s pretty gentle. I’ve been really ill over the weekend, and so things aren’t getting off to an explosive start.

Nevertheless, it hasn’t taken long to get something workable. I’m Playing around with a bit of a different feel – can you guess what the bass sounds like?

Studio Diary #0

Not quite ready to start a studio diary because the studio isn’t quite ready! I moved premises over Christmas; still working with the same team, in a bigger and prettier building. HQ is now in an 18th Century modernised granary in rural North Warwickshire. It’s quite something.

I’ve had a lot of help, especially from my dad who has made a *huge* number of improvements – I’ll get into these in more detail in a future video. Yes. Video! Regular videos from the studio coming soon… going to be talking a lot about the music/technology/disability intersection, and especially the aesthetics of access (another “more on that later” topic).

The studio work has taken a little longer than I’d hoped, but next week I’ll be starting work on new material. Blimey. That is exciting. I haven’t done any serious recording in maybe two years. The gigs were plentiful, and I’d lost the love for the studio anyway, so I threw myself into touring. I’m ready for the big red button again… \m/

Photo of work in progress studio

(Nearly) Studio Time!

2018 brings with it a lot of changes in rainy January. As well as this project, I have moved studio premises. I have worked out of the same tiny studio, The Playhaus, for maybe four or five years. It’s the place you see in most of my youtube videos. The Studio is a collaboration between myself and some good friends who run a music publishing business; we put my gear in their space and we had ourselves a little studio.

Now my friends bought bigger premises, and have very kindly kept me in as part of the package. That means the new studios being put together in a gorgeous 18th-century modernised granary in rural North Warwickshire. It has an extraordinary vibe already, and we’re still doing work.

By next week I’ll be able start working on new material for this project properly, a few bits and bobs to do. I am resisting the temptation to post pics until it’s finished, but it looks amazing. I can’t wait to press the big red button…