Serving The Song, Not The Career Makeover.

I’ve always enjoyed augmenting my songs with electronic elements, but the last chapter of gloves/Winter Of 82 was by default entirely electronic. When I think about what I’m doing here, fusing heavy guitars into this, and whether this is going to even work… I have to remember one inescapable conclusion.

I have run out of things to say with “electronic” music.

Why the “electronic” quotes? Because, by definition, anything I do with the gloves is electronic, they have no inherent acoustic properties, and require a computer to make them work. It’s obviously an electronic instrument, but there’s no reason they have to be bound by the sounds we associate with electronic music.

That’s really what I’m talking about; the Route One electronic music sounds. Swapping guitars for synths and drum machines. It’s almost obligatory in this era: the list of artists who ditched their guitar sound in favour of electronic music. Radiohead, Coldplay, Linkin Park, Maroon 5, Chris Cornell… it’s a “thing” major artists do, and has been done to death to my ears. My heart sank when I heard the last Linkin Park record because it sounded – in it’s audible DNA – like everything else on mainstream radio. The mid-career electronic “surprise” makeover is so grimly predictable, so audibly homogeneous. I’m reminded of a few articles around the time of Kid A. While most of the music press hailed it as the single greatest plot twist in rock history, there were a few journalists protesting that making music that sounds like “Warp Records in 1993” and singing over it was not *quite* the groundbreaking event Q Magazine hailed it as…

When I think of electronic music expertise, a few familiar names surface. My undying fanboyism for Frou Frou was largely because it was music that sounded organically electronic. It wasn’t a beats-and-bleeps makeover; it was a beautiful, living electronic sound. Imogen has continued this concept beautifully in her solo work. A bold statement, but if we’re talking about electronic music in a songwriting landscape, I think Immi is literally the best there is. She’s untouchable. Every glitch, every crunchy beat, every dance floor kick sounds like it grew with and out of the song. Not a single song breaks that rule; it’s never tacked on electronica for cool points. And that’s where I started to come unstuck with Winter Of ’82 – my music was starting to sound like tacked on electronica.

Ditto for anything Bjork has done and (an obvious link) anything Guy Sigsworth touches. Electronic music can be organic and beautiful, and some of the best music I’ve ever heard is in this context – swapping your drum kit for a TR-606 (Cuz an 808 would be too obvious) is not how it’s done.

So I’ll return to my happy place, where flashes of electronica arrive because they serve the song. That balance is evident in my pre-gloves work; Hand At Emotion needed it’s piano ballad to Drum N Bass bait-and-switch. Dialling in Ableton packs to replace guitar parts isn’t the way forward.

There’s a lot of reasons why my rock roots as a guitar player was the only available place for me to go now, I’ll write about those in depth in good time. I will say that I am very excited by the music tech headf’ck of how the Gloves and Ableton Live collide with Extended Range Guitars – the mechanics of that feel extraordinarily disruptive in my head. I hope that this project is really going to mess with how people perceive the gloves and modern music technology… 😉

The Leak.

My good friend Imogen Heap has an interesting habit of doing career things on and around her birthday. So that’s another idea I’m borrowing from her… Today is my birthday, so I’m making today the day to let you in on all this!

There’s two weeks of blog posts to dig through if you’re keen to get up to speed, explaining the various aspects of this project and how I got here. So where is here?

In short, I’m starting this new Rock/Metal flavoured one-man-band, and it’s called Dyskinetic. I thought I’d made that word up, a portmanteau of ‘dis’ as in disability and ‘kinetic’ to reference the movement of the gloves. But not only does the word exist, but it’s another name for the very medical condition that finds me disabled.

It’s a return to my earliest roots, with the latest technology. I’m using the gloves of course, reimagining them as a rock instrument. I see a lot of futuretech, and nobody plays rock with it. But why should heavy music be solely commanded by guitar bands?

I’m ‘leaking’ this blog ahead of any new music to give an insight into the process. Sitting on things until I have a single or two up my sleeve feels very ‘old way’ and this is all about the new. Sharing, demystifying; that’s what this is all about.

The blog will be central to this conversation; I don’t see Dyskinetic as solely a music project. It’s a conversation about music, technology and disability. As well new music and a new live show, there’ll be visual and written works. You can find this on instagram as @dyskinetic. That account will attempt to tell the story visually, and only this story. Pictures of kittens and toddlers and pizzas will be saved for my regular personal account. There’ll be a new Facebook page too. Twitter will stay as is (@krishalpin) because the conversation there has always been this, I think.

With the recent web server hack, I have lost a huge chunk of my digital presence anyway, so there’s a neatness to this reboot/reframe, I think. Gotta start over, and I’ve gotta be productive,so why spend the time repairing and rebuilding what was?

There’s loads of new music on the way, and I’ll be doing a lot of behind-The-scenes process stuff to do with that over the coming weeks.

I am forever grateful for the support I’ve had over the past two years with Winter Of ‘82 and The Gloves Are On. It’s been an extraordinary adventure so far; But now it’s time to start a new one. I hope you can join me xx

The Hack.

I wasn’t initially sure how to present this digitally, but imagined it possibly under the umbrella of my own name and my own website. Right before Christmas I faced and upsetting but decisive setback. A hacking script had its way with my Web server destroying both krishalpin.com and winterof82.com and every other website blog that I was hosting. There were backups, but it was never going to be as easy as just flicking the switch. My digital footprint was a blank canvas.

With possibly a glint of nihilism, I decided not to go through the painful process of repairing and rebuilding my online presence but to begin it again, here.

There are a couple of other aspects in my life that make 2018 a year of reboots and blank canvases; I’ll come to the others over the next few weeks. For now and for the foreseeable, this is where I will be making and talking about my musicmaking.

The Tech.

RE: yesterday’s post; if you discovered me because of the future tech; don’t panic – I’m not taking the gloves off yet.

The mi.mu Gloves, for those unaware, have revolutionised my musicianship, and will revolutionise many other’s too. They’re essentially complex MIDI controllers, mapping and tracking hand movements to control and create electronic music. With them I can play invisible drums, strum air guitars and manipulate sounds in the palms of my hands.

My inexperience in electronic music making lead me down a path of making fairly lightweight, delicate sounds with the gloves; a style they lend themselves well to. During the first tour the process was about using the available collectible data (one finger pointing left, a fist pointing forwards for example) to make sounds. That was enough to wow audiences, but I’m trying something new now. I want to think about how the gloves look, and what movements the music inspires. I want to take a more abstract approach, rather than the literal “invisible instrument” approach of before. I’m also thinking about Robin Valk’s “big rock shapes” comment. I want to show that the gloves can indeed rock.

That’s another problem I want to solve with music tech in general. I have performed at many music tech events, and I’ve seen a lot of next gen instruments. One thing I haven’t heard in this context, is rock music. Rock has been traditionally the preserve of guitar bands. But why can’t future tech make future rock?

The Guitar.

At the time that I was really down and struggling with guitar playing, I was playing solo acoustic shows. A fingerstyle approach, influenced by Nick Drake. My impairment mainly affects my right side, therefore my picking hand. That was the only way I could see my guitar playing fitting into my songwriting and performing then, so it seemed like I was doomed.

The Gloves happened, and you probably know the story. I’d been so frustrated with my playing that at the time of the gloves starting, I didn’t want to go near a guitar. But behind the scenes, with the focus on the gloves, I began to miss guitars.

Messing around at home on days off, I gravitated towards the reason I learned to play in the beginning. I played heavy, and I began to really enjoy playing again. Regaining strength, I relearned the old Metallica riffs that got me started.

There was a strange period where I was doing really well with the glove performances despite the fact that I’d grown a little jaded with the technology. I reasoned that the Gloves was my ‘act’, my ‘job’, and playing heavy guitar was my escape. But inevitably, that felt unbalanced. If you have a musical connection you have to obey it; you can’t force it into the ‘HOBBY’ box.

So when everything else lead me to Dyskinetic, I decided it was time to pick up the guitar for real again. I don’t want to give too much away, but where I’ve come back in to the Guitar is really exciting. My impairment still affects my playing, but instead of dropping the instrument I want to use the technology and the Aesthetics Of Access (more on this later) to support and augment what guitar playing I am recovering. This is a world away from the acoustic troubadour of a few years, but it’s still songs first. But this time, I’m not shying away from my first instrument because of my impairment. Instead, I’ll honestly see and share where my musicianship is.

The Moment(s).

I’ve seen many bands, some of the biggest in the world, but until recently I hadn’t heard the biggest of them all… Metallica.

Despite being a huge fan from an early age, I’ve never been able to see them for whatever boring reasons. In 2017, the stars finally aligned.

I knew it was going to be a big deal, but I couldn’t predict how much. It hit me so hard, I couldn’t even. I knew that night that I couldn’t move forward making lightweight, twinkly electronic sounds. I’ve seen loads of heavy bands, but there was an energy that night that just bulldozed me like nothing else. It was one of the most emotional and intense musical experiences.

A few weeks later, I found myself feeling similar bulldozed by a different emotional musical experience. At Imogen Heap’s 40th birthday party, her band Frou Frou played their first show in well over a decade. I had front row seats, and was able to forget for an hour that Imogen is my friend and just be in awe of her musical genius. There’s a finesse, a virtuosity to her live music. Her delicate attention to detail, somehow while keeping the music rich and robust.

And somewhere between the muscular riffs of Metallica’s guitars and the designer finish of Imogen Heap’s Gloves is exactly where I’m trying to land this ship. I’m sure it sounds crazy, but to my (inner) ear, it makes perfect sense.

The Sound.

I hope you’re enjoying this labrynth of unboxing posts. I’ve been posting every day to clear the way and set up a few things. So, next up; what exactly is this new thing supposed to sound like?

I’m wary of calling it Metal, but it’s biggest influence is Metal. It’s heavier, darker, more intense than anything I’ve done recently. It’s especially a return to my early 20s Alt Metal days. I was 19 when Hybrid Theory came out; I couldn’t escape the gravity of that time. Deftones, Korn and Linkin Park all made music that not only reflected how I felt at the time, but dared to push things forward. At this time UK guitar bands sounded tired and derivative; the NWOAHM captured my imagination just at the right moment.

Of course, there’s more to my musicianship than metal, but that’s the backbone of Dyskinetic. I still love and intend to explore the rich palette of sounds that I’ve got to know. The electronic and classical influences are still there, but I’m building something more daring, more robust for them to hang off.

The Story So Far.

Oh hi, you’re new here? Okay, the headlines so far:

  • Born with CP after being injured during birth, I got off to a wobbly start.
  • Growing up in a tiny little village, I was the target of much prejudice. I was token disabled kid, but in my head I was gonna grow up to be a rockstar. I’d show ’em all when I grew up.
  • I discovered heavy metal and electric guitars around the age of 10 and had my plans for world domination all mapped out to the soundtrack of Metallica, Iron Maiden, Megadeth and Pantera.
  • Britpop happened in my teens, and took me and my guitar with it.
  • I played in bands well into my 20s, and eventually grew into an acoustic guitar wielding solo singer songwriter.
  • My career was going okay despite the obvious access barriers of getting around and getting onto stages and stuff like that. Around 2013 I began to notice (but tried to ignore) that my CP was impacting on my guitar playing. I was really beginning to struggle to perform live, and it’s no exaggeration to say that I thought my career was coming to an end.
  • I reached out to a charity called Drake music, who work primarily with technology to make music making more accessible to disabled people.
  • Drake musics resident technologist Gavin Hewitt took a keen interest in my songs and we talked a lot about how I could continue making music moving forward. At the time, I struggled to connect with the concept of accessible music technology.
  • Drake music begin talking to Imogen Heap’s team about a revolutionary new MIDI controller that seemed like Science Fiction. The mimu gloves were a wearable technology developed to help Imogen perform electronic music in a more gestural and expressive way. Quite by accident, gallon and I could see that she and her team had invented an extraordinary piece of accessible music technology.
  • Drake music purchased a pair of Mimi gloves for me to use and be one of the first people ever to use this new technology, with only 15 pairs made public at this time.
  • I began reimagining my guitar and piano led back catalogue for this new and incredible instrument, and eventually put together a live show entitled the gloves are on.
  • After a successful UK tour in collaboration with disability charity attitude is everything and independent venue week, the phone kept ringing.
  • With TV newspaper and radio appearances, the buzz around my work continue to grow, as did the show.
  • Originally scheduled for one week, I toured the gloves on for 18 months internationally which shows all over the UK and Europe and the final performance at the Kennedy Centerin Washington DC in summer 2017.
  • I ended the tour, somewhat on a high but also with a need to reimagine and reinvent the music I was making with this new technology.

And that, is how we got here…

The Visual Narrative.

When I reflect on what this project means, I come to realise that it’s really a conversation. It’s not just a body of songs, or a band, or some other music industry specific boundary. It’s about amplifying the conversation that I have been having about music, technology and disability.

Of course, musicmaking is at the heart of it; that’s who I am. But there are other aspects to how I want to tell the story.

One aspect of that is being influenced by accessibility. Not everyone can access music in a conventional hearing it cents. I knew I wanted to explore visual representations of the conversation as well.

It is also borne out of the fact that I spent three years in art college.

I went to art college for fairly silly reasons; I figured that if David Bowie, John Lennon and Thom Yorke got something out of it then it would be good for me to, despite no obvious “art” talent. Exploring my ideas visually actually did an incredible amount of my creativity. It really taught me to think about what I was trying to say with my work. I am really not a traditional visual artist; I cannot draw for shit. Being forced to work in mediums that really saw me out of my depth, that made me think about the story I was telling. Reapplying that here feels quite exciting.

For that reason I want instant gram to form a big part of the story. There is a narrative only instagram – @dyskinetic – this is not me-and-my-kids type stuff, its the visible narrative of this project. I will attempt to explain certain ideas around this project photographically but rest assured, there will still be plenty of pictures of guitars and mimu gloves…

The Word.

I’ve never been a fan of seeing my name on things, so I was always going to give this project a name of it’s own.

In thinking about what it is I do, I thought I’d come up with an interesting portmanteau to describe it. I (thought I had) invented a word – dis as in disability, and kinetic as in the kinetic energy and process of moving the gloves on stage to create sound. Playing with spelling and meaning, specifically the difference between dis- and dys- I googled my “invented” word. Imagine my surprise:

It appears to be an Americanism to some degree, which may explain why I’ve never heard my own condition described as dyskinetic. The coincidence is so extraordinary – if I believed in fate…