Thoughts On Performing Live In Lockdown.

I’ve torn off the Band-Aid. I was sceptical about performing live via webcams and such – is it real enough? Thanks to the Disability Rights Utah for the opportunity! Mission accomplished.

So what was it like? Well… as most of you know, I’m primarily a live performer these days. I’ve played A LOT of shows, done a lot of performances, for literally thousands of people all over the world.

I’m also reasonably comfortable in front of the camera, having been able to work with amazing directors like Lee Cogswell & Josefa Torres. On the night my partner-in-crime and actual partner Nicci Craig handled the live shooting – no mean feat. We broadcast live via a GoPro, connected via the new GoPro Webcam feature. I was really keen to have a handheld look, and I think it turned out great.

But… it’s still a bit weird. It’s no substitute. I thought it would be like making a music video, but it isn’t really at all. There’s all the pressure of trying to get it right in one take, without the connection of an audience. The audience energy is half the show; I’m bringing just half of what happened, if that. Trying to nail a performance, in my garage, with my kids upstairs in bed… it’s a long way from the Kennedy Center.

I’m not complaining, and I’m grateful for the opportunity. It’s weird, but for now, it’s the best we have.

Live From The Lockdown: TONIGHT

So it’s finally happening. I’ve resisted for a little while, but tonight I will be performing live online with the gloves. I’ve taken my time on this for lots of reasons, mostly just technical ones, but it’s time to try. I’ll be doing a very short appearance, just 1 song, for the Disability Rights Action Committee in Utah, who are celebrating the 30th anniversary of the American Disability Act today. It’s not the first time I have works with an organisation in the US for an ADA celebration event; I, as many of you will remember performed at the ADI celebrations in partnership with the VSA at the Kennedy Centre in Washington DC in 2017. That’s still my biggest gig to date.

Sadly, for obvious reasons, I won’t be there. I’ll be at home, live-linked in via Zoom. I’ll be performing at 20:15 UK Time. 13:15 in Utah. Head to the Facebook page Here>>>> THIS IS A LINK <<<< to watch!

I’m weirdly more nervous about this than a regular gig… The future is weird.

What Disability Is/Isn’t.

This is a copy of a Twitter thread that I posted yesterday which is going to bit of traction.

Of course, the problem with the social media is that none of us own the space, so in the interest of taking ownership of my stuff, here it is. Please consider sharing this; I’d really like it to escape the echo chamber of disabled people agreeing with me. We need people who don’t understand to get on board. We desperately need new allies x


Hypothesis/thread:

The lack of acknowledgement of Disability as a Diversity issue in society stems, in some part I believe, due to a lack of understanding of the Social Model of Disability.

People will often say “I don’t think of you as disabled” – that I’m a “normal” person who just has something “wrong” with me. Being disabled is seen exclusively as a medical issue, not a social one. Something that, on a long enough timeline, can be fixed.

I *still* get comments like “why don’t you go to the doctors?” “Haven’t they fixed that yet?” as if disability will at some point go away

This is part of a wider problem: most people don’t know what disability is.

The Social Model is a really useful tool to articulate to non-disabled people especially what disability is.

I was raised within the Medical Model of Disability ie – Disability is something “wrong” with me that needs to be “fixed”

The Social Model points the issue outwards: I have a neurological condition yes, but I’m disabled by a society that doesn’t accommodate that. I’m not “broken” – society is.

Being spat at. Called a “spakka” by complete strangers. Being stranded on planes/trains. Strangers decided to take charge and move me out of the way. All while being told “I don’t think of you as disabled.” These aren’t my problems; they’re yours.

Society upholds the framework that disables me. Like many, I’m Disabled. With a capital D. It’s a social/political identity. I’m oppressed by society, and I have to stand up to that. This isn’t just a health issue.

Understanding the Social Model (the Disabled person is disabled by society, not their diagnosis) is a first BIG step to creating a more inclusive society. Disability is a vital component in the conversation about Diversity, but is rarely acknowledged.

The Social Model isn’t perfect: there are aspects of some people’s lives for whom it doesn’t resonate (chronic pain will always be present, regardless of access barriers) but it’s the best we have *so far*

Disabled people aren’t just “normal” people who have something “wrong” with them. We’re a vital and inevitable part of a diverse society, and deserve to be recognised as something other than “broken”

“Ablesplaining” is an almost daily occurrence for me on social media and IRL. Listen to Disabled people. Don’t try to “correct” their position on ableism. You don’t get to decide. Apply the Social Model to everything you think you know about Disabled people.

Besides selling music, trying to chip away at Disability discrimination is about the only useful thing I can see for my social media presence.

And I get criticised a lot for pointing out inequality. This is an inconvenient truth for a society that doesn’t want to see it’s inherent ableism. Again; don’t frame this solely as a medical issue. It’s an identity issue.

Thanks for reading. I hope you can become an ally x

Lockdown Block.

I fell for it.

You know the spiel. Write that novel! Make that album! Learn that language!

Like many people, I expect, I wanted to believe that I was going to make the best of this time. But it’s going stale. Becoming toxic. The idea that all this extra time is an opportunity feels horribly flawed.

This isn’t normal. These aren’t the conditions to be creative. There aren’t any right conditions of course, but when there’s so much BIG stuff hanging over us, it can feel incredibly futile, trying to make something. Uncertainty is everywhere. From a distance, with the right amount of equanimity, that can be inspiring. When it’s hanging over you, less so. 

But of course, so many people are making interesting work, which only makes the lack of inspiration worse. People are getting on with it. Why can’t we all?

So, no, I don’t feel like I’ve done anything of note with this time. And I’m wondering if I will. And I’m wondering if I should even worry about it.

The alternative narrative is emerging. In articles, in memes, in tweets. It’s okay if you’re not doing your best work now. We still have to survive this thing. 

I’ve got songs all over the place. Ideas for videos/blogs/whatever. But I don’t have the mindset to make sense of it. I’ve also got three kids at home, and we’re trying to homeschool those. We’re struggling to buy food. I don’t know where the next pay cheque is coming from. And I’m going to make my best music in all this?

I’m looking for the threads to pull, the right ones. To find something exciting and inspiring. And manageable. 

One day at a time right? 

I hope you’re safe xx

GGD Modern & Massive Ableton Live Template.

I love Getgood drums’ Modern & Massive. I love Ableton live. Using the two together is almost perfection. The one feature I always wanted was to have Drum Rack style note naming when programming M and M. And now… I have it! I’ll explain how this was done in another post if people are interested in tweaking it, but for now I’ve provided a template that is set up for Modern and Massive.

https://www.dropbox.com/sh/z0cygomqlv9a7he/AABz-yhMlPD_dkzflFCgDdS2a?dl=0

Hopefully that works for you to! And if you’re wondering, this is what it looks like in use:

Labelled notes, and none you don’t need! I routed the mics too.

And this is what Modern & Massive sounds like in my music. Drums kick in around 2:15, but I’d love you to check out the whole thing; the man himself did a wonderful job mixing this…

Enjoy!

Studio Diary 2020_1

I’m starting a new studio diary! Yes. I am so in the zone right now; I’ve been making music every single day for long enough to feel like I found my thing again. I’ve been super withdrawn from recording in recent years. There is loads of reasons for that. Before the gloves came along I was like getting really super frustrated with recording anyway; and then the live thing happened and I didn’t really feel like I needed to worry about it. Live music was really exciting, and paid quite well. But i’m back in the headspace to record songs. I’ve got really excited about keeping things quite low-key; I don’t really worry about where I record nowadays. I’ve put together a really ramshackle studio set up in my garage which is not much more than an SM7B plugged into my MacBook. I’ve got a really nice chair as well. You need a nice chair. More on that later. #Chair.

Last week I released a version of Stay Frosty. It’s been floating around in various states of completion for awhile; I finally decided to dig in and get it into some kind of shape a couple of weeks ago. There’s been loads of bits and bobs of it from different sessions dating back to the flesh and dust sessions in 2015. I don’t think there’s anything that old that made the final cut, but this is from the batch of songs that I was working on when I got the gloves.

I put this version out, and I was happy with it when it went out. Less so now. One of the great reliefs of the digital age is how easy it is to release, review, and refine a piece of work. So few people have heard this version of state for a state that there is really no consequences to changing it.

The version I put out the had vocals recorded quite awhile ago, I’m not even sure when. And it’s, fine. But it’s not great. Actually, that doesn’t mean anything. Great is not a thing. It’s not authentic. That’s the problem. It’s just the words in tune and in time; it lacks any real conviction.

My voice has changed so much in the last few months. That’s very deliberate: I’ve done a lot of work to improve it, it’s probably the best it’s ever been and probably the best it ever will be. So I decided to have another go at recording it. I’m really happy with the new vocals. I think they will probably seem quite different to some people – I really do feel like my voice is quite different now. It’s certainly stronger, and I feel like I can put a lot more into it because it’s in much better shape. No other instrument is so dependent on your health to sound good.I’m working on choreography with Ayaka tomorrow morning but then hopefully I’ll have chance to mix the new vocals. I’ve got some new toys to play with; I bought the Waves Aural Exciter today which really does seem to add some vintage shine to my voice. Mmmmm. 

I don’t think I’d ever have had the confidence to just be so blatant about revising something before. But I really feel so excited about the process at the moment that I don’t wanna really hide anything that I’m doing. It’s a really valid and necessary thing to refine and improve work, but sometimes it feels like music is something that gets set in stone, and isn’t a changing, transient thing. I think of recorded music more like software nowadays; versions of an idea with the luxury of pushing out updates when necessary. Songs have rich and varied lives, and I’m less and less convinced that anything has a definitive version. With that, Stay Frosty version 2.0 will be with you soon!

As always thank you for listening, reading and caring xx

Post Brexit Challenges for Touring Musicians.

Last night I posted about the possibility of turning down a European date due to Brexit. Lots of “Don’t be silly! Go for it!” type comments, which suggests a misunderstanding about how careers like mine work. If I don’t play, it won’t be up to me. So here’s a quick explanation of what I mean that addresses some misconceptions:

1) Yes, it seems fancy. But for me, overseas gig offers aren’t lottery wins; they are my day job. Performing with the gloves is what puts food on the table for my kids. I’m just trying to do a day’s work, like anyone else.

2) We don’t know how we’re leaving yet. It’s likely there will be costs such as visas and Carnets. Carnets are fees that can apply to the equipment a business needs to do the work. That can include laptops, instruments and is based on the value of the equipment. I’m not chucking a Baby Taylor in a gig bag. My show rig is complex. And expensive.

3) Hiring equipment isn’t possible for the most part. The rig is completely bespoke – I certainly can’t hire gloves. 

4) My last tour was profitable because I could say yes to European events with no hassle. Just negotiate a fee and hop on a plane.

5) I’m a one man operation, with a very small following. I can play for fairly modest fees and make a decent living, because my overheads are low. I want to keep it that way.

6) “Just factor the costs into your fee and pass on the expenses!” A LOT of my bookings come via charities and NPOs. Adding all these extra costs without bringing anything new to the table (I’m likely to be more expensive than last time round just because Brexit) will likely result in loosing gigs. 

7) The visibility of disabled musicians is already dire. Less gigs for me is less visibility for an entire demographic. I’ve performed to tens of thousands of people in the last few years. It’s had a massive impact on the conversation around disability and music. This is important. 

8) None of this is comparable to going on holiday in Europe. I’m running a business. 

9) I love Europe. It’s been good to me. Brexit could fundamentally change how I make a living. I’m glad it’s a wonderful opportunity for you. Try to recognise that it’s not an opportunity for everyone. 

PLEASE – sign this petition. The MU has been on this campaign for a while, and this petition at least puts it more clearly out there beyond MU members.

So please, and especially if you’re for this thing, get behind artists like me and let this government know that musicians are being hit hard by Brexit. Let’s keep music live, and keep it global. It’s a beautiful, important thing xx

https://www.musiciansunion.org.uk/Home/Campaign/Brexit