Here’s a version of Hand At Emotion I shot earlier today. This is as I wrote it – long before the gloves were a thing…
Just a simple tweak to this today. I’ve added some pretty chuggy chords w/ a 7-String, and a cool little chorus pedaled arpeggio. It’s evolving; it feels like the scenery is in place now, next it needs vocals, structure… to become a song, basically.
This is fascinating. TR didn’t get to be synth guru through happenstance; he had a really unique position to witness the development of synths in the late 70s and 80s.
It’s really interesting to hear him poke at the popularity of the DX7; it’s influenced my use of software synths a lot with my use of Native Instruments FM8. It’s interesting to hear that that ubiquitous 80s has very different connotations at the time…
So obviously, I’ve been super busy performing live. For 3 years. I haven’t recorded anything meaningful in years. Kinda fell out of love with it. So I’m breaking the silence in about the most low key way: with a demo. This is super rough, guide vocal, not mixed, just a microphone and a laptop. It’s the antidote to all the big studio stuff I tried to do before. The finished thing will be more of a… thing, but for those of you who find the process interesting, here’s me without my make up on…
There’s a lot to say on the subject of recording. I haven’t released any in a long time, have I? The irony is amazing to me; I thought I could only realistically progress as a Recording Artist; live music was so inaccessible. Now, my life has been about playing live for so long, I can barely remember what recording is like.
The process has, for me, got wrapped up in a lot of nonsense. I’m a songwriter. Wrestling with which brand of compressor to buy won’t make me a better songwriter, but I’ve put a lot of time into that anyway. That’s a subtle, sneaky kind of procrastination. Tools are shiny. It’s very tempting to think you always need the shiniest. I’m learning to know my space; shiny toys are best left to technical types that can find joy in that. I actually don’t, but I have a lazy procrastinating streak that thinks the job is all about the tools.
The clue here isn’t to avoid/minimise technology. Technology can be emotive, and emotive is where we must head. You have to be truly in love with something to do it well.
And through a vortex of musical discovery with my Better Half, we find ourselves listening to the synthesizer.
Synths interest me, but I don’t *love* them. But through my Better Half’s love of Synthwave, the genre of EDM that time travels itself to the mid-80s, I’m reminded that I *did* love them dearly. As a kid, I listened to Vangelis a lot, thanks to my dad giving me a cassette of the album China. I loved the big, spooky noises, the dramatic chord changes, the delicate melodies.
Being a child in the 80s was all about movies. Of course it was. And movies had soundtracks. Perhaps alarmingly, may brother and I were allowed to watch Terminator at a *really* young age. Brad Fiedel’s synth score was forever uploaded to memory.
And from there, it’s easy to get emotionally invested in technology. It’s super emotive to me, Synthwave makes me feel like a kid again. And of course, that’s it’s purpose for a certain age group. The defaultness of this is fascinating to me. It’s simply to do with age; I’d get a similar feeling from different music if I’d born in a different decade, surely?
But there is an emotional playground. It doesn’t make me crave a nostalgia fix in my work, though. I’m still looking to the future. I used to pride myself on always trying to push forward, oblivious to the necessity of looking back for clues. I can’t reinvent music. To quote Steve Via: I’m not original, and nor is anyone else. Except The Shaggs.
But still, in this old sounds, I hear the future. I hear what I imagined my life would be like now. And yes, my lack of hoverboard is so painfully obvious. And cars still have wheels. I feel cheated.
Childhood is imagination. Mine wasn’t good. It was painful. It was hard. My body didn’t work. My imagination was my escape. But at some point, recording music stopped being my imagination, and started being my career choice. It stopped being something I needed, and became something I had to do to play some game imagined by the music industry I felt alienated from anyway…
Yawn. How unimaginative.
With the news that Bandcamp will soon allow artists to offer vinyl, I was naturally intrigued by the possibility of working towards putting out a record next year. I’m very into physical media, vinyl being naturally the king of the physical space. It’s a beautiful thing, to put on a record, look at the sleeve notes, experience the album as a whole. I also notice that I’m in an analogue space, not dependent on Bluetooth or WiFi. There’s something very enjoyable about that to me.
What I didn’t know is that you can’t just press music to vinyl. How it sounds will greatly influence what’s possible. Did you know that bass heavy music takes up more room on a record? I’d heard that one, but I didn’t know you could reclaim space with quieter passages. It’s a science in itself. Luckily, I found this handy guide:
I’m still a way away from having the record together of course, but it’s still useful to know. I can’t wait. I’ve always dreamed of having a physical thing.
Endless fun making endless loops for an imaginary movie made in 1988.
I love facts like this. Mainly because they reframe concepts of what is “real” – something many musicians obsess over. There’s a popular idea that old recordings are more real, that modern recordings are full of tricks and cheats and it’s-all-done-with-computers to make them sound better. But of course; there’s nothing new about the thinking, only the technological means…
“Drums and upright basses posed a big problem for these recording devices. The intermittent low frequencies that they produce made wider or deeper grooves (in the case of the Edison machines), which make the needles jump and skip during playback. So those instruments were also shoved to the rear, and in most cases were intentionally rendered almost inaudible. Blankets were thrown over drums, especially the kick and snares. Drummers were sometimes required to play bells, wood blocks, and the sides of their drums instead of the snares and kick drums—those thinner sounds didn’t make the needles jump, but could still be heard. The double bass was often swapped with a tuba because its low end was less punchy. So early recording technology was limiting not only in terms of what frequencies one heard, but also in terms of which instruments were actually recorded. The music was already being edited and shaped to fit the new medium.”
― from “How Music Works”
It’s a fantastic book, by the way.
In rehearsals today for DM’s evening at DaDaFest next week. DaDa is a leading organisation in disability arts, and I’ve had the pleasure of working with them before. Next week I’m performing my guitar/gloves piece, When I Grow Up (originally commissioned by Drake Music for the DM20 celebration, and supported by the PRSF’s Talent Development Partnership) at the Drake Music event at DaDa on the 28th in Liverpool.
Today I’ve been rehearsing the guitar part of the piece. I’m really aware of how far I’ve come to be able to share this. My guitar playing was on the scrap heap, so it’s a quite a journey to get to this point. It’s gonna a long series of posts unraveling my struggles as a guitar player, but for now, I’m just going to say this feels like a huge achievement, posting this. It’s only phone footage of a snippet from rehearsal – we’ll do something more Pro with it soon…
Tickets for the Liverpool performance on 28th are HERE!