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.
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…
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…
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…
One of the reasons I’m working under a new b(r)and name has to do with that pulling all this together for the listener.
I could put this out as Kris Halpin, but that doesn’t tell you anything about what is and why it’s different.
My art college brain likens the difference between Kris Halpin, Winter Of ’82 and now Dyskinetic as being that of a series of works, the way a painter may create a series.
If you make art for yourself and no one else, then make whatever you want. If you make art for the rest of us and you’re interested in having us appreciate and understand what you’re up to, you better make it in ways that give us a fighting chance to figure it out.
This neat article at ArtBusiness.com explains the Advantages to Bodies of Work Over Single Pieces better than I can…
It’s been with me for a while now, this need to make something new of my work. Something bigger and heavier, and a body of work that better reflects the conversation I’ve been having with people all over the world. I wanted to reframe my work in a way that acknowledged the music/technology/disability intersection, not just some music happening near to that.
There was a time when I was viewing this as a possible side project – my rock/metal side project. ‘Side project’ implies a little less commitment though. It sounds thin, impermanent. I know I want to give everything to this. In reflecting on it, I had to of course consider the available options:
I’ve *never* liked releasing music under my own name. I’ve always felt like it lands in a kind of dull vanity; it’s a body of work, and yet it shares it’s name with a bloke that created it? Not saying that kind work for anyone; I can’t image Ryan Adams as anything else. This is a valuable lesson when creating anything: just something works for someone else, is no proof that it works for you, and vice versa. It doesn’t fit me, it fits many other artists perfectly well.
Winter Of ‘82
This was the ‘band’ that I’ve worked as for several years. I love the idea of WO82, it’s a very particular sound in my head, playing homage to a specific set of classic influences. But that’s the point; it is a retrospective kind of work. All those WO82 singles sound deliberately like a bunch of 60s 70s and 80s influences. I knew I didn’t want to mess with that. I was playing progressive folk pop kinda songs; I didn’t want to just reboot that as an “and for my next trick…” Cyborg Rock makeover. Another issue I had moving forward with the name Winter Of ‘82 – it looks back. It’s already happened. It’s literally the past. Having said that, it’s not dead. I know what WO82 is supposed to be, and I’m proud of everything that came out under that name. I’ll get back to it, but right now, I’m all about the new. The Now. The Future.
For all the success, I was never that happy with the sound of The Gloves Are On.
It’s coming naturally, it seems. This headspace is wide open right now. New riffs and melodies come into focus every day. Feeling the floodgates open, the pressure releasing; it’s beautiful. I hear this new sound in my head, as I’ve been listening to it for years.
It’s daunting too, of course. It’s a delicate task capturing it all, especially when this is catching me while I’m busy doing anything else. Inspiration doesn’t care if you’re busy spending time with your kids or not.
It’s not magic. This isn’t a go-me I’m-so-inspired thing. It’s (welcome) hard work. It’s the end result of well nurtured musical intelligence and creative thinking. I’ve been hearing this new sound for a long time, but between access barriers and experimental technology, I just didn’t know how to get it out of my head.
The trick, the only trick, is to quieten your mind enough to hear the ideas. I’ve no doubt that any songwriter worth their chops can “hear” fully formed musical ideas, so long as they’re open and receptive to notice. Turning down the noise of my own inner critic narrator is the real skill. Don’t break the surface. Don’t make ripples in the pond. Notice the still water.
Mostly though, I’m just excited. I’ve been thinking about this project for a long time, it’s taken me the last 12 months to gently get all it’s aspects into focus. And today I’ve finally created a few things worth getting excited about…
I’m not sure where (or what) the right headspace is to begin this. I guess that never comes. At some point you have to tear the plaster* off.
It’s New Year’s Day. I’m tired, and a little hungover. But there is much to explain. After all, it’s Year Zero. This year is all about this.
A set of sounds, colliding in my head. Apposite and Opposite. An intense, contradictory aesthetic, at once as fragile as it is heavyweight. A dissatisfaction with the translation from my heart/head to your ears. A need to return to the very root of it all. A challenge to reimagine what accessibility sounds like. An urge to return to the timeless instrument that defined me to me, and to bring it to the strange new instrument that defines me to you.
To be big.
To be dark.
To be loud.
To be heavy.
And so, it begins.
(*Band Aids, y’all)