Posts Tagged ‘manchester’

Thank you to everyone who downloaded my ’52’ album. It is now unavailable pending me figuring out what on Earth to do with all those songs. You have a similar conundrum in the form of 52 songs on your hard drives without a clue to their content and quality.

They may not all be up your alley… there is for example a nine minute long spoken word and dissonance piece called ‘The Devil’s Prayer’ which I recorded with the talented actor Jenny Mae Morgan for Halloween as well as the aggressive Omnichord-punk of ‘We Need To Talk’. There’s the sub-Warp dance-experiment of a track ‘There Is No German Word For Efficiency’ or the poorly recorded, jokey ‘Please Don’t Die, JB’ which was written to keep my housemate from losing consciousness after she sliced her thumb off at my birthday party.

With the hit and miss nature and obvious quality control issues of writing a song EVERY damn week I thought I would list ten of my favourites to give you a ‘crack’ into the album…

2. Meg Shelton, The Witch Of Woodplumpton
The tale of Meg and some of things that occurred to her as a witch but really more about how men will use the excuse of witchcraft to treat women horribly. Will eventually rerecord this with strings to have a real ‘Danse Macabre’ feel. [Side note – I did have a woman threaten to put a hex on me at a gig I played in Antwerp last year because she thought I was actually condoning the burning/burying alive of witches. Maybe I should stick to playing this song in countries where English is the first language or at least work on my Flemish…]

10. Mr Simm’s Olde Sweet Shoppe (Rights Reserved)
Without a doubt this is the song that people seemed to like the most from my live sets last year. Based on the topic of ‘someone who sells things’ because I wanted to write my own version of Tom Waits’ ‘Soldier’s Things’. This was written bang on deadline because I had spent most of the week trying to find a suitable subject matter. I eventually found the brown and gold Mr Simm’s on the Wednesday morning when I wrote half the song before researching the Simm’s family history which took the song in a… different direction…

16. Marvel
I was given the subject ‘The mundanity of work…’ to write about and I thought I would write about an astronaut bored on a space station (even spacemen gotta get bored sometimes…) I like the pulpy, 50’s Bowie thing on this track and Mark Simpson from the Happy Soul helped me out with some handclaps too.

21. Paint It By Numbers
The half realised collaboration between me and Mark from the last track was fully realised here with Mark’s tremendous Harry Nilsson-esque backing vocals. I played all the instruments (hence the ‘special’ timing to the drumming) before he added his magic. The topic I was given for this song was ‘A maths professor who can only express his love in mathematical theorem…’.

31. Eurelian Circles
This is an odd one. Written by the seat of my pants, I didn’t really think much of this until someone else told me they liked it. Seeing it from their perspective has caused me to since re-evaluate it. I like feel and the space in it. It’s a mood piece rather than one of my usual story songs. This has been something that’s pointing the way for my future writing.

37. Please Write Responsibly
Another collaboration with Mark Simpson (it’s funny how often it happens when you live close to each other). This is one of my stream of consciousness tales in which a story I write comes to life and terrorises first the town and then the world. Inspired by the response to couple of other songs I had written in the month before it where people had been offended or upset by my song subject matter. I am very much of the opinion that just because you *can* write anything that doesn’t mean you *should* write anything. Humans are humans wherever you go. However the damage had been done and this song was my apology.

39. Bee On A String
Another favourite from people who have spoken to me about this album. This track is about someone who traps a bee in a tupperware box and sticks them in the fridge to put them to sleep so they can tie a piece of thread onto their leg and take them for a walk. I actually knew someone who used to do this as a child (they were a child – don’t judge!). It was the first track I got to use my new Series II Omnichord George on.

41. RUExperienced [with Natalie McCool]
Natalie and I played a Manchester Sofar gig together and I discussed the idea of writing one of the ’52’ with her. She gamely agreed and I went over to Liverpool for a day of writing. She’s on guitar and vocals, I’m on Omnichord and vocals (George is getting a lot of use by this point).

43. Vadí Nevadí
This track is inspired by Daisies – the 1966 Czechoslovak film written and directed by Věra Chytilová. I watched it at a music hall in Aldgate in September. Would really like to get some violin on this track. Any gaps you might hear in the instrumentation here are definitely crying out for a violin part.

49. Merry Bloody Xmas
What do you know? I wrote a Xmas song. That I like. Inspired by blood sacrifices and orgies (the true meaning of Xmas). Writing and recording on a little Casio keyboard and using crappy drum machines was extremely enjoyable and has in fact been highly influential on how I am writing my next album.

Special mentions go to ‘The Man Without A Voice’ (strange as it is), ‘This House Has Eaten Us Alive’, ‘All My Old Lovers (Live On The Same Street Now)’, ‘A Year After The Party Died…’ and ‘Seven Veils’. Let me know if you have any favourites as I am still trying to figure out how to release this album or what form it will take. I hope you enjoy some of the ’52’ at least.

1982 - known for Tron, The Young Ones and Omnichords...

1982 – known for Tron, The Young Ones and Omnichords…

Deadline: 4th June 
Topic: none 
Listen to the track here:

Last week’s Maths song, as proud as I am of it, was a tipping point for me. I’ve found it useful and inspiring working to a brief and receiving suggestions from you all for things to write about but time for the project to evolve again.

The aim is to keep me creative so rather like Asimov’s rules for robot logic, I am allowed to break or change any rules that stop or hamper creativity.

So I am off briefs for a while. For the next few tracks I will be starting from scratch without preconception or idea and seeing where my brain takes me.

This week it took me in the direction of some vaguely computer-games-esque electronic music. It’s named ‘1982’ after the year that my Omnichords, Bonnie and Clyde were born.

It reminds me of one those little electronic breaks that Cian Ciaran always puts in Super Furry Animals albums. I like that it’s less than a minute long as well.

R.I.P. Rik Mayall who passed away today. I spent most of my snotty teenage years laughing at you and I used to tell people that I once chased you down Oxford Street when asked about my most exciting brush with fame. This lie used to impress people a lot. So thank you.

Where better to show your working than in a copy of  Bido Lito!?

Where better to show your working than in a copy of Bido Lito!?

Deadline: 28th May 
Topic: A Maths Professor Who Can Only Express Love Through Theorems 
Collaborators: The Happy Soul, ELO, GT PhD
Listen to the track here:

Well thank you to John H for suggesting this faintly ridiculous song topic. A very busy week finishing production work on the Jess Roberts E.P. and touring with Tim Holehouse meant I arrived home on Wednesday afternoon from Leeds at 3pm with a bunch of creatively draining domestic chores to do and this song still as yet unattempted (oh look at that – I made up a word).

I had convinced myself I would fail this week. I was exhausted and this ’52’ challenge was beginning to take its toll on my patience and nerves especially whilst more domestic and mundane matters kept interfering. I slumped into a couch and stated “I am going to fail. This is over.”

Many thanks to my live-in companions, JB and The Happy Soul for telling me that I still had a few hours before the deadline and that it was still possible.

Part of the problem I feel was that this topic felt like it had to be engaged with so completely yet I have barely even a passing acquaintance with Mathematical theorem. Also music and maths are so intertwined that my obsessive nature feel it’s a missed opportunity not having the music itself derive from some formula for the perfect form; in the style of the baroque composers or Bach.

It was 8pm before I could bring myself to look at the notes I had made on the song this week. On Monday I had played a show in Liverpool at Sound Food And Drink with mutant bluesman Tim Holehouse and as happenstance would have it, there was a PhD in the philosophy of maths in the audience who very kindly attempted to explain Henri Poincare’s theory of Conventionalism to me. This formed the basis for the second verse with its notion that if everything doubled in size that one would never notice.

The “Shall I compare thee…” line I had since deciding to write this song. I enjoyed the idea of trying to juxtapose the elegant yet complex theorem with the more flowery excess of Romanticism and Shakespeare. Cribbing a quote on how maths is a “useful fiction” and with a chorus to go and knowing I wanted the song to end with Q.E.D. (thus it is proven), I was only a Pythagoras mention away from finishing the song! Highly appropriate given the Greek’s theories and discoveries in the relationship between music and maths.

The writing was eventually finished at 8:48pm and sent at 8:55pm to the Deadline Box. The deadline is 9pm… Close one…

This recording was made on a rainy Monday afternoon with the glorious Nilsson-esque backing vocals of The Happy Soul and the engineering assistance of ELO.

I’ve mentioned my own perfectionism hamstringing this song but another issue was that I am ceasing to find stimulation in constantly working to a brief. Something needs to give, to change in this project if it is to survive past its halfway point (not far off). I will not writing to a brief or a preconceived topic for the next few weeks. I look forward to sitting in front of a completely blank page and creating something completely from scratch.

No idea what next week’s topic is. This makes me glad…

Deadline: 14th May 2014 
Topic: An imaginary soundtrack to The Dark Tower series 
Collaborator: Andy Lyth
Listen to the track here:

“…this is NINETEEN, this is CHASSIT. All your friends are dead.”
– words uttered perhaps by Bango Skank via the pen of Stephen King in The Dark Tower. 

I used to be in a very strange band called Johnny5thWheel&thecowards. The other half of this band (we had up to 42 members but when when there was two of us it was me and him) was a gentleman named Andy Lyth; drummer, accordionist, puppet maker and Star Wars sculptor

One of the many projects we often discussed was the idea of a soundtrack for a series of books we both love called ‘The Dark Tower’ written by Stephen King. They’ve been threatening a big screen adaptation of this for years but it’s a wonderfully complex story that encompasses King’s entire life and career in writing, weaving reality and fiction in a way that I’m sure confused even the author. 

’19’ is a very special number in these books that crops up time and time again. Rumour has it that King began writing the books at the age of 19. 

A lack of topic, a sore throat and a lot of other work meant I had very little time to write this. The day I finally started writing it (two days before deadline) I had been worrying that day that this would be the week I would fail. 

“I’m going to fail on week 19. Of course it’s 19! Like the bleeding Dark Tower!” And then I realised. This was the idea. 19! The nature of the soundtrack meant I wouldn’t have to use my sore throat and plugging headphones into an organ meant I could compose through the night without disturbing anybody. This was written at approximately 4:19am 

When I hinted that I might finally be making a start on the project Andy got in touch and told me that I wasn’t doing this without him. Quite right too. As the books would say: Andy and I are Ka-tet in this mission. 

We met up and listened to some Morricone as well the soundtracks to Taxi Driver and Get Carter to get us in the mood. 

It was a hell of a lot of fun working with Mr Lyth again and we easily slipped back into our old rhythms of working as we had for two Johnny5thWheel albums. We pulled out every old J5W trick in the book. We even recorded the drums in Andy’s bathtub which was a favoured recording technique in Johnny5thWheel (cheers Joe Meek). 

Anyway here is the first of our imaginary soundtrack to the Dark Tower series. I have a feeling there may be a few more of these before the year it out. Long days and pleasant nights to you all. 

Next week: an ode to being too picky.

Deadline: 7th May 2014 
Topic: Catching the wrong train
Listen to the song here:

Excerpt from Douglas Adams… 
The Encyclopedia Galactica defines a robot as a mechanical apparatus designed to do the work of a man. The marketing division of the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation defines a robot as “Your Plastic Pal Who’s Fun to Be With.” 

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy defines the marketing division of the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation as “a bunch of mindless jerks who’ll be the first against the wall when the revolution comes,” with a footnote to the effect that the editors would welcome applications from anyone interested in taking over the post of robotics correspondent. 

Curiously enough, an edition of the Encyclopedia Galactica that had the good fortune to fall through a time warp from a thousand years in the future defined the marketing division of the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation as “a bunch of mindless jerks who were the first against the wall when the revolution came.” 

The motto of the Sirius Cybernetics Corporation is “Share and Enjoy.” 


It’s creepy when the company tries to be your best friend isn’t it? 

This song was inspired by a train journey I took with Virgin to a gig in London. I had been keeping myself fairly Well hydrated for the journey (as is of course sensible) but did find myself needing to ‘explore the geography’ of the train quite early on. 

I found my nearest working Virgin toilet (always the second one you come to) and pressed the Lock Door button in order to perform my ablutions. 

What happened next was very odd. 

An automated female voice informed me that the door was “now locked…” and instructed me not to flush “nappies, sanitary towels, paper towels, gum, old phones, unpaid bills, junk mail, [my] ex’s sweater, hopes, dreams or goldfish down this toilet.” 

It was unsettling and damn near made me forget I even needed the toilet, all the while waiting for this robotic psiren to add the necessary desire for me to “Share and enjoy”. 

I thought maybe I had imagined the whole thing. Maybe over-hydration had turned me delirious but consulting my Internet friends proved it to be an actual real event that had taken place in the world outside of my brain. 

When Cath Mc suggested “catching the wrong train” as a subject, this incident sprang to mind and I conjured up a story of a future train corporation who determined everyone’s destinies by which trains they caught. Everybody caught the trains they were designated and their lives would plod along accordingly. 

Thank you to Nicky Dee for filming herself locking the toilet door (and nothing more) so I could extract the audio to sample for the chorus. 

Thinking as I’m approaching week 19, I’ll be starting on The Dark Tower soundtrack next week and having a go and something instrumental.

Many good mugs were lost on this day

Many good mugs were lost on this day

Deadline: 30th May 
Topic: Wanting warm Ribena because you have lost your voice but not being able to find any so microwaving Hall’s Soothers in a mug
Listen to the song here:

Well what can I say about this? 

Suggestion by James Nash. Hence the story being about him. And me mentioning his name maybe more than anyone’s name has ever been mentioned in a song ever. 

Inspirations included Syd Barrett, Franz Kafka, The Butthole Surfers and according to The Happy Soul, Carter The Unstoppable Sex Machine. 

It’s half spoken word, fairly disturbing tale of James Nash’s woe at losing his voice. Enjoy. 

Next week’s is about ‘catching the wrong train’.

In space no one can hear you sigh...

In space no one can hear you sigh…

Deadline: 23rd April 2014 
Topic: The mundanity of work
Listen to the song here:

Thank you to Chris M for this week’s topic. 

I of course, couldn’t possibly follow the idea straight so I ended up writing this one about an astronaut bored of his job on a space station. 

A very busy week meant I couldn’t put loads of stuff that I wanted in. I wanted to change the first line of the second verse to “I yawn at dawn on Saturn from Space Complex Bravo” and I wanted to add a vocal in the middle/solo section where I was going a bit mental about how bored I was of the various planets in our Solar System. I also wanted to rerecord the solo but I ran out of time so here it is in its shonky lo-fi glory ripping off Aladdin Sane-era Bowie (as ever). 

The Happy Soul (aka Mark Simpson) joined in for some clapping in the choruses.