Music in strange times

In these weird times maybe you need some free escapist music?

Here’s are three releases I have up on bandcamp that you can get for free:

An Experiment Too Far is the best of my first ten years as a solo musician. Songs about alien outbreaks, ravenous sky-kraken, demons and ghosts, all for free. Much more relaxing than the real world.

Something Happened in Amersham is a live full band ep, recorded in a hurry last summer. I really like the rough, have a go, make some noise, nature of these recordings. Nice and urgent rather than polished and produced.

And finally, Racing Gravity is a collection of the rough demos I put together in February as part of the songwriting challenge February Album Writing Month. There are definitely not finished songs, think of them as sketches.

Do ever say something’s no good, when you really mean you don’t like it?

Do ever say something’s no good, when you really mean you don’t like it?
 
A friend of mine recently posted a video of a musician playing a ‘show off’ technical solo and asked whether it was really musical. 
 
Which got me thinking…
 
We all have a set of values we use to evaluate music. These values are ones you’ve learned, they’re culturally determined, they’re neither right nor wrong. But lots of people seem not to have realised this and instead talk as if their particular values are universal. 
 
Someone I know who really likes classical music, with its focus on harmony and melody, was happy to suggest that Stormzy might not be music. They didn’t just say they didn’t like it, they seriously suggested it wasn’t music. 
 
Someone else I know shared a piece of writing that surfaces every few months online. That piece suggests that modern pop music isn’t good because it doesn’t have complex harmony. When challenged, this friend asserted as fact that complexity and a sophisticated use of harmony were universal values that can be used to judge all music. 
 
These attitudes are, to put it mildly, totally nuts. It’s the same attitude that questioned whether jazz was proper music or said that rock n roll was inspired by the devil. You can use your values to judge whether you like something, but you can’t use them to say another form of music isn’t valid. 
 
That heavy metal guitar playing is too fast and seems obsessed with technique rather than playing a nice melody? Maybe rather than condemning it you should consider that the audience expects to hear stuff at that speed and are alive to the subtleties. Maybe you should consider the deliberate attempt in some heavy  metal guitar pedagogies to explicitly  follow on from baroque violin virtousos like Paganini, and how similarity to that style is a plus not a minus. Maybe, in short, you shouldn’t assume that your own values are relevant to judging how good the music is. 
 
You might dislike it (sounds like I might too), but so what? ‘I don’t like it’ is true, but it’s a pointless, narcissistic thing to say.  If you want to discuss whether music is any good, ‘Is the artist achieving their aims’ is the correct question to ask. 

14! 14! 14!

14! 14! 14!

After 12 years of trying I have finally succeeded in writing 14 brand new songs for February Album Writing Month!

Here’s the makeshift cover I made yesterday for the album of FAWM demos. Just put it up for my bandcamp subscribers. Might share it with the rest of the world next week. It’s the audio from the videos I’ve shared recently, but in handy streamable/downloadable form.

I really enjoyed February Album Writing Month this year. I think what clicked was the combination of:

-A permanent recording space in the form of The Nightmare Shed so I could get in and start making music every weekend without having to set anything up.

-The songwriting practice I put in over the Christmas period (these 14 songs are only about half those I wrote over the whole winter).

-Making a video for every song. Because I was singing and playing one guitar part live for every video, I couldn’t go back and perfect every line. So each song had to be finished pretty quickly.

Will I do a finished recording for every single one of the 14 songs? No, probably not. But I think the vast majority will end up as the finished article over the next few months.

In you want, you can hear all the songs over on youtube. Here’s the playlist:

FAWM part 2

As mentioned recently, I’m taking part in February Album Writing Month for the twelfth year in a row.

Here are songs 4 to 7:

Rats

I’m a heavy metal fan and there’s a long tradition of writing songs that sympathise with soldiers but are sceptical of warfare. I think that’s where this comes from. First drafts pretty much of course, so everything could be better. However, I did punch in a second take of the guitar solo, hence the dodgy cut. Bits in 9, 4 and 3. Not quite metal, but a bit loud.

What’s Heaven Got

This is ‘What’s Heaven Got?’. Yeah, see I can write to a pop song structure. Verse, Chorus, key change at the end, all of that. *Stewart Lee mode* I can write pop songs, I just choose not to. It’s not of interest to me. */Stewart Lee mode*. 6/8 in the verse, 4/4 in the chorus. What I like about FAWM is that you turn out songs you’d never write otherwise.

Keep it close

No idea what the words are about, but I like the way they sound and that’s what matters I mispronounced the very first word and the intro is long so the video shows me just standing there listening. And I had to do a second take for the second half to turn out a half decent solo. But I am still pretty happy with this one.

You’re lying to yourself

I wanted to do another fast twisty one to go with ‘Rats’, so I made this. It’s got bits in 5 and 7 and 4. The middle section needs more work and I need to write a second verse rather than just repeating the first, but I really like the main riff and chorus.

 

February Album Writing Month 2020

It’s February, and that means I’m taking part in February Album Writing Month. The challenge is to write 14 songs in the month of Feb. Or, as it’s a leap year, 14 and a half.

I’m three songs in so far. Here they are. Just rough demos of course, but you get the idea:

Even Here

This is my first song for this year, written and recorded from scratch in about three hours. It’s a demo of course – everything’s one take. A main section in 10/4, with an interlude in 3, building up to a scrappy one take guitar solo at the end.


Red Moon

Red Moon was written in even less time than my first song, Even Here!

It’s about a red moon that is in some way evil. I dunno.
I recorded the guitar and vox in the video to a drum loop, then added the other layers. Then decided I needed to mute the guitar when the mellotron comes in, so there’s a bit where I’m playing guitar in the video but you can’t hear it.

I like the chords in this.

Mummy’s Gone Now

This is Mummy’s Gone Now, a song in two halves. Part one is 7/8 moodiness, part two is up tempo rock.

14 in a month. I think I have the sketches for the next 3 done, so getting to 6 is doable. After that? Who knows.

It’s been ten years since my first solo album!

It’s been ten years since I released my first solo album!

So here’s a free download of ten of my best songs.

Ten years singing about tentacles. Ten year of monsters, demons, wizards, steam-powered robots, and countless ‘orrible murders. Ten years of acoustic arpeggios, twisty guitar solos I can only get right in the studio, mucking about with silly time signatures and writing songs that are definitely too long to be hits.

The first ever review of my first album called it an ‘experiment too far’, so that seems an apt name for this collection of ten of my best songs.

The free download of An Experiment Too Far also includes a PDF of my gig diaries from 2016 to 2019, full of entirely true stories including the final fate of my nemesis Praying Mantis Dave, a 7 foot hells angel insect that I got into a feud with after a gig at a biker rally in Preston.

I also tell the story of the backstage happenings at the first Bad Elephant Music showcase gig, and tell of my altercations with demons from Watford, dowsers from Berwick and buskers in Brighton. I’ve got into a few bust-ups after gigs, almost all of which I survived through the use of supernatural means.

Every word in those gig diaries is true. Many of the sentences are not.

These songs were mostly chosen by the denizens of the Tom Slatter Immoral Support Group online, although I overrode them and added my favourite song from my first album Mechanism, and my favourite song from my second, Beast of The Air. I’ve kept it to ten because it’s a tenth anniversary, but of course I’ve released a couple of hundred tracks over the years, and could easily have got this best of album up to thirteen, maybe even fourteen tracks.

In addition we’ve got tracks here chosen by my fans/tormentors that cover the breadth of work. We’ve got proggy rock songs with overlong titles in ‘Some of the Creatures…’ and ‘Mother’s…’, short form rock songs in Happy People and Satellites, songs about weird stuff in Wizards of this Town and Demon, and plenty more besides.

It’s free to download, which I would recommend if you want to read the entirely sensible gig diaries.

Something Happened In Amersham

Something Happened in Amersham is a little ‘bootleg’ recording of four songs we recorded ‘as live’ in Michael Cairns’s’s Amersham Music Studio.

It’s a first go at recording all of us playing at once in the studio, recorded in a hurry on a sunny Saturday.

We recorded:

Some of the Creatures
Mother’s Been Talking To Ghosts Again
Wizards of this Town
Demon

I’ve put the tracks up on my bandcamp subscription page because those are the people that should suffer first. I’ll share them with the rest of you in a week or so.

You have been warned.

Here Love Dies

It’s a year since I released Spirit Box! To celebrate, I’m putting this bonus track up on bandcamp until the end of November. This was previously only available on the CD version of the EP, along with another bonus track ‘Paper Scissors Stone’.

Here Love Dies is about nightmares. Of course.

It moves from sparse acoustic textures at the beginning to a big loud ending that includes some fantastic lead guitar playing from Gareth Cole.

Have a listen, and download it if you want to keep it because it’ll only be up for a couple of weeks.

Spirit Box Vlog episode 3

Repeats. Can’t stand ’em.

Here’s episode 3 of last year’s vlog series about Spirit Box.

I’m slightly mean about the movie version of Sweeney Todd in this. Sorry Johnny Dep fans …. are there any of those left? Surely not.

Anyway, this is about the second song on my latest EP. It gets a little bit nerdy. If you like chords and stuff you’ll like this. Possibly.

Here’s a link to the EP.