The end of the Time Traveller’s Tale?

Andrew Fletcher who happens to like my music, has written his version of the ending of my Time Traveller suite. I think it’s ace, and he has kindly agreed that I might post it here. I suppose it might count as a piece of ‘fan fiction’. Fun!

Tom Slatter recently released a new album “Three Rows of Teeth”

Three of the songs on this album are all part of one unconcluded story, “The Time Traveller’s Suite”

In the first song, a man is awoken in the depth of night, a girl with a missing eye stands at the foot of his bed staring at him. Before he can act, she says; “Is this the way that my death began?” and with a cosmic shimmer, the girl vanishes from sight!

The man sits up in bed and asks “Is this how one loses a heart?” for in that brief encounter, he fell in love with the mysterious girl. “How do I find her? how do I trace the girl with the missing eye?!”

He sets about developing a machine that will enable him to travel through time in order to find her again. His friends, family and colleagues grow concerned as he searches scrapheaps for budget pieces, but eventually he becomes more desperate, and in the face of adversity, he sells his part of his family’s inheritence in order to fund the remainder of the project.

He eventually finishes, he throws the switch and the whirring machine sends him into the distant future. The years speed by, fashions change and buildings rise and fall until he arrives at a time with endless nights. Convinced that this hell at the end of the Earth is where he’ll find her, since he evidently can’t travel backwards to the night she appeared, he has concluded “If I can’t go backwards, neither can she!”

However, his search seems to have been in vain. He is unable to find the girl with the missing eye, and now trapped alone at the end of the Earth with apparently no way back, he despairs.

A recurring feature in this first song is “What we say three times is true”, I’ve personally concluded that it’s some sort of mental determination therapy technique, if he tells himself three times that he’ll do something, he’ll do it. He vows to find the girl with the missing eye and make her his.

This is where the first song finished. Left at the end of the Earth.

The second song begins with “Maybe I lost you when the roses died”, referring back to a point of time he shot past while searching for her. It goes on to sing about missed chances and reasons he could have missed her.

In this despair, he stumbles on a way to go backwards. “Rise another leaf, and fall another empire… I’ll bring the whole thing down to it’s knees! I’ll find the love that once found me!”

He channels what little energy is left on Earth, destroying it to propel him and the time machine backwards an undetermined amount, but this would give him another chance to find her!

The third song “Love Letters and Entropy” had me confused until I actually looked up the meaning of the word. Entropy meaning chaotic threw the song well into context. He manages to go back in time, and begins his search with a much stronger determination. Being told by ignorant bystanders that “Love is behind every fallen star” though he has been to where the stars finish, and she wasn’t there.

Now that he’s back in the past, the world is different, it’s chaotic from what he remembers. Perhaps his time travel or his unhealthy obsession has warped his vision.

Although it’s not clearly stated, I have my own interpretation of what happens next.

“Found love in the world where we met”, he has made his way back to where he started, to just after he left in the first place. His friends and family get him to a psychiatrist. While in their care he meets a nurse and falls in love with her. Their romance comprised of love letters written to each other amidst the chaos that is Earth.

This is where I feel the third song ends, but I think I know the next part of the story.

Things seem to be looking up when a future version of himself appears, he has a replaced eye and looks as though he has been wrecked and attempts to kill him, shouting incoherently that he’ll not let the girl with the missing eye die. He shoots! The traveller is shot through the face. The future version of himself vanishes much like the girl did at first.

The nurse gives one of her eyes to the traveller and then goes on a hunt to find this mystery assailant. When the traveller recovers, he realises what’s happened and attempts to chase her.

Unfortunately, he is unable to chase the nurse, who is now the girl with the missing eye, because she has taken the time machine. The traveller must now build a second machine, without money and the sheer complexity of the contraption, it’s safe to say at this point, the traveller is trapped.

The girl with the missing eye follows the assailant, the future traveller. By the time she finds him he’s an senile old man, killing him now wouldn’t be enough, he would die naturally soon enough, she wanted him to suffer. So she leaves the old man to die and travels back destroying this alternative future which won’t actually happen if she kills the assailant at an earlier point in time.

While tracing the assailant’s life back, she finds herself standing at the foot of the bed of a much younger version of the assailant, recognising him as her love from the hospital. It suddenly dawns on her that SHE is the one he’s been ranting about, the one he could never find. To prevent a paradox, she had to leave him and never be found.

She mutters aloud “Is the way that my death began?” knowing full well that for her love to live, she would have to disappear and die never seeing him again.

She then travels into the future and hides in the day after the last day of Earth. Somewhere she know he would never search for her. Poetically hiding behind the last fallen star as is pointed out in Slatter’s third chapter of The Time Traveller’s Suite.

Back with the traveller, many years pass… Busking for money and parts for him to invest in the second machine. One with appropriate modifications to go forward and backwards so that when he found her, he would have to destroy whenever they were to bring her back with him.

Out of desperation though, he runs a test of the incomplete time machine, he knows it shouldn’t work, but he’s got few choices. It “works” he is launched back to but a few hours before his future self would come in and try and kill his past self.

With haste, he acquired a small firearm and made his way to the hospital where the assailant would be. He got there, and there he was, with the nurse!

“I will not let the girl with the missing eye die!” realising all too late that HE was the assailant and he had just done what he set out to prevent. The time machine destabalises and he returns to when he tested the incomplete time machine.

He loses hope, he knows what’s to become of him. He can’t complete the time machine to chase her, and that past version of himself is destined to become the busker. He resigns to live in solitude, accepting his fate as a man ruined by love.

Many years pass, he still lives on the street as an old man. On a cold night, a familiar face appears.

“I finally found you… My love” He says to the girl with the missing eye.

She glares angrily at him, as though what he did so many years ago had just happened. Unsatisfied with the prospect of murdering him, she says “I will find your past, and make you suffer ’til the end of your days”

Did she appreciate how right she was? So ends the tale of the Time Traveller.

Confessions of a Music Thief

I’ve a confession to make – I have, once or twice, downloaded music illegally.

For example, about ten years ago I downloaded a couple of Dream Theater albums.

I love Dream Theater, I’ve since spent a lot of money on them – CDs, DVDs, Concert tickets. I’ve spent hundreds of pounds on their stuff over the years.

But I first heard of them when I was a penniless student. One of my bass guitar pupils came tome wanting to learn tracks from Images and Words – He gave me a CDR he’d burnt of the album.

We didn’t get far with a lot of the tracks – Dream Theater are a little beyond my bass abilities – but I did like the music.

So I downloaded everything I could, much of it via torrents.

Was that wrong?

As a consequence I became a fan and have spent over the years, hundreds of pounds on their stuff that I otherwise would not.

But of course it wasn’t legal.

Yesterday I discovered that my latest album has turned up on several torrent/download sites, leading to the biggest one day spike of listeners on bandcamp I’ve ever had.

Is this wrong?

I can’t bring myself to object. It is illegal, and frustrating because you can already hear it all for free and download much of it in exchange for just an email address.

Andrew Dubber, in his 20 things book, wrote about the process we go through when purchasing music. It goes: Listen, Love, Buy.

The modern listener expects to hear music before they buy it – and there’s no way to stop that.You have to turn someone into a fan before they spend any money on your music.

That’s exactly what happened when I first heard Dream Theater and subsequently with lots of other bands. The difference is that nowadays I discover music via legal means because they’re the most convenient – spotify, youtube, bandcamp etc.

I’d prefer it if I could control where my music was and prevent it from being on download sites that exist mostly to make money for others, but if people are hearing my music, well hopefully some of them will become fans. And that can’t be a bad thing.

Is it Prog, or is it Neo-skank Hardprog?

I’ve just started marketing my new album – including sending it to people who write about prog. Yup, I’ve taken the plunge and chosen to openly use that most contentious of terms ‘prog’.

My name is Tom Slatter and I make prog rock music.

Why should I be wary of the term?

Certainly not because I want to be able say ‘my music doesn’t fit into categories – it transcends them’ I’m not quite that pretentious, and my music definitely fits into some rather obvious categories.

Also, not because ‘prog’ is an unfashionable term. I’m not writing top 40 pop after all, the mainstream does not beckon.

No, I’m a little wary of the term ‘prog’ because a few times I’ve seen a certain section of prog fandom engage in discussions about what is or is not prog – and discussions like that are always tedious. You know the sort, those who really care whether Deep Purple are hard rock or heavy metal, who really care whether you’re prog metal or just complicated, overlong metal. Whether you’re progressive – or just prog. Dull, dull, dull.

Being the pretentious muso that I am, my unversity dissertation was on genre distinctions in heavy metal – In particular comparing thrash metal to the NWOBHM.

Yes, I know, I know,

However while researching that I came across Running with the Devil by Robert Walser. This is a great book for anyone interested in heavy metal and sociology (isn’t that all of us?). From this I took the idea of continuums of genre, which is a much more useful idea than strict categories. Think of a continuum that runs from prog to not prog, or from heavy to not heavy. You can place different songs, bands, movements along those axis.

Much more useful than ‘It’s soft trance progcore,’ ‘no it isn’t it’s nervecore hardprog,’ ‘Rubbish, they’re clearly Clockpunk nanocore’

Sizzlerock
Nipplecore
Sazz
Wobbleprog

Making up imaginary genre names is fun.

What point was I making?

Oh yeah, my music is on the prog spectrum, somewhere near where it crosses the English singer-songwriter spectrum.

That’s the point.

Stozzcore

Heavy Slab.

Neo-Skank

Selling out – Like a Pear Cider that’s made from 100% Pear

Selling out is possible. It isn’t always wrong, but it is possible.

I’m a big comedy fan – and one of my favourite comics is melted -Morrisey-lookalike Stewart Lee.

In one of his recent shows Lee performed a wonderful version of Galway Girl by Steve Earle. This was at the end of a long routine about how betrayed he felt when Magner’s Pear Cider started advertising their product with the slogan ‘Give it to me straight like a pear cider that’s made from a hundred percent pear’.

He claimed that this was a folk saying that his family had employed for generations and that Magner’s had stolen it and ruined it for him.

He goes on a long rant all built on the absurd premise that what is clearly a marketing slogan was in fact something that originally belonged to the people and has now been sullied by commerce.

Then he plays his version of Galway Girl, in which he includes a verse about the use of the song in adverts, which destroyed the meaning of the song for him. He also includes references to Johnny Rotten and Iggy Pop, both of whom had recently been involved in commercials.

Yesterday I heard the excellent news that The Fierce and The Dead have signed to the record label Bad Elephant Music for their next record. This is a great partnership and I know it won’t suddenly involve TFATD having to make artistic sacrifices for the sake of commerce – that’s not what the record label is about.

However, perhaps related to this event Matt Stevens, social media addict, certified ‘good egg’ and guitarist extraordinaire posted on facebook asking what ‘Selling out’ was – whether it was something worth thinking about at all.

The short, flippant answer is ‘who cares, it’s no big deal anymore,is it?’ After all, I would never object to a musician choosing to pay the bills. Using your musical skills to earn a pay cheque could never be considered immoral.

Except, that’s not all of what I think, and it’s not all the answer – in fact, I’m kinda with Stewart Lee.

Not all things should be for sale. Prostitution for example is morally difficult because it involves selling something that many of us would think should not be sold.   Slavery is definitely unacceptable because it involves selling something  no-one thinks should be for sale.

Both are at the extreme end of the spectrum, but they’re examples of things we generally don’t consider to be commodities.

Less extreme, but of a similar nature is the artist and her intentions. Intention matters in art. In comedy how a comedian means a joke can change the entire complexion. A sexist remark in the mouth of a sexist is just that, the same remark in the mouth of someone who means it ironically – and is understood to mean it so by the audience – is different.

The same is true with music. Use your song to sell jeans, and suddenly it’s not a song, it’s a marketing jingle. That’s not immoral of itself, but it changes the meaning of the art. The songwriter can’t then claim that the song has the same meaning, because it has been tainted by the other use.

Meaning doesn’t just come from the words, it comes from place, context, intention. If your music is an advert, it’s an advert. You can do that of course, but don’t then be surprised if the audience has a different relationship with your work.

Galway Girl was, to Stewart Lee, a song with meaning. Hearing it used in an advert debased it – and although he doesn’t criticise Steve Earle (What’s an artist to do, for the kind of money they offer you?) he does mourn that change in meaning and wants it back.

Selling out is possible – it could lead to music being used for purposes for which it wasn’t originally intended. The musician needs to be aware of that change, aware that the audience has an emotional stake in the music – feels ownership.

That doesn’t mean it’s always wrong, it certainly isn’t. It also doesn’t mean it’s more important that earning a living, putting food on the table and all those practical things. But if your music is on an advert, don’t be surprised if people think of it as an advertising jingle.

The Bullshit Klaxon

Awooga! Bullshit! Bullshit!

Listening to the Pod Delusion on my way to work, I heard a blatant real life example of Godwin’s Law – in a piece on male circumcision there was a recording of a rabbi making the ‘point’ that the only world leaders to have banned the practice were Hitler and Stalin.

Yup, someone was actually prepared to say that in public and carry on speaking as the audience to the debate laughed at him.

Now I could go on a long rant about what I think of people who think their rights as a parent negate the rights of their offspring. I could object long-windedly to cutting babies up for dubious reasons. But who’d read that? Those are just opinions and there’s a more important ideal:-

I’d like to propose that any public debate should include a simple device – the Bullshit Klaxon.

The Bullshit Klaxon would be manned by someone who was well up on logical fallacies and could identify for example, the appeal to authority, godwin’s law, the classic ‘You don’t have an answer, therefore goddidit’ etc.

Any time anyone trotted out one of these fallacies there would be a loud ‘Awooga!’ And they would be forbidden for speaking for the rest of the debate.

We must do this, because it says so in a bronze age book? Awooga!

Someone I met once had a personal experience, so it must be universal? Awooga!

You can’t believe something, therefore it isn’t true? Awooga!

I don’t mean I want a klaxon going off whenever there’s someone I disagree with. I’d like that, but it isn’t reasonable. Whereas it definitely is reasonable that public debate, especially large public debates that include elected officials, be policed for logical fallacies.

This would aid democracy, and mean that a lot of the loud, idiot voices would be drowned out by even louder awoogas.

It would also be a blow against religious freedom, what with the modern popular religions all being based on logical fallacy. The curtailment of religious freedom is of course a good thing, and I know because I personally can’t take the idea of God seriou- AWOOGA!

Oh all right, just because I can’t believe doesn’t mean there definitely isn’t a god. However, religions have done so much damage to so many people that surely – AWOOGA!

All right, that’s not a logical argument against all religion either but… look, just stop it. My opinions are facts, your facts are just opinions!

Erm. Yeah, Bullshit Klaxon. That’s what we need.

__________

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On gigging and economics

Last week I played my first ‘solo artist’ gig with a full band behind me.

We played well, the band were great and more importantly I crossed a new threshold – people came because they know me as a musician, rather than a family/friendship connection.

Okay, not many people, but considering that I don’t often play live it was a good start and I am very grateful to those that came.

So in terms of a piece of art I was happy with it.

However, in economic terms it was awful. Rehearsing a band costs money, and this was one of those ‘bring enough people along and I’ll pay you’ gigs, rather than a straight cut of the door.

I just missed the threshold, I didn’t get paid. I’m not complaining, this was the deal I agreed and my main motivation was to make the gig happen rather than to cover costs.

Even if I’d kept every penny that people who came to see me paid at the door, I still would have been out of pocket by more than £50.

I can’t afford that.

I enjoy gigging?

What to do?

The obvious solution is to cut costs and cut middlemen. My next little project, after initial online promotion of the new album, will be to have a go promoting my own gig.

The princples I’ll follow will be:

  • Small, not too expensive venue
  • Solo – just me and one or two other solo artists. I love playing with a band but economically it doesn’t make sense at this stage.
  • Good quality – I’ve asked my family and friends to come to too many gigs where they don’t see any great acts apart from mine (That sounds conceited, but I think it’s fair comment).
  • Make very clear to all audience members the costs and be exceedingly grateful for their contribution. Get a bit of fellow feeling and support.
  • Record – get a decent recording audio and/or video that can be shared.

That’s the plan, as vague as it is. Only good gigs from now on!