Studio Report 3 – In A Church? With My Reputation?

I spent the last two Friday evenings at St Paul’s Church in Goodmayes with the Barley Singers. We rehearsed and recorded an arrangement of my song ‘Cutting Up All Of Our Dreams’.

The Barley singers are my mum’s choir that she started a few years ago since retiring. They’ve put on a few concerts and my mum has written several songs for them.

I’ve had Cutting Up All Of My Dreams for a few years now, but hadn’t found the right arrangement for it. No matter what I tried, nothing seemed to work. So I sent my mum the vocal part that I would be singing, and asked for to arrange her choir around that, figuring that if I couldn’t work out how the song should go, maybe she could.

She did! It sounds great. Bandcamp subscribers can hear a rough version over on the bandcamp subscribers page.

It won’t sound absolutely perfect – we didn’t have the time or resources for that. But it does sound good, and honest, and like some people singing a song and enjoying doing so.

In other news

David Elephant, maniacal boss of my record label Bad Elephant Music has now given me a deadline to get the final mixes to him by early March. With David, the word ‘deadline’ must be taken very literally so I will do my best to meet this demand. Or else Mickey Knuckles will be sent round to remind me of my contractual obligations. Again.

But it’s okay, because I think this will work. The tracking is all done, bar vocals on one song, the mixes are mostly coming together, the demon voices have nearly been transferred from my head and onto the digital tape. The new album slouches towards Bethlehem to be born.

Be afraid. Run. Hide in the hills.

Studio Report 2: ‘It’s not called a ‘Honk-pipe’!’

For at least twenty years I have been insisting that the instrument my sister, Rebecca, plays is called a ‘honk-pipe’.

Technically this is untrue. It is a bassoon. But that’s not as funny.

On Saturday Becca came round to record a bassoon duet with herself for the new album. The piece she is playing on is called ‘Patterns of Light,’ and I haven’t quite figured out what all the words are so I can’t tell you what it is about. But it’s a track from the middle of the album that gives us a break from the more rocky material around it. My aim is to create something that’s sort of ‘sickly-sweet’, a feeling I’ve tried to achieve by forcing together two major keys that don’t belong together.

Being a proper musician, I was able to just throw together a little score and as it is a short piece we were done quickly. It sounds really good.

I’ve also made some good progress on vocals, now that lingering bastard of a cold has mostly gone away. Lead vocals and a large chunk of the backing vocals are at ‘draft one’ stage. There’s maybe another days worth of work to do on those and I’ll have vocals finished.

After that?

Well the next two Fridays include recording of a small choir. More on that next week!

Do you want to hear an extract of the work so far? 

If you were a subscriber to my Immoral Supporters group on bandcamp, you could. Click here to find out more.

A gig? A live gig? With an actual band?

You may have seen over on social media that I have the first Tom Slatter band gig in the diary. Here’s the poster. If you can get to London on 28th March, it would be great to see you!

Tickets can be purchased here!

Studio report 1 – Jan 20th 2019 – ‘As mucus free as possible’

Here I am just before I attempted to record the first vocals for the new album.

I can’t shake this bloody cold. My Christmas break was pretty much wiped out by a cold and almost a month later it still hasn’t gone away.

This is not how I wanted to start vocal recording for my new album. Ideally for recording vocals you want to be as mucus free as you can be.

Is that too much information?

Running down the back of my throat it was. All snotty and unpleasant.

Too much information?

I was wheezing and leaking, so I was.

Nevertheless, I did get some good stuff recorded. In particular, I think I’ve got the lead vocals done to the studio version of ‘Wizards of this Town,’ as well as all the vocals to the album’s longest song and the third instalment of what I’m thinking of as my ‘tentacle trilogy’.

What’s that? I hear you say.

Well, on my second album I had The Beast of the Air, a song about hunting be-tentacled sky-kraken. I followed that two albums later with ‘Some of the Creatures have Broken the Locks on the Door to Lab 558’, a song about tentacled creatures er, escaping a lab.

This album also has an even number so it seemed the natural place for a third song about tentacles. In the first and second the monsters were the enemy. Will that be the case in the third song?

No. No, it won’t.

So the current state of play is this:

There are eleven songs. For those that have a traditional rock band set up, basic tracking of guitar, bass and drums is done. The remaining two will be recorded over the next month, as will the rest of the vocals.

What’s it like? Weirdly, despite none of the songs being autobiographical, this is my most personal album. At its heart this is an indie rock album, but with all the other things I like thrown in: prog, folk, a bit of metal, electroacoustic music, and a bit of classical.

I’ll share more over the coming weeks.

Do you want to hear an extract of the work so far? 

If you were a subscriber to my Immoral Supporters group on bandcamp, you could. Click here to find out more.

Me do marketing good

What do you think of the following marketing ideas?

Because my social media accounts want my involvement with them to be a commercial endeavour. And lots of people who make music seem to think there should be a music business of the kind they imagine existed from about the 50s to about the year 2000.

So I guess I had better get with the programme and start marketing my music.

I have noticed that big brands these days don’t mention their products and instead talk about feelings. They try to co-opt your experiences of family, or friendship or companionship and say ‘hey, buy our stuff and you’ll have those feelings’. I can do that.

Here are my advert ideas:

1.Being a parent is good. Buy my CDs.

It’s a rainy Sunday morning. We see a dad standing at the sidelines, cheering on his son who is playing football (not his mum. Sport is a dad thing. This is advert land. Only stereotypes exist). It is rainy and dad is tired. We see a montage of him leaving for work the previous morning, before his kids got up, and coming home after they went to bed. We see the alarm going off to wake him up. He looks sleepy and tired and sleepy.

But he takes his son to football. A matey other dad hands him a cup of coffee. He yawns.

Then his son scores a football goal and dad cheers him on. The son turns round and he is wearing a Tom Slatter t-shirt and has my face. He is tiny an childlike, but has my adult face. Dad and Slatter-son hug and are triumphant.

Slogan appears: Parenting is tiring but worth it. This music is now associated with this feeling of worth. Buy my cds.

2.Old age is scary, but you will care for your elderly relatives. Buy my CDs.

An old woman is alone in a flat in black and white. She sees the world pass by through her window. She is old and afraid and lonely and afraid. Knives and hoodies and electric lights flash past. A man with a non-specific European accent menaces her by existing. She is alone and afraid. You do not want to be her.

A younger woman, who you identify with, visits with flowers and chocolates. The film becomes colour. They talk and laugh and have a cup of tea and the women who is you nods and smiles and patronises.

The woman open the chocolates. Each one is a miniature Tom Slatter CD.

Slogan appears: Old age is scary but you are a good person who will visit old people. This music is now associated with your charity. Buy my cds.

What do you reckon? Will those work? Do you have any other ideas for how I could use the power of marketing to hoodwink gullible idiots into buying my cds?

(PS you can stream all music for free here).

Spirit Box released today

I am very pleased to announce the release of Spirit Box, my new EP.

It’s a collection of murder ballads with songs about evil clowns and overzealous butchers. It’s about death and ghosts. It’s acoustic and noisy and dark and murdery.

You can stream it on bandcamp, download it, or buy a CD with two bonus tracks.

Murder ballads and other dark songs

I’ve always enjoyed songs about the darker things. Songs about characters in extremis, pushed to the edge and pushing back. Songs about murder, and killing and weirdness. Nick Cave, Tom Waits, the darker traditional folk songs.

I couldn’t pinpoint exactly when I started to love songs like that. I’ve always liked heavy metal, which has its fair share of horror songs. As a very young child I liked musicals, and that’s stayed with me, even though a great many musicals suffer from not being Sweeney Todd.

But wherever it started, I like music that’s melodramatic and macabre. Here some inspirations:

Nick Cave’s Murder Ballads

Where the Wild Rose Grow by Nick Cave and Kylie Minogue is one of a great many Nick Cave songs I could have picked. The juxtaposition of a pop princess and a raving madman stoving her character’s head in then putting a rose between her teeth works beautifully. What I particularly love about this is that if you were listening with half an ear you could be forgiven for thinking this was a cheesy love song, rather than a murder ballad.

It’s also unforgiving and bleak. Apparently the older, more traditional murder ballad folks songs would contain verses where the murderers get a proper comeuppance. The law, or at least justice, would find them. Not so this song. The tradition changed, particularly over in America and murder ballads just focused on the dastardly doings of the antihero. This Nick Cave song is definitely in that tradition. There is no light. He just kills her. And yet musically it is a straight ahead, simple song.

What’s he building in there?

The same cannot be said of Waits’ What’s He Building in There. That ain’t no normal song. This is character, through and through.

What I love about the video in the link above is the melodrama. It is dark, but the audience are happy to laugh as well. What’s often missing from more experimental stuff on record is the audience reaction. Laughing is okay. If it’s weird, it’s weird.

Waits’ songs aren’t always about murderers, but so many of them are populated with these weird, over the top characters who get up to all sorts of strange things. I know people always focus on the unique character of his voice, and rightly so, but for me what stands out are the protagonists of his songs.

Sweeney Todd

I couldn’t write about the music that has influenced me without mentioning this show. Sweeney Todd has a special place in my dark little heart. I’ve never seen a live show so blood soaked and gleefully, messily, violent. And Sondheim is a genius, isn’t he? The words are genius, the accompaniment grotesque and perfect. And there are moments of real beauty in the melody, but every one of them is undercut with an air of menace.

In short, I like ’em dark.

What about you? What dark, storytelling songs would you add to my list?