“This is great. A big dollop of proper pop. A slice of singalong hooks, followed by the rest of the cake. The earworms you didn’t know you needed until they wiggled down your eustachian tube and wrapped their little bodies round your cochlea….”
Recently I was at Jordan’s, recording his bass parts to an ep of Murder Ballads.
It was lots of fun, and very productive. We got bass parts down to three songs that will definitely be on the record. The whole point of the project is that it’s supposed to be a bit rough and ready, a bit weird. Jordan was really up for that and played some creative, odd stuff.
But one of the songs didn’t work.
‘A bloody way to find yourself some peace’ it’s called and lyrically it does fit with the other songs for the EP. It’s all about killing someone as an act of revenge, and how that actually feels quite warm and right (according to the character in the song. I wouldn’t know. Honest.).
But musically, it didn’t quite. The chords are a bit too 80’s ballad, the melody a bit too straightforward, the structure a bit too simple.
It was written several years before the others and I wasn’t entirely confident with the whole thing going in, but thematically it seemed to fit, so I through it into the mix. It was only as Jordan gave it a go that we realised that the double bass didn’t really work – and the reason it didn’t work was that the song doesn’t belong on this EP.
Is the song really dead forever? Maybe, I’m not sure. but for now, this isn’t a song I’m going ahead with.
Is there nothing salvageable from it? Yes. I really like the opening section with the arpeggios and pedal E note, so maybe that section survives in another piece further down the line.
Here’s an MP3 of the guide vocal and guitar lines, plus Jordan’s double bass. Rough and ready, but you get the idea.
I think it’s a perfectly competent song, but not one of my best and not for this murder ballads project. What do you reckon? Did I make the right call?
Here’s a thing to listen to. Alun and I recorded a little chat about the Murder and Parliament album. So if you like hearing musicians whitter on about music they made, you might want to click on this. Also includes a ‘bonus’ track in the form of an song from Alun‘s latest album Humankind (or just kind of Human).
The winter period contained two relatively last minute gigs for Gareth and I.
On the 3rd of December 2017 we played a set at Masquerade II, a one day festival organised by The Gift’s chief luvvie, head crooner, and good egg, Mike Morton.
It was a bit last minute. We were stand ins for a band called Preacher who had had to pull out at short notice. David Elephant, my label boss, vehemently denied that there was any foul play involved in getting us onto the bill, although it was him who suggested us to Mike (David, is that vague enough to keep you in the clear while maintaining your air of menace? Don’t worry, I’ll take this comment out in the edit).
Graham, the indefatigable stage manager told us to get there at 10am. Being an ex-teacher, I took that to mean we should get there at 10am. What a fool I was. In the end, by the time doors opened in the early afternoon only one act had sound checked and it wasn’t us.
I Am The Manic Whale played a blinding set, and then we were on with just a line check that didn’t identify the slightly dodgy guitar lead I had picked up.
Our set, while generally good and well received, did involve some slight technical issues which I find slightly annoying.
But thankfully there was a very appreciative audience who could forgive a few crackles and we got away with it in the end.
Here’s a review of our set, which is very nice given the reviewer admits to my stuff not necessarily being his cup of tea:
“Self Made Man stands out and particularly shows Gareth Cole’s skill on guitar. Tom Slatter also displays a surprisingly soulful voice … and they deservedly received a very positive response…” Read more.
Here’s the penultimate episode of my silly podcast, which is all about what happened after the gig. It also contains a recording from the gig which includes Tony Colvill’s rather interesting intro, and a track from our set. Every word I say is true.
Nice ‘n’ Sleazy
Also at Masquerade were the quite awesomely awesome Big Hogg. Big Hogg can groove, which isn’t the sort of thing you expect at a prog event to be honest. They played a great set and turned out to be lovely people as well. A few days after the gig, Justin, Big Hogg’s head honcho (actually I have no idea if he’s the head honcho in that band. He’s one of the honchos certainly. Why do you only ever hear about head honchos? Why not Second Honcho? Minor Honcho? Co-Honcho?) asked us to come and play a set in Glasgow on Jan 6th.
Travelling most of the length of the UK to play a gig with people we barely knew, in a city we’d never played, on the off-chance of possibly breaking even? Of course we said yes.
Turns out Glasgow is still one of my favourite cities in the UK. We watched the rather fabulous singer-songwriter Marcus Doo perform a set of confessional, honest songs of the sort that I never could, and then we played our own set.
I’m rather annoyed that I forgot to change the batteries in my trusty old zoom recorder because I have no evidence of the fact that this was our best gig yet. We played well, but that was surely down to the energy of an engaged and receptive crowd.
The best gigs aren’t the ones where you get all the notes right and remember the words. That bit of it is a given really. The best gigs are ones where you act and the audience responds. You make a joke and they laugh, you play the quiet song and they shut up and listen, you finish a song and they burst into applause, rather than just clapping politely.
This was like that. It was good.
Orion’s Belt were the headliner. They’re a bit folk-rock, a bit psychedelic, and a lot good. They played a set that was a mixture of songs and improv. It went down well with the crowd and I really loved it.
The Glasgow trip was great fun and we’re already thinking about how we can get up there again. Justin and Julia’s cats were great hosts (the humans were really cool too) and Gareth not only played a blinder, but did a ton of driving for which I am very grateful.
So, so far this acoustic rock duo thing has been a great success. We’ve got to the point where we can play some songs without messing up too badly and played some great gigs.
Next step is to get some more in the diary and have more live-music-related fun.
Erm…. do you want us to play a gig? We will. Almost anywhere.
What began in late 2015 as an attempt to put out something out a bit of audio silliness once a week for a year, turned into an off-and-on mess of lies, interviews and dodgy live performances that no-one made me stop.
But now I’m making myself stop. Here’s the penultimate episode of the Sunday bootleg. It includes a snippet from the Masquerade 2 gig Gareth and I played last week, as well as the entirely true story of what happened after the gig.
In that first podcast I told you about Tarquin and the City-egg I saw him and some of his cronies pushing through the deserted London streets. Now we come to the culmination of the war they have been fighting with the metal-music-insects.
It is all true. Every word.
As the saga is nearly over, I thought I’d put together a playlist of all the episodes of my podcast that include Tarquin the City Boy.
This song was originally supposed to be a collaboration with Paul ‘Hoopshank’ Turrell, a wonderful songwriter who I knew from FAWM. We never got round to finishing it together, and he died relatively recently so now we don’t get to work together at all.
I said, Hoops, wanna collaborate?
He said, yeah, shall we do something a bit Genesis? Maybe a bit like Can-UtilityAnd the Coastliners?
I hadn’t heard that, so I listened once then over the next few weeks this song turned up. I lost lyrics wrote it in my head whilst commuting, which is a bit unusual.
Hoops heard it and liked it, but never found time to do the keys and drums that he was going to add.
I finished it for the album.
It’s about sailing ships!
Recently I picked the participants of a fantasy festival line up for Steve Blease’s Sounds that can be made podcast.
You can hear it by clicking here.
Tomorrow is the first rehearsal for what the thing I am not going to be calling, but actually is the Tom Slatter duo.
Does that sentence make sense?
Gareth Cole is going to come play guitar and do some backing vocals I haven’t finished doing tabs for him (Sorry, ran out of time). The studio is a new one to me and I have no idea of it has air conditioning. I haven’t had time to practice my parts much and we don’t actually know if the songs we’re planning to do will work in a duo format.
Nonetheless, I reckon it’s gonna be great. What could go wrong?
It was a pretty hot day, exactly the wrong sort of weather to be donning the full steampunk in front of hot lights, but that’s exactly what I did, tie, waistcoat, massive coat and goggles in front of Ash’s massive collection of lights. It was a bit hot.
It was also surprisingly tiring. Ash is a great photographer, especially at giving direction. I’ve been putting myself into situations where I need to take direction a bit more than I normally would of late. This was the case with recording Happy People, especially with the songwriting and singing, and as with that I found the photoshoot lots of fun. It’s funny, I find myself thinking beforehand that I won’t enjoy that collaborative aspect, that my ego won’t allow it, but in practice it always seems to turn out well.
So when told to ‘give it more eyebrow.’ or appear more like a ‘baffled man’ I was more than happy to oblige and I think once they’re done the pictures are going to come out really well.
Why do I want new pictures? Because I intend to use them for getting more gigs and coverage. My plans for th next 12 months include getting my music in front of lots of new people.
Ash suggested there as something akin to a scam in this. It”s not quite the skills of the photographer at work, there’s also a high level of chance involved. I don’t see anything scammy in that though. Whether it’s visual or auditory, recording art means you will capture happy accidents that might become the main thing rather than whatever it was you intended.
In fact if I think of my own songwriting, that tends to be the case more often then not. I rarely set out with a clear vision of what the song is going to be. Instead I”ll just start improvising and make use of what turns up. You discard the dull and uninspiring stuff and keep the good material.
I think maybe being a good artist is mostly about developing the ability to sift the wheat from the chaff at a quicker rate.
The photos should be ready soon, and I shall begin the task of reaching out for gigs and then, gradually, conquering the world.
Waha! Wahaha! Wahahahahahaaaa!
Ahem. I mean, playing those gigs. I would like to make it clear that the pictures will definitely not be used as part of an evil plot.