FAWM – A Big Riff

I’m writing this early on a Saturday morning. By the end of the weekend it will be half way through FAWM and if I’m to stay on track I need to finish three song demos in two days.

I’m tempted to create some false jeopardy by not doing this and ending up behind. Cos that will create drama. But there’s a very real chance I won’t need to artificially engineer that situation. Last weekend all I needed to do was record songs I’d half worked out over the previous week. Now? I’ve got little snippets of ideas and that’s it.

Here’s a video diary vlog thing from the last week. As you can see, not the most productive of weeks. Though I do have a ‘big riff’. So that’s promising. There will be at least one song this weekend.

The first four songs are pretty strong though, in my opinion. Here they are:

I Have A Mask – this one is about wearing a mask and faking your entire life. Being a science fiction fan, I never think in metaphors and was literally thinking of some weird non-human creature pretending to be a normal person.

Bilge Rats – This is a big loud song in 4/4 about rats leaving a sinking ship. Sort of a ripp off of Therapy?. Remember Therapy?? Great band.

Dance on the Tree – sort of a rip off of latter day Opeth. One of the pictures was of a scary looking tree. I assumed it was a tree used for human sacrifice and wrote accordingly.

High wire act – If I had to call FAWM quits for whatever reason, I’d still call it a success cos of this song. I’m really happy with it. This is a good song! Twisty riff, silly solo, singalong chorus. It is well good (I am biased. But it is good).

Faceless Men – my new song

It’s February! And that means I’ll be writing 14 brand new songs, as I’ve tried to do every year for the last 12.

As a warm-up I wrote a new song, Faceless Men.

You can hear it over on bandcamp (it’s up as a pay-what-you-want download):

Faceless men was inspired by a picture one of my ‘fans’, Barry shared. Last November I put out a call for weird pictures that might inspire a song. Lots of people shared them, and this was Barry’s contribution:

I assumed that these faceless men were a weird cult who decided to hide away in a bunker until the inevitable apocalypse had passed. They’re down there now, eating tinned food and refusing to admit how scared they are.

There will be more FAWM songs! Here’s a the latest studio diary which will tell you more:

2020 Round-up Part 2

In my last post I shared the highlights from the first 6 months of 2020. Let’s take a look at the rest of the year.

July

This month saw the release of three – yes, you heard me right, three! – bootleg releases for my lovely subscribers. This included two acoustic songs that were previously unreleased, a draft mix of a new version of my song ‘Through These Veins’ and a bootleg recording of an entire acoustic duo set Gareth and I played in 2017.

August

In August I had a go at creating a lyric video for my song Satellites. I’m quite happy with how it turned out.

September

My mate Graham shared a photo and said ‘write a song about that’. So I did. Here it is:

October

The main problem during this month was the Union of Bloody Andys.

But also in this month I released my new version of my song IronBark. Which is well good and you should listen to it.

November

Inspired by Graham’s picture challenge, I asked for more pictorial inspiration. Here’s another song inspired by a picture shared by a lovely online person.

December

The Union of Andys were vanquished (and a couple of hundred quid was raised for charity) when I released my first, last and only Christmas single ‘Our Very Final Christmas’.

So there we are. 2020 is done. Was it a good year? No, no I don’t think I’d say that. Was it a productive year? Yes, I think it was. I wrote and released some music I’m really proud of and I think that’s helped me figure out what 2021’s music will sound like.

2020 also saw all sorts of silliness committed by my ‘fans’, not least the nonsense with The Union of Andys. That was a lot of escapist fun that helped make an unpleasant year more bearable.

Huzzah for music and silliness. Hopefully there’ll be lots more of both in 2021.

2020 Round-up Part 1

We’re nearly at the end of the longest year I’ve ever lived through. Yes, I know it had the normal number of days, but didn’t they stretch out? Didn’t they expand to make way for the anxiety, boredom and horror of the last twelve months. 

Not a good year in many ways, and I know I am lucky to have had a relatively easy time of it compared to others. But also, musically a relatively productive year. Let’s have a little recap, shall we?

January

2020 was the tenth year of me releasing music as a solo artist. Ten years! So naturally I released a digital ‘best of’ compilation that came with a pdf download of my gig diaries. The gig diaries are entirely true and factual. They covers such topics as:

  • The rituals and chants Bad Elephant Music artists engaged in after the label’s first showcase gig
  • The Demon that haunts a music pub in Watford
  • Praying Mantis Dave, the seven foot tall insectoid biker with whom I have a blood-feud
  • That time I turned into a bird and flew away after a gig. 

February

For eleven years I have been taking part in February Album Writing Month (FAWM). 2020 was the first time I completed the challenge and wrote and recorded 14 brand new songs in the month of February. 

Needless to say, I was very happy about this. 

Partly it was successful because I filmed every song. Why would that help? It meant I was forced to put up with a single take of the vocal and guitar parts, which stopped my procrastinating and trying to fix mistakes. 

Here’s one of my favourites:

March

Lockdown kicked in and we were all stuck indoors. I got a new studio mascot and tried to spend as much time as I could in the studio. Which definitely worked out well. 

April

April was all about studio work. I had written all those songs in February and decided on the mad idea that these would form the basis of that year’s Subscriber’s EP. 

May

May saw the release of that Subscribers Only EP and yearly ‘Indoctrination Guide’. Here’s a page of lies from said guide:

It also saw the release of the first new single from FAWM, Racing Gravity.

June

This was a very busy month. I did a livestream concert, I engaged in a bit of t-shirt related weirdness [see pic below] and I released Skeletons, the second lockdown single.

All in all, the first half of the year was quite productive despite the weird awfulness of the outside world.

T-shirt weirdness. I still have no idea who sent me the one I am wearing

Our Very Final Christmas

This is a charity single. I have recorded a charity single. I think that fact justifies it and all the silliness around it.

The story of how this song came about is summarised in this video:

Yes, I do end up sobbing in that video. Nothing rhymes with Christmas!

Money raised through download sales will be passed on to the UK foodbank charity The Trussell Trusts hungry people will be fed. And they’ve found a match-funding donor for the Christmas period, so your donation will be doubled. It’s priced at one pound, but you can go higher if you would like.

To download (and donate) click ‘buy in the bandcamp widget up above or click on this link.

Barbed Wire Webs

I wrote a new song! I wrote a new song because lovely social media people sent me pictures as inspiration. Thank you!Also, this was a good experiment. I now have loads more cool pictures. Hoping I can get more lyric ideas from them.

Here’s the finished song:

This is exciting! IronBark 2020

This is very exciting! I have just finished recording a new version of my 18 minute ‘epic’ song, IronBark. I am so excited I immediately made as many little homemade singles as I had the materials for. Which is 18 (I only had enough labels for that many).

There are 18 CDs of the brand new version of IronBark. It sounds well good! 18 minutes of music about the murderous, melodramatic happenings in the town of Ironbark, all set to twisty guitars and synths and stuff.

I’ve put them onto these vinyl style CDs. You can have one, if you’re quick! £1 (or more if you want) plus a little for the postage.

I have no idea if a ‘proper’ physical version will ever exist – I have literally just finished the recording and have had no time to work out plans for a release. So this might be the only way ever to get your hands on a physical thing with this song on it. Certainly the only way for a while. (Can you tell how this is a smooth, commercial endeavour full of careful planning?)

Get ’em while they’re hot.

All together now: “Five men know where the bodies are buried…”

My indecisive face

Here’s a pic of me pulling an indecisive face. I’m trying to work out what to do next, artistically speaking.It’s a weird time. The eye of a plaguey storm. We’re likely to be heading back into full-on lockdown soon here in the UK and while I’m lucky to have a relatively secure job and little personal risk, that doesn’t mean I’m unaffected. I find myself lacking concentration. Do you find that? Hard to focus on anything weighty, long, meaningful.

I’ve been throwing around ideas for the next album. Is it a scifi concept album? Is it a looser collection of songs that will allow space for the big long prog rock epic that is currently brewing? Is it a combination of the two?(I might be combining those two ideas into some chimeric monster album)

But, is it the right time to be thinking of an album? That’s a big load of music, a large statement. I’m not sure now is the time to be making big statements. it might be the time for lighter distractions. Individual songs. Sillinesses.

Not sure.’Just follow your muse. You’re an artist, do what feels right’.But a lot of that view of the artist – that we’re instinctual, creative, making decisions in the moment without too much thought – is fiction. Getting an album written, recorded, mixed, mastered, released? That’s a big project with lots of moving parts. Musicians who get stuff done are project managers as much as ‘artists’.

So I’ve decisions to make about what the next things I release are.I reckon those two album ideas that have been knocking about are about to become one idea.I reckon before that there might also be:

– Another demo tournament. I enjoyed the last one.

– Revamped ‘Seven Bells John’ songs plus the short stories that go with them (yes these exist). That’ll include new versions of Through These Veins and Ironbark which I’ve nearly finished. They sound fantastic.

– Individual single releases.

Probably that’s what will be happening. Maybe.