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Posts tagged ‘recording’

Snakes and spiders

A spider crawled out of my bag this morning. I let out the kind of involuntary girlish yelp that I reserve for spiders and mice. It was the same spider that I had seen on the ceiling two days prior while vacuuming.

I remember observing at the time, that whilst it might have been highly convenient to hoover the spider up, thus removing any real or imagined threat, I wasn’t able to do it. This evoked a feeling of curiosity with a tinge of self-satisfaction. Had the Buddhist teachings started to penetrate at last? Had I finally begun to feel compassion for all living things?

Another thought accompanied these musings: hoovering it up wouldn’t actually get rid of it. It would still be there, inside the hoover bag. Dead or alive, it would sit there, in the bottom of that bag, as a consequence of my action.

Perhaps this was about responsibility. When I throw something away, I want to imagine that the responsibility for that rubbish leaves me the moment the rubbish leaves my hand. But somehow these days that story doesn’t sit quite so comfortably with me.

Every thing we throw away goes somewhere. Nothing is completely eradicated out of existence – it just changes into something else. This is the case with things, but also thoughts, emotions, they’re all energies – they have to go somewhere. I wonder if in some way this is what karma is all about.

The next day I saw the spider again in a different corner. A shorthand version of the previous days musings played over in my mind, along with the thought: ‘ah, there’s that spider again. still there. hmmm.’

This spider gave me two warnings that an intimate invasion might be forthcoming, and yet I did nothing.

I wonder how this translates to my behaviour in other areas of my life. Do I push away unwanted thoughts like unwanted rubbish, only to find them manifesting later more vividly in physical or emotional ways that I can’t control?

Quite possibly.

I think about Robert the Bruce, who also famously learnt something from a spider. The moral of that story was, we were taught, ‘If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.’ You can’t really argue with that. How many people succeed by giving up first time?

It inspired me to construct my own proverb:

‘Ignore a spider on your ceiling and the next day you’ll find it climbing behind your eyeball.’

OK I dressed it up a bit for the sake of the drama, but you get the idea. I wonder if it’ll catch on.

On a related topic, I released an EP this week. Not about spiders, but snakes. Water Snakes, to be precise. It’s about not ignoring what’s there – rather embracing it. It’s about a journey – the kind of journey that starts by letting go of your baggage. If you’ve ever travelled with Ryanair you’ll probably have experienced this kind of thing already.

Looking at what’s actually there is really, really uncomfortable a lot of the time. But in my humble experience, ignoring what’s there and trying to work with something that’s not there, only to find the taut facade of your own fantasy come crashing down at the most inopportune moment, usually in public, is marginally worse.

If that doesn’t tempt you to have a listen to the EP, I don’t know what will.

I could also add that it’s got some nice songs on it, possibly some of my best work so far. And there’s more to come.

Incidentally there are a few particular doses of inspiration to which I am indebted, and which I shall note here, for those who may be interested: The teachings of Chögyam Trungpa, Coleridge’s The Rime of The Ancient Mariner, and TS Eliot’s Four Quartets, in particular, Little Gidding. I’ll end with a quote from that as it says it all as eloquently and succinctly as I could ever wish to do.

‘We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.’

And now the music.

Album Number 2

I’ve remembered why I was supposed to be starting a blog. All this talk of trees and dogs and parks is all very well, but my original aim was to chart the progress of recording Album Number 2. Several people have been kind enough to inquire about the progress of Album Number 2, ever since I mentioned its being on the cards. So when it started to look like happening, I set up a blog on Facebook, and wrote my first (and only) post.

I thought it would be a great way of documenting the trials and tribulations of building a studio in a damp, cold cellar in the middle of Somerset, commuting back and forth with a budget of zero, and working 15 hour days in the studio trying to get as much done as possible before racing back to London to earn some real money. Well, what I discovered quite quickly was, the above trials and tribulations are actually quite trialling and tribulating. To the point where the last thing I felt like doing was blogging about it.

I am not talking incidentally about drudgery or choredom, but good old-fashioned concentrated creative slog. A satisfying and all-consuming fatigue naturally ensues. A fatigue that responds very well to rich home-made cooking and an assortment of berry-infused spirits, all of which were provided lovingly by our in-house chef extraordinaire, Janet W.

Another factor in this story is laziness and the inevitable passing of time that makes things that seemed exciting last week into pulpy old news. The building process was epic and we all learned a lot about sawing, drilling, and fixing our inevitable mistakes from the legendary Colin W.

Colin is a master of trouble-shooting. A not uncommon experience would be for us to spend the best part of a day building an entire structure, only to discover that we had made a fatal error and would need to dismantle the whole thing and start again. In such situations, I found myself seething with impatient anxiety, but Colin’s attitude was always one of curiosity about how to move forward.

The final weekend of building saw the whole band gathered together screwing and sticking and sweeping and eventually setting up to record. It was a wonderful example of team-building. Burying the ego in pursuit of the common goal of getting things done so we could record the bloody album. It was also a lot of fun.

However once it was complete (ish) I no longer felt the urge to post photos of us all in appalling clothes and sweaty masks, posing with powertools and impressive pieces of plywood. I do now though. Once we started recording, it became even more tricky to document because I was somewhat pre-occupied on the musical front. At this point Colin W once again stepped into the breech. I am now going to sift through the 400 or so pictures and upload the highlights, of which there are many.

Our most triumphant moment on the documentation front was whilst recording “Moths,” late one evening in semi-darkness with candles everywhere for ambience. I have failed so far to mention our impressive two-way video link to the drum booth, built from a couple of security cameras and two very old TVs. The purpose of this was so that Robin could take visual cues from Ben, as he was locked away in the air-tight drum booth. Admittedly the video link was the vehicle of much juvenile hilarity, whilst also fulfilling its purpose admirably.

During the recording of “Moths,” it really came into its own, as one of the TVs had a VHS player, which we were able to record onto. The result was an eerie black and white fuzz, reminiscent of something out of “The Ring,” in which I appeared to be levitating in the vocal booth.

Excitingly the take we recorded at that moment is the take we are going to use on the album, so we have our very own ready-made music video. Well, ready-made apart from the hours of pain-staking editing and production that is.

Since then, there have followed many sessions of overdubs and reworkings and other wonderful processes which would have been well worth documenting, had I at that point had my spangly iPhone 4. Not only did I not have that, I had no real working phone, having thrown a succession of Sony Ericssons at the wall in various fits of pique. (I am not proud of this.)

So it seems in some ways this piece is also becoming something of a disclaimer. Or rather an excuse as to why I didn’t pull my finger out and get on with blogging at the time. To whom I am justifying myself is questionable – as this endeavour was entirely self-motivated. Anyway I’m glad I got it off my chest. Next time I will post some real news.

The Way The World Works

As I appear to be approaching adulthood I have been turning my attention to the way the world works. It seems to me there are certain patterns at play which it would be in my best interests to stop ignoring.

This afternoon I was chatting with a German friend of mine on Facebook – let’s call him Rutger – although his real name is in fact “Mr Beautiful.” Can you imagine. With a name like that, would it be possible ever to experience self-loathing? Even the slightest tinge of insecurity would see me standing at the mirror smacking my lips saying “Come on Mr Beautiful, who’s the daddy?” And it would be me, every time. But I digress.

So Rutger tells me that he is becoming a musician. He helped out a friend of his on a song which went to number 1 and now he’s a household name. He was very excited. “It’s a lot of fun.” he said. He was however sensitive to the fact that this instant success might be somewhat galling to someone who has devoted their life to a career in music, but I was curious.

We are taught that you put effort in and you get a result. In many cases this is true. Such as tree-planting. Or cake-baking. If you sit with eggs and flour and sugar on the table and get on with something else, nothing happens. If, on the other hand, you whisk them up and put the mixture in the oven, cake necessarily ensues. So the consequences are quite direct in this case.

What gets tricky is where other people are involved. Other people cannot be predicted or indeed imposed upon to act in a certain way. Nevertheless there are certain things that other people tend to respond to, and certain things they don’t. Desperation is repellent. In any field. But so is complete disengagement. Like a tree with no roots, the appeal of vacuousness cannot last.

What truly fascinates is art of the self-sustaining variety. It seems that you must turn up on the spot with every pore of your being and manifest wholeheartedly, without a shred of attachment to the outcome. The moment of creation itself is like this. Whether it’s a song, a sculpture or a baby you’re making – when the inspiration strikes you are not thinking of the consequences.