We made the trip over stormy hills to Sheffield’s Cafe#9 to see Ida Wenøe & Samantha Whates over the weekend. I grabbed a few snaps from my seat, the light is so nice in there, I was pretty pleased with the results, here’s a little gallery.
I’m an independent musician about to self-release my new self-funded album on CD & digital. I’ve done that before, over the years, in different genres of music. The tough bit is never making or recording – those bits are fun & rewarding – it’s what you do next that seems to hurt, whatever you do. Do you pay for press? Send promo copies out yourself? Just ask your mates to share? You’ll go down this rabbit hole – ‘without label support, it’s just a vanity project!’ Yeah, maybe. But what a hobby. I’m not spending my hard earned cash on coke, hookers or cars, it’s going on this.
So this time, I decided to ask AtTheHelm PR to help me. You pay for that service, but they’re well connected and they take your stuff and make it look all professional. However good you can do it, they can do it better, I reckon. Tom Blake wrote a press release for me. I loved his end of year 2019 albums list, I got loads of gems from that, so I was pleased he agreed to do it, and he nailed it!
I asked twitter this morning about all the ways in which I can give it it’s best start in life and folks had lots to say, so I thought I’d collate it all into this post. That way, you can look all these people up and send your music to them, too!
My twitter pal Nicola started things off by suggesting Mary Anne Hobbs, Radio 6 Music Legend & Elizabeth Alker, a well connected & impressive sounding BBC person who I have followed! A dear friend of ours, Mary Ann Kennedy, living legend harpist, a breathtaking musician, asked for a copy too – the Mary Ann/e connection being too compelling! Sometimes, a chance mention is enough to put your record into the ears of folks who might otherwise miss it. Social media is good for that. Nicola also shouted out Spotify Discovery Playlists – something I love using too – calling them ‘heaven & hell’ because yeah, they’re ace for finding music, but does any artist really benefit from that? I dunno. I dunno how to get on them, either. Time will tell!
Mike Prescott called out Secret Meeting as being an ace magazine and I can entirely agree that it is – they publish great reviews online but also publish a tiny little paper magazine too. Look them up. Along similar lines, Balloon Machine, Gold Flake Paint & Various Small Flames are some kind of new school vanguard of small independent publishers pushing new music reviews with the highest quality & integrity.
Ken Jude, a vociferous supporter of new music who I met at a PicaPica gig, had a list of suggestions of where he finds new tunes, including Richard Leaders American Pie show, Another Country with Ricky Ross, Ralph McClean’s Country & Roddy Hart’s radio 2 folk show. Some big hitters there. How do you get on those shows? Well, I don’t rightly know. I follow & interact with some of those folks on twitter, but that isn’t going to cut it. They can’t play just some random stalker from the internet. I’m hoping At The Helm can help open some of those doors. Jon Hillcock is another great bloke – his twitter profile is full of great new (and old) music to discover, he makes playlists and presents on Radio6. Look him up.
@Robkb2, one of those twitter tastemakers who you will find knows everything about everything worth knowing about well before you do gave away a few secrets, suggesting Folk Radio UK, BBC6Music, Songlines Magazine, Froots Magazine (now defunct, but they have a podcast) & “whoever’s playing at the NestFolk / Folk East Festivals”. Now, how one gets on festival lineups is beyond me, but I guess you need to play live more than I do. I would but it’s … tough to do. I might try to do it more. Folk Radio are huge & important champions of new stuff. Make sure you talk to them.
Andrew Leach, an author friend of mine had an interesting take – his daughter throws him new music! One up from the mates thing, that sounds good to me, word of mouth. And also he finds new stuff on twitter. Encouraging.
I enjoyed this tweet – a group of people with great taste & opinions. If one of them says to listen to a record, Blando will do it. So you have to kind of get into that, somehow.
Harry Ridgeway, promoter & stunning musician, shouted out Aquarium Drunkard, who really are terrific. Have a read of this article that Harry recommends about Bill Fay. High quality journalism & music writing, no doubt.
New music fan & promoter Mark Howson says he gets his fix from Richard Leader (a popular choice & great show), Mystery Train Radio, Adam Wilson’s Quiet Revolution show (another personal favourite), his mate Tim Smith (who record collection can be seen from space…!), Steve Arlene’s show, Three Chords & The Truth, Rock ‘N Reel Magazine & Ramblin’ Roots. A healthy selection, there, if you’re into the kind music I make, and I guess maybe you are, or you wouldn’t be here.
John Bath (edit, John is from Brighton, why TF did I assume his surname was not Bath??) suggests Brian Players Acoustic Cafe show, which I’ve been on before with JC, and Brian said he’d have me back on my own if I wanted to come, and I do & also Readifolk, a folk club I don’t know but would love to go to!
Jon Tait, an old friend of mine, huge supporter of music & label owner says Wire Magazine. Yeah, they are the best at what they do, absolutely no doubt. I doubt my quiet little acoustic album is going to make it into their holy halls, but you never know.
Lots of folks recommend Sarah Gosling highly. A Radio presenter I don’t know, but apparently should! Followed!
Don’t forget Rocking Magpie – Alan is one of the good guys, he supported me when I was nothing from nowhere; I still am & he still supports me. That’s worth so much to an artist. Send him your tunes. He’ll have a listen and tell you what he thinks.
Lots more people call out BBC6Music, Spotify Recommends, Stereogum, Consequence of Sound, Drowned In Sound, Clash Magazine, Echoes & Dust, The 405, Line of Best Fit, The Quietus, Pitchfork, The Skinny, Louder Than War, Loud & Quiet, Noisey, Buzz, American Songwriter, NoDepression, Paste, American Songwriter, Noisey. Deep Breath. I can’t do links for all those. You can find them if you like!
Then there’s the folk ones – Folk Phenomena, Northern Sky, Folk Connection, Folking.com, Thank Folk For That, BookFolk, Roots & Fusion, FolkCast, Spiral Earth, UK Folk Music, Fatea, ShireFolk. And lots more!
Don’t forget The Guardian, Q, Uncut, MOJO & Record Collector. These old guard magazines repeat the same old covers of wizened old dead white blokes month in, month out, because, apparantly, according to their editors, who I’ve chatted to about it, this is how you sell print magazines in heartland waitroses. Folks don’t buy em with minorities on the cover. I wonder, how much longer can they last? Still, they have a huge circulation and there’s no pull quote bigger than something Uncut say about you. So, getting in them is harder, but At The Helm are gonna try. They need 3 months notice, though, I know that much.
I had lots of recommendations for metal & rock & punk, but I don’t really do that, so I won’t link them here. I’m more quiet than that. Not that I don’t listen to loud music, because I do, but they won’t review my album because it only rocks inside your head, slowly, back & forth, crumbled, curled up in a corner.
So! Are you going to release your own music, yourself, and wonder what it’s like? It’s stressful! Get a pro to help, because they take the weight. But then, will you ever know if you would have succeeded without them? Nope, you will not. Just send it out then crack on writing more, I reckon.
Last thing – sorry for the hundreds of thousands of new music supporting writers, journalists, magazines, blogs that I didn’t mention! Feel free to leave a comment below or link me @mralecbowman on twitter 🙂
Thanks for reading and I hope that’s somehow vaguely helpful.
It’s time for my least favourite part of making a record!
Writing is incredible, watching words & music appear out of nowhere. Actual alchemy. Nobody can say where it comes from, for better or worse, richer or poorer. Read Frank Turner’s songwriting guff as much as you like, you really just have to try it and see. No special secrets. Have a thing to say. Say it. Next. Recording is MADNESS, so hard, but intensely rewarding.
But this part – playing it to people? Fucking terrifying. I don’t really even wanna know. Up until now, only a small a handful of folks have heard it. Today, though, it got sent out into the big wide world to live or die on it’s own two feet, to cleanly snap the neck of the metaphor. The first review came from Jon Wilks, celebrated Midlands folk singer and I could have hoped for no more. I am deeply flattered that he would care enough to play it, let alone review it! He shared a song of his own in reply and I include it here because I do love it so:
Now – here is Jon’s review of my LP, stripped out of his twitter thread:
“I’ve got no sleeve notes here, so I’m purely going on sound and intuition. “Physics and Form”. It’s raw. Alec’s voice and lyrics are direct, unrelenting, but the fingerpicking gentle… lilting. There’s something for Leonard Cohen fans here, and even a hint of Peter Sarstedt. “A Ditch Worth Dying For” feels like there’s an aesthetic forming. Similarly minimal. Washes of metallic sound. Weirdly, the soft pulse, the descending progressions, the deep-register vocals, the snapshot lyrics… I could put this on a mixtape alongside @KnowleWestboy Collab? “Safe Mode”… the album’s credentials now feel like they’ve been established. A wall of heavy electric guitar reverb adds a new texture to the palette. The producer steps in on backing vocals, a higher frequency cutting through what feels like quite a lot of anguish. “Leaves” – There’s a lift in mood – a hint that the sadness is lifting. Woodwind blows through the leaves. Alec’s lyrics continue to plumb the depths, but there’s a buoyancy here. Am I listening to a concept album? Are things afoot? This song tickles the ears. “Long Goodbyes” pt. 1 … OK, I’m cheating now. I’m having to go back and listen multiple times. I’ve been drawn in. This album is a mood, and I’m a sucker for a slightly distorted Rhodes. Juxtapositions. Alec’s battles rage. The Rhodes gazes softly. “Long Goodbyes” pt. 2 … I’m not sure what’s going on here, lyrically. I listen in pictures, as if I’m watching a movie, and this album is cinematic. There’s a lot here to see, and try and work out what you’re seeing. One viewing won’t do. Is this a Western? “Intermission (The Old Rugged Cross)” – Broken sound. Fragments. Hallucinatory. Album in microcosm. I’m having a little lunch break. Strange urge to eat a load of mustard. Not sure if that’s significant or not. “Patience” – The previous track established that the album is in two halves. Like someone trying to guess the end of the novel, I’m glancing at song titles ahead. “Dust down your wings, head for the light, pack up your things, you’re leaving tonight”. WHERE WE GOING, UNCLE ALEC? “Hand in Hand” pt 1 – I’m also a sucker for song lyrics that juxtapose the decidedly unromantic with eternal love. Examples: Morrissey’s double decker bus, Brian Wilson stating that he “may not always love you”. This is one of those. He’s not going to be done in by a virus or a dog-savaging. He’s heading into the light with his lovely one by his side. They’re going together. This is essentially a very long list of ways that Alec Bowman is *not* going to end his days. My favourite track so far. “The Event Horizon of You” pt 1 – The opening sigh is ominous. But it’s OK. If much of the first half was an ode to self-hatred, the juxtapositions we’ve been hearing are clear and powerful now. We’re in a gently loved-up world, and the lyrics are really very touching indeed… “The Event Horizon of You” pt 2 – Have a go on this one: “You’re still here today and I hope that you’ll stay, said the animal to the air”. Isn’t that special? I love that. The following couplet is just as wonderful, but I’m running out of space and I mustn’t give it all away. “My Kind Of Chaos” – Ah, this is great, too. Unapologetically romantic. “She’s my kind of chaos, strong just like me, which is weaker than I ever knew a person could be”. Alec might be my kind of self-deprecating songwriter. “Never the End of the World” – I’m at the end of the novel now, and I’m glad it never reached any kind of mariachi crescendo. It’s a gently positive ending – the sound of Alec having a word with himself and his listeners; urging them on. How to sum all this up… Summing up “I Used to Be Sad & The I Forgot” by Alec Bowman. Look, Alec’s new album is not an easy listen. It’s hard-going and it’s fairly unrelenting in places. But why make an honest album – and that’s what this is, no question – if you’re going to hide away in it? The emotional journey it takes you on is hugely rewarding. It’s the sound of an ordinary man emerging, but not in any phoenix-from-the-flames way. It’s a humble emergence – a gentle emergence. You’re left with a huge urge to give him a hug, probably because you recognise something of yourself in his journey and you needed to hear that story told, too. And as you listen to the final tracks – “Event Horizon” and “Chaos” – know that you’re listening to his muse on backing vocals, and make a mental note of how healing love is. This is a kind album, and with the world in the state that it’s in, it’s a great thing to have spent time with. Thanks for making it and sharing it with me, Alec.”
No, thank you, Jon xx
So, the first words are pretty much a dream review. I couldn’t have wished for more:) Let’s see what happens next!
Pre-order digital & CD here, streaming pre-saves coming soon x
My album is now available to pre-order at bandcamp, released to the world on CD / digital download & streaming services on May 1st 2020.
It’s been a wild ride, taken so much from me & given more back. Watching these songs build from tiny embryos fumbling around in the ocean washing round my head, being teased out onto a page, then captured on tape by folks with the skill & patience to do it. It’s really something else to be inside.
There’s nothing like making a record & this is nothing like what I’ve done before. This is all me, 11 songs about the journey I’ve been on last few years. It’s angry, in places. Broken, in others. Fragile, nearly everywhere. Quieter than I hear it myself, in my own head, where it sounds more assured, more like other things. I’m no good at objectively assessing my own work, I just do the thing I do and someone else is going to have to say if it’s folk or alt-folk or lo-fi or no-wave or anything else. These aren’t characters, that’s what comes out when I open my mouth, that’s what I sound like, one of the voices of a person in the world. I’m not proud of feeling some of the things I express, but I did it anyway because I did feel them. I’m not giving answers or telling anyone else what to do or think. I’m just saying what I see, being honest as I can, using words to close chapters, end dialogues & start over. A new leaf. A blank page. A clean slate. That’s what I want, to own my vulnerability by expressing it, shout my flaws from the rooftops, then anyone naming them will be weaker because even if they remain flaws, they are mine, my scar tissue on my skin, owned by me, worn on the outside, and if you’re going to judge me, then do it with an open hand in the cold light of a future day, rather than under the cover of a darkness past.
Here’s the tracklist:
- Physics & Form
- A Ditch Worth Dying For
- Safe Mode
- Long Goodbyes
- Intermission – The Old Rugged Cross
- Hand In Hand
- The Event Horizon Of You
- My Kind Of Chaos
- Never The End Of The World
I don’t know if those track titles speak for themselves or not. I hope they make sense when you hear it. Which will be soon. To anyone who has already pre-ordered, I can’t thank you enough, your faith in this project is nearly the only thing keeping it going. That’s kind of what ‘My Kind Of Chaos’ is about; singing because if you don’t, anyone else singing will be doing it alone.
If anyone wants a copy to review, please let me know. If you’d like to interview me about the record, then I would be delighted to do that. I will come & play songs on your radio show or at the night you promote or in your house or at your local pub or Premier Inn Brewer’s Fayre music appreciation night.
Be seeing you!
It’s been a crazy start to 2020 – Josienne & I spent a week touring Ireland then headed off to Scotland to make a music video. We drove the whole way. Covered something like 3,000 miles in a car. I wasn’t sure survival was an option during the ferry crossing from Holyhead to Dublin, 3.5 hours in 4 metre swells – I’ve never felt so travel sick. We stayed in a fascinating series of places & met some wonderful & terrible people. Truly, touring is a train wreck of the best & worst of humanity.
Here’s Josienne before the Waterford show.
I was doing my usual thing – driving, photographing, tweeting, tour managing, arranging stuff, carrying boxes, loading in, loading out, fielding questions about whether or not I’m playing myself, helping on the merch desk & generally just having a fucking ball of a life with Josienne.
I don’t know, does it just make no sense to anyone else that I’d want to do that with my time? Folks look at me like I’m mad because I’m there, just sort of quietly helping. Not trying to make it about me. It’s her show. Not mine. I play the guitar & bass. I write & play my own songs. I love doing those things. Josienne helped me make an entire album that I’m releasing soon! I don’t play with her band, though, and folks struggle so hard with that. I bothered to come along, so why don’t I take part? I’m a bloke & she’s only a little female. Man up!
Think of it like this – I happen to believe that she’s an important, valuable artist and a terrific, fun & inspiring person, so spending time with her is just good. It’s where I want to be. I enjoy supermarket shopping with her, too. She likes it, it’s useful, I can do things that help her out. Gigs are her job. It’s harder work than you’d think. It takes a toll. She needs things, and sometimes, it’s not what you’d expect. I try to give her those things freely & to the best of my ability. It’s an exciting & rewarding life, hanging on her coat-tails, watching her through a lens, dreaming of playing to her, helping her do her thing. I could be no happier. If I tried to insert myself into that, into a redundant sideman role that doesn’t exist, if I made her hang a percentage of her life’s work on my shoulders, took the applause for a thing that was not mine, that I did not make, then what kind of man would I be? She wrote those songs, recorded them, played them & sung them. That’s how they go. They don’t need a bloke wanking all over them. They never did & you know it. If I tried to steal credit, use her to access a life I never earned, I never worked for, I never gave up anything for then how could I claim that I was in this for the right reasons? I’m right here, and if she ever needs a mediocre bass player or guitarist, she’ll ask & I’ll do it. Until then, I’m a pig in shit right where I am, sat by her side, doing my own thing while watching her fly & sharing my view with you.
Bit of an unplanned rant there! Ha. Better out than in.
Here’s a few other shots that I grabbed of the locations we found ourselves in. Shout out to Derek at Spirit Store in Dundalk – a great venue that seems like a perfect nightmare when you’re driving up to it and then – boom – there it is, a perfect little place. Reminds me of a venue in Paris I’ve forgotten the name of. Nice work. Also, Tom, Patrick & Garret who run nights called Subterranean Sounds at the Phil Grimes pub in Waterford are truly best of us, they are. What a show they put on. If you’re near, be sure and go. Garret says they’ll book me to go play in their room and I reckon I’d die happy right there onstage if that ever happened. I told him, have a listen to my record first, mate. He said OK. We’ll see.
There’s our hotel room in Dundalk, the ferry crossing, a swan on fire in Dublin, Waterford in a canal, Josienne relaxing after the show in Waterford & the time she visited the afterlife on Paul McCloone’s show on Today FM.
Here’s Misery Hill, Cry Chapel & a Hostel that I am sure is fine & safe:
Then we drove over to the north east coast of Scotland, through the Cairngorms to shoot a music video. I cannot tell you a thing more yet, which is a bit mean to even mention it, apart from, you will know who it is for and from spending the afternoon scanning through the footage as I import it into Premiere Pro, this is the best thing I ever shot. We got so lucky on the day, it was one of those ‘everything fell into place’ things and the results will be along soon. It’ll be worth the wait, I promise.
Here’s Dublin port as we were about to set off of the return journey, a much more relaxed affair and a Dundalk candle, burning in a bar.
I met Chris on Twitter. Turned out, he lived in Nottingham and we knew all the same places to eat & drink, so I’m certain our paths had crossed under the anonymity of the city before we connected online over a shared love of music & reasonableness. He was a voice of sanity in a loud crazy faceless internet crowd, always chipping into discussions with words that kept me from thinking I must be going nuts. He introduced me to Amie, his bandmate in Antler and together they asked me to help them with promotional / artwork portraits for new music they were working on. They were a pleasure to work with from the off, their brief was interesting & realistic – their EP was nearly finished and they had an idea of the kind of visuals they wanted & so they walked me through that and I took their guidance & ran with it.
We discussed Snake Pass & Winnats Pass as two possible shoot locations – somewhere green, a little foreboding, nicely lit, outside but not too bucolic, a dramatic & bold landscape to place these two musicians inside to make a statement about their pastoral, progressive acoustic music. They wanted no trees. I never asked why. I just made sure there were none. I like a clear requirement. You gotta go where the art takes you, eh?
We met in a great cafe nearby & spent 3 or 4 hours wandering the stunning Winnats Pass, exploring caves, corners & slopes, looking for light. We found it, too. We were lucky with the weather – the first date we arranged was called off in torrential downpours, but the second date was everything, low, grey clouds with moments of piercing sun. Chris & Amie were both naturals, posing naturally, solidly & patiently without lots of experience, so that was really easy & I think the results bear that out; there were no bad shots, only good & great ones, if I do say so myself… 🙂
I shot them on my Canon 5D mkiii with a mixture of 85mm f/1.2 prime & 24mm f/1.4 prime lenses, and shot a few rolls of Portra 400 35mm film on an AE1 with a sticky shutter. I reckon the best shots are on a roll that isn’t developed yet, I need to finish it first. I’ll add to the post if there’s anything handy on there. Josienne got me a darkroom course for xmas, so hopefully, they will be my first self-developed shots.
So here’s a few favourites from the day. I don’t want to share everything because they belong to Antler, but Chris & Amie kindly agreed to let me share a few favourites here & now. Watch this space for more & hopefully the end result accompanying new Antler music soon!
If you’d like a photo or video shoot, please do ask.
I did an interview with Sam Lou Talbot, the enigmatic music scholar & multi-disciplinary artist who called me a ‘master of narrativising the narrative’ which was brilliant & terrifying & intriguing, so I agreed to talk to her via skype for an hour & a half. She wrote a terrific instagram post about it, see:
“December 12, 2019, and the Red Wall has fallen. But there are still albums to be made! And podcasts to be heard! In this festive Episode 4 of Sam Lou Uncased, Sam Lou Talbot heads into an alchemical new decade in conversation with the self-proclaimed “master of nothing” and “council house Leonard Cohen”, Mr Alec Bowman. Laying it all bear, the self-deprecating musician, songwriter, film maker and photographer gets to grips with the ways we’re supposed to talk about ourselves today; the right chords and the right words and the right notes, said in the right way; Premier Inns; and the grit of Rothesay; the vulnerable defiance of John Moreland live; the untouchability of the character that is Gillian Welch; second chances; and what it means to be raw, brave and bold through song en route to 2020.”
Thanks for having me on, Sam! I hope you get everything you deserve in two thousand & twenty.
There’s a tune on Josienne Clarke’s ‘In All Weather’ album called ‘Host’. It’s a short, disturbing, eviscerating thing.
Samantha Whates called it ‘Truthful, brave, fresh & wild’ which is a quote I love. Thanks, Sam.
When Josienne plays this song live, she stands there, opens her mouth and ‘Sorry…’ sounds & resounds in the silent room and I see folks faces think… wait, what? and she goes on ‘is the key to a door, that you will come through, and hurt me some more’ and everyone has to pick themselves up off the floor. She doesn’t let them, though. She says it again. Holds them just there. It’s always a low point. Or a high point. Both at once. She’s good at that.
So, we decided to make a video for it. I put her face front & centre. I was thinking of that Radiohead one. Someone else said it was like Rammstein. Cool. The proximity of her face is uncomfortable. Intimate. Vulnerable. She doesn’t look ok. The flickering electric lights of the cellar we shot in were working weirdly. There’s a wispy spider, I shot him, too. It wasn’t a set, we didn’t have to even dress it. The shoot took about 3 hours, the edit was longer because the song is so short and I had lots I wanted to do. Here’s a few shots from the cellar we used. You can see her mark in that first one.
Lots of folks asked me about the shaky camera. It makes it hard to watch, doesn’t it? Sick to the stomach, an unsettling & inescapable mess of a video. I tried to never let you rest. I interrupt sentences. Cut away at inappropriate times. Pull the carpet out. Turn the lights off, then on again. Is she being tortured, or has that already happened? Some people have expressed concern. Is Josienne OK? She is. It’s a song that gets delivered that way every time she does it live, and in the studio, and when she wrote it, and in demos. It just goes like that.
An interesting anecdote is that during the shoot, there were lots of cobwebs. You’ll see them, because I tried to keep them there. Well, she inhaled lots of them and vomited in the sink. Spiderweb puke. This was obviously bad, but she took a break, had a coffee & on she went. So, yes, she’s as OK as can be expected, under the circumstances, and we made some art which I’d like to invite you to enjoy without feeling guilty or voyeuristic. She’s a great actress & a fearless & dedicated artist, conveying some difficult stuff with her face & voice. It’s ok to click like on it but I’ll understand if you don’t.
Here’s a few stills that we didn’t use as the start card. We went with the glitchy blue one because it’s so strange & lucky, but these ones are interesting, too.
So, yeah. Not much else to say. It’s different to the rest of the videos from ‘In All Weather’. We are making more. Watch this space, then take hold of someone close to you & tell them how much they mean to you. Be open & brave & honest. Here’s the video.
And lo, the recording is complete.
So here’s a little gallery of yesterday when I left my camera at the studio so you can keep seeing things in the right order.
Here’s Josienne’s single-handed woodwind orchestra…
And here’s Josienne screaming at the strings of an upright piano…
And today! Paul Mosley joined us! Paul Mosley is playing on my album! I am so humbled. It’s such a pleasure to watch him work, he’s an actual magician. A musician’s musician. If you haven’t heard his album ‘You’re Going To Die!” then please, right that wrong, it’s a masterpiece.
He played the Wurlitzer & Rhodes pianos, the Hammond organ & the little wooden harmonium, mainly on songs called ‘Long Goodbyes’ & ‘My Kind Of Chaos’. It really gave things a kick in the feels. I hope you winced at that shit phrase but I could think of no other quick way of expressing what Paul does.
So, what happens next?
I have MP3 demos. They need to be mixed then mastered.
I am more delighted than I could ever express to tell you that Richard Littler of Scarfolk fame is designing the sleeve based on a photograph by Trevor Hamilton. I’ve seen a mock up & it’s a doozy.
I hope to make CD copies in January / February and release it in March onto bandcamp. I have no label support or cash. There is no promotional PR budget. There is no crowdfund. I’m saying this, myself, with the help of some dear friends who care enough to help. I’ll live or die or sink or swim by my own hand, but it will be all mine, and we all know how important that is. I’ll be sticking it in envelopes & begging for reviews & gigs & bookings & press & interviews, so you know what to do. Yell at me if you’d like to help! Anyone who enjoys it & shares it or likes it or writes to say they like it, well, you’re the best.
Me, I’m just the right hand of the cross & if I can do it, anyone can.
Disastrous news: I left my camera at the studio, so you’ll just have to have the two iPhone photographs, then I’ll tell you about today and share all the pictures tomorrow in one go. Sorry!
So lead vocals were all done, nearly. We’ll finish that tomorrow. We started today with bowed bass guitar. Ever done that? It really rumbles, digs in, bites your hand off. You can feel it as well as hear it. Then I bowed some cymbals which are a distant scream, we chose a large Istanbul one that sounded particularly screamy.
What then? It’s hard to remember without the photos. Josienne sung some backing vocals. It’s hard for anyone to sing in tune & time with me, my delivery is rough as a butchers dog, so she really had to work for her pay for that, thankfully she’s a field tested professional thats performed better in more challenging scenarios. She’s doing these distant echoing angelic harmonics, not taking over. You have to be careful how many vocals you give to her in case every review says “shame that bird with the great voice doesn’t sing more” which it probably will anyway, but hey ho. She did a lovely thing where she screamed into the strings of a piano, that made some truly beautiful noises & we used them on a song.
I played some electric guitars in places we weren’t sure needed them, sometimes they stayed, and sometimes they didn’t. The places they stayed, I think they really were perfect.
Then it was time to breathe. Josienne played saxophone on a song called ‘A Ditch Worth Dying For’ and then again on a tune called ‘Leaves’. She then piled on clarinet & a few recorders, she built an entire orchestra section out of just herself. She had this concept for a kind of patchwork Steve Reich-esque collage of sound built across takes and was kind of worried it might be hard to realise. Turns out, she just did it one go. It’s a pleasure to watch her work, a rare combination of talent, judgement & hard work. I can’t recommend her highly enough if you’d like a producer to bring a little eloquence & grace to your project.
Next, I played Andy’s old Hammond C3 with it’s spinning speaker containing Leslie cabinet. It was an ambition of mine when I started this project to get to sit at this stool and play this beast. It’s stunningly loud, so powerful. A mammoth, a mountain of music. You wouldn’t believe it in the room. This is religion in a box. You couldn’t not believe anyone singing along with this instrument. It takes so much maintenance, it’s so complex with so many strange and rare and intricate parts, it’s a rare & precious piece of work that rewards the effort with its rich & deep tones & tactile keyboard that no modern machine can match.
Tomorrow, we have a handful of vocal takes to work through, then the rest of the day is for dirty Rhodes, a very exciting special guest superstar musician is joining us, someone I am flattered would even consider bothering to make the train journey from London to take part in my project. I’ll tell you who tomorrow, but in the meantime, any guesses?
Also, I’ll remember to bring my camera home so you can see all this 🙂
Hope you’re all having as much scary fun as we are.