The Scalpel of Studio Lights

I reckon it would’ve been January 2019 when I joined Josienne Clarke for a week at Watercolour Music near Fort William. That was when Josienne was recording of her ‘In All Weather’ album, where I made the video for ‘If I Didn’t Mind’. Some of you will remember my tweets from that week. What a mad rush of blood to the head it was, an emotional avalanche, working in a recording studio can be. I don’t have the words for how torn & broken I felt at points, and how exhilarated I felt at others. The scalpel of studio lights will do that to a person.

Well, next week, we’re off north again to do it all over again.

I won’t say what, why or how because it’s not my place, but suffice it to say, this has been a difficult call to make. We are in Scotland anyway, and we are taking every step to ensure we adhere to all social distancing guidelines. No stone is unturned and nobody is travelling from or to a place that is not allowed. We won’t be mixing except outside acceptable bubbles & we have put the needs of the local community and the studio owners above our own. Everyone is safe, legal & protected.

All I have to do is keep my shit together. Tune in on twitter next week to find out how I do, and anyone fancies telling me that I have a right to live & work, to express myself, to experience love & sadness, well, I might just need to hear it.

Here’s a little gallery from last time, from when I went for a little lonely wander while the grownups did their thing. This time, I get to play, just a little. But, I’ll try to take some photographs next week to show you a little behind the scenes of how it’s going.

Follow Josienne on twitter for the real story. And don’t forget, if you get a moment, wish me luck.

Get Me A Glass Of Water

I’m going to tell you what happened to me last night, a strange counterpoint to supporting Robert Plant & getting posh gin hand delivered!

I went to the MacDonalds near me, it’s good there because it stays open 24 hours and you can get a decent cup of tea for a quid, it’s bad because its MacDonalds and you don’t really want to be in that part of that, do you?

Now, there’s this horsey thing in town, so the place is filled with those travelling folk who do travelling horsey shows, you know the kind, ‘glamourous’ ladies wearing more make up than clothes, scally lads in polo shirts strutting around with their chicken selects. I’m not judging, Grandad used to make his best money doing flowers for traveller funerals & I always enjoyed when they came to see us.

It’s midnight and packed. It’s a venue, now, this MacDonalds, some a guy is playing trance on his bluetooth speaker and these kids are drunk. I say kids, there must be 150 23 year olds in this place. It’s more like a really shit version of what I imagine ibiza is like. I sat there with tea, chatting about stuff. And it starts to kick off around me. One lad lands a bad punch on another’s jaw. Gets pushed to the ground and kicked in the face. Blood splatters across the illuminated happy meal menu. There’s a baying circle of hangers on, some trying to part them, some pushing them together. Some bloke comes up to me as I try to look calm & bemused at the table and yells phone Joe, phone Joe. I don’t know Joe, I protest, sorry mate. But Joe must be phoned, so he throws his phone into my lap and goes and gets the youngest in a headlock, only to be kicked in the groin and fall to the floor then have his head stood on.

I don’t phone Joe, I phone the police. The manager of the establishment is out front now, standing around ineffectually saying, stop it, please, but by now, there are more people involved, this one girl is yelling ‘he’s a soft bully, kick his face off’ over and over, and a bunch of older dudes show up, baying and laughing, the manager yells at them that they went the wrong way round the drive thru.

It’s getting crazier, the police want the postcode, are there weapons. I tell them to google it, I don’t have the postcode. I don’t see weapons, but there better not be because this is getting very messy, and one knife in here would be bad. I’m worried about this one kid so I go and stands over him, he’s not getting up, just writhing and groaning, and I get off the phone to the po-po and the other phone rings and it’s Joe and I can’t help but answer, much as my gut says get out of here, something makes me pick up, and Joe wants to know who the fuck has his brothers phone and I tell him, big fight in macdonalds, police on their way and he’s furious – he yells who the fuck fights in macdonalds, get them out of there, we fight in the streets, he explains, so I yell – joe says take the fight outside, and they weirdly kind of do, but now there are sirens and like 5 huge vans full of police and the manager has asked the cooking staff to come out front and help get fighting men outside so I tell them all to go back behind the counter and tell the manager he’s an idiot and he needs to protect his staff and let the police worry about the fighters and he disappears and they start kicking each other in the car park, 50 people with their shirts off punching each other, so many near-naked braying onlookers filming on their mobiles, I find the guy whose phone I have and give it back to him and you know what he says? GET ME A GLASS OF WATER and I laugh and say fuck off, get it yourself and he laughs, pats me on the back and heads out into the fray which the police and doing a pretty effective job of breaking up.

I spent the next couple of hours in a lockin in the closed 24 hour macdonalds with the fuzz giving a hilarious statement a bit like this one but more serious and I’m still laughing about Joe’s brother asking me to get him a glass of water.

What The Hell Am I Doing (Part ∞)

Lots going on with me, and sometimes, it’s confusing, trying to work out who on earth I am supposed to be.

So, allow me to explain, who I am, what I do & what I want & why; in the interests of transparency, truth & also, a sales pitch…

One of the things I am doing is taking portrait photographs. I love this. It’s a brilliant discipline. I’ve recently done a big (socially distanced) shoot with a star in an infinity curve with make-up & hair artists & a lighting technician at Broadscope in Glasgow. It’s the most fun I’ve had in a good while. The results will take your head clean off, but I can’t share any details yet. My best work & it has to stay secret for a while, ah cruel industry. This was digital, 35mm film & some movie for a behind the scenes documentary, too. If you’re after some edgy portraits, then I’m your man – ask me about a booking!

My Portrait of The Ashen from a few years ago.

Which is another thing I’m doing – making music videos. I’ve made a few that will be released soon, and I’ve got more in the pipeline that are shaping up to various stages. These are great fun to do. Josienne & I work together on these, so if anyone fancies it, get in touch and we’ll make some visuals to fit your music.

Josienne Clarke from the ‘Slender, Sad & Sentimental’ video shoot.

I started a film production company with Andrew Leach called Massive Overheads Productions. We made ‘Overheads‘, a film Andy wrote and we made together. It’s currently gaining good reviews & knocking the doors of various fancy film festivals all over the world. I’m 3/4 of the way through another short film, I’ll release it when I’m done, and Andy writes one a week, so expect a steady stream of movies from us over the rest of all time. Hopefully, that’s a good thing.

Madison Leach as Ada in ‘Overheads’

Josienne Clarke founded her own record label, Corduroy Punk Records, and I help with that. Our side project, 2PrivateMatters, releases stuff through that label. Who knows what it will do next? I made the graphics for those sites. I’m not great at photoshop & stuff but I’m learning.

I made a solo album – available still at bandcamp – that I’m very proud of, that people seemed to like, and I always expected I might go out and play a show to sell some copies of it, but look how that went. It’s kind of done, that one. The record will always be there, and maybe when the world recovers, out I’ll go out and play some of those old songs, but I feel like I lost any momentum I made with that. Along with every other artist & musician, I guess.

I’m playing lots of electric & double bass lately. I used to do that lots, when I was 15 and I’m 44 now, so it’s been a while but it’s satisfying to be playing again. I bought an upright bass from Roberto Cassini that Danny Thompson has played. A beautiful instrument and I’m taking lessons from Lukas Drinkwater, so that’s a dreamy situation. Learned more in 1 hour with him than I worked out on my own in 25 years. I hope I can do it justice. I could play bass for you or your band, if you like. Though, I appreciate that we aren’t really allowed to do that at the moment.

Which I guess brings me to the next bit. Does any of this pay the rent? Like fuck it does. So, how do I do live now, then?

I’ve been doing day rate consultancy for a few companies who I know through linkedin for the last 3 or 4 months. It pays really well, it’s how I afforded to buy this double bass. I’m not hard up, because I’m lucky enough to have this experience, so folks pay me to help them do what I’ve done a thousand times. It’s part-time, so I can concentrate on doing more of the creative stuff. I like working that way. Josienne helps. Her career is kind of on hold, so she’s been working with me and then I help her in return. Imagine, a supportive, mutually beneficial life partner, a relationship as a collaboration based on respect, trust, kindness & love. It can be done, and it’s not straightforward or without challenges, but we’re both dedicated, hardworking and diligent people, focussed on our mutual goals.

My work page is at www.darlingsolutions.co.uk. It’s a bit odd, because the two things seem contradictory – artistic & business things, all at the same time? But you know, there’s more overlap in the skills needed than you’d think & this keeps the lights on. Gives me the time & resources to learn how to shoot & edit film and take better photographs, furthering my other interests.

I hate the perpetuated romantic myth that musician are somehow earning enough to carry on living in places where the rent is a grand a month without having to do a normal job too, when they ride around in dirty clothes, drive a shit car & live in Dalston. Nah, mate, you live in your family mansion, or your dad pays the rent, and the only thing wrong with that is when you pretend like life is hard for you, too.

Seems to me all artists retrained as waiters & IT support people or chefs or retail workers years ago anyway, or it’s a bunch of trust fund lies & you don’t need to pay to live, which is fine but be honest about it. Don’t pretend to slum it if you’re not because that makes it harder for everyone. We all have to pay the rent somehow unless you own a house outright or with a mortgage and if either of those things are true, then you’re financially securer than most people, for sure than me. And I am aiming for more financial security than I have now by working as many days as I can for folks who I’ve come across in the strange little world of WFO, playing bass, making films & taking photos along the way. That’s what I’m doing.

All of these words, and I’ve still not come to the point. These jobs & activities, they’re not who I am. I AM a photographer, filmmaker, musician & WFO consultant, but the main thing I’m doing these days is living honestly, saying what I see & what I want and building a life for myself that works for the kind of person I am. I don’t feel guilty or afraid. Nobody knocks on my door and tells me I’m going to hell anymore. I’m hoping to be debt free in a year. Hoping to find a place to call home for me and my family. Grateful that anyone cares enough about me to read this. Hopeful that I can continue on this journey of truth in life with my best friend by my side. I’m pointing in the right direction & I’m just going to keep walking straight forward.

my 35mm portrait of Josienne Clarke on a train.

So, who are you & what do you want?

Shooting #Overheads

It was pretty easy, to begin with. Andrew Leach came to me & said hey, man, we’ve twitter-known each other for a while, you shoot film & I write stories, why don’t we crash those things together?

We laughed at the name MASSIVE OVERHEADS PRODUCTIONS and then made it come to life.

Josienne helped. Andy’s family helped. Together, we all worked out how to record location dialogue (nightmarishly hard!) and how to clap scenes, so I can edit them together, how to use all the hardware & software & stay focussed on the creation, the telling of a story, when there are so many shadowy codecs & redundant formats hanging over you, when every shriek of a gull renders another wav unusable.

We did a casting call & were swamped. We said we had no budget, all the gear & no idea, it was our first time. But so many people wanted to be in it. They were all superb & I hope we get to work with them all in future projects.

Andrew MacIntosh, Andrew Leach’s artist friend, painted the caravan from the poster. Go check out his other stuff, he’a an actual magician.

Josienne had a song in her head since the start of the project. She recorded it at home, and you can hear traffic & trains in the background. It’s a lovely piece. The sentiment is perfect. Then her & I worked together on the theme tune, the debut of our new project. No vocals. We bring some of our other musical influences into play & made a dirty, noisy, distorted, foreboding drum-led piece. Familiar to fans of Formication, perhaps, but not a sound I’ve explored in a while. It’ll be on bandcamp, soon, so you can listen whenever you like. More details coming soon.

Andi Ashen swooped in, an un-caped hero and helped us rescue some of the location dialogue. it’s hard to get right, and I know more for next time. I think it sounds perfect, now, but it wouldn’t, without The Ashen’s ears.

In the end, Tina Harris, Claire Lebowitz King & Madison Leach are the stars of the show. Shooting & editing them was pure pleasure. I could’ve used any scene I shot. I learned lots about how to put it all together, about the best way to shoot to tell the story. How to direct them to get what I need. I felt their trust & it felt unearned, but I think I can do it. It’s a huge thrill, the power of pen to screen. I feel kind of manipulative, though, too. I can make a person sinister or serene, just by setting the words they say like this or like that. By cutting away too early or too late. By using sound or shadow to hint at things, or not hint at them.

It’s easy to get hamstrung, making things, isn’t it? Weighed down by the possibilities of what you COULD do. Is this film I’m making as good as Kubrick? As Coppola? Is the music as good as Pantha Du Prince, as musical & obtuse & meaningful as Stockhausen, as artfully abstract as Eno, as creative as Derbyshire, as leftfield & focussed as Weatherall, does it have a point, a use, a direction like Flylo or Fourtet? But, no fuck that. It’s none of those things & I’m none of those people. I’m just a random nobody who thought maybe he could, and if it’s shite and you all stand around and laugh, well, so be it. I’ve been there before & I’ll be there again, I expect. But as always, my scars on my sleeve & everything you see & hear, I did that and not one of you can take that away from me, hashtag smiley face.

So, I’ll learn from my mistakes & go make them all again, bigger & better & right before your eyes, this time. The real magic here is believing you can, and then doing, whatever it’s in the face of. I’m already nearly finished our second film project & there are two more about to appear. We made them with no production money using kit I bought off ebay, paid for by doing shift work in a bookshop & day rate computer support stuff. We paid for people’s help where it was appropriate and relied on goodwill & favours were we could. It’ll grow or it won’t & I don’t care either way. Andy’s got some beautiful stories to tell & it’s a thrill & privilege to help bring them to life.

Here’s #Overheads. Enjoy.

Learning To Sail Cover Art & Other Things I Made

Josienne Clarke just announced her latest record, the second part in her archive collection. It’s called ‘Historical Record vol. 3&4 Learning To Sail’. It features studio demos, some solo & some full band alternative versions of songs that either made it or didn’t onto her last album, ‘In All Weather’. These recordings are insights into how those songs grew. She puts it best over at www.josienneclarke.com where you can read her press release.

I wanted to show you some of the artwork I made for this release. The front & back cover sees the artist at the Port Bannatyne location of the Cat Stevens ‘In All Weather’ album cover shoot, testing light & angles ahead of time. This reccy shoot informed Cat’s work. I’ve used Lightroom here to reduce Josienne to an almost ghost. The light blue an inversion of the eventual album cover. A fitting way to represent the music inside, formative, embryonic, older, more tentative than it eventually became.

Here are two promo shots I made of Josienne. I shot these in a studio in Nottingham and lightly treated them with a hex editor & Lightroom. She seems lighter than air & she kind of was. It was hundreds of degrees in that room, that day. Some shots from that day found their way onto posters but these two were never used and I always thought that was a shame. So, here they are now. Oddly nostalgic, aren’t they? Confrontationally demure, just like the artist herself, I like to think.

The album is out on Corduroy Punk Records on Friday 4th September, only on bandcamp. No pre-orders. Buy it on the day. Thanks!

The Price of Reckless Candour

So here’s what happened. I made the record. Cost around £5k, all in.

I paid Distrokid $30 to put ‘I Used To Be Sad & Then I Forgot’ on as many digital platforms as they could find. That included Spotify, also, iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, etc.

I had PR help from AtTheHelm PR, he did so much for me & working with him was a joy & pleasure, he sent out physical things, promo / review CDs, press releases, advised on timing, helped make a plan, which worked better than I ever expected.

I had thousands of streams on Spotify in the first week. Then I got an email from a company called www.StreamingFamous.com who said that they were affiliated with Distrokid and if I paid them a small amount, they could get me on playlists.

This is the dream, a spot on Indie Folk or something. That’s how it works. Spotify teach me to want that. I was hungry. So I paid $30 one off for playlist consideration. I figured, that’s what a label would do. Pay a PR company to get their artists exposure. I was no different, apart from I didn’t know where to go, who to ask, how to get that. I wasn’t a label. I don’t have one of those. So I used the thing in front of me. All of a sudden, I got tons of Spotify followers (all fakes, I guess) and some listens but no playlist placement for my money. I asked why. They said they could get me on a genre specific playlist, but I had to pay more. So I paid another $30 and they put me on a non-genre specific playlist next to the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Then they charged me $30 again 3 times, weekly. I wrote and asked them to take me off their shitty playlist, that wasn’t what I wanted. They did, after a week, then refunded me the recurring money I paid. Not the original two amounts.

Then yesterday, I got an email from distrokid that said had breached the Spotify streaming terms & my album would be deleted from that platform. They said that I was unable to use distrokid to redistribute it, again, ever. It is unclear if the other platforms they sent it to would still be supported by them.

Spotify replied with a vague ‘we detected suspicious activity’ and yeah, I can see that. It was obviously a stupid thing for me to do.

What is clear is that I won’t get any of that money back & that none of the legitimate streams from Spotify will earn any money, now. Also, all the legitimate stream counts are gone. I’m back to less than zero.

I contacted StreamingFamous who declined to comment. I raised support tickets with Spotify & Distrokid who said, what’s done is done, we won’t supply any details, please go away.

So, I will pay a different digital distributor to put my album back on Spotify like a good little boy. Lots of folks saying lots of sensible things about either not doing, or just giving them a single & stuff. The reason I feel the need to be there is that it’s the only way it feels real. I’m not a musician if my record isn’t there. Thousands of real people really streamed it and that feels worth another $30, even if it isn’t.

So yeah, I’m a little upset. I knew what I was doing, but this is a blow. It felt like I was trying to understand a game much bigger than me, where all the rules are secret and the people that run it have an interest in keeping it that way and I had found a little back door, a tiny leg up over the fence because tickets are too expensive for someone on my salary. But there’s none of those, I was a naive idiot, thinking I could get anywhere as an independent artist, the dice are loaded, the score is rigged, the outcome is already decided and the people who own it don’t want council house scum like me coming along and getting ahead. Labels can buy plays, followers, playlist placement, adverts, etc. But not me. What bullshit.

I’m better than this. I’ve been hit harder and been down for longer. I’m just gonna get back on my feet and try again, resubmit & see how it goes a second time round. Everyone of you, reading this, is a supporter and you know the journey I’ve been on. Your support means the world to me. I notice everything, I’m cursed with a detail eye so I can’t miss any of it.

I’ll share the Spotify link, when it’s back, and you can playlist me again and see if we can’t get back to the same streaming numbers then see what they do about that! That is all I need you to help me with.

Thanks for caring & in the meantime, my record is still here 🙂

One Month Anniversary of Buying Plays

Or, undermining my own digital marketing strategy.

‘I Used To Be Sad & Then I Forgot’ has been out for nearly a month & I want to overshare some insights with you about what thats been like! Firstly, the murky waters of the streaming marketplace.

I now have 14,000 Spotify listeners! 1.2k Spotify followers! 7,443 plays of Safe Mode, 4,931 of Leaves & 5,560 of A Ditch Worth Dying For! All the other songs are <1,000! What’s that all about? Well…

I bought most of those followers & plays for $50. To start with, I paid $30 to get one song some plays. Ditch went up to 3k really quickly, but I couldn’t see who was listening. Loads of people. I asked by live chat if the people who took my money could show folks the whole album and they said yes, but just Leaves went up. I asked who was listening and they said they couldn’t say, but for $20 a week, they could get me genre specific playlists so I said yes.

There I am, after The Killers & The Red Hot Chili Peppers. 51,000 likes, but a faceless account full of lacklustre genre specific playlists. Lots of listeners though!

So, I have no idea. Is this real? Are there really people listening? Did my $50 go to a clickfarm in South East Asia? I looked up the whois on the website I paid and it’s owned by a guy in London. Mike replied to my messages, quickly, professionally, slightly evasively. So it’s pretty simple, you can pay for listens. The more you pay, the more listens you get. $757 will buy you 500,000 plays, and 50,000 followers. But then I suppose, we all knew they was kind of meaningless numbers. I get the streaming revenue for those plays. They don’t get anywhere near the fifty I paid for them, but folks might think I’m popular and give me gigs! This is how the game is played. Madness but very present.

I got on a few real playlists by real people, too! Chris TT’s New Folk Friday & Vesa Lautamaki’s weekly roundup of new releases always seem to bring actual plays in. I wish I’d never ponyed up the 50 notes for fake ones, but I had to know what it was like. What could be done & how. If I hadn’t I reckon Ditch would be on just over a thousand plays. I feel like I sullied myself, did a dirty thing. But there it is.

Bandcamp has been a different story.

Release day was great, and then, Bandcamp (thanks @modernistwitch!) put my album on their front page & it went a bit mad. Sold lots of copies, digital & physical. To all over the world. In total, to date, I’ve taken just shy of £1.5k through Bandcamp. It cost £1k to manufacture the CDs and then about 5% of that to ship, another % in Paypal fees, but digital sales help offset that a little. So you could say that about broke even, in the first month, and I have a couple of boxes left to sell in the future! Superb. I’m still £3.5k down on the deal, but mainly, the reach of it! Plays & sales all over the world. It peaked early and then fell for sure, but it’s still ~150 real plays from real music fans every day, with someone buying a copy every other day. I can see who, talk to them, see what other music they like, support that if I can, and folks can choose to follow me so I can talk to them & sell things again in the future.

A radically different approach. Transparent. Lower numbers, but real people, listening to real music. I can see where every click came from. 222 folks googled me and went to bandcamp as a result. Etc. They expose & share what they know. Spotify monetise that hidden data and bandcamp share it and let you do what you want with it.

Apple Music / Amazon / Deezer, I don’t really know how those places work, but I know there’s been some plays there because my digital distributor tells me so. I’ll earn money from all those streams. Pennies, but cool.

BBC Introducing & loads of other shows play my tunes. Loads of folks reviewed it and they all said lovely things. Songlines Magazine is gonna review it in print in the issue out June 19th. That will be a big deal. I could’ve taken out a 1/4 page ad in there for £277 but I don’t have £277 so the review will have to be enough. That’s an audience to reach! I don’t know their circulation numbers, but they’re a pretty serious magazine! I wonder if they’ll like it!

Now, I don’t really know what to do with any of this knowledge, but if the aim of the game is to share the music I wrote, then that’s going well. Thanks to Bandcamp, it was worth making CDs and it’s a thrill to see who is listening. Spotify is nothing more than a moment in time, the fast changing face of how business colonises artistic ideas. It always has & always will, and tiny nobodies like me always will blow around the surface of that, trying to keep our heads above the water.

So I’m building up to saying that Bandcamp are doing their revenue share thing again on Friday 5th June, tomorrow, as I write this! I can’t afford to donate what I sell but I’d encourage you to check out some music on Bandcamp by POC.

Here’s a couple of places to start, Daudi Matsiko is a star of the Nottingham scene, and he writes wonderfully tender heartfelt tunes.

Daisy Godfrey has a voice that will stop you in your tracks. Proud fact – Trevor Hamilton (who took my album cover shot) also took that wonderful promo portrait of her.

Fill up my mentions with other great artists & musicians who we can all support tomorrow.

Thanks for reading. See you somewhere down the line.

Ringing Bells – New Music Video

I made a video for Josienne Clarke’s latest single, ‘bells’ – it’s live on her channel now!

‘bells’ is a home recorded GarageBand demo version of her classic song & live favourite ‘Bells Ring’, from ‘Seedlings All’. This is the song, how it sounded when she wrote it. Isn’t it surprising, what changes when you work with other musicians? How much is lost, how others filter ideas in different ways. How the initial spark of one idea in one woman’s head can become something entirely else in the head of another. I always found this crystal clear, pristine moment on ‘Seedlings All’ austere, shiny & distant. Hidden behind a coat of glossy paint. And then I heard the original demo & it landed like a ton of bombs. It all made sense. What a piece of work. That lyric. It’s a love song, it’s not a love song. If only there was a word for that, feeling happy & sad at the same time.

You can buy Historical Record vol 1&2 from Josienne’s bandcamp.

Josienne described her idea for the metaphor of the video, so all I had to do was bring it to life. I had plans for using a studio near here, rented lights & some other kit, but of course, they’re all closed & we’ve no income. So, fuck it. I made it in a bedroom with whatever we could find, the light was awful but I’m pleased with the results & I hope you enjoy it.

Please enjoy a gallery of stills from the video I made for Josienne Clarke’s ‘bells’ video.

And here’s the video:

‘I Used To Be Sad And Then I Forgot’ Listening Party Replay

The #SADLP listening party was a great success, thank you to everyone who joined in. = I was surprised at how well the format worked when we did one for Josienne’s LP and this was no different. It’s kind of quickfire. I had prepared some text and folks asked questions along the way. I don’t know that I always gave good answers, but I tried and it was a really gratifying community experience. What I’ll try to do here is copy & paste the whole thing into a post, because a few folks missed it at the time and they can read it through, relive it at their leisure! Maybe will work? So I’ll put it in order, JC tweets signed JC, mine unsigned. If I miss anything or anyone, sorry, this is a copy & paste nightmare and I’m already confused, but I’ll do my best 🙂

Hello & welcome to the beginning. I’ll hit play at 20:00. That fat baby is me & that’s my grandad, a flower grower & driver in WWII, who the record is dedicated to. I remember his quiet strength. He played church organ & helped me understand music.

He used to help put on organ concerts in village halls & I used to play. My favourite was always getting to do chariots of fire on the weird string machine. Felt like the future, then & it still does now.

Then ‘Alex Bowman’ had this hairy rockathon phase, but at least my charity work made the local news. It’s all vain narcissists like me need, eh?

Here’s an early iteration of the album cover, made especially for twitter when the title wasn’t quite fully formed. Yes, I am wearing a charcoal facemask. No, I do not know why.

For the album cover, Josienne, @TrevorHphoto & I went to Chatsworth House for the day because I wanted a soft, sunny image of me immersed in flowers. I was quite prescriptive & Trevor nailed it. Here’s the shots we didn’t use…

And there’s the cover. I’m glad so many of you like the image. It seems to have gone down really well. So now, let’s hit play – go!

I wrote ‘Physics & Form’ on a hundred flights, thousands of feet up in the air. That was my happy place, for a while. I had a strange relationship with arrivals & departures. Nobody to say hello or goodbye to at the gate.

‘Physics & Form’ always started with something other than the guitar & Josienne’s half-a-pitch sharp harmonium part was just right. Wheezing, barely able to make a note at all, in tune with nothing but itself. It was always how the record would start.

It’s a pretty shocking start but the title says ‘he used to be sad’, and he really did, really sad, right through to his bones. (JC)

I finished writing ‘Physics & Form’ in a frozen rented shipping container in some godforsaken backwater shithole in London, feeling like a part-time pretender with nothing to say. The last line took a long time to get right.

Rarely has a song about wishing for a plane crash been so moving and so scientific, so scientifically moving! The Harmonium is a bit wonky and stuttering and a bit infirm like his resolve. (JC)

‘A Ditch Worth Dying For’ is one of my favourite lyrics. That first verse. It rhymes so oddly. I hope it’s clear what I mean. The Gm chord, I didn’t know, I discovered it in my living room & found this song there waiting for me.

It’s a quiet, bitter lyric, but I can’t claim it’s honest music if I don’t try to articulate my experience. Can you hear the subtle saxophone drone in the verse? Understated, subtle, powerful production from JC.

That last track now seems light in comparison doesn’t it! I knew this song had to be dirge-y and dirty sounding. So I came up with saxophone drones fairly early on it makes a nice shitty spittle-y bed for the rest of the song to sit in. (JC)

The sax drone sits round his voice like he’s singing in three part harmony accompanied by two wheezing bags, the world’s grimiest barbershop trio. (JC)

The electric breaks it up now with some mid-range pitch, with a delay that rings round your head like an alarm. The bowed cymbal literally cuts through setting ya teeth on edge (JC)

I had the title ‘Safe Mode’ long before I had the song. It took an age to work it into words I could live with. I managed it, I think. A testament to effort. It wasn’t easy. But I didn’t fail. Proud of this one.

We used a bow on electric bass to make the low booming creek that starts us off, I wanted everything other than Alec’s voice and guitar to sound far away and muffled. (JC)

The piano was recorded and treated to have all the attack taken out and just leave the reverb tail. The distant vocal tones is me screaming into a piano and then drowning it in reverb. (JC)

‘Leaves’ used to have a chorus but I let it go. Josienne’s performance & production on this is a highlight of the album. All the reviews love it. I’d like to explore it more with her in the future recordings. Go further down that road.

You know how you know when you need to leave the party but other people need you to not do? How do you know what to do? Whose need is more important? Is it ok to ever ask someone to not leave? And then be angry when they do? I’ve no idea.

This was one of my favourite ones to do! Recording all the different woodwind instruments, they sound uncharacteristically chirpy perhaps, but to me they are the euphoric sound of fucking off when all you want to do is fuck off. (JC)

“but what else can I do? I’m not leaving AT you” is one of my favourite lines, for you owe no proximity!! May you merrily fuck off to the sound of a million recorders…(JC)

‘Long Goodbyes’ came to life in a fancy London rehearsal room. My friends in a proper band were playing in one room, and Suede were rehearsing next door. Strange pressures. Paul Mosley played the piano, he gave it such life. I just play it on guitar.

there’s me in that fancy room. well, it’s not so much fancy as expensive & full of proper musicians, all side-eyeing each other to check nobodys more proper than they are

I guess I’m questioning the value of communication in ‘Long Goodbyes’. Sometimes, you just can’t get your message to land, however hard you try, so you can stop. It offers no excuses. It’s a bit of a tirade. Frustration to the fore.

That title suggests a touching love song, but Alec would never call a love song something like that, no this is a ‘learn to shut your mouth’ song. I have my own history with those. (JC)

Here @paulmosley ‘s Rhodes is subtle and touching and perfect. This is the calm that comes after all the storms, let it go, don’t waste another breath on it. They’ll say whatever they say, but we carry our own truth with us. (JC)

INTERMISSION – The Old Rugged Cross. My Grandads favourite. I never really liked it but it has a special magic now. Paul Mosley played it beautifully, despite Josienne’s repeated requests to play it worse 🙂

We recorded incidental bits of us talking in the studio, doors slamming chairs scraping, the sounds of endeavour. @paulmosley had to be directed to play shitter than he normally would, still sounds lovely because he has a limit! (JC)

Half time break, starting again at 20:30!

‘Patience’ was a tough one to record. I nearly didn’t manage it. It’s the one that sounded like a defiant Frank Turner singalong chorus in my head when I wrote it, and then it sounds so tiny, barely there, broken on tape.

The microscope glare, laser-sight focus of the recording studio vocal booth does strange things to a person. You better really know yourself before you start or you’ll learn in the most brutal way. I wrote ‘Patience’ in that same frozen shipping container in London.

This is my favourite track, Alec almost couldn’t sing it, he was smaller & scared-er & more broken in this one than he perhaps realised. It’s a heartbreaking listen but that’s what’s good about it. It’s falling so far, hitting the floor & then getting up again. (JC)

“when you’re next to nothing with nothing to lose you get carried away patience, the truth” is my favourite line of the album I think. The truth always comes out in the end, you’ll get yours, they’ll get theirs, it’ll be alright someday. (JC)

‘Hand In Hand’ has been strangely popular, I wrote this in about 3 passes, the chords & lyrical idea all just appeared in my kitchen, real quick. Yes, that’s a reference to Scott Hutchison, RIP. The laughter is real, the sound of me wondering what on earth I am doing.

This song is both ridiculous and sweet, what kind of person sings a love song about all the ways they might die?… Alec is! We couldn’t even sing it without laughing. In terms of production it needed nothing but a jangly guitar and his wonky vocal. (JC)

This sigh, at the start of ‘Event Horizon of You’, is probably my favourite sigh on the whole album. You can’t have a great album without a cough or a sigh or something. This one, I meant it & I’m glad we left it in. @jonwilksmusic said it was ominous & he’s right.

Now that’s the kind of title Alec would give a love song, it’s a space love song. The sigh at the beginning always annoyed me and I’d never have let it stay but it’s not my album so… (JC)

‘Event Horizon of You’ is the first full song I had ready, but the middle verse took forever to get right. @paulKblabber described as ‘an odd combination of physics & Lewis Carroll’ which I love. I choke the metaphor a bit & I’m not certain of the science.

“shifted to blue and then brown” is the lyric – I imagined an approaching object moving toward our hero, reflected by the light in her eyes. I don’t care, really, if that’s how it works or not, I reckon it’s just right how it is. Physicists, holla!

i love yelling I’M A SNOWFLAKE at rooms

Alec and I both played an elec guitar part for this he did the arpeggio and I’m doing the strummed chords, which was lovely cooperation at the time but now we forget who did what and argue about who played electric on this track (it’s me at the end for deffers!) (JC)

‘My Kind Of Chaos’ started as a title & I knew exactly the kind of song that went with it. Nobody knows what the second verse means & I’m ok with that. I love Josienne’s recorder orchestra. We’ll do that again.

‘My Kind Of Chaos’ is one of those guitar parts I can barely play. challenging my own skills, being better at coming up with ideas than executing them, this is the way around I like it.

Another of my favourites, those are 4 recorder parts sounding like a weird steam engine there! Trying to sound as sweet as this little song, soft and gentle, like a dream. (JC)

Every great LP has a cough somewhere on it, right?

The cough he does before the vocal here is bang wrong in every rule book but he doesn’t care for rules so he kept it in! This is a lovely way to end the story and it isn’t ever the end of the world. Stay here and find out x (JC)

‘Never The End Of The World’ was the last thing I wrote. Capo on 7 like ‘Lua’ by Bright Eyes & the whole thing came in one go, crashed landed out of nowhere, a real surprise. I knew the sentiment, the ending, before I started, I wanted hope & hope appeared.

Not wishy washy platitudes, though. I wanted realism. Underneath everything, at the end of it all, does anything worth knowing remain? This was my attempt at drawing a conclusion, finding catharsis, best I could. It feels like I did it, to me. Good enough.

it clocks in under 29 minutes and that means the bastard beats me on brevity, my own accolade! I only realised the other day and I’m furious. (JC)

So, there, that’s it, it’s done. The dust settled, the words spoke, I put it best I could. Thanks for listening. I want to try & play them live, one day. Would you want to come see that? Ax

A load of people said because of course they did, it was a bit of a mean twatty ending on my behalf. But I do want to play live. Maybe I’ll feel differently when I am able to do it, hah.

Anyway, there it was! Thanks for reading!

Sharing Bandcamp Links From Friends

Here’s some recommendations for great music you can get from Bandcamp. so following on from my post earlier, I took everyone who replied & wrote a sentence about their stuff and linked to it below. Enjoy!

I Used To Be Sad & Then I Forgot by Mr. Alec Bowman. This is my album. It’s out Friday 1st May. Of course, it was going to be here.

Historical Record vol. 1&2 by Josienne Clarke. I made that cover. Also, it’s a great & important record.

Subvert Central have a back catalogue well worth exploring, including this album which includes ‘Catastrophe In Blue’, perhaps my favourite Formication piece.

Smoke From A Future Fire by The Howard Hughes Suite. Wonderfully subtle leftfield acoustic music, kind of like The Shadows if they were my backing band instead of Cliff Richards. Calls to mind some of Warren Ellis’ soundtrack work, in feel if not exactly in sound.

Burd Ellen take traditional folk and bend it through a haunting, broken, modern lens. Progressive musicians writing their own rules & drawing the map for how it should be done. Watch them carefully, for they will continue to do excellent things.

Water Is Wet by Theo Hakola, long lost brother in misery, on Microcultures Records. For fans of Mark Lanegan or Nick Cave.

Corrie Shelley has a few sweet acoustic English folk albums of original songs here, and they’re all worth checking out, but start with ‘The Leaf & The Cane’.

Lucy Kitchen’s Sun to My Moon is a favourite of mine; beautifully produced, eerie modern English folk. This gets played a lot, here.

Me Lost Me is making brave & futuristic explorations into what folksong can be. New to me, but interesting & I shall be checking out more.

Philippe Bronchtein’s Isolation Music – he used to be called Hip Hatchet. His name associated with a project means it’s gonna be beautiful. He’s one of those musicians, and this solo EP is a particular favourite of mine.

Frank Birtwistle’s Ashes – Frank is a prolific musician, really making the most of the bandcamp platform. I like his solo acoustic guitar more than pretty much any others. I dunno why. He’s just better at it. I like listening to it where I don’t usually.

Now, My Girl The River are really making waves with their country stuff, and it’s easy to see why. It’s classic American music, big, sweeping, with a lovely soulful edge. Excited to share a release date with these good people!

I’m a huge fan of Settling Houses unusual take on American indie folk & I’m delighted to share a release date with their new one. Intimate vocals that call to mind John Darnielle of The Mountain Goats, a band that can do anything, coming off like a grown up Front Bottoms, but importantly, the lyrics! Man, this fella can write. I find myself noticing words, phrases, rhymes in the thing and pausing for thought, second guessing myself. A wonderful artist.

Here’s Thunderhead, 90’s techno survivor! Odder & more atmospheric than the description would have you believe.

Peter James you might know from his best in class photography which he shares on Twitter. He also makes incredibly classy austere atmospheric ambient music. Check it out.

Dont’ know where to start talking about my friends Lawrence County. They’ve been there through it all, great people doing grassroots work, taking what they find and documenting their lives, which are by all accounts, fascinating! Check out their latest album, The Frailty Of Humans.

Tribes Of Europe make “inner & outer space music for the good children of earth & other planets” and I can’t add anything to that other than to say if you like your psychedelia strident & swirling & swung then you’ll enjoy their tunes!

I’m so glad that Lukas Drinkwater replied to my thread! Lukas is the real thing, everything he says he is and probably more besides. He runs Polyphonic Recording with Emily Barker, makes music with & for other folks, does it by himself and is the personification of a straight up sharer, a supporter, a facilitator. I’d recommend starting with his Jacob & Drinkwater stuff if you don’t know his music but it’s all great stuff.

I met Robert Lane when he interviewed Josienne for his podcast – here’s a link to his bandcamp where you can grab his music – he’s a community minded sharer, a supporter of the arts & i don’t know his output as well as I should so I shall be taking this opportunity to change that.

Justin Capps & The Cavaliers – a great bunch of folks with a big indie rock sound and a voice that I’ll never not be jealous of. Go check out their music and show them your support if you like. They’re worth it.

There’s this cassette label that do crazy wonky weird electronic stuff called Sharted Jeggings, a name so mesmerisingly difficult to like I can hardly bare to type it, but they support, they engage, they got an ear for a melody and you can go listen to them now!

Here’s Afterwise, acoustic music for the discerning modern listener & all round supporter of good things!

Zygmunt makes wonky electronic dance music and owns a truly great pair of shades. He shouldn’t do what he does, but he does it, and I don’t think anyone could put it better.

And that will do for now – I have got some guitars to record for another project I’m working on. Go get involved in some Bandcamp action. Friday 1st May or anytime, really! Thanks, friends, for supporting each other.

ps. adding three more latecomers but I wanted this to be complete – everyone who replied to me on twitter to ask got a share in this post,

Including Ben Morgan-Brown, Malcolm McWatt & Matt Blick