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

How To Be Grown Up In The #BrokenRecord Industry

Look, I get it. It’s competitive around here. Other people having nice things makes it seem like the consequence is that you can’t.

I’m here to tell you that isn’t correct. You are thinking about it wrong. It’s hurting you and it’s hurting your friends.

Appreciation of art, music, film, books, pictures, like love, is not a finite resource. Yes, the consumers of art have finite resources, but there are 7 billion people in the world and one person getting a review, a gig, their picture in a paper or some radio play is not an affront to you.

Check your reaction – try it now – do you feel incensed when a person you know gets some success in their life? Are you able to say ‘hey, nice one!’ when a friend gets their shit together and releases an album against all the odds and mean it? Do you share news that celebrates their success without a tightening fist in your chest that says it should be you?

Be honest with yourself. Don’t say it out loud.

Consider this. Do you feel jealousy when a friend succeeds? You do? Well, that’s normal! They got a dream job? Something good happens to someone else & you feel jealous? Of course. Everyone does. What does a grown-up do about that? They congratulate their friend. They say, oh shit, I feel so jealous, what a horrible feeling! I’m sorry, I don’t mean for that to take away from your success! I wish I had a review / job / car / baby / lover / object – and then makes a plan to get a piece of that thing they want for themselves. Asks their friend how they did it and takes advice. Treats them as an equal and trusts that they will want to help. If their friend is a cunt about it or fucks them over, well, off you fuck, mate! Nothing lost, no drama, move on. That’s what an adult does.

What happens in the creative industries is that when a colleague, someone striving for the same ends as you, the same goals, someone like you, with the same challenges, in the same circle, in the same world, when they succeed, people close ranks. They issue the smallest possible amount of peripheral support, usually with a tiny veiled insult baked into the miserable centre of the shit-cake, designed to minimise the achievement, throw meagre grains of endorsement sand onto the filthy floor of the mouldy shared bedsit, through a clenched fist & a tight-tooth smile. They only share or celebrate the bare minimum they need to to keep having proximity to the other person, who is really just a commodity, access to the gigs and reviews and radio play that they can get. A friend reduced to a swipe card to a head office that promises the world and you’ll buy it because WHAT IF YOU MISS YOUR ONE CHANCE? You know the rules – you only get a tiny percentage of the profit from your music so you have to fight! You have to fuck everyone else over! You can’t give unconditional, open-handed support to anyone! Even to people who give it to you.

Now, none of this is really that person’s fault. It’s how the industry requires people to behave. The people that own the rights to the music, the BMGs, the Spotifys, the Googles, they need artists to think that other artists are the enemy. That way, the enemy can’t be them. And it works – a musician has to work in a bar to pay the rent because their 1,500 Spotify plays don’t earn enough for a coffee let alone the rent. WHY IS THIS HAPPENING! they scream, so they look around and see a far away & faceless power, suited people in offices with a salary, who once met, who signed, who played a show with, who recorded with, who knows someone who was on a record with, who went on tour with, who joined a band with someone who has the thing you want – a career in music. The people that hold the rights to your creative output own a house in Notting Hill, they’re untouchable and so you can shout at them and tweet hashtags and be outspoken and swear & sweat til you’re blue in the face and it will do you precisely no good because your ideas, precious and rare and magical as they are, are nothing more than tiny money seeds that only pay your bills when you get so big it’s meaningless and you cant even be described as an artist anymore. Those distant targets, those industry types are so distant that they aren’t feasible targets at all. If any of them came to you and offered you a deal, you’d still take it, knowing it was shit. Because WHAT IF? and because THEY HAVE SOMETHING I WANT.

So where do you look? You look in the room next door, you look at your band mate, who has one more than you. Who once had, who nearly had, who might have a thing, and you throw your simmering, confused emotional ire at them, imperceptible knives, and feel confused when it hurts but at least you got a reaction. Those distant salaried folks who actually could give you enough money for your art but won’t because why would they when they don’t have to, and they DON’T have to, nobody does, well, they don’t even notice you, you’re a pathetic dog straining at the lead so you bite what you can reach and the nearest thing is someone who you should be celebrating.

Because guess fucking what, if you thought about it for just one second, then you’d realise that your colleagues are not your enemy. Other musicians are your community. Together, you would be stronger than on your own.

You’ve been divided so you can be conquered and it’s heartbreaking and cruel and nobody wins apart from the straight white bloke with no songs who owns his notting hill house because that’s how this whole shit-show works – if you own the rights to a hundred singers with a thousand plays each THATS ENOUGH TO BUY A HOUSE. Think about that for a second! Direct your ire at them. When your friend releases music or self publishes a book of poetry, what you should do, if you want to think of yourself as a functioning adult, is tell everyone you know, my friend made a book of poetry! Check it out! Someone will like it and they will tell someone else. And if you want to release a book of poetry, too, then you fucking should. Then that poet will tell their friends about their poet friend, like you did with them. You can’t get a license. You won’t get permission or a certificate and you’ll be lucky to even get encouragement, but don’t forget why – it’s because the creative industry can only thrive for the people who own it when ideas are not worth as much as the paper they’re written on and that’s always a lie – they are worth much, much more.

So, go ahead and have those ideas. Do your best with them, celebrate them when you find them and expect your adult friends to do the same.

LET’S BE A COMMUNITY OF GROWN UPS:

What I’d like you to do is reply to me, however you like, tweet, email, DM, anything, with your Bandcamp links. I’ll compile a list and write a post later today. I can’t afford to buy a note, myself, I’m afraid. My financial circumstances aren’t going to support that, right now. It’ll change, though, and I have a long memory.

So please, what would you like me to share? Send me your bandcamp links and I’ll share them here soon!

Making Art With Historical Records

So you probably saw on Folk Radio UK that Josienne Clarke has a new album out, available exclusively on Bandcamp right here, right now. The press release puts it best it can be put:

This is the artist alone in her bedroom-studio-office, it’s where the magic lives, the bits you don’t normally get to hear, that first spark of an idea as it appears, complete with missteps and mistakes and the frisson with which such creativity is charged. It hisses and crackles with pure, imperfect, creative endeavour, the nearest you’ll get to seeing how it’s really done. Take a peak over the fourth wall, behind the stage curtain, way beyond the dressing room and into her home to take a seat with a view over her shoulder as she pens some of the finest songs in her catalogue, a catalogue which is among the finest original song-writing this country has to offer...’

I made that cover & I’m pretty proud of it. That’s an old photograph of Josienne. I’ve tried to get in touch with Ondine Goldswain, who Josienne thinks took the photo, but I can’t contact her to confirm. If Ondine or anyone connected to her reads this, let us know so we can give you credit.

Here’s a section from the press release, explaining my work on the cover:

The cover of Historical Record Vol 1 & 2 was designed by photographer & videographer Alec Bowman, using a photograph taken of Josienne in 2009 during a shoot for her first album ‘One Light Is Gone’. Alec explains “Josienne is almost lost in a fog of digital degradation, but not quite; she’s standing, still, defiant in the face of all the noise. I used a hex editor to violate the integrity of the file & create the impression of a slow data collapse out of which Josienne appears, a quiet ghost in a static roar.’

A fancy way of saying it, but such are press releases. There are hundreds of iterations of that cover design. I knew exactly what I wanted the outcome to be and achieving it was very satisfying but took a while to get just right. There’s an element of chance, working with a hex editor. You break the thing, then look to see if the damage is the right kind. It’s a beautiful & time consuming way of working.

I made this one using the same technique. This one is based on an image I took myself during a shoot last year. We did it to make posters with and you will have seen some of these images out in the world in various forms, like this Slovakia tour poster.

Here’s a few others that haven’t seen the light of day yet, including the one I broke to make the AVI that JC is using now.

I made the video for ‘throwing love’, too. Well, sort of. Again, I’ll let the press release explain:

The accompanying video for ‘throwing love’ was made using footage shot by Josienne on her phone during her travels over the last ten years in music, then edited by Alec Bowman. We join Josienne on her endless travels, always coming & going, never arriving, no direction home or away. The only conclusion appears to be a moments quiet repose from some familiar window in a snowy street and the birds in the sky.

It was a satisfying video to edit. There was reams of footage, all unrelated and usually with her messing around, singing along, eating haribo or whatever on her way to or back from a show. Harrowing to sift through, in some ways. Satisfying in others. As with the cover, I knew what I was aiming at with the video. The story I wanted to tell. I just had to find the parts that told it. This is recovered footage, digital archeology. I edited it into the 2.35:1 aspect ratio, gave it a bit of drama. It doesn’t always scale well on youtube but it does sometimes & I think it’s worth it, what do you reckon?

More from the press release:

Historical Record vol. 1 & 2′ will be released on Corduroy Punk Records on 15th May 2020. It will only be available as a digital download & only on Bandcamp. “It will not be available on any streaming services, I’m sick of other people making more money from my creative endeavour than I do…”

Aside from the statement on the state of the #BrokenRecord music industry, documented elsewhere, the other thing you might notice is mention of a thing called Corduroy Punk Records.

If you visit that website, you won’t find much other than this statement:

I made those graphics. I’m not going to say more than that, here, now, or maybe, anywhere, ever. It is what it is & that’s all it can be.

“(Historical Record 1&2) is a candid and exhausted documentation of a whole life spent in song and how utterly, beautifully pointless that is.” says Josienne.

Buy Historical Record vol. 1 & 2 now.

My Album Is Nearly Out ~ What Can You Do To Prepare?

I started work on the sad song cycle that became ‘I Used To Be Sad & Then I Forgot’ a long, long time ago. It all comes to a quietly shuddering anticlimax on Friday May 1st at midnight in this perfect world. I shall be released. What can you do about it?

Plenty! Thing is, for me, however good it is, it’s gonna feel horrible. It’s the moment its truly taken from my hands. A wild animal, a raptor or something, lovingly tended, rehabilitated, hand fed by me for a while, reared to not only not mind but thrive in my human company. We’ve become dependent. That’s how you know, we’re done. I have to let it go. So, eventually, I drive the thing, caged in the back of my car, to a wild place, open the door and watch it leave. Confused, at first, unable to really believe or understand whats happening, finally, it spreads it’s wings & disappears off into the great beyond, never to be seen again. I dare to hope I did the right thing, taking it, injured, from it’s natural habitat in the first place, and that it will be better off, now, with the lessons I taught it, the strength & nutrition I gave it, but will I ever know? I will not. It is a wild animal with a life of it’s own. I have to let it fly. All that euphoria & loss. It’s terrifying. What if you hate it? What if you don’t? This post is the instructions you leave mother nature herself for how she can feed that bird, now it doesn’t live in your sanctuary anymore. A waste of time, really. But such is human nature. We are compelled by forces I doubt any of us really understand to fight for unknown things because of confusing compulsions. I’m just another of one those stupid humans. This album is my greatest wisdom & it’s really no wisdom at all.

SO WHAT CAN I DO, I HEAR YOU SCREAM INTO SPACE?

Follow me on Twitter & Instagram. Engage with me. I’ll engage back. Every click an endorsement. I will support you & I appreciate it when you support me. I notice when you don’t. You can hurt me, there. I hope you know when you do and it gives you what you need. Those platforms work differently for different people, but for me, I enjoy the discourse & likes, comments & retweets all help my broken bird to spread her injured wings.

Follow my wordpress website – I try to keep it up to date with the various projects I get involved in and share insights into the process, a backstage look into the operating theatre of the creative industries. Lots of photos & words. I suppose you know this, because you are here right now!

Follow me on Bandcamp – Bandcamp is the best of them. A real sanctuary. It’s been around forever and it was designed to work for everyone. They take a cut of sales but they provide a platform that is equitable. It’s growth is hugely encouraging. Your support here means more financially than anywhere else. I try to use it as a fan, but my funds are limited, so please do excuse me if I can’t buy everything I want to. I’m sure the day will come. There’s a CD available & you can also buy it as a digital album.

Follow my YouTube channel – they say once you get to a thousand subscribers and have four thousand hours of watch time, you can get money for the thing you made! This is a distant dream, and I need more content, but I am making more content, and a follow here counts for quite a bit 🙂

Follow me on Spotify or your preferred streaming service. Add my songs to your playlists! I’ve written about this in other places. Spread the word! Streaming is great! I get told what playlists I’m on & where you’re listening & I love knowing that. There’s only one song there right now, but not for long…

Come to my listening party on Twitter! It’ll be a lot of fun, I’ll share photos & thoughts & insights about the making of the record and what it all means. Here’s the poster. Just use the hashtag #SADLP to read & please do ask me anything!

Write about my album. Lots of folks have & it means a lot. Review it. Tell me what you like about it and what you don’t. Discourse is good. Honesty is good. I’ll share & shout about it, help to promote your platform as much as I can.

Play a song on the radio. I hope I’ve set up PPL & PRS right so when Dean Jackson plays my tune, I get a quid or so. I might not have I’m working it all out alone and it’s deliberately confusing and maze-like. I’ve done my best. Tell me you’re going to play my song, so I can promote your show, which I’ll do as best I can.

You can not mind that I keep going on about it! It can feel stupid, to keep sharing the same post, photo, radio play, blog, review. But it all helps. I’ll keep making new stuff & yelling about it. That’s all I know, really. You hold your end of the bargain & we’re all good 🙂

There are probably other things. What have I missed?

It’s nearly out of my hands. There is time to stop it, but I won’t. I could keep it in a cage at my house, deny it the open sky, for all my own reasons, but I shall let it go. It’s all yours now. I’m all in. Committed. Money where my mouth is. Please be gentle, if you see it out in the wild. It took a while to make it strong enough to fly on it’s own. Tell it I said hello.

How It’s Going? What Am I Doing? #brokenrecords and #listeningparties

I’m self-releasing my solo album ‘I Used To Be Sad & Then I Forgot’ on May 1st. On May 3rd at 20:00 in the evening, I’m gonna have a listening party, where I hit play on my record and then tweet photos & memories & stuff from it. A few folks have been doing this, supported by Tim Burgess from The Charlatans, who seems to be an all round decent bloke & supporter of grassroots music. The one we did for Josienne’s LP was great fun. I dunno if anyone will join in with mine, but it doesn’t matter. It’s a fun thing to do, regardless. I made what I hope is a funny poster to advertise it. It’s a stupid poster, I know. I like those the best.

So, it’s nearly over the line. This protracted, self-released, self-flagellatingly monumental waste of paint. I feel pretty conflicted about it. I am under no illusions that it will become my job. I make money to pay the rent from photography & videography with some IT work on the side. This is how it is & how I imagine it will stay. For me, and for increasing amounts of musicians, especially now.

There’s this hashtag doing the rounds – #BrokenRecord – and I have some conflicted feelings on it. For me, ‘I Used To Be Sad & Then I Forgot’ is & always was an expensive folly, I would probably be better off to spend the cash it cost to make on therapy. But I’m driven to make things. I am compelled to express myself, against all reasonable & rational odds. The point of the hashtag is that streaming services don’t pay anything near a useful amount of money to even a moderately successful musician. And they don’t. Everyone knows this. It’s what’s happening. Rightly or wrongly. And a hashtag is great – maybe eventually the movement will gather enough momentum to bring about actual change – but nobody owes me a living.

I have no expectations of profit. The record was about £5k to make. I saved that over the last few years. I reckon I took £500 in pre-orders, which was fucking amazing, thank you! And I have a box of them left to sell anytime, so cash might trickle in if I can play shows again. But break even? Even post-pandemic? Not gonna happen & I never thought it would.

You read that right. I paid money to Spotify (an Deezer & Amazon & Google & Apple & every other leach of a streaming service) for the pleasure of them using my music to take a monthly fee and they give me fuck all in return. This is how it works. How it was allowed to work, for reasons documented better elsewhere. The line is – recorded music is an aural business card. It IS cheap, but you’ll get gigs. You’ll sell merch. But now I won’t because I can’t. Neither will anyone else. So #brokenrecord is a call to arms – artists, rise up! Demand change! With the pandemic, everything is crumbled, so let’s take this chance to rebuild it better. And yes! Let’s.

But I don’t feel powerful. I have nothing to give. Down here, in the long grass & weeds, I either pay £50 to streaming services because I’m so grateful that streaming services will have me because it makes me seem proper, or I take a stand and rule myself out of ever being heard. And bigger artists are in just the same boat but with stronger & more powerful industry types taking their cut of their cash It’s a stagnant waterfall with the artist desiccating in the mud at the bottom. Even some venues take a cut of physical sales. There isn’t much left, at the end.

But I don’t wanna keep ranting onto the very people who do support me (twitter followers, for example) about how I get no support. That’s like complaining “only a few people came to my gig!” to the few people who came to your gig. Shut up & play your heart out for them, I say. I don’t deserve a wage or a career. I didn’t dedicate my whole life to this pursuit. I came from nowhere with nothing and got a bit lost. but, of course, I want change. Change would be ace! Despite my folly, I knew what I was doing. I did it anyway, I didn’t have much choice.

My song, ‘Safe Mode’, the only one I have on Spotify at the time of writing, has 220 streams. How much should I get for that? How much is it worth? It’s a tiny number, to some people, but not to me. I’m made up. My great ambition for this record is to get to more than a thousand plays. That would be a result! I’m a Spotify user myself, you see. The hypocrisy! Here’s the table that Tom Grey shared. See, I’ve not even made a quid yet. But I get to find out who put me in a playlist! And see where people listened to me. In Finland! And Canada. I like knowing that. I feel conflicted & powerless. Floundering, like I can’t be all pissed off that I haven’t even made a quid. That seems disingenuous, somehow. Maybe thats how they want me to feel.

So yeah, the record is definitely broken. Always has been & always will be. But home taping didn’t kill music. Streaming won’t stop me. I’ll throw my lightweight behind the hashtag, but the people who cause the problem in the first place, the people who own the music industry, they aren’t gonna listen to me. They never have. Why would they? Answer that, give them a reason, then maybe we’ll see some change. Til then, this is just poor old men shouting at richer ones while the rest of us make things that seem to be invaluable to some people & entirely valueless to others. I hope for change & in the meantime, I’m gonna write music whether it comes or not.

The industry needs to be complex, it will always be pompous, it needs money in it to pay the wages of the folks who sustain the wheels of the machine. It needs rich, connected people with trust funds to have the advantage. That’s how capitalism works. Making the blood of punk into an aesthetic you can sell in Next. It’s all the same. It’s a business. One person makes something other people want, which causes other people with other skills to muscle in and take their cut. It seems naive & damaging to complain, to you, dear reader. But it IS wrong. We all know that. Know what I mean? I didn’t get this record made because my dad was a producer or my grandad left me thousands. I got it made by bleeding onto the paper. But imagine if, when we rebuild the world, post-pandemic, the creative industries could be more of a meritocracy. That somehow, the business fuckers lose their grip, just a tiny bit, and some kid from the arse-end of nowhere manages to get cash from an audience because what they’re making is truly special, not because they grew up in a house with a piano in the drawing room. Yeah, I can get behind that sentiment.

Here’s a link to my #brokenrecord. It cost me £50, this link alone, but it means you can choose the service you prefer to either listen to my album for free, or buy it from me if you like. This is how it’s done in 2020. Let’s see if 2021 can be better.

https://ffm.to/iusedtobesad

p.s. after I hit publish, I had two thoughts I wanted to add.

One was – this is all self-satisfied & over-privileged of me. I DO have a voice. A website I can write this on. I imagine there’s hundreds of thousands of people who could make better records if they could scrape five grand together. If I can find a way to help them, I will. And also – internet outrage is fine, we can whip up a twit-storm of crossness about the state of it all & demand change. But, just like twitter thought the labour party might be in with a chance at the last election, it’s vacuous and pointless unless we can take it offline & out into the real world, but in the real world, Spotify is handy, I’m a hypocrite & the suits run the show. But if there is a fix, it might start here. And if it doesn’t then it can’t hurt trying, can it?

Where/How to Share the New Music You Made…

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.

Autumn Dawn Leader, a singer songwriter from Leicester, suggested following Chris West so I did – he does radio & seems hungry to promote new things he likes. Nice one.

@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.

David suggests DTF Media, who I don’t know but will investigate and Matt says NTS Live are good, too – useful tips.

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.

ax

“Alec might be my kind of self-deprecating songwriter…”

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

‘I Used To Be Sad & Then I Forgot’ out 1st May 2020

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:

  1. Physics & Form
  2. A Ditch Worth Dying For
  3. Safe Mode
  4. Leaves
  5. Long Goodbyes
  6. Intermission – The Old Rugged Cross
  7. Patience
  8. Hand In Hand
  9. The Event Horizon Of You
  10. My Kind Of Chaos
  11. 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!

https://mralecbowman.bandcamp.com/releases