Saturday, 20 December 2008

31 - Manchester (briefly)

"These shoes should travel to exciting places
Get ready
Get steady
Now we go..."


Wednesday, 17 December 2008

30 - Lausanne

"On those dark days in July
Your eyes were on the sky
Waiting for storms
Hating the norm..."

Friday, 12 December 2008

29 - Paris

"Thinking of the sea
Tides turning internally
Imagining beauty

26-28 (No Photos)

"As you were approaching
A new idea was encroaching
A twisted and terrible thing
Suddenly a song to sing..."


"I'll find a pit
In which to sit
Some gloomy nook
To read my books..."


"What a privileged pair of eyes
Have I
In thrall to tall buildings and sky..."


Sunday, 7 December 2008


"Imagined lives
That make sense
That are safe
On the screen
We watch..."



Up a tree
Holding out a hand
Help for a sister..."


Thursday, 4 December 2008


"Hands so handsome
Fingers meet thumb
Wood encircling lead
Draw out the thread
The path I tread..."


Tuesday, 2 December 2008


"Thanks for the stories
The former glories
What's life for
If not memories..."


Tuesday, 25 November 2008


"Trying to find the key
The combination by which you would master me..."



"Thanks for the stories
The former glories
What's life for
If not memories..."


Wednesday, 19 November 2008


"The candle in your heart wasn't strong enough
Your torch bulb blew - the weather was rough
But the lighthouse did it, lit your destiny
And only showed you where you didn't want to be..."



"I smell coffee when I wake
Love the smell, hate the taste
It's disappointment in a drink
So bitter I spit it in the sink..."


Monday, 17 November 2008


"You're trying to find the key
The combination by which you would master me.."



"The candle in your heart wasn't strong enough
Your torch bulb blew - the weather was rough
But the lighthouse did it, lit your destiny
And only showed you where you didn't want to be..."



"As you were approaching
A new idea was encroaching
A twisted and terrible thing
Suddenly a song to sing..."


Sunday, 16 November 2008


"The Scrabble tiles I spilled this morning
Spelled out your name
The streets in my A to Z did the same..."


Saturday, 15 November 2008


"Hands so handsome
Fingers meet thumb
Wood encircling lead
Draw out the thread
The path I tread..."



"Thanks for the stories
The former glories
What's life for
If not memories..."


Friday, 14 November 2008

11 - No Cameras Allowed at Location

"What a privileged pair of eyes
Have I
In thrall to tall buildings and sky..."


Thursday, 13 November 2008


"A collection of cosy crimes
A cultural artefact
Resolutely of our time
A shared memory, a common fact
Murder, She Wrote..."


Tuesday, 11 November 2008


Up a tree
Holding out a hand
Help for a sister..."



"I'll find a pit
In which to sit
Some gloomy nook
To read my books..."



"The Scrabble tiles I spilled this morning
Spelled out your name
The streets in my A to Z did the same..."



"I smell coffee when I wake
Love the smell, hate the taste
It's disappointment in a drink
So bitter I spit it in the sink..."


Monday, 10 November 2008


"I'll find a pit
In which to sit
Some gloomy nook
To read my books..."



"Imagined lives
That make sense
That are safe
On the screen
We watch..."


Saturday, 8 November 2008


"Our heads are like planets
Red hot under skulls
Speaking like volcanoes
Makes life wonderful..."


Thursday, 6 November 2008


"These shoes should travel to exciting places
Get ready
Get steady
Now we go..."


Wednesday, 5 November 2008


"A collection of cosy crimes
A cultural artefact
Resolutely of our time
A shared memory, a common fact
Murder, She Wrote"


Tuesday, 4 November 2008

The First Copy

This is the first copy of 20 Two Minutes 4 Weeks. The plan for hiding them around the city has evolved a bit - I'm now going to hide copies of the entire album, not just selected tracks. This blog will be used to give clues as to the location of each hidden CD: a photograph, a quotation from one of the songs, and a code.

To begin with the CDs will be hidden in London only, however I'm looking for people to help with distributing them in other cities around the world. If you want to get involved just email me!

Monday, 8 September 2008

The end, part one

Part one of this project is now done, if not quite dusted. I've written and recorded the basics of over twenty new songs, and the next step after mixing will be to release them, which I don't think is going to happen in any conventional sense - these songs are not going online, at least not at the moment. If anyone wants to hear them now they are welcome to email me (click here for the address) and I'll send them a CD with as many songs as are ready at that time in whatever state they are in. I'll do this until I run out of blank CDs.

Beyond that my plan is to print 224 CDs, which will be left around London (and hopefully in other cities around the world) to be discovered by whoever discovers them. Each CD will have a quote from one of the songs printed on the front, and this will link in some way to the location it gets left/hidden in.

I'm doing it this way for a few reasons, one of which is that I think music is getting too easy. It's great in some ways that most of us can now download any song at any time to listen to whenever we feel like it, but in other ways I think this just makes us think of music as disposable and a little meaningless. Why pay any deep attention to one particular piece of music when there are millions more that you can listen to? It might sound precious, but I want these songs to be something more than that to the people who hear them, because they're more than that to me.

I also want to have fun with it, I want to do something that makes people curious, and the hiding CDs plan ties in with the theme of unreality that runs through a lot of the songs. I've also been influenced by the Paul Auster book I was reading, the idea of the film-maker who destroys his own work before anyone can see it. I'm not willing to go that far (yet), but I do like the idea of scarcity in an age where we expect everything to be available to us whenever we want it.

One CD (with the 11 songs that I've mixed so far) has already been hidden away outside London thanks to my friend Seb. Kudos to anyone who finds it, all I'll say is that it's in some woods...

Anyway, for now, it's over and out.

Monday, 1 September 2008

Day 29: Running over

So this is apparently day 29, which means I'm officially over the threshold of my four weeks - shock horror. However, I don't go back to work until Wednesday, so that's my official limit. Today I finished writing Fail, and recorded it. I also re-recorded the vocals for City Song, and finished the lyrics for Sing a Song. I now have to finish writing Pedestriana and Untitled, the latter is a particularly awkward customer. So I have written 19 songs, and, if I include the wordless improv, 20. I've succeeded. In the writing stakes at least.

At the moment I'm reading The Book of Illusions, which is the second novel by Paul Auster that I've read. The first was New York Trilogy, a book which inspired a line in the song You Amaze Me, a line which describes seeing the streets in an A to Z spelling out a name. One of the stories in New York Trilogy (which by the way is a work of total head-bending brilliance) describes a character following directions through New York streets which he eventually realises are spelling out letters. It's all tied in with the story of the tower of Babel, but I forget exactly how. Anyway, that idea came back to me subconsciously when I was writing the bridge to You Amaze Me.

This is actually the second time NYT has been referenced in a song I've written, as in Any Captain Worth His Due I mentioned Babel, which I'd only started to learn about after reading the book (and, coincidentally, seeing a painting of the tower of Babel in a gallery). Of course then the film Babel came out and it was everywhere. I'm going totally tangential here, but I was once party to the viewing of a downloaded version of Babel, a film in which about sixty different languages are spoken. It took a good hour of pretending we knew what was going on before we realised that our download had arrived without the intended English subtitles. Work that irony into a song, Alanis.

Anyway, Paul Auster is slightly inspiring me again in terms of the follow-up part of this project i.e. what I do with it when it's finished. Watch, as they say, this space...

Saturday, 30 August 2008

Day 28: Dora and Rudy

In the car on the way back from my step-niece and nephew's naming ceremony I came up with a short little verse for them, which I've set to one of the piano improvisations from Thursday. I've just recorded it, and I hope they like it when they hear it (they're only a few months old so probably won't have strong opinions either way).

Things are now as follows:

Written and recorded:
Brooklyn Bridge
City Song
Everyone Likes Coffee Except me
Former Glories
Impulse Control
On Those Dark Days in July
Murder, She Wrote
A Reverie
Dora and Rudy
The Mismatch Man
The Race
What's Lost to You

Written but not yet recorded:

Almost finished:
Sing a song

I may also put the other piano improvisation on there as an instrumental, I think it's nice to have something without words to break things up, don't you?

Friday, 29 August 2008

Day 27: It's only words

I was on good piano playing form yesterday, and whilst going over what I recorded I realised I had a couple of really sweet improvisations of about two minutes each, which I'm going to try to put words to over the weekend. I played some really crazy frenetic rhythmic stuff too but none of that is really usable as a song - sometimes I get carried away and start to play the piano more like I used to play the drums, thinking of paradiddles and fills more than chords and melodies. It's fun but I don't think the piano likes it too much, and the Yamaha I'm using has a really heavy action so I was exhausted afterwards. I've been editing the takes together today and will set about recording vocals as soon as my house is empty. I'm still a bit stuck on some of the lyrics though, sometimes they come and sometimes I feel like I have nothing I want to write about... I'm going out shortly though, and then to my niece and nephew's naming day tomorrow (very cute names for very cute babies: Dora and Rudy, I might have to write a song for them), so I should get some ideas from one or both of these things. If not expect a lot of humming in some of the songs.

p.s. Speaking of lyrics, I've just realised how grammatically incorrect the song Words (which I've quoted in the title of this entry) is - it's only words? They're only words, surely?

Thursday, 28 August 2008

Day 26: Wires and hammers pt 3

Today I went back to do the final piano recording session. I did the parts for Fail and Doodlebug, and re-did Untitled and Sing a Song. Fail is a song about how afraid most us are of failure, and how that fear actually prevents us from learning the things that might allow us to be more successful.

I was thinking about this again today, and about how often people are referred to in terms that basically ascribe who they are to what they do, even on the level of "she's a plumber" etc. I suppose in a world of six billion people the human mind ends up falling back on this pigeon-holing as a short-hand to make sense of things, but I think on some level it's also indicative of our approach to other people and to ourselves. How often when a person does something wrong do they scold themselves by saying "I'm an idiot" or somesuch, rather than "I just did something idiotic"? It's as if by doing something wrong they completely invalidate every other aspect of themselves and become just that one thing. This kind of thinking is what makes success so important to us, and failure terrifying to the point that we will avoid it at all costs.

The best thing about the song Fail is that it is in itself a failure, as I went way over the two minute rule I set for this project, coming in at nearer three. Actually, quite a few are longer and a couple are shorter. But hey, who cares, it's a good song.

Day 25: Chipping away

I recorded vocals for City Song, re-did them for July and You Amaze Me, and re-wrote some of the chords for Fail. Played around with my ukulele, started to get some interesting things happening but no actual song as yet. Tomorrow I'm going to do the final piano recording session so otherwise have been getting stuff ready for that. I've also been listening to the Hidden Cameras today, having helped out at a gig of theirs on Saturday for a friend. I hadn't heard their music before but they were really quite special, particularly as the gig was held in Shoreditch Church. I spoke to the vicar afterwards, which felt all kinds of wrong as I had a beer in my hand and had just watched a gay band singing about watersports. He didn't seem to mind.

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Day 24: Getting down to busy-ness

Productivity drive: vocals for Everyone Likes Coffee Except Me, July, Reverie; a first draft of Doodlebug; first verse and chorus lyrics for Fail; and electric guitar for Impulse Control. I'm hoping to get all my left over piano stuff recorded on Thursday so need to have all that prepared by the end of tomorrow. It's exciting...

A friend and I had a bright little thought the other day about what I might do with these songs when they're finished. My original idea was to be obstinately retro by releasing the thing strictly on cassette only, in part for the sheer perversity of it but also because I like the idea that whoever wants to hear these songs will have gone to some effort to do so. However, my friend Catherine and I have now had a better idea, one that involves concealing CDs all around the city, which is going to be a fun project in itself, and will probably be reported on this blog. I might still put it out on cassette though. I'd love to do a proper vinyl release of course but that's just too expensive.

I also managed to go swimming today, which left me feeling elated but exhausted and slightly sick as I haven't exercised my upper body since about 1998.

Tuesday, 26 August 2008

Day 23 pt 2: Late night reprieve

The mind is a mysterious thing. Having written earlier that I was feeling under-inspired, I just sat down and wrote a song, and then wrote half another song. The first is called Doodlebug. On Sunday I visited Shoreditch Festival, which was themed around the year 1948 and was a very well put together event. Anyway, some people there were dancing the jitterbug (see above) all dressed up in forties clothes and stuff. I started to think about the word jitterbug, and the word doodlebug, which was a nickname for the V-1 flying bomb, and about how it would be cool to somehow use those and other bug-ended words in a song. Well, I started to play around just now and came up with a really catchy thing in which I thought I might be able to use those words. Long story short, I wrote the lyrics and sadly they don't include the words jitterbug, litterbug, bedbug or humbug - but the chorus is doodlebug over and over... It actually makes sense lyrically too, which is good as I can't live with writing total nonsense. The other song is called Fail, and doesn't have words yet, but feels like it will be a good one to sing as it's sort of soul-ish.

Monday, 25 August 2008

Day 23: Perspiration/inspiration

More of the former than the latter today. I'm getting some of the written but not recorded stuff into shape and have been playing around with chord progressions for some of the unfinished songs. I think I may have to abandon the Pigeon song, which is a shame as I like some of the lines in it, it's supposed to be about a pigeon singing from the afterlife:

I was a pigeon
By a prior breath
And I met my death
In this

Oh, I was a fine bird
A Bonaparte
Of both park and heart
I sparred
As well as I sparked

But train stations are dangerous places for pigeons

I fell foul
Fell down
Onto the tracks
And in the black
Of the soot
I lost my foot
As the train came in
Then it crushed my wing
Precious thing!
And somebody said
"How disgusting, it's dead!"
And at last I lost my head...

Despite having done quite a lot of stuff that usually triggers ideas over the weekend I'm not feeling particularly inspired, but that's okay as there's plenty to get on with that doesn't require a particularly fertile mind.

Sunday, 24 August 2008

Day 22: Mind the gap

So far I've been punctilious in updating this blog every day, however the weekend just past was alternately too busy and too hungover to maintain the habit. I am now back in the swing so normal service is resumed. I've just totaled my work so far, which is as follows (lots of these are working titles):

Brooklyn bridge
Former glories
Murder, she wrote
The mismatch man
The race
Nothing can replace what's lost to you
You amaze me

Written and partially recorded:
Impulse control
The mind
City song

Partially written:
Sing, sing a song
Friday, 8th August
Maslow, actually
The pigeon song
Awake, love
Art loving people

So, another three to finish... I should make it, my only worry is not getting the last piano recording sessions done in time.

Day 21: The Hidden Cameras

Friday, 22 August 2008

Day 19: Life, oh life, oh liiife

So today has been another day where there hasn't really been a lot of musical progress due to my partaking in the human being thing i.e. living. I went for lunch with a friend, came home, napped, recorded guitar for the Coffee song, ate, and went out east to drink. Ended up at a new night called Nails which had attracted the strangest crowd I've seen in a while... Ran into a guy who I haven't seen since I lived in Manchester, turns out this Nails business is his night (I think, confused conversation). Small world. Anyway, the next few days are going to be quite busy socially, which is nice of course, as it will un-hermit me for a while, but is going to compromise my progress. I think I'm going to allow myself a few days' grace due to the problem with my back last week, and also just having a break here and there. Whatever, the main thing is to get the songs done in as near the time as I can make it... Oh, I also finished the lyrics for Impulse Control...

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

Day 18: Murder, she wrote

Inspiration can come from surprising places. Today I was watching Murder She Wrote again (for it is becoming a regular lunchtime appointment) whilst strumming my guitar, and ended up writing the following song:

It's so far removed
From the horror of homicide
Characters mostly unmoved
Taking murder in their stride
Murder, she wrote

A collection of cosy crimes
A cultural artefact
Resolutely of our time
A shared memory, a common fact
Murder, she wrote

It's sad but really no one would want to know
Jessica Fletcher, death follows her wherever she goes

I am majorly amused by the fact that I've written a song about this TV series. It may seem that my writing is becoming more whimsical as I go along, but this lyric actually fits very well into the themes established in other songs.

I'm also experimenting today with some electronic stuff that may not have any singing - does this qualify as a proper song I wonder?

Day 17: Already??

Just had a slight panic at the fact I'm now on day 17... But whatever. Today I recorded vocals for You Amaze Me. Now, the first line of this song is "If my life were a song/you'd be the bridge/bold and breathtaking and explorative", so I had sort of set myself up there - the song was going to have to have a pretty good bridge. I hadn't actually written it, when I recorded the piano part I recorded quite a few alternatives from which I thought I'd be able to make something good. Luckily today as I experimented with melodies over the top of the piano part I came up with something which in my opinion is a pretty killer bridge. And even better, it mentions Scrabble, which is my favourite board game. I think this may be the only ballad with the word Scrabble in it.

I also re-recorded vocals for The Race with the new preamp... Looking back I don't think I ever mentioned The Race - there are a few songs that happen in bits and I forget to refer to them in this blog. The Race I pretty much had figured out before I started and recorded in the first few days, it has some lyrics that I like:

I saw you out crawling to the crashing sea
I was out walking with the elderly
You were running out of money, running out of time
Driving yourself to the end of the line
Well the candle in your heart wasn't strong enough
Your torch bulb blew, the weather was rough
Then the lighthouse did it - lit your destiny
But it only showed you where you didn't want to be

The music here is building and building, so the imagery does the same - in the first part it's:
Crawling - Walking - Running - Driving
Then in the second:
Candle - Torch - Lighthouse

So there.

Oh, and the song I started to write yesterday will I think be called Everyone Likes Coffee Except Me.

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Day 16: A brand new colour

Today I got a new melody on the guitar after doing a bit of retuning, no lyrics as yet. I woke up FOUR times in the night with ideas that I recorded into Garageband - listening to this in the morning is always hilarious, I basically hang out of bed and sing into my laptop in the mode of someone who isn't actually awake. Once I was actually awake I started work on the song You Amaze Me, it has some lyrics which refer to a story I read in primary school about a boy who discovers a ball that is a brand new colour. Trippy. I now have twelve songs that are completely written, nine of which are recorded. Today I messed around with trying to construct a track just using the noises I can make with my own body, I want to write a song about the separation between the physical and psychological selves. I want to write a lot of things, but whether this can be achieved a) in four weeks, and b) in two minute songs, remains to be seen. I think I may stick to my earlier advice and just keep playing until something comes together rather than thinking too much of a concept or of the end result - 'though this is much easier to do with music than it is with lyrics.

Day 15: Mere technicalities

Okay, so this was really a day off as I did nothing more than a little lyric writing and recording of random thoughts and ideas. The absence of any real progress to report gives me a chance to provide details on exactly what I'm using to record all of these songs. So, for the nerds, here's the rundown of the main stuff I use:

Brauner Phantom AE for vocals and guitar (I also use a Reflexion Filter on this to keep out room reflections)
Rode NT5s

Focusrite Trakmaster (for the first half of the project)
DAV BG1 - I got this halfway through recording these songs to record the piano in stereo, it sounds much better than the Focusrite but I might not get time to go back and re-record the vocals and guitar with the DAV...

Edirol UA25 for location (piano) recording
Echo MIA for everything else

Alesis Monitor 1 Mk2, also use two different AKG headphones and my ipod Sony earphones to check mixes

Ableton Live
TONS of plugins - UAD1, Native Instruments, a really really ace free thing called Glitch

Yamaha Pacifica 112 electric guitar
Kimbara steel string acoustic
Hohner Melodica
Roland RD300SX digital piano
Mahalo ukulele
Yamaha baby grand piano - think it's a C5 or something, sounds nice but the action is very noisy
Glockenspiel with dinosaurs on it
Misc percussion instruments

Monday, 18 August 2008

Day 14: Wires and hammers pt. 2

So today I risked my spine by lugging all my location recording stuff back into town for the second day of piano recording. I got parts for a new song called You Amaze Me and Reverie. I also sat with those words I found on the way back from High Barnet (see Day 6) and started to improvise. Now I don't write songs like this very often, but if I just keep playing and playing with lyrics in mind, usually something weird starts to happen - not at first, but after about ten minutes I start to get really (and I mean really) into it, sweating, swaying and gurning, and it's only when I get to that place looking like a total idiot that great chords start to appear. I can only do this on piano, as I'm much better than I am on the guitar (although my limitations on guitar actually make it better for songwriting in some ways). Anyway, I played and re-played for about half an hour, and ended up with something that sounds to me like it has something Vaughan Williams-y about it. I then tried to do some other stuff, re-recording a song that may be called July, and another about a reincarnated pigeon, but none of it quite came off.

Day 13: Friday 13th

I'm writing these entries in retrospect, as I have actually spent time having a life and socialising with other human beings over the past few days. On Friday I worked some more on Shoelaces, which now has, like, beats and everything. Other than that I spent the day with my friend Dominic, who is a poet and one of the funniest people I know.

Friday, 15 August 2008

Day 12: "Pain be gone, I will have no more of thee!"

Back is recovering slowly, I'm trying not to push it too much but have managed to get some stuff done today, including recording the basic parts for Shoelaces. If I'm feeling really ambitious I'm going to try and get my friend Craig in to play flute and oboe on it... I'm now sat quietly recording ideas on the ukulele, and have come up with two sets of lyrics, some that might end up being a song called Impulse Control, and others that might end up being a song called Reverie. All of my ideas today have been very camp and 50s sounding. I don't know why this is but I keep imagining things set to a bossa nova rhythm with a sweeping string section, and the word taffeta has been in my head for absolutely no reason I can fathom. Odd. In fact, I think I'd love to have written songs in the 50s for Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald and the like. Why is it expected that all singers should (co-)write their own stuff now? Like being a great singer isn't enough anymore. Singing is really fucking hard.

Anyway, I'm also working on stuff to record piano for on Saturday. It was gorgeous and sunny today, and I was in that pleasant state of mind that occurs when one is recovering from an illness. Which was nice.

Wednesday, 13 August 2008

Day 11: Back to unreality

I am a total fool to even be writing this - the back pain has returned with a vengeance and using a laptop is the last thing I need. All I've been able to do today is lie on the floor with a book under my head and watch daytime TV. I was in the middle of trying to read a deeper subtext to Murder She Wrote when I realised that Nausicaa Valley of the Wind was on Film Four. I love Miyazaki's films, so this made the inactivity bearable. I did drift off in the middle though...

I've written lyrics for the 80s song:

As the protagonist
Over the Brooklyn Bridge
Imagined lives
That make sense
That are safe
We are kids
We believe all we're not told
Is impossible

Short and sweet. I've realised that there is a bit of a thread running through what I'm writing after all - unreality. I have others on the go now also, I'd love to play the piano or guitar but it's causing me too much difficulty. Tomorrow I hope I'll be back (haha) to normal.

Day 10: Cabin fever

Today I started to feel hemmed in. I came up with this project mostly because I had to take time off work and hadn't the means to go away easily. So far it has kept me occupied of course (as you can see), but I'm finding that my creativity is not self-perpetuating and needs to be kept alive by doing other thought-provoking things. To that end I went to see a friend playing a gig with Ebe Oke at Biddle Brothers in Clapton tonight, and on the way there I started to read "On Seeing and Noticing" by Alain de Botton, a teensy little book. Thoughts were provoked by these two things, and I feel tomorrow may be a day of ideas - we shall see.

Monday, 11 August 2008

Day 9: Serendipity knocks

Inspiration returned today, two songs written before I'd showered. One, Shoelaces, I actually wrote lyrics for in the bathroom:

Stood in the bathroom
Looking in mirror
Symmetry reflected in its face
My eyes
And my lips
And my hands that grip
The rim of the porcelain basin

The tick tock
Flip flop
Nice juxtaposition
Happy couples walking arm in arm

The black white
Wrong right
Binary opposition
Sad couples doing each other harm

Sat on the bed
Tying my shoelaces
Something I learned to do long ago
These shoes should travel
To exciting places
Get steady
Get ready
Now we go

One day I want to write a lyric about mirrors with two verses exactly mirroring each other - this isn't it, obviously, but I quite like it. Coincidentally I'm halfway through watching Tarkovsky's Mirror (I get free DVD rentals from the library at the college where I work. The choices are all on the cerebral side).

The other song came as I messed around with Reaktor (music software), I ended up with something that made me think of the films I watched as a kid in the 80s... There were lots of films with aerial fly-bys of characters driving cars across the Brooklyn Bridge as I remember it. I couldn't be specific about which ones, but it's a memory I have. The lyrics aren't finished but are about that.

I then decided to go and visit an art gallery. At first I thought I would go to one of the big exhibitions, but after reading up I started to feel some sympathy and empathy for the little shows, the lesser-known artists lacking the critics' recommendations. So I made my way to a little gallery on Vyner Street to see an exhibition called Sights from a Steeple, which garnered a lowly 3 out of 6 stars from Time Out's art critic. The gallery was closed. I don't think I understand visual art. Still, serendipity was on my side - I've been running over a song about art versus skill/craftsmanship, and I realised that Vyner Street was a good metaphor, as on one side of the street is a garage, and on the other an art gallery. And THEN, as if that weren't enough, I walked along the canal to find a dead pigeon, which I have also been working on a song about (sounds totally bizarre but... well it is totally bizarre). Rarely have the discoveries of a garage and a deceased pigeon elicited such enthusiasm, I'm sure.

On the downside, I am suffering from back pain thanks to carrying the location recording stuff into town on Saturday, playing the guitar too much (I slouch), and using my laptop in bed writing this blog.

Sunday, 10 August 2008

Day 8: Please sir, can I have some more?

It's now been a week since I started. The following songs are written and recorded:

The Race
Former Glories
The Mismatch Man

Today continued apace, I recorded Former Glories - guitar and vocal harmonies - and vocals for The Mismatch Man. I'm typing this with one eye on the ridiculous Crimson Tide because there is NOTHING ON TELEVISION. Thank god for DVD box sets (and er, real life). I wrote parts of a song today about getting bored of the city you live in. It has these lines, which I quite like:

Shopkeepers say "have a good day boss!"
Startled tourists flee an oncoming bus
It's cute
But none of it persuades me
And nothing else has lately...

While I was thinking over these lines a rainbow (pictured above) crept up behind me, which was quite touching, as if London was saying "You're not talking about me are you? Maybe this rainbow will change your mind..."

Day 7: Wires and hammers

Today was the first leg of recording piano parts. I got takes for three songs, including one called The Mismatch Man, which I wrote with a singer like Peggy Lee or Nina Simone in mind... The other two don't have names yet. The lyrics for The Mismatch Man are:

Unrepentant though unbelieved
Ill-intentioned but well-received
Freely welcomed but bound to leave
Meet the mismatch man

Summer bloomed
A well-loved room
A boat floating on a lake
Autumn brought
The first sad thought
That I had made a mistake
No sign of him
Just gloomy, grim heartbreak

He said "Listen, for this is true
If I'm taken before I'm due
Know forever that I love you"
I miss the mismatch man

Friday, 8 August 2008

Day 6: The end of the line

I had written a long entry about a man who jumped or fell or was pushed under a train today, but on reflection I decided that this was probably inappropriate. Death appears quite a lot in my songs. In the past I worried about this - why so morbid? I would think to myself. Now however I just accept that mortality is something I find endlessly fascinating. I think it's odder not to be fascinated by it really.

Anyway, I had to go to High Barnet to buy microphones (Rode NT5s - I will run through all the equipment I use some point). The Northern line was down on the way there (see above) so I was forced to construct a painfully ramshackle journey from a Meccano set of infrequent, meandering bus routes. The return leg however saw the underground resurrected, and I was able to travel from High Barnet, which is a station I really like. On the way back to Angel I started to write in a pad that I discovered had been sneakily written in by a prior Owen. He wrote:

What a privileged pair of eyes have I
In thrall to tall buildings and sky

What beauteous breath this city brings
To lift my soul up on its wings

What brutal teacher is this town
To lift me up and beat me down

What lessons does its temper teach?
Should I give up?
Or never cease?

I didn't write this in the four weeks, but with some work I might still use some or all of it...

Day 5: Play

Just a quick entry today, as it's late. I hit a wall this morning, well, not a wall really, more of a fence. Nothing new was coming and everything I tried to write sounded laboured and wrong. So I went to the park, listened to 'Plat du Jour' (Matthew Herbert is a very clever man), considered going swimming in the rain, returned to the house, bought Nina Simone's 'Four Women' from itunes - thanks Josef - listened to some of that (amazing of course). Despaired slightly. Read some advice about creativity on the internet and saw one vital word: play. So that's what I did, I took the guitar, retuned it a bit, enjoyed messing around with different chords and rhythms. Before I knew it a new song sprang forth like a frisky gazelle. This process is teaching me something about my approach to creativity: when I have a good idea I tend to want to make it work immediately, rather than accepting that if things aren't coming together and I'm not enjoying myself it's better to move on to something different. The good ideas will be there to come back to later, and the end result will be many times more satisfying I think.

So, today's song is (probably) called Former Glories. It's pretty. I've never played the guitar this much, my fingers are sore. Tomorrow I pick up the mics that I'll be using to record the piano - first session on Saturday...

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

Day 4: Codebreaker

It seems I'm establishing a habit of starting these entries with a description of the way I woke up. I don't know exactly why this is, but today's entry is no different: I woke up to a really strange sound, a sort of weird clockwork clicking noise, outside among the regular bird babble. I hopped out into the garden to see what was what, and discovered that said noise was emanating from a curious looking black bird with blue specks. I managed to record some of it.

That has nothing to do with anything really (I should really stick more closely to the remit of this blog)...

Today I recorded Codebreaker. It's sounding sweeeet! Aside from my voice the song consists of guitar, glockenspiel, a little metal bell, and a synth pad. I also got some lyrics for the Bo Diddley song, just the first few lines:

Low in the sky
Hung the eye
Of the Man in the Moon

And the sun that is there
When the moon is elsewhere
Will be here soon

Hmm, looking at it written down I'm not so sure. The first part makes it sound like the Man in the Moon's eye is actually hanging out... Back to the drawing board. I think I may need to go and do something outlandish, staying in all day isn't good for inspiring ideas.

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

Day 3: The unbearable eight-ness of being

The last thing I read last night was Derek Sivers' blog about Abraham Maslow's principles of Self-Actualisation. This morning I woke up with a sudden desire to set these guidelines to a bodhran/electric guitar Bo Diddley-type-thing. I got as far as recording the rhythm and a vague electric guitar part (whilst wearing a powder-blue fleece dressing gown, naturally), but the lyrics, as ever, were the hard part. As soon as I tried to turn Maslow's eight steps into a singable lyric the whole thing went distinctly New Kids on the Block (the block in this case being one that bordered Sesame Street), and I gave up on the idea. I think in my initial excitement I'd also overlooked just how wanky a song explaining Self Actualisation would Actually be. The Bo Diddley sound is definitely staying, but what to write about?

Seeking inspiration I set out to Oxfam on Kingsland Road (I should point out that Oxfams are not my first port of call for musical ideas - I had some books to get rid of). Whilst there I saw something that I've always been curious to see: an eight-track cartridge, several in fact, ranging from Glen Campbell to Buddy Holly, via the Osmonds (not to mention the extremely intriguing David Rose and his Orchestra, pictured above). If I believed in fate I might read something into the eight-ness of this discovery echoing Maslow's eight principles, but I don't and so I won't. I left Oxfam with Matthew Herbert's Plat du Jour, which I almost paid £12 for but a month ago - 99p! By the time I got home I'd had enough ideas to finish off the song I didn't finish yesterday, which was untitled and might now be called Codebreaker. I'll try and record it tomorrow. For the rest of today I re-recorded some guitar for Volcanoes. The Bo Diddley remains frustratingly nebulous.

I also started a proper pad to keep lyrics and song lists together, as it was all getting a bit out of hand paper-wise.

Monday, 4 August 2008

Day 2: Nature abhors a vacuuming neighbour

I awoke at around 6 a.m. this morning, too hot and thirsty. Throwing off a mummy-like cocoon of covers rectified the first problem, but I couldn't bring myself to go and get a glass of water so the thirst remained. I have often found that waking before my mind is ready, or staying up all night, is conducive to having new and odd and good ideas (in fact it was being woken at 5 a.m. that gave me the idea to start doing this in the first place). So it was this morning, when I had two songs reeling around my head. I blearily managed to complete lyrics to a song called Volcanoes, and write a sizeable chunk of another song that I don't have a title for yet. Volcanoes I recorded guitar and voice for today (in spite of the best efforts of upstairs neighbours to thwart me with exhaustive vacuuming). The lyrics to the song are as follows:

Your self-centred chatter
Bored me to the core
Too scared to say so
I sat for hours more
Thinking of the sea
Tides turning internally
Imagining beauty

Our heads are like planets
Red-hot under skulls
Speaking like volcanoes
Makes life wonderful

You remain remote
Our flow is disrupted
Still inside I hope

The Art Loving People song is worrying me a little, I don't think I like it. I'm going to go to bed thinking about it and see if anything comes by the morning.

Sunday, 3 August 2008

Day 1

First things first, as they should be. At some point I will likely explain more of the reasoning behind this project, but for now I'm going to stick to the basics. The basics being that by the beginning of September I aim to have written and recorded 20 new songs, each song being around 2 minutes long. I should state for honesty's sake a couple of things: that I'm going use quite a few scraps of musical and lyrical ideas that have lingered in my head and in a box under my bed for years; and that since I had the idea to do this two weeks ago my mind has been whirring away with ideas for songs, which means I already have a fair clue as to what many of them will be. I'm saying this because I don't want to give the impression that I'm starting completely from scratch, when that isn't quite the case.

With that disclaimer out of the way, on to the business of recording progress.

Today I finished writing two songs – Realityicide and Art Loving People. I've recorded all the basic parts for the first and have laid out the bare bones of the second. Realityicide sounds kind of country, which is what I had in mind, so that's good. It would benefit from pedal steel (an instrument with which I am now obsessed, having seen one in a music shop on Denmark Street at the weekend) but that ain't going to happen. Not in four weeks anyway. At the moment I'm concentrating on guitar based songs, as the piano ones are going to involve some location recording (of a piano, duh). So far, so good...