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...