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Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Chips with dips and a glass of red

I met Ms Charlotte Hopkins, fellow archivist and art historian in The Duke for a bowl of their excellent chips. Charlie was looking terribly glamorous and stylish as per usual in cloche, bold print dress and crocheted bolero.

Charlie's nearly finished her MA in Victorian Studies so soon she will have more space for artistic messings. She speaks fondly of her oboe, mouldering in its case. Oh poor neglected instrument, locked away and lonely! Her embouchure has melted with disuse, her breathing has lost its power; and so she will have an affair with the recorder which doesn't require as much stamina. With her descant or treble we should be able to gallop through polkas and mazurkas.

We talked about how we need fun, unpredictable moments and charm to keep us feeling alive ... plans are afoot for dancing, and 1930s inspired photos. Clearly, we also need to pose.

Music and intergender friendship

Last night's rehearsal was very educational. Andy G told me how apple pips contain cyanide, I passed on my daughter's information that onions could kill a dog. After swopping anecdotes on poison we came to the conclusion that small doses must be quite normal in lots of foods. It seems we have both inherited the folk wisdom of our upbringings. I'm still going to stop biting into apple seeds ...

... which all made me think rehearsals are a great opportunity for conversation. This highlights part of the joy of being a musician, the chat and relationship between players. We always hear stories of how musicians fall out but the positive side gets less attention. Personally I appreciate the opportunity music gives to make unsuperficial friendships with men as this can be a little awkward in such a divided world.

We have arranged our next rehearsal to take place on a barge so maybe that will help Andy and I concentrate a bit better. But I guess the reality is it will probably be more distracting.

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Scrub radio

The wonderful DJs at Scrub radio have been playing my music, so a big thanks to all of them. Being an internet-only show, it doesn't have to negotiate the same censorship that many other stations struggle with, so they can play my songs about bestiality, burning babies and the ones with the swearings and drugs references. Which is nice ...

... and makes me think that internet radio has got a lot to offer above conventional broadcast media.

Dennis Holseybrook has been featuring me regularly on Music Motel so a special thanks goes to him.

Music Motel: Day shows: Tues and Thurs 9am-3pm, Fri 10am-1pm, Sat 1-5pm
Night shows: Mon-Wed 10pm-2am, Fri 11pm-2am, Sat 12midnight-3am,
Sun 10pm-2am. All times PDT.

Last minute at the Twelve Bar

My good friend David Studdert called to ask if I could step in for a band that had pulled out, so I slipped along to the West End to do a set. I was on first. Feeling secure in my favourite white dolly shoes, I mounted the few steps up onto the little stage.

If you haven't been to the Twelve Bar, do go find it tucked away behind the drag of tourists and consumers parading Tottenham Court Road/Oxford Street. It's the most delightful snug place, with a little gallery above the stage, a standing room for the audience, and a bar where people can sit and still hear the music. The undecided hover in the doorway, drinks in hand. Sometimes they come down into the main room, sometimes they like to stay standing there; the sound is good, and you have a higher vantage point. The venue is full of interesting angles from which you can see the performers.

Everyone wanted to have a good time. I played to a lot of laughter. I love when the audience show me they get the jokes. Some listeners had heard some of my songs a few times, so those folk are beginning to find the smaller nuggets of humour among the more attention-grabbing puns and word-shocks.

Then David, who is a poet and storyteller with music, began his expressive tales of the trials and tribulations and joys of youth and love, in his own savage style full of animal noises, whoops and hollers. He tapped his snakeskin shoes either side of the chair, creating a crazy bluesy vibe, and the dancing started, one very cute woman in a sleek black dress kicking her legs making beautiful patterns in her slip-on heels. A very tall lanky chap let his emotions go by pogoing, limbs jutting everywhere.

It made me wish people could dance to my music - and why not? David had no other musicians - he was moving the room with just his guitar, wild voice and rhythm from his body. Note to self - devise a bluesy number with an infectious riff.

Monday, 28 June 2010

London is roasting

I've been sitting out on the cool grass in the shade 'playing in' my new song which is rather jazzy, while the dog catches flies. Now I'm back in the oven/studio listening to the jams from our last rehearsal. I never realised what a lovely laugh Andy Gordon has. Suprisingly high, but it sounds so generous. It's funny how you hear things differently when they are recorded. Perhaps normally I am too busy paying attention to my own voice. That would be about right.

Sunday, 27 June 2010

Peach and chocolate

A boiling hot Soho was redeemed by cool scoops of peach and chocolate ice cream with my good friend Meg Lee Chin, songwriter, musician, engineer and all round decent egg. Meg is my fount of knowledge for things computerwise. She has been in some interesting projects. There was her first all-female band Crunch - the women got to number one in Russia - and her vocal work with the industrial band Pigface. Her own album Piece and Love did pretty well, and has been used for the soundtrack to programmes made by Showtime including Queer as Folk and Sleeper Cell. She's been distracted from music for some time now with a court case. Please, if I could give one bit of advice, don't neglect music to go to court, it's a waste of life. She's a phenomenal performer and I hope she's able to give her attention back to her art soon. Good luck Meg x

Saturday, 26 June 2010

Summer morning

The Thames is especially enchanting when I walk to work. In these early hours it is low tide, and the mud beaches dry in the heat. As I passed the Globe Theatre I saw a group of Canada geese on the shores. Among the straggle of adults, two fluffy grey goslings cuddled together, their heads and necks entwined.

Strolling down the work corridors into the basement I met my buddy, the wireman who arrives for the same hyper-early start and with whom I always exchange a few words. Today he said, 'These hot mornings make everyone feel happy'.

I have been writing a song which will feel good to play outdoors, and offer a real sunny vibe. It's more or less finished now, bar lyric tweaks, but needs 'playing in'. Its about a moment of friendship / courtship shared between two best friends, in which they spend a couple of hours on a boat away from the pressures of the world. Feels quite literary. Like many short stories it has an unsettling ending. I think it has an Edwardian setting though the language sounds a little more recent.

Which reminds me that I'm reading Helen Dunmore's short stories, Love of Fat Men, set in long, Nordic day/nights. There seem to be an awful lot of underwear in them.

Friday, 25 June 2010

Am I up myself?

Possibly. A friend (who shall remain nameless) said to me 'You had a rehearsal and blogged about it. How up your own arse is that?'

I am up myself like all artists and writers are (mostly). Not as up myself as some other writers in history, but still, more up myself, than for instance, if I were doing a blog about cooking.

However, I wonder if I would appear less up myself if I changed the title of my blog from my own name to 'Twitterings from the Dark Metropolis' or some such. Any thoughts from my one follower (so far) or any other stray readers?

And now the night has fallen and it is time for me to finish watching Mulholland Drive before I fall asleep (again).

Thursday, 24 June 2010

Rehearsal with Andy Gordon

Andy arrived promptly as usual and we settled down for a lovely rehearsal. It was such a beautiful evening that soon we took our beer into the garden and had a little chat about life, the universe and how we both love walking in the evening and at night.

We accidentally pulled off a lovely version of 'She Moved through the Fair' and followed it up with a rather mixed jam on the mixolydian mode. Both Andy and I get a bit fret-confused as we are more used to jamming on guitar than bouzouki and/or ukulele. Still we started to make some progress, and I found myself recalling some approaches from the days when I played African guitar with Folo Graaf from Sierra Leone. Funny how things can come back to you when you are not expecting them, and connections arise between different parts of your artistic life. It feels a little way to go yet, but perhaps we'll make some instrumental bouzouki and ukulele pieces to join the songs ...

Andy was particularly tickled to see that I had got a review for Doodlebug Alley in the County Times, Powys. Apparently he knows the guy who did the article - a chap called Barry. He even knows where he sits in his local pub, and is looking forward to having a chat with him about it. It was a nice review, so it shouldn't be the start of any alehouse fisticuffs.

We finished off with our version of Lord Randall. Our version seems to really be about the relationship between Lord Randall and his mother! Dialogue is such fun to sing, especially when you do both voices yourself. He's come out rather falsetto whereas his insistent mother is deeper and delivers her questions with a sinister gravitas.

These long summer evenings are blissful. Have to make the most of them.

Talking to America

Today I talked to my lovely friend Deborah in Brooklyn. She was sitting in her garden when she rang me and I got to hear her voice for the first time. I couldn't hear the birds, or the cat sitting with her, but I could hear her gorgeous tones, purring and deep, I could have listened to her all day, telling me fascinating stories of New York life, the bistros, the impresarios, the artists, if I didn't have songs to learn and study to do.
Here's a picture of Deborah's garden that she took while drinking coffee and talking to me across the Atlantic.

I am looking forward to this evening's rehearsal with the very kind and always reliable Andy Gordon. He plays Irish bouzouki and has a real twang and energy in his music. I always feel good when I play with Andy, but I do get tired as the evening goes on. Maybe I'll find the time for an afternoon kip before it all kicks off. I've been learning a few new folk songs, as I never seem to get round to writing a promised song about the lost underground stations of London. But I shall do it, I shall.

Beginning a blog

I have decided to do a blog about my life in music and writing. I'm unsure as to how it will feel, but I felt it was a nice way to keep a journal, and to share my life experiences with anyone who's interested. A matter of fact start. I'm eager myself to see how this experiment will work out.