Music is where I go when I wish to step out of current time and space.
There is no Control mechanism in there playing on my conscious or unconscious mind telling me I must, should or am obliged to be doing something or other.
It is my place of Zen or a form of meditation if you prefer.
It’s the only place where everything external stops other than the immediate Now and I feel at peace in my own world.
I like to put sounds together to see what will happen. Often with words, sometimes not. The way they synthesise is an endless source of enjoyment and wonder to me. I never know where it’s going to end up and that is the main joy.
Listen to the song while reading the text.
When I had my Bands, it was always fascinating to see and hear where these words I’d written and musical structures I’d created as loose skeletons on guitar would end up after the Drummer, Bass player and Keyboard player started responding…then how it morphs during the playing, practicing, live performance and what the final studio recorded version would be like.
The playing and the process is the pleasure…once it’s done I like to move straight on to something new and avoid repeating myself.
I’m a firm believer that music is its own entity that lives outside of us but we choose to allow in. Firstly, by hearing and responding to other people’s music and then, if we are really smitten by it, we spend the rest of our lives playing it and playing with it.
To me, songs and albums are films of the emotions and mind that allow me to step into different time zones of the past and future and the many different now’s.
The first thing I noticed when playing an instrument and especially when I became competent enough to play and perform live with other musicians is just how elastic time really is. A ‘mistake’ live, playing the wrong note/chord or some such thing genuinely feels like it lasts for ages…yet when I hear it back it might only be a fraction of a second. When playing well, time flies. When playing badly, it really drags. A bit like life I suppose…but with music it is much more pronounced and immediate.
Other things I have noticed with music and creating songs or soundscapes is how all those wonderful esoteric concepts we imagine, read about or see in films such as telepathy, external reality forces that guide us, the existence of the infinite and timeless flow of life can all be plugged into.
In terms of telepathy I appreciate it might sound a bit too psychedelic but there really are moments I and my fellow band members would be thinking in a group mind. Probably it’s just down to practice and familiarity with each other and the songs. However, there are times when the magic/accidents kick in that everyone for some reason does something differently simultaneously after never having done so before that heightens the music…those occurrences are such ecstasy.
Afterward everyone is buzzing and saying things such as, ‘I was just thinking if you did that when I do this, and you did!’.
I decided to use the Cut Up method made famous by William Burroughs and Bryon Gysin for both the lyrical content and the music.
As this is the final part of the trilogy I kept a similar method from the previous two albums by following the instant stream of consciousness approach for writing, singing and playing. I avoided constantly refining and restructuring until the song emerged into a coherent whole and then recording as is my usual song-writing method.
When recording I used the first takes and spontaneous playing with no overdubs or run throughs. I wanted the room sounds, technical anomalies and any other element that found its way into the recorded signal regardless of how sonically clean or good it was…as live a capture of the moment as possible.
I tended to find that certain vocal phrases and lines were very effective, others not so and therefore by a process of elimination would end up with the primary vocal line by cutting and rearranging their place in the musical structure.
For some of the lyrics, to be added via the production program text to speech option, I wrote a number of songs in the usual manner. Then added random thought motifs, metaphors, juxtapositions of image, imaginary ridiculous nonsensical consumer products, opened various historical texts, newspapers and online publications at random pages and picked out sentences to Cut Up and add. Rearranged them in all manner of random manual and electronic ways and then cut them down to either 5 or 7 word lines and into stanza’s of 4 lines.
Some created wonderful wordplay and image, some were rubbish and were discarded.
In terms of the music the approach was the same.
First take, Cut Up, chop together with the added element of being able to visualise by cutting the signal wave and painting with it by creating interesting shapes on the screen. Bouncing down multiple tracks to one WAV in a similar way that was used back when there were only 4-8 tracks to use in a studio, and then playing over that, Cutting Up again, bouncing down and like that until I had something.
The advantage of 21st C Tech is that I can achieve with the flick of a button what used to take engineers and musicians hours and hours of cutting and splicing with tape. Also, I kept it purposefully as primitive as I could. I have a 96tk facility but really didn’t want that…I enjoyed setting the limitation of if something got lost in the Bounce Downs then so be it, improvise and see what happens.
There is no use of click track, not much in terms of bothering with the appropriate key or chord sequences and relationships or any of the other usual music conventions normally used in song construction/recording/production.
In fact, tunings for the guitar were entirely driven by how the strings sounded as a whole together and not what note each one was tuned to. So I actually have no idea what the tunings were, simply that I thought they sounded great.
The final part of the process was to reduce the original 18 songs down to the 8 that appear on the album. The sequencing follows a narrative and was a process of listening, relistening, adding, removing, changing the running order, listening again, changing and like that until the songs flow in the way I wanted to see and hear them.
There are definite themes that are linked as a fairly clear and coherent whole to me. I won’t provide my interpretation as I think that rather ruins it for others. The essence of all music is subjective. If someone likes what I have done it is very gratifying but I don’t want to tell them what they should be hearing. It’s their thing alone.
Formal convention in the music industry is that songs on an album should follow and flow into each other in terms of sympathetic key…it works but is precisely what it says…convention, so to me is a bit dull. I avoided that.
The songs all shift and change each time I listen which is something I love about music – it lives, changes and moves every time I hear it.
I hope you enjoy, see or hear something that chimes with you.
All the best,