The why, whens and wherefores (12 months digest)

So, up until a year or so ago I was delighted with the progress of my ambient space metal synth project Spaceship. I had an album out, I’d played a few poorly attended but well received shows, all looked great. I was pretty disappointed then, when my musical mentor and inspiration of the last fifteen years took a dislike to some artwork I’d created and summarily removed his support and friendship in one pretty nasty swoop.
I was, almost literally bowled over. Everything I’d worked for and believed in had become a sham, I lost all belief and respect for my own work, my own motivations and my own creative abilities. It was, some might say, a dark time.
I threw myself into all sorts of things to distract myself and the two most disparate became my salvation. I found that by finding papercraft robots on the internet and painstakingly cutting out, glueing and assembling the models I could remove my mind from earthly thoughts and enter some kind of meditative, if somewhat gluey, trance.
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Whilst building the robots I also stumbled upon a YouTube video of Julia Nunes playing Build Me Up Buttercup on a ukulele. I’d owned a cheap uke for ages but had never really persisted with it, exploring the YouTube World of Ukuleles I saw the potential for fun that the instrument offered and began, for the first time on any instrument, learning to play other people’s songs. This was fun. What if, I thought, I could combine the two? Robots and ukuleles? Surely this was a winning formula. So I embarked on what was to become the Missing Robots project, an, as yet unfinished, ukulele musical based on the story of a robot who escapes a compulsory upgrade and goes on the run the city’s ripped backside and ultimately goes on a quest for a mythical land of robot peace. Because all the songs can be played on ukulele I hope one day it will be performed in schools by ad hoc ukulele orchestras. I will finish it one day, especially if I get some encouragement, as yet I don’t have Cameron Mackintosh on speed dial.
Well, all this robot excitement made me think that I shouldn’t just leave Spaceship hanging. I’d had an offer to release a second Spaceship album from Matthew at Apollolaan when I’d played a night for him earlier in the year. So I finished the almost complete second album, mastered it and sent it of to Matthew. In the usual Apollolaan style a beautiful handmade package emerged which sold out its entire short run in just over 24 hours. Buoyed by this and a hometown gig in Blackpool I almost believed there was a future but interest soon waned once more and I was still questioning (and am still questioning) if this is music I love or music I want people to love. I’m still not sure.
I didn’t pick up a guitar, ukulele or anything else for months.
You’re going to have to excuse me for this next bit.
In June Rebecca and I went to Glastonbury Festival for the first time and, whilst there, I had something of an epiphany. We were just seeing bands, artists and musicians doing their thing, happy in their skins making something exciting or beautiful or understated or overstated or all of the above. There was no great realisation or revelation, just a growing feeling that, for years I’d been stuck in an artificially inflated bubble. A balloon in which melody and fun were OUT and experimentation was IN. But I was not Esmé Squalor in the Ersatz Elevator. It didn’t matter what was OUT and what was IN. I didn’t care what people thought about what I did. Whether they enjoyed it, thought it was too earnest, too silly, too twee, too clichéd. I was going to do what I wanted to do.
When we got a home I tuned a guitar to a weird DADGAD tuning and started listening to loads of folk music. I started with some really traditional stuff and then I started reading all sorts of material on the internet and that lead to all sorts of modern “acoustic/roots” music (or whatever, terminology is rubbish). I became (have become) a Spotify addict. Searches spin out of control, connections branch and my speakers are full of allsorts. I have an alarm on my phone to remind me to listen to Mike Harding’s show on a Wednesday. I play my guitars every day. I’ve been writing and recording with a speed and enthusiasm that I’ve not had for years and years, I’m hoping that by chronicling my progress I will be encouraged to work harder, produce material I’m really proud of and, most importantly, this is for me.

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