15.12.14

Sovereign (again)


After a few months of relatively normal life our neighbours have decided to make our lives miserable again. They have been turning up the music and, crucially, turning songs up and down many times during each song. That’s important because it doesn’t suggest someone playing loud music to dance around and have fun. What does it suggest? Well, I’ll leave that to you. Imagine someone playing a piece of music very loud, then turning it down, then up, then down, over and over again. Then imagine them doing for the next song and the ones after that. Why?

Worse than the neighbour’s behaviour is the terrible attitude from the housing association that they rent their house from. After a seemingly positive meeting in the summer we were given all sorts of promises to make us feel better. There has, sorry, had been progress but nothing was in place to deal with what has been happening recently. Nothing stops the neighbours behaving how they want.

So, if you felt you could act with impunity and you had not much of a social conscious (let’s just dump this pizza box and its contents in the parking area, no one cares. Let’s drive our neighbours crazy and wake their children at three in the morning, no one cares) what would you do?

Sovereign, as a company, have shown no respect or social conscious. I will be posting more about this.

14.12.14

Piano

Many years ago, in my late teens, I was starting to play bass but I had a needed a keyboard to work ideas out on. What I really wanted was a piano, or at least an electric/electronic piano (so I could plug headphones in). My bandmates at the time talked me out of this and into buying a Yamaha DX21. This was great fun with hundreds of sounds and an algorithmic programming language that I still don't fully understand. The downside was it had too many sounds and the keys didn't respond like piano keys and, most importantly, it wasn't a piano.

The DX21 got used to create crazy tunes and even got hauled on stage a few times. Then it slowly sat there, gathering dust until I traded it in help fund a decent bass amp.

A few months ago I was walking down Denmark street with my wife and we were talking about pianos. We were on our way to see the incredible Neil Cowley Trio at the Barbican and had been listening to a lot of piano playing. I went into one of the many music shops, asked a few questions and tried a number of keyboards out. In our house we could never have a real piano but the electronic version could work. It turned out that the price of one of these was just within our grasp. Excitement was generated.

Today I ordered the piano.

Obviously an electronic piano will never sound as good as the real thing. But knowing we've got 88 weighted keys on an instrument with only a few sounds is a wonderful thing. I can't imagine a better present for our family (except maybe a house somewhere else). Let the piano madness begin.


24.11.14

Flake Bake - the complicated truth

This weekend my great pal, Alison and I celebrated our twentieth anniversary of being friends. We met at university and shared a flat for many years. In our first year as friends we also shared this recipe. It's a deeply complicated but highly satisfying concoction that I would like to pass on to you now.

First, find the cookbook you had all those years ago.

Then gather together all the various ingredients.




and check the recipe before beginning...




Step one...

Step two...

Step three...

Then serve and eat.


What we found was that the dish wasn't called Flake Bake after all and that if you couldn't find Flakes, Twist bars came fairly close. A rare moment of nostalgia and a great excuse to tell some old stories.

12.11.14

Modern Music Is Rubbish (not)



Oh no it’s not.

As Matt Stevens has already pointed out, this argument could have been used at almost any point in pop’s history. Yes, there is a load of tat in the charts, but there always has been.

Some of us, as regular readers will know, make music that has been put together with effort and love for the craft. Listen to the incredible diversity of music available to you and tell me it’s too formulaic. Even in my little music appreciation corner I’ve heard fabulous, electric violin playing in the modern classical tradition, alternative pop with brains and feeling, jazz with so much life it could resuscitate a corpse and the undefinable music of Centrozoon who surprise and delight with every release.

And that’s just what I’ve heard in the last ten days.

If you think modern music is rubbish you might want to check and see if you’re using expressions like “in my day”. Because, guess what? Your day is not over.

11.11.14

The Wall


Twenty five years ago today I flew to Berlin with some friends. We spent the day in the city, chipping away at the wall, shaking hands with the east German border guards and sitting in cafes listening to people worry about their jobs once the folk from the east flooded in.

The atmosphere was incredible and we knew we were in the middle of an historic moment. The hordes of fellow wall-woodpeckers may look now like opportunist tourists, and maybe we were. But at the time we felt like part of something more important. There was an almost tangible sense of two groups who should never have been separated, coming back into each other’s lives.

I kept a tiny piece of the wall as a reminder of that day and that time. It is a powerful reminder of what is possible.

10.11.14

A report from the bass player


When I was a lot younger I had at least two ideas about what the fun part of ‘being in a band’ might mean. Firstly, I thought it was all about the song as everyone hears it. The Beatles song I heard on the radio ‘was’ the Beatles and all I understood about bands meant creating those few minutes of magical stuff that played on the radio. The second thing was that being in band would mean I knew what the song was about and what all the words were.

Not long after I joined my first band it became evident that nobody really knew what the songs were about. As for the lyrics, there were times when even the singer didn’t know what the words were.

But the real revelation, something that has been highlighted for me recently, is that the real magic about being in a band is the period you spend creating the music. It’s great to hear the finished tune belting out of your car’s stereo but by the time that’s happening you’re already thinking about the next piece.

Back in the world of New Accelerator we’re writing and arranging our next batch of songs. Previously we had four almost complete songs and our newly arrived singer wrote melodies and lyrics to complete them. This time all four of us are part of the process. That’s four creative people with opinions and ideas. Luckily this is another band with no ego and so no amount of shouting or posturing is likely to get a bad idea through. Not that there is any shouting or posturing.

As I’ve already mentioned here, I’ve brought a different instrument in for these new songs. The  previous four featured fretless bass (traditionally tuned in fourths); these all have touch guitar (tuned in fifths).

Meanwhile our guitarist is designing and building his own guitar amps, our drummer is moving the beats around and pushing his own boundaries and our singer is stretching herself. She’s written a rare lyric that would pass the Bechdel test (there should be more of these coming) and is currently working words around a 7/4 verse.

We are having fun.

21.10.14

New Accelerator

New Accelerator has a complicated history. The simple version is that my talented guitarist friend Richard and I wanted to start a new band playing original music in a style that we could enjoy working in. We soon met  Bobby, who brought a fresh approach to the drums and overall arrangement of the tunes. For months the band rehearsed and wrote as a trio while looking for the missing instrument that would add an extra sense of melody. The missing instrument turned out to be the voice of our great friend Emma Jones. Once Emma was onboard the band found a sense of direction and we were ready to go.


For these recordings the band are joined by the extremely talented keyboardist, Colin Henney.