Saturday, 27 March 2010

WITHOUT FEAR out now on CD via Reverbnation

After dragging my heels a bit, my album Without Fear is now available to buy as a CD from my Reverbnation store. And it looks awesome, I must say!

For me, this is quite a breakthrough. Bands have been able to sell music downloads for a while, and I've been selling my books through a print-on-demand service for about 18 months now. But this is an awesome next step - instead of selling hand-made CDs through a dodgy-looking Paypal link, I can sell real CDs without any time or effort for almost the same cost. It's got a proper 4-page inlay, two-sided tray liner, and even an awesome full coverage CD print.

It is kind of sad removing the home-made DIY element from CDs that I used to love (and hate, okay, fair enough) in my old band. But it's a higher quality product, for about the same price, and I don't have to spend hours printing inlays and trying to line up printer calibration and burning through ink cartridges. Win!

For those of you new to Reverbnation, let's just say it has almost any feature bands and musicians could possibly want. If you're in a band I reccommend it highly, especially now they can sell your CDs. Big thanks to the super-talented Paolo Morena AKA "The Mighty Small" for putting me onto it in the first place.

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

No guinness for me today

Okay, partly because the keg Guinness in Wellington tastes horrible, and no-one knows how to pour it. But mainly because I am a lucky lucky man- Malthouse has Bath Ales amongst its arsenal of beer! First one since leaving Bristol Uni 4 years ago. Happy St. Patrick's Day everyone!

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Health, singing and open mic nights

While not having a permanent job may be a bit frustrating, it does have some advantages – between temp roles, for instance, you get a chance to unwind and do all those things you put off because reality keeps getting in the way. After February’s social maelstrom of fun times and eating extremely badly, I greatly enjoyed last week being able to get some exercise and do some singing practice. Just a few runs and some sit-ups later, and I feel physically back in shape again.

So, charged with energy and a bit of vocal training, I went along to an open mic night last night at Wellington’s Cavern Club and sang a 4-song set – not without a few mistakes, but I felt good and my voice came out much better than it has sometimes lately. Incidentally the Cavern Club is an awesome little bar – when an open mic night was cancelled on my friend Matt Pawsey’s last night in Wellington, the legend of a barman played “Roxanne” for us so we could play the drinking game of the same name. Oh and there’s some cool retro music d├ęcor, and music, as well. I recommend it.

Here's me singing "Sunshine", you can carry on reading if you like though :)

Another open mic night I should mention is the one at the Ruby Lounge (every Tuesday). The Ruby Lounge is a very nice cabaret-style bar where the Hell’s Pizza “Sin” bar used to be, complete with main stage, small stage and a nice balcony. I went along last week and found it wasn’t like normal open mics – you can get up and play on your own, sure, but there’s also a host of incredibly talented musicians happy to accompany you on the fly. The night is a mix of individual performances and semi-improvised jams from wonderfully musical people. Whether you play or not, I recommend going along for some smashing entertainment and a grand, casual atmosphere.

Sunday, 7 March 2010

Without Fear track #5 - Shark In A Goldfish Bowl

Track #05, the punk-synth-tastic "Shark In A Goldfish Bowl", from my debut album Without Fear, which you can buy (yada yada iTunes link yada yada Spotify etc.)

Here it is on the player!


This track is the fastest, sharpest, hungriest song off the album, cutting straight into the end of "Tsunami"'s random outro. I love it for collecting several ideas and feelings I had: gigs where I'd get punky and shouty with just an acoustic guitar; making techno/synth/rave sounds with just my acoustic guitar; expressing how I felt in Essex (and still feel about it now); and just a cracking tune, all rolled into one.

The intro was made by taking a series of single notes, in this case in the key of Bminor, on the bottom of the guitar. Then I'd cut them up really fine to just get that first pluck sound. The distinctive and slightly synthetic sound is achieved by raising the pitch by an octave and adding distortion (I forget in which order), but crucially right at the start the distortion is turned all the way down - then rises as the song kicks in.

Adding that to the bassline and you get a rollicking good intro!

I wondered about giving the song a verse, but structurally it wouldn't seem to it, so I thought, why bother? The riff/chords are awesome, just add the wibbly-wavey synth-type sound over the top and it rolls straight into the bridge beautifully.

While packing a punch, the song also has quite a bit of space in the production I think - the backing vocals on the bridge and (in a different way) the chorus really give it a dynamic push.

Then at the end of the song the shit hits the fan, synths and reverbed vocals going off all over the place. Great fun.

There aren't many lyrics to the song - as I mentioned above about not wanting to over-burden the song with verses, I didn't want to weigh it down with too many lyrics. The title of the song and the feel tell you more about its meaning before you even get to the first bridge; it plugs into the album's feeling of alienation, but with a bit of added aggression and ego. In general, it's an honest expression of lashing out against a sterile, idiotic environment, as I did a lot when I was younger). But the title gives a bit more away - the "shark" idea reflects that selfish narcissistic feeling in the back of your heard when you think "I'm better than this place". I'm sure a lot of people have felt that at some time in their lives, and in bigger and more diverse places than Chelmsford.

When I first recorded it, the chorus had just two tracks of vocals singing clean melody. I decided to add a third rough vocal, really shouting the "same views" and drawing out that last word. I'm still not sure if I prefer it or not, but I feel it was the right thing for the song.

I'm quite pleased with the line "I will burn this goldfish bowl down".

Incidentally, when I was writing this first of all in early 2008 and rehearsed with a couple of friends from other bands as a full rock song, the chorus was only 7 beats (deliberately designed to mess with people's heads). When it came to recording it I changed it back - I like that extra beat, like something out of a crazy disco; when I'm eventually able to play it live with a band, one day, it will be an ideal opportunity to completely freak out.

Also when I deliberately changed the second line at the end to "goldfish bowl town", my friend suggested I keep it as "down", so as to keep it from being obviously politically and/or nasty. I appreciated this point, but I still wanted a bit of that sneer in there, just a touch - so I recorded one or two tracks shouting "town" without melody and added them in, panned a lot and low volume. It's the kind of thing you wouldn't notice until the second or third listen.

I do hope you enjoy this song!

You can listen to and buy the album at any of these fine places:

Saturday, 6 March 2010

P.S. Book selection

Referring to my previous post about having some books in stock, I forgot to add a little picture of all the aforesaid books.   Here it is. Aren't they pretty?

Friday, 5 March 2010

Books in stock

I was kind of caught up at the start of December launching a book and an album back to back, so in case I didn't make a huge over-the-top announcement on here, let it be known that the final part of the No UP - No LIES - No NEVER trilogy is out now.  I remember when I was 13 and finished my first proper novel, and it felt great - there's a similar sense of achievement to having completed a trilogy.  It's there now, up on the internet, might as well be cast in stone - it is done.

I bought in a lot of books for the launch, which means I've been left with quite a few copies of all 3 parts of the trilogy and my first book Devolution.  So, I'm selling these as signed copies.  Everyone likes signed copies, right? :)

To order a copy of any, or all, of them, simply send a payment via Paypal to, include your address and what you're after, and I'll happily send you whatever you're after.  Each of the "No Up" trilogy is £5 GBP / $15 NZD, "Devolution" is £6 GBP / $20 NZD, and postage is £5 (UK) or $8 (NZ)*.  Bonus deal: after your first book, take off £2 or $5 for each additional book. Awesome eh?

NO UP - August 2008 NO LIES - May 2009 NO NEVER - December 2009 DEVOLUTION

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Olympics Games 2012 Twenty Twelve London Medals Gold Silver Bronze Sponsor

There are many sources of official censorship in today's world: government, religion, big business. But who would have thought the Olympics would be one of them?

After apparently clamping down on "ambush marketing" in Beijing 2008 and Vancouver 2010, London is gearing up to have official legislation in place to protect official sponsors' highly-priced official sponsorship with the Olympics.

Now, it's not quite 1984 or the burning of books, and you might point out that without safeguards, these official deals wouldn't happen and the Olympics would be short of cash. Also this is aimed around business and big marketing campaigns, and you might wonder why I care about the advertising freedoms of Big Corporation B who lost out in the official sponsorship race (presumably with some inferior slideshow display) to Big Corporation A.

I don't. But what I'd like to know is when the Olympic Movement, which makes a big fuss about its values, got involved in censorship. London is drawing up a two-tier set of words that will be forbidden in the use of advertising, presumably during the run-up to Olympics and the games itself. But for business, any language you use is advertising - where do you draw the line between promotional and non-promotional communication? More to the point, if I was a small business in London, I'd have to shoot myself in the face for not mentioning the Olympics when the 2012 Games comes to town.

One of the things that living in New Zealand has reminded me is that some countries can do grey areas in legislation, such as the proposed liquor ban across the whole of Wellington city (which won't be a total ban, thus arguably pointless and more than a bit ridiculous).

Britain is not one of those countries.

The hard-and-fast reaction to unofficial activity reminds me of the music industry's response to file-sharing over the last 10 years: a system-failure to understand that the official and unofficial can exist at the same time (even now terrified of allowing free access to music, it seems - which begs the question why they're not campaigning against, you know, the RADIO), without the need for a knee-jerk response that hurts innocent people in the process.

I would propose introducing legislation - or, crikey, maybe even using existing legislation - that caters for direct large-scale infringements on a case-by-case basis. Blanket bans on the commercial use of words in an arbitrary timeframe are pointless, lazy and a savage's way of thinking. I mean, seriously, in what way is it acceptable to ban the name of a year?

I invite you all to use the words OLYMPICS GAMES 2012 TWENTY TWELVE LONDON MEDALS GOLD SILVER BRONZE SPONSOR in a potentially-commercial manner between now and the 2012 Olympics.