Sunday, 20 July 2014

Our Own Worst Enemy - on our door step.

"Our Own Worst Enemy - on our door step"

"Our own worse enemy" - is track 07 of the CSMT project. However, I am planning to release an EP for track 07 called "Our Own Worst Enemy - on our door step". It is based on the following matter - not so nice.

It is about the next door neighbour to the character "Mark". They see just Mark, whereas from the other perspective both Mark and Anti-Mark see the  neighbours. They argue about them - strange goings on and all that - Anti-Mark loves to wind his other self up. You would if only you knew : Subject matter : All night party, prostitution, money laundering, expensive cars (whilst not doing any obvious jobs), daughter (mid 20's) never done a days work (what does she do all day?), Helicopters above the house at night,  next day cutting down the undergrowth in the back garden (why), What is the white van at 0400 in the morning (?), why does the snow on their roof top melt so quickly during the winter, how do they eat (they never seem to shop), why do the  police visit now and again (for a cup of tea it seams), who is the man in the black huge German Car with the 3 digit number plate? , why do they always clean up and do the front garden before he arrives?  , the drains are always getting blocked - why?,....... and so much more besides. Suitable for any miserable record boss. Oh what an imagination this concept is. Or is it?  Aside / End. 

Monday, 5 May 2014

CSMT – News / Progress. "annihilation" (The Argument)

CSMT – News / Progress.

Greetings all.

Having had a whole week ‘off’ of music last week (was working outside the UK), it has been a pleasure to get back into the ‘studio’. During my week away I had this constant phrase going through my head – even on the plane. 
“Problems, I don’t have any problems. Solutions, I don’t having any solutions either”. 

 It was a phrase that fitted well into the CSMT theme – indeed it was developed out of thinking how the two characters would interact. However, I needd to decide who would be saying this and it was clearly “Anti Mark”. For this reason I added the ‘Fking’ into the above line as I wanted it to sound as vile and vulgar as possible. I also wanted this to then contrast with the more rational “Mark”. 

The second theme I wanted to explore is the issue of separation - but where you are both separated – and cannot accept you are the same thing, the same entity (clearly “Anti-Mark” and “Mark” are the same person). However, they both believe they are separate inside the same head. I then related this to my day job, looking for example at the concept of PET (positron emission tomography). Here a positron (“Anti-Mark”) will always seek an electron (“Mark” ?). If they do meet (as they do in PET) they will annihilate – producing pure energy (which is the whole point of the Medical PET theory).  

However, for the CSMT prog project I have this idea that whilst “Anti Mark” and “Mark” are treated separately, they can survive. If they believe they are separate (inside the head of the main character) then life is just about tolerable. The fear (and partly the point of CSMT) is the potential realisation that they are the same thing. If this realisation is made it will lead to the breakdown of the main character in the CSMT story… and their annihilation!

Prog bollox. Who cares?!

This theme begins to be explored in the extract linked in this post.

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Good Morning Friends. "the curried meet"

I should at this point be zooming up the M1 for my first visit in Daventry, before heading up to Bradford. But I am not – client visit cancelled just before midnight last night due to plant breakdown in Malaysia. No, I am not going to Malaysia but my client contact is – I had a hunch this would be the case, but talk about last minute. So I find myself in the unexpected position of doing more office based work, and having extra music creation time. Neat.

On the music (CSMT) front, I have renewed vigour after spending a rather nice evening chewing the fat (or rather not as it happens) at a curry place in Reading with two peeps I met holding hats out at Reading station. After throwing a few pence at this unexpectedly good duo we scrapped ourselves off the floor and found somewhere to eat. What followed for me was an invaluable discussion combining the wealth of experience from two said peeps on music, recording, writing lyrics, developing themes and generally other good prog bollox.

What I can report is that I had a brilliant evening. Having only meet these peeps in person once before (in someone’s living room as it happens), the evening really felt like the meeting of three good friends. Of course the two said individuals have been very good friends for decades, so to feel so comfortable and just enjoy chewing the lean meat on all things musical says much about them as good folk. When you collectively start banging out the opening theme to ‘Changes’ by Yes on the pub table – then you know you are in fine company! 

Apart from having my next two work days turned upside down, which is never welcome when you have planned it, last night has really got me thinking about my CSMT prog project. It is ‘only a hobby’ but I think I have overused that expression, more like a defence mechanism than anything else. The whole music project I am working on – the equipment, the software, the playing, the mixing, the writing – is a truly amazing thing to be involved in. Sharing that with the good folk in my music community of friends is also special, the feedback and the advice always welcome. 

Basically .. I am on a roll now. Gentleman… thanks. Watch this space 

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

The Project CSMT - Update April 02, 2014

Good morning folks. What a year for music this is (and I do not mean my own stuff). New albums already received from Matt Stevens and Simon Godfrey. Both of these are very different - but are top quality listening material. Then as of yesterday I note that that Cosmograf (Robin Armstrong) is also ready to release his next epic (June I think). In addition, an old school friend John Beagley also released an excellent album just a few weeks ago.

Facebook has its issues, as does all social media, but its brilliant to be able to communicate directly with these folk I admire so much. It’s a great medium for making new friends both on FB and in person (I am going to be enjoying a curry with Simon Godfrey later this month!). 

The Project

The project “Coherent Scattering of Mindless Thoughts” (CSMT) and the album (of the same name) is progressing slowly, but it is PROGressing ;) The first track ‘Dream State (Good night, sleep tight)’ is almost done – a very strange beast mixing bits of early Rush at the beginning (so I am told!) with bits of Tangerine Dream, Lemon Jelly, orchestral chaos and other influences. I have not deliberately chosen a style – it’s just what comes out of my fingers / mind etc. This first track will be taken as far as I can mix wise and then I will park and move on (I will need some expertise from peeps far more experienced than me to give it the final polish).

The next track I am working on is more obviously piano related – its early days for it but I think it will be more conventional (although still has some interesting chord changes).  I am not a singer, never will be, but I do want some vocals on this project so I will be asking folks to contribute (already a couple of musicians I really respect have offered their services). 

This is just a project, a hobby and nothing more. But it will be released as an album (download and CD). It would be nice to get external support from a label (I have had a little bit of initial interest), but I am not really fussed. This can be self-funded if needs be – running my own business (day job) I do like ‘control’. 

Right – this is a normal working day, but going to try and EQ some cymbals during a coffee break!

Sunday, 9 March 2014

CSMT - The project moves on - slowly.

For some time I had intended to update this blog. Not because I have a desperate number of readers gagging for more, but because I owe it to myself to record my thoughts of the moment, ideas, progress, frustrations and anything else music (or curry related). 

The Coherent Scattering of Mindless Thoughts (CSMT) project is still very much on - I have just had a reality check about how long this will all take. Still working on Track 1 "Dream State (Good Night, Sleep Tight") - this is turning in to a labour of love (ish!). The basic structure is almost complete but it needs loads and loads of work still.

The tune is about a dream - an opening to the album, but also an opening to my concept of the waking point where you are still stuck between being asleep (and dreaming) and being awake and wondering 'wow - what just happened'. The tune, as far as it runs complete, is here (bits of this have been updated and altered since this version, but this version at least runs from the start).

I have had some nice comments about this on FB (and indeed SoundCloud). I think some of my family worry about me though (!) - just listening to the track the subject matter does sound rather disturbing. I was asked by one friend 'why the French numbers and days of the week ?' (listen to the track and you will know what they mean). The simple reason is that when I was a kid I had a real worry about French lessons (did not like the teacher etc). I used to have nightmares about this. 

I have also been asked about 'the knife' and 'the baby'. The baby simply recognises that the young dream to, and they may cry out in joy or indeed fear, but you never know what they are thinking, they are not able to tell you. The knife - ha, well that is a central point of the album concept. Remember, the concept is about a chap called Mark, post 40, who begins to recall a bad dream about killing someone when he was a boy. Like all dreams nothing is very ordered which is why we mix baby, knife and French teacher. Dreams are generally chaotic after all!

Talking of chaos, this album project is also naturally about exploring new sounds and ideas. Whilst the whole album will sound quite 'electronic' in nature, I wanted to include lots of organic sounding elements and in particular the noise of an orchestra being badly behaved. The new CAGE sample library products from 8DIO are just perfect for this!!

As you can see in this blog, some work has also been done on some potential artwork. I wonder if some of my friends and contacts think I am running before I can walk  ('hell he has artwork and not even an album yet'). Far from it, its just all part of the overall project concept. I have a good friend (actually a professional contact from my day job) who is working up some concept art for me. 

Where will this lead to? I have no idea! Facebook is a funny place you know. I have had really good support from very different groups of people - from those who I really respect as great musicians and who I follow (i.e. buy their music, hope to see them live etc), to those that I just know from being decent folk who I like to interact with. On the whole I get a good positive vibe that the feeling is 'wishing me the best' (however it might turn out). That said, I do also getting that nagging feeling (don't ask me why, it is difficult to put my finger on it), that there are a few out there that are not so impressed. I am big headed enough to suggest that it is less to do with my output (its not up there with the greats, but I still believe it has something to offer over and above much of prog - or will have when its finished), but more to do with 'having a go after a 20 year break'. 

I think I have come far in just 14 months - from nothing to something that is becoming respectable (bit by bit).  Yes, there is the equipment side of things. I have some very decent gear now - I have a lust for it. It has been procured on the back of running a consultancy for some time - with toil and tears. The fruits of this, apart from looking after my family of course, is the ability to use some nice stuff to make noises.

However, I have also learnt (or rather it has been reinforced in my mind), that there is no substitute for skill.  I do think I have 'some' talent, but I have a long way to go to tease out every last gram and make a go of it. 

What I have learnt, and continue to learn, is not to accept half measures. I am being more self critical. I am still uploading stuff to SoundCloud that is perhaps half baked, with mistakes and all, but that is part of the project - a learning exercise -  for anyone who is interested to follow and take notes!

Very slowly I am becoming more confident about the whole process of mixing, EQ and similar. Still very very early days, but early success in getting the drums to sound better on Track 1 has been really revealing. The effort in learning elements of the sound engineer will pay dividends, even for someone like me.

So where will this all end I wonder? A few weeks ago I had some early interest from two independent record companies ( I simply mean expressed some initial interest in looking at what I come up with - if indeed I do something worthy of their attention). The initial euphoric feeling of "someone likes me" has been replaced with a reality check (it was just Facebook contact after all). This is still all very much a project, a hobby, but if I really believe it to be worthy I will self fund the whole album if needed. I do not need / want / desire to make a profit, I am indeed happy to invest in it. If I end up pressing a few 10's of CD and someone ends up buying them (or more likely I just give them away) then no matter. 

Funny thing is, I buy all my music via the physical product (CD mostly). I cannot imagine therefore not being able to offer the fruits of my toils in CD format (complete with artwork, book etc). 

The joy of what I am doing is simply being able to play back something and know that I created it. Now I am off to have words with my brass section ;)    

Saturday, 25 January 2014

Dream State Part 1 (Good Night, Sleep Tight)

Morning Folks.

In the studio this morning  (ok, other end of office actually). Can’t tell you help much fun I am having with this album concept – mainly because I have absolutely no idea what I am doing or how I should do it.  The basic concept I have already blogged about, now I am developing the story. The way I am visualising the album is by thinking like a film, with characters and scenes. From this I am distilling the musical ideas I want to use. Like any good cutting room I am sure many will be binned, but it’s fun all the same.

The album will open with “Dream State Part 1 (Good Night, Sleep Tight)” – a suitable proggy title that I did not deliberately intend (promise). Investigating lots of samples for this – kids toys (of my decade – so the 70’s and early 80’s) will feature early on. Samples of ‘Good Night, Sleep Tight’ (and other assorted bedtime poems) will circle around with some gentle orchestration before opening into the main piano theme I already have sorted.

Mark’s first nightmare will feature before the piece concludes – I am having a lot of fun thinking about this. Like typical horror films – you know something - is  - going – to  - happen – and  - then – it – does – BANG… that is what I am trying to create. We shall see :)

This morning looking for just the right 'piano' tone - probably going to use the Felt Piano from Spitfire Audio as its really gentle - what you might expect to hear as you drift off to sleep. 

Thursday, 23 January 2014

Coherent Scattering of Mindless Thoughts is born!

After some considerable thought I have decided to move things to the next level – I want the challenge and I think I can make something of it. “Coherent Scattering of Mindless Thoughts” (CSMT for short) is now turned into a progressive rock album project. Over the next few months (years?) I am going to be working towards releasing a full album. Initial feedback on this idea from social media has been somewhat surprising, amazing even.

The concept

The album  - CSMT – is certainly a concept. However, I did not have to struggle hard to think of one, it arose a few days ago following a rather bad dream. As someone post 40 years, I asked some mates on FB if they had bad dreams, and many said they did. 

The dream itself I cannot really recall, but what I do remember is lying awake and thinking – “Is this real?” It took several seconds or more before I could breathe a sigh of relief and realise it was just a dream. Lying awake trying not to sleep again I was reminded of a dream I had as a kid (I was probably less than 12 at the time). The dream involved me apparently killing someone and then hiding the body. Some of the dreams were vivid with me worried about how I would continue at school, what if I got caught, and who might find the body. When I awoke I used to lay a while planning my next move (sometimes in a certain degree of terror) before being satisfied that it was just a dream.

So this concept involves a character called Mark, who at an age post 40 suddenly starts having these dreams again. The intensity of the dreams are dramatic and the worse aspect is that “key waking moment”  when he does not know if they are real or not.

To make matters worse he has two characters talking to him during this key waking period – Mark and “Anti Mark”. Mark is his rational self – the business man,   the family man – telling him “It’s Just A DREAM”. 

However, “Anti Mark” is bugging him. “It’s not a dream – it’s just your memory coming out of hibernation – you are in trouble”.

The beginnings of the album are calm, harmonious, simple time signatures, nice melody with chord progressions that resolve simply on the ear. As the album moves on “Anti Mark” begins to bite causing Mark to doubt his own sanity “Did I actually do something?”. Irrational thoughts begin to surface.. “Perhaps I should go back to my first family home and dig up the back garden?”  The music during this period is becoming more difficult, more discordant – the time signatures more taxing on the ear. There is always resolution, but it’s harder as the battle between Mark and “Anti Mark” intensifies.

The album has plenty of scope for tension and release. Whilst I envisage that much of it will be instrumental, lyrics and vocals are essential. This is something I will have to beg and borrow!

From concept to reality

Having relatively quietly mentioned this on FB I was amazed by the public and private feedback.  Several key musicians in the prog world and beyond, all I look up to with much admiration have said they will help out if they can. We are taking about everything from offering advice to actually playing / singing on the album!

At the time of writing this blog post I have also had two contacts from independent record labels expressing some interest. As expected, nothing has been promised but the simple fact that I have been contacted is enough to get me firing full speed ahead. 

The next step

My plan is to record the album as best I can in my small home studio – minus the vocals (although if I get some interest I might try and put some vocals on the tracks by working with collaborators over the internet). 

After that .. who knows? If what I produce is good enough then the ultimate would be to record it again in a more professional set up – with musicians if interested. I have no idea if that stage is possible – if not then I will still release to the masses in the best form I can.

This is still a hobby – that is all I can hope for. But what a great one to have.

Stay Tuned.