Wednesday, 25 February 2015
On Southwark Park Road there is a pawn shop called ‘Captain Pawn’
There is a guardian at the threshold.
A T1000. My my; Cyberdyne systems do get around. I was unaware that shops on Southwark Park Road needed this degree of security.
Terminator & Terminator 2 are a couple of my favourite films. In the 80s cinema trailers on VHS rentals would be watched & rewatched sometimes more than the films themselves & T1 was one of those.
A fantastic example of tech-noir, T1 stands up to watching even now. I saw T2 when it came out in a cinema in Leicester Square regions & it is one of those sequels which may possibly be better than the original.
I have a copy of the directors cut of T2 on DVD which is a compelling argument for not giving directors everything they want.
T3 & Terminator-Salvation are passable, but not in the same league as the James Cameron directed films. I await Genysis with interest….
I wrote a country song from the point of view of the T1000. As you do…
Monday, 16 February 2015
On Friday 13th London Dreamtime hosted an event in a derelict house in Peckham.
Vanessa told some harrowing urban legends.
I sang a few chillers.
& Elizabeth Forrester, who sings with me in Gentlefolk did an amazing version of the Thomas McCarthy song “Speak Softly” accompanied by shruti box.
Many thanks to Jo at Maverick Projects , who run the venue, for all the help in what was a great night. Footage of the night is in the pipeline…
& thanks to Nic Laborie for the photography
Tuesday, 10 February 2015
I love folklore & have a goodly library on the subject.
A book I have been perusing recently is called “The Chime Child” by Ruth L. Tongue
This little gem is a collection of songs collected by the author in the 19th & early 20th century in her native Somerset. Ruth was a Chime Child, born in the Chime Hours between Friday midnight & Saturday daybreak.
As the old verse goes:
“They that be born on a Friday’s chime
Be masters of musick & finders of rhyme,
& every beast will do what they say
& every herb that do grow in the clay,
They do see what they see & they hear what they hear,
But they never do tell in a hundred year.”
I was captivated by the story & wrote a song about this particular brand of cunning folk.
I plan to record this with my band, GentleFolk, later on this year as part of a piece about magic & cunning journeys through England.
I probably shouldn’t mention this, but I was born in the Chime Hours….
Thursday, 5 February 2015
I love film, particularly science fiction & horror. So it’s only natural that Alien is one of my favourite films. Jonesey is the ship’s cat in the film whom Ripley rescues from the monster.
For those of you who don’t know the film, it is about a ship responding to what it thinks is a distress call when it isn’t, a terrible monster & treachery in an enclosed place. Naturally I wrote a song about it.
Thursday, 29 January 2015
GentleFolk have been going for 10 months or so now & it’s been really good fun. We are starting to get very comfortable with our repertoire & we have a good run of shows coming up over the next few months. So recording beckons. One of my jobs in music is producing so I have been mulling how to approach recording a GentleFolk record for almost as long as the band has been playing together. Being a folk outfit, it’s always been the plan to record the record live, it’s been more about what aspect of the performance I want to feel the most.
One of things I really like about GentleFolk is the warmth of the chemistry of the performance: we are a friendly bunch & I want that to come across. I want there to an intimacy, a sense of closeness, which to an extent is the ambience of the room which we record in. I also want there to be a real sense of relaxed free confidence in the performance, so I need a place where I have recorded before & am really familiar with. As I am singing & playing & well as producing I need an engineer to do the recording & work the desk.
I have booked a place called Sugar Cane Studios in Wandsworth. It used to be called Raezor. I’ve used it a lot so I am very relaxed there. It has a great desk. It’s an SSL E series, made by Solid State Logic in the 80s. SSL started off as a company making components for church organs before moving into recording equipment. This particular desk is very friendly & warm. Because we won’t be using tape, I would like to find ways of injecting character onto the signal & this desk & the UREI compressors should help considerably. The recording room is carpet-lined so is nice & dead, it’s also really relaxing. The microphone collection is fit for purpose; I’m pretty conservative in my mic preferences so U87s & 414s will cover the bases supplemented by my KM184s. I don’t want acoustic separation between performers so we need to look at how we position ourselves & the microphones to get the balance. Balance in the room will be key. To a large extent that comes from planning in advance, having a really good bead on the instrumentations of each tune so we can adjust where we sit accordingly. The engineer is called Even & he is really steady & nice.
The piece we are recording is called “Into The Greenwood” & is performed as a continuous 30 minute song & story cycle (spot the fan of prog.) It may not be possible to record this in the studio as there are instrument changes which need different balances; so we may need to record the songs out of sequence & then join them up afterwards at mastering.
The key thing to the session is that everybody feels great going into it. That involves putting the focus on the fun & the challenge of going into a studio to record music you love. Being well rehearsed is key: in my opinion studios are there to capture the best of you not to effect a rescue! We are going in in March & we are already at the right level so it’s a matter of continuing to enjoy the pieces & honing the little corners until you feel happy.
Good food in the studio is key. Fruit bowl, salad, lovely breads, hummus & stew are on the agenda. There is an excellent pub around the corner.
I think I got it covered.
Now all I have to do is not accidentally write a whole raft of new material before March.
Like the song I wrote last week about the Chime Child.
Thursday, 22 January 2015
One of my favourite lesser known locations in London is the conservatory in the Barbican centre. I love greenhouses; Kew & Wisley both are well worth a visit, however the surprise of coming across one amongst the fantastic brutalist surroundings of the Barbican centre makes for a great experience. It has a real science fiction feel to it. When I first encountered the conservatory I was inspired to revisit one of my favourite films, Silent Running.
Silent Running is a 1970s movie set on a giant spaceship carrying greenhouses on an orbit around the Sun. The Earth no longer sustains vegetation so the greenhouses are the last habitats of their kind. The main character, Freeman Lowell is a gardener on the spaceship called Valley Forge. When his crew are ordered to jettison & blow up the greenhouses, Lowell loses it, kills the crew & takes the spaceship out into deeper space with only a few robots, Huey & Louey & Dewey for company. It comes from a pre Star-Wars era & is certainly not space opera.
The soundtrack is absolutely superb with beautiful songs by Joan Baez & great instrumentation. I revisited the movie a few weeks ago & found it beautiful, if somewhat harrowing. It could be read as an ecological parable.
I felt inspired to write a song about it.
Tuesday, 20 January 2015
The Horseshoe. Home to Islington Folk Club. I am very much looking forward to playing here with my merrie band, GentleFolk on Thursday 29th. Folk songs of London & tales of the Greenwood will be performed, tweed & Arran knitwear will be worn.
This is Bernard. He runs the night & is wonderful.
This is Tom Paley. He is a regular & it is quite likely that some Swedish Polka will be performed on fiddle if he is in the vicinity.
If you are in the neighbourhood on Thursday 29th I thoroughly recommend this gig.
On the 31st GentleFolk are playing on a bill at the wonderful Caroline Gardens Chapel off Asylum Road in South East London. We are on about 12.30pm & this promises to be a great day of music in a great room.
Look at that. Not many tickets left. Follow the link if you want any…
Friday, 16 January 2015
There is a bus stop on the Old Kent Road just before it becomes the New Kent Road, close to Lidl. This bus stop is subject to a peculiar phenomenon. Over the past few years folk on the top deck of the bus have noticed that there is a VHS copy of the 1980s horror classic, Hellraiser, on top of it.
It gets removed from time to time only to be replaced
sometimes multiple times
This is the most crowded I have seen the bus stop. While at least 2 of the 10 VHS cases are not of Hellraiser. I like to think that the cassettes inside are of Hellraiser.
As you can see from this image, the videos are most likely being thrown from the walkway adjacent to the bus stop. But why?
Hellraiser is a horror movie about a puzzle box which transports the person who meddles with it to a nightmare dimension of pain and delight. I was inspired to rewatch it after taking a trip on the 53 into town & going past the bus stop. It stands up very well as a truly nasty & unsettling film. I wrote a song about it which you can listen to from the player at the top of this blog. Maybe I should sing it at the bus stop dressed as pinhead….
Thursday, 8 January 2015
From time to time I am asked by those lovely cabaret folk at Pull The Other One to do a turn. On one occasion last year they filmed me perfroming at the Old Nun’s Head in Nunhead. So here is a video of my performance. You may be interested to know that I am performing tomorrow at the Old Nun’s Head with my merrie band, Gentlefolk, courtesy of the wonderful Goose Is Out folk club. Follow the link for more details….