Monday 23 November 2009

Bill Drummond at the end of recorded music.

Long-time music biz maverick and arch provocateur, KLF founder and original thinking Scotsman Bill Drummond famous for amongst other things..the burning of one million great british pounds (see video below), "The Manual" or (how to have a number one hit the easy way) available here, recently recorded a podcast/lecture on the death of recorded music.
The lecture is a fascinating potted history of recording plus an extended Drummondesque projection into the future. Thought provoking stuff and I would say a positive and heartening message for music makers everywhere..(except the major record company darlings who sell squillions of they really still exist?..hands up Robbie and Madonna). The whole thing weighs in at around 23 minutes so have a listen sometime when you can relax with a cuppa and absorb the message. Thanks should also be extended to Tom Robinson for all his posts on the excellent site, a veritable wealth of helpful information and advice for aspiring musical types wishing to assail the walls of the 'industry'.... to be honest, as an ageing singer/songwriter I'm not sure I can really be bothered with all that polava anymore, heck my music is already public domain and you can enjoy it for nothing...I reckon live music is where it's at or should I say, where it is going...rock on.

listen to the lecture here
(it's a bit slow to load but give it time)

Here's Drummond and Jimmy Cauty talking about the burning of the million quid, funny how upset some people get...I love it.


Sunday 15 November 2009

Jan Sochor - his camera never lies

Thanks once again to the excellent Baroque Dub site for putting me onto these stunning photographs. One of the images that really struck me (the one of the old man sitting on the ground with his guitar) made me wonder about it's origins, and underneath it I found the link to the extraordinary photo blog of Jan Sochor.
Here is a brief bio from Jan's site ;

"Jan Sochor, freelance photographer & media designer.

He was born in the Czech Republic but he is changing his base between South America and Europe frequently, he lived and worked in Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Spain and the Czech Republic in the last five years. America has become a major theme for him since then. He focuses on documentary projects trying to show and tell about the (Latin) American continent, its everyday life, social, political and cultural issues."

(scary guys eh?)

Just take a look at these sets of images, they are some of the most beautiful, compelling and grittily real photographs I've seen in years.


Sunday 11 October 2009

Kristen Hersh and the creative commoner.

I was trawling around on ccmixter the other day looking for accapella vocal tracks to sample when I came across the page of Kristen Hersh (Throwing Muses). It seems, being the wonderful experimental soul that she is, she has uploaded a load of bare vocal tracks for the remix community to play with.
For those of you who don't know ccmixter, it's a site, neigh a community, that provides samples for re-mixers and mash up freaks to use legally in their creations. Contributors can license samples and accapellas under the 'Creative Commons' licensing system, a flexible set of legal copyright licenses that grant 3rd parties the legal right to 'play' with the material as opposed to the standard copyright license which allows no freedom to use copy, share or create derivitaves. see for all the types available.

Here's a link to Kristen's accapellas on ccmixter and her cash music project page (great songs on here, and all available to remix and mash)

and ccmixter itself.


Indulge me if you will.

About 8 years ago we boldly moved from the South East of Engerland to a small and remote Scottish town. Our initial money making venture was to set up a shop. It was a tiny little box of a place, crammed with soft toys and all manner of handmade 'stuff', we called it 'Mock Turtle' and managed to scrape a meager existence from the dribble of tourists and local kids who visited us almost every day after school with their pocket money. Anyway the thing is, there were times when it was quiet, really quiet.... I decided to make use of the days by taking a boom box in there and hooking it up to my laptop. We had lots of background music in the shop so I just started trawling through our cd collection ripping loops out of all my favourite tracks. I had a demo version of Ableton Live 3 so I had to dump whatever I had made in a day onto a minidisc, then lose the project files forever (I couldn't save in the demo). In many ways this was a really good thing because it set a deadline and forced my hand into finishing things instead of tinkering endlessly, (which I find sucks the life out of lots of potentially good music).
So for about 2 weeks I made these tracks in between customers coming in and then just before closing time dumped them onto minidisc (the quality has suffered a bit due to the multiple analogue to digital conversions) but there you have it, a bunch of one off never to be repeated mash-ups, the tracks actually work rather well as a collection, I've had alot of good feedback about this one. Have a listen for yourself. Of course, there's not a legal sample anywhere in sight so if the feds come knocking on my door... I'll come peacefully officer. Notable contributors include Vivian Stanshall, Eg and Alice, Dylan Thomas, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, and a great bass line from Serge Gainsbourg.
Hope you enjoy it.

Listen Here Soundcloud

Tuesday 6 October 2009

Home Entertainment Systems.

Haha not a blog about about hi-fi or surround sound plasma screens, oh no no no. Quite the opposite in fact.

These days, with music descending into mp3 hell and non-stop visual entertainment becoming as ubiquitous as chips, people are seeking something REAL! There I've said it now, it's going to be the new zeitgeist, mark my words. Real entertainment by real human your home (or someone else's).

A few years back, I had the pleasure of attending such an event on a regular basis. Down in Lewes a lass named Aylla used to open her kitchen to all and sundry about once a month and in would come local entertainers of all denominations (including Arthur Brown the god of hellfire and his acoustic guitar). In also would come an appreciative audience, bottles in hands to sit on the kitchen floor drinking and enjoying the feast of homespun music and drama.
The whole place was only about 15 foot square and it could be a bit of a crush...but how great to witness artists wedged between you and the cooker giving it their all. Intimate.

Anyways, years later, 'Aylla's Kitchen' is all but a happy memory. But wait, I see we were not alone.

Here's a couple of sites that point to a resurgence...

First off real people telling real save myself some typing I'm going to steal from my mate Andy's blog:

Just wanted to share my recent discovery of a phenomenon known as "The Moth", an organization founded in New York in 1997 by poet and novelist George Dawes Green, which celebrates the art of live storytelling.
I can also recommend the Alan Rabinowitz "Man & Beast", and Richie DiSalvo's "Anthony The Hat" stories from that same page.

The podcast has some gems too, including NYPD police officer Steve Osborne's "Mug Shot" which is worth listening to for the wonderfully extreme NY accent alone!

I think it's difficult to beat the age old pleasure of hearing real life experiences being shared by "normal" everyday's refreshing and far more compelling in my view than the synthetic, trashy, formulaic soap operas and dramas we are fed on TV these days (with the exception of quality shows like "The Wire" of course!)

Anyway, this inspired concept has got me thinking about the oncoming Winter nights and the prospect of holding a storytelling evening with a few friends...a nice roaring fire in the grate and a wee dram. Nothing like a little homegrown entertainment!

Cheers Andy! (link to Andy's blog)

Second site is oriented to live music but it's a similar kind of thing
House concerts are not a new concept but seem to be gaining popularity. Check them out here:


Sunday 19 July 2009

Baroque Dub Mix Tapes - Wikidist Riddims

I love this site, the good chap who runs it is obviously a very decent and generous fellow who wants to share his love of 'dub' with the whole world. Not only does he give away his most excellent mix tapes of eclectic dub sounds, he also provides a huge resource of sound samples, midi riddims, and a great database of links to all things musically cool including audio plug-ins and music sites of interest to the aspiring dub fiend. He also welcomes mixes that you've made using all of this stuff. He must also be a modest fellow because it took me ages to find his name anywhere on the site...Jerome Di Pietro "cheers Jerome great site!"

So what is dub? Well based on my years of listening to and loving the likes of Misty In Roots, Aswad (New Chapter of Dub), Eek a Mouse, Prince Fari and Black Uhuru I used to think it was something to do with reggae and yes it is but these days it has also broadened out to encompass many other musical forms and happily begs borrows and steals wherever it can fusing it all together through the use of loops and delay. It can be anything from uber mellow atmosphere to pumping sub-bass noise terror. Dub is also quite 'trippy' and 'chilled out'. Take my advice and go and download one of the mix tapes, stick it on while you're going about your'll help to gee you along nicely.

for the mix tapes go here:

home page here:


Sunday 21 June 2009

My kind of guitar - looks aren't everything

Following along from the idea of the ultra compact gigpig drum kit there comes the travel guitar with integral amp/speaker, digital fx and drum machine.
The Fernandes Nomad is a kidney shaped device that by all accounts plays extremely well and sounds very nice indeed. It has a little 5 watt amp built right into it and the deluxe version has a battery of high quality digitech digital fx. It comes in many gaudy colour schemes or just plain black, silver or wood.

Actually I should say it 'came' in many colours because it is sadly in the past tense. So it's over to ebay where they seem still to be available. A quick browse on youtube also yields some folks demoing the instruments. I think they're kinda neat and I would love to have one just to pick up and wander about with or to jam along with other acoustic instruments.

It's the immediacy factor that does it for me. I'm sick of cables and stands and hours of setting things up, I'd rather just pick up and play like you do with an acoustic.

Fernandes guitars

Here is a bass version too.


Saturday 20 June 2009

Gig Pig - My kind of drum kit.

About 25 years ago, before I had a car or could even drive for that matter, I decided I needed a portable drum kit for busking with friends. I based my design on a black plastic dustbin with a lid, several kids snare drums and el cheapo tambourines. The snare and hi-hat assembly strapped onto your leg via a big wide Velcro elastic strip while in the sitting position and the open/close hat was operated by a hoop and string mechanism hanging down to the left foot. The toms where attached separately by a wooden dowel to the short plank that held the snare and hi-hat. The whole lot fitted inside the bin which doubled as a very respectable sounding kik drum. I did actually busk this kit at the strawberry fayre in Cambridge with a couple of pals playing acoustic guitars. We called ourselves 'Colossus'! What a laugh, actually I thought we sounded pretty good. I think my portable kit fell apart shortly after that, but at least it lived for 1 legendary gig.
And now these guys have gone and taken my idea and done it properly. Cost you a grand, but I'm sure it will last longer than mine did, probably sound better too.
'Colossus' may rise again!

Gig Pig Website


Friday 12 June 2009

Panic Attacks - How to cure them.

I used to suffer from sporadic anxiety attacks during my teens that occurred usually for no real reason that I was aware of and at strange times like sitting in a cafe or a cinema. At the time I was like most people quite unaware of the underlying causes but suffered them blindly until they disappeared by themselves. Of course they never went away for good. I was relatively free of them until my late twenties when I began to have them more and more frequently until at the worst point I was living in what can only be described as a permanent state of anxiety that lasted for about 2 years solid. Looking back, knowing what I know now, I can see that my nerves where in tatters mainly because of being in bad relationships and stressful emotional situations combined with an unconscious suppression of my natural instincts in order to keep the status many people live in that kind of situation, be it a marriage/relationship, a crap job, a place you live, financial stress or just a general bad mix of them all? A place you don't think you can get out of. For me it was a nightmare, and I thought I was losing my mind. If you are suffering anything like this, then read on.

Luckily for me, the place I was staying at the time had an extensive library on healing and all things esoteric. Now I am not normally a great believer in the power of self-help manuals but this somewhat slim and simple book really did save me from this hideous state of affairs. No other book has ever had such a spectacular and direct impact on my life and I feel like I ought to share it with anyone who may be suffering in silence. Basically the good Dr Claire Weeks who wrote this book had the gift of speaking directly to the reader and explaining in simple and clear detail exactly what is going on and how to counteract the symptoms and get to the root of the whole deal. I'm not going to explain how it works except to say that it only took 2 reads of the book for me to be permanently free of the attacks..amazing but true.

Forget vallium or prozac, this book is what you need.

If you or anyone you know is suffering like this (quite often people won't admit to it either) then please get them to read this book.

"Peace from nervous suffering" by Dr Claire Weeks

Inner resting.

Wednesday 3 June 2009

Folkstreams - folk roots documentaries from the big country.

This is a hugely fascinating site. It hosts an amazing catalogue of historic documentary films about old style roots american life. The archive includes everything from the most ancient all the way up to present day material on things like storytelling and youth culture. The subjects are diverse and range from outsider art to real blue ridge hillbilly music and Mississippi delta blues, quilt making, painting, letter cutting, chainsaw art, fishing, shakers, body art, aging, death and ritual. These films were all made, (quite often on 16mm film) by people who were real enthusiasts about the subjects they loved and they capture some real, gritty and beautifully honest portraits of old time down home life U.S style.

My personal favourites include;

Sonny Terry: Shoutin' the Blues

Homemade American Music
Stoney Knows How - An old school tattoo film
Final Marks: The Art of the Carved Letter
Dreams and Songs of the Noble Old
Cowboy Poets


Saturday 23 May 2009

Hyper Jeff - Mac Apps Galore

Got a mac, need an app ? Look no further than here.

Hyper Jeff

If you enjoy sifting through lists of new and wonderful applications sorted by type, category and licence, ie freeware, shareware, paid etc then this is the place for you. I've been using Jeff's site for years now to unearth many marvelous pieces of software. Go have a look and see what you can find, just use the 'pick a category' drop down and start trawling.


Saturday 16 May 2009

Esoteric Photography, Alchemical Art.

I've been looking into alternative photography recently, more specifically, making prints using unconventional techniques. It's a practise that lies somewhere between photography, painting and printing. It utilises archaic chemistry and modern technology (and the sun), to create haunting images with unpredictable and deeply atmospheric qualities.

For example, 'digital negatives' are a kind of reverse engineering of digital photography whereby a negative is created from a digital positive. The process is fairly straightforward. Here it is very briefly.

a. Take a digi image you like, bung it into photoshop reverse it, make it monochrome and tweak the levels to adjust mid-tones and contrast, some practitioners recommend giving it an overall orange hue for reasons of tonality in the subsequent creation of a positive (See links for detailed processes.)
b. Print out the image on a sheet of A4 inkjet/photocopier transparent film so that you have a nice big A4 negative.
An interesting variant of this is to print the neg on regular paper then use oil or wax to make it transparent, this yields even spookier soft edged images.
c. Exposeyour neg on your treated paper out in the sun or some other UV source.
d. Give it a wash to develop it and see what you've got.
e. Of course you don't even need a negative, you can instead create 'photograms' by judiciously placing objects directly onto treated paper and exposing as normal.

Cyanotypes (cyan) and gum bichromate prints can be developed in plain old water or helped along with vinegar or perroxide solutions, it's all about experimenting.
You can even go on and use tea or coffee to add further tones to the prints. Some of my favourites I've seen so far are cyanotypes washed in tea, they look great because the vivid blue is really toned down.

You'll need the appropriate chemicals but luckily they are readily available and pretty easy to mix. Alternative photography processes are in use by lots of artists these days and you can find tons of info on the web, but to save you time here's some useful links I've discovered on my trawlings.

All encompassing Alternative photography site:
Really informative Gum Bichromate site :
UK suppliers of chemicals :

I really like this guys work on flickr and there are lots of other esoteric photo printers on there, such as this group dedicated to digital negatives

go forth and create images in your own likeness


Tuesday 5 May 2009

HDR Imaging....Tasty.

What the hell is HDR imaging?
Well, I liken it to what mastering engineers do to audio tracks before they go on a cd. They add the gloss, sheen and sparkle, saturate the loudness levels and even-out all the lumps. A similar mastering process happens to video and film in post-production where engineers do magic to the colour balance, brightness and general look of the material and ensure it adheres to broadcast safe parameters, before going to press.

HDR stands for 'high dynamic range'. In music mastering, a thing called the 'dynamic range' is an important factor in preserving the 'light and shade' in the music (a big problem in today's uber loud cd production strategies where dynamic range is severely comprimised). In visual terms it's kinda similar and employs a technique called 'tone mapping' which seems to give digital images an almost eye popping hyper-realism, probably approaching something akin to what you really see with your eyes, rather than the flat tonally subdued images reported to you by a computer monitor. Here's another example.

The great thing is, you can process your own images yourself with the help of a programme called photomax and a quick tutorial (see below).

The images above were created by a jolly nice fellow called Trey Ratcliff and feature on his famous travel photography blog 'Stuck in Customs' which is also home to a great 3 part HDR tutorial here. Thanks Trey.

So there you have it, I haven't done any of my own HDR's yet but maybe soon I will.