Crutches

10 Jun

Those words you wrote for me then, well I can remember them all,

They sit, doused in white wine, and on wild nights stagger and fall,

I try to be a good man,

But I know that I may never be,

And still, I dream,

Yes still, I dream.

 

So we break our bones,

But as long as there’s love we can hope,

We’ll make crutches for our hearts,

And they’ll help us to cope.

 

I gained these calluses back in the winter when I became lost,

They numbed the wind-chill, the side of the bed that was smothered in frost.

I have put them to good use,

They’ve saved me from bite marks and scars,

But they’re put aside for now,

They’re put aside for now.

 

So we take small steps,

There’s still time to waste and to give,

And forget what we’ve lost,

Just remember to live.

Set Fire To The Night

15 Mar

Hello!

I’m sorry I’ve not been around much. Between the music, novel, and various other things I’ve not been able to write much by way of blog posts.

But, here’s a quick update. The novel is going incredibly well, and I’ve had some excellent feedback on what I have so far. There will be more on that in the future. I’m also recording an acoustic album this summer, which I am incredibly excited about.

Most importantly, though, is this. Titans & Kings, my rock band, has just released a music video. You can see it, exclusive from OurZone, here.

The song is called Set Fire To The Night. It’s set for release on the 24th March from all good online distributors, and we’re very, very excited about it. Give it a listen, and get ready to have a bit of a dance. It’s the musical equivalent of an 80s movie montage and you’re going to love it.

Original Form: The Project

1 Feb

Yesterday, I made a decision. I was going to start work on the project. You know, THE project. Everyone has one, some kind of equivalent. The idea, the goal that manifests in a moment of absolute clarity. Something brilliant, life-affirming, something that speaks for who you are.

Conversely, it’s the project, the concept that’s just too much to comprehend. So far from completion that you’ll happily come up with reasons to put it off. You’ll keep it in the back of your mind, but go no further, just because of the sheer magnitude of work involved in its formation, let alone its creation. And every time you think of it, you’ll hate yourself for not following through. But you’ll still delay, delay, delay.

For me, I’ve had the plan ready for over a year, but I’ve been unable to put any words to the page. And I’ve had many reasons for why I’ve been able to procrastinate.

HEYY

Watching He-Man sing “What’s Going On?” doesn’t count as procrastination, mind.

This idea is an old one. I came up with it back in 2010, an idea for my Master’s dissertation that came to me too late, too much work already done on my eventual piece. That piece was called The Crossing, and it was a mystery, a horror about dark wishes and lost family that was fairly well received.

But you know what? It wasn’t right for me. I knew it as I was finishing it, my head lost in a painful, post-break-up blur. I should have shelved it, started from scratch, and damned the work already done, damned the bureaucracy of vague plot elements given in as preliminary paperwork. Damned the final mark. It wouldn’t have been important. Because even as I handed in my finished script, even as I saw my grade for it when the marking had been finished, I didn’t feel anything. I felt like a fraud, a cynic. I had used my last free time, my last moments in the creative hub of the university system, those last months with the catalyst of those talented people I shared lessons with, to finish a project I didn’t truly believe in.

Well, at least I didn’t believe in it as much. Back then, Original Form was nameless, just a thin concept, a half-paragraph. But it had that much more impact than the ninety minutes of film script, the hundreds of man hours that I handed in, back in September 2010.

anchorman reference the crossing

That said, I’m still proud of getting an Anchorman reference in.

I didn’t forget about it. But I moved on. It was more important for me to work. So I did. And my spare time had to be filled with getting fit, healthy, getting into a good frame of mind. So I did. I found other work. I moved into a flat with a friend, a stranger, and a mouse. I fell seriously ill. I spent my energy getting better, trying to find other work when I was able to, spending time on other projects, the countless musical acts, the short stories, the failed NaNoWriMo attempts, working on novels that were never going to be as good as this one.

And I kept telling myself that I would do this. It would just have to wait until the time was right. So I applied for PhDs with the project, got a lot of positive feedback, got an offer but no funding, and the time passed. So I told myself I would come back to it, when the time was even better. And I kept working, and writing other things, and playing other music, and starting podcasts, and watching, reading, listening to anything I could grasp, a cultural sponge. And truth be told, that has been my worst flaw. The time spent waiting for .gifs to load, the time spent waiting for YouTube videos to buffer, the time spent reading pages titled things like “You Won’t Believe What These Ten Cats Think About ObamaCare!”

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Some things I don’t regret spending time on. The short stories I have written, I believe, have pushed me to this point, made me ready for taking on Original Form, the labyrinthine plot map, the shifting sands of its narrative voice.  The bands I have played in may not have satisfied all my creative urges, that bizarre mixture of the substance addiction of creation and vain self-aggrandisement, but it sure as hell has been a lot of fun. I don’t regret writing for this blog either, even though the most steady hit-machine is still a throwaway post about dinosaurs in the frickin’ nineties.

But at the end of the day, this has always been calling to me. And it’s time to do something about it. I wish I could tell you more about Original Form. But I’m keeping it close to my chest, for now. A few of you have already heard all about it, but here’s something for the rest of you. It’s about a man who works in a video store. VHS. It involves the end of the world. Not the apocalypse, but the end, a finite point where the universe just…stops. It involves a black-and-white woman. At some point it may involve singing and dancing. It may also involve monsters, a dark void, and it involves the Original Form itself. I’ll let you think about what that might be.

So screw it. Here’s to lost evenings, writing until sleep comes at three in the morning. Here’s to sitting on the train, typing away, collecting funny looks from other commuters. Here’s to realising nine months in that one of the characters really adds nothing to the plot and will cause complications within the story arc later on, and painstakingly removing any trace of them from existence. Here’s to stopping and starting, creative fatigue, the mood swings, the frustration of trying to get the project as perfect as it can possibly be.

Here’s to doing something for the sheer love of it.

Rob the Music Snob: Viva Machine

24 Jan

A little hyperbole to start this off: the fact that Viva Machine isn’t a household name is one of the great injustices in recent music history. The Welsh rockers had it all. Great riffs, smart lyrics, soaring vocal harmonies and extremely interesting song structures. Imagine Biffy Clyro doing their best Beach Boys impression with Josh Homme noodling away in the background. I’m the proud owner of an EP and album – but even prouder of supporting them in Exeter back in 2008.

viva machine

Because you know what? Time for an extremely uncool admission. I’ve seen a vast number of the so-called best live bands, and Viva Machine were better live than any of them. The Muse live experience can go suck an egg. I’d rather hear “Death Star Trucker” live than “Supermassive Black Hole”.

I fell in love with them because of the live sound, actually – at a packed Cavern Club on a Saturday night. I had heard from a friend that they were great, and they blew the audience away with an air of professionalism that was rare on those nights; most of the acts were essentially there as a warm-up for the resident DJ. All of us were excited to hear what a full-length album had to offer.

We had to wait a while, mind – until 2009, actually – but by god it was great. From the punchy, sci-fi opener “Robot Bodyrox”, to the sprawling epics of “Futuristic Dracula” and “Mental State”, the self-titled album is, surprisingly for a debut effort, a filler-less, lean, mean, rocking machine. Dirty synth, beefy guitars, and a perfect level of quirk without feeling pretentious. I happily have “Viva Machine” in my list of favourite albums of all time.

So what happened? Well, Viva Machine were a young band, and apparently university studies took over, with the band going on hiatus in September of 2009, only a couple of months after the release of their album. A shame – an immensely talented band that I would have loved to have heard more of.

So, there’s Viva Machine. Go give them a listen, and if anyone knows where they guys are now, let them know that there’s still one person carrying a torch for ‘em.

Come Hear Me Wail: A New Project

21 Jan

Hello all!

This is just a brief update to let you know about a project I am doing in 2014.

Every fortnight, I will do a new acoustic cover version. Here’s my first one:

 

 

Hope you enjoy it!

 

It means that 2014 is going to be a bumper year for creative things. My podcast One Hour Stories is still going strong, and we’re looking to release an e-book when we have a suitable number of stories under our belts. Titans & Kings, the rock band where I am allowed to play bass, has a new single and music video out in March.

I’m writing about some of my favourite, lesser-known bands and will continue to write more fiction and blogs along the way, and there are rumblings of work starting on a larger writing project. Something novel-shaped which undoubtedly will take me ages to finish…

Anyway, for now enjoy my silly wailing and butchery of other people’s works.

‘Til next time!

Rob The Music Snob: Lovage

17 Jan

We all love a good bizarre side project, and we all have our favourites. Grunge king Mark Lanegan’s team-up with Belle and Sebastian singer Isobel Campbell, or maybe Robert Plant going all bluegrass with Alison Kraus. How about Probot, Dave Grohl’s love letter to classic rock?

One man, though, likes to go above and beyond when it comes to new ventures. Mike Patton is best known for his work with Faith No More, but has had enough projects to fill a record label. The most well-known of the lot is Mr Bungle, but that’s doing a disservice to the likes of Fantômas, Tomahawk and Peeping Tom. My favourite of the lot, though, is Lovage.

mike-patton

Get this. Patton teams up with Jennifer Charles, singer of the goth-favourite dark-rock act Elysian Fields. Dan The Automator heads it all up and throws Kid Koala into the mix, and together they make one of the most delightfully sleazy albums ever made. Their only release, called Music To Make Love To Your Old Lady By, pairs up Patton’s low growl and Charles’ throaty breath-slurs, all over smooth beats and laid-back grooves, a neo-noir love-making story. Hell, it’s the only album I’ve ever heard that attempts to make truck stops into a sexual innuendo, and god damn it, it nearly pulls it off.

But it’s more than just a novelty. It’s a genuinely fantastic album. The backing tracks are excellent, sampling old recordings and films, giving Lovage an almost Portishead-esque vibe. It’s the kind of album you can just listen to and lose yourself in. Don’t believe me? Well, give this a listen – the frickin’ marvellous Stroker Ace:

Unfortunately it was just a one-off: Jennifer Charles went back to Elysian Fields, Mike Patton continued being bloody brilliant and most recently composed the soundtrack to The Place Beyond The Pines. But we’ll always have this one great moment, a tongue-in-cheek masterpiece, proving that great things can come out of unlikely musical team-ups.

Rob The Music Snob: Sol Seppy

10 Jan

When I was in my late teens, I suffered badly from insomnia. Where possible, I tried to use this time effectively – by writing, reading, or finding new music. MTV2 was a goldmine. Late at night it would play tracks from a variety of unheard, independent-label artists. One of these was Sol Seppy, and I was immediately in love.

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Sol Seppy is Sophie Michalitsianos, a classically-trained pianist and cellist better known for her work with the sadly-missed Mark Linkous in Sparklehorse. There are a lot of similarities between the two – the ethereal element, a large but intimate sound, breathtaking lyrics and a deep sense of emotional empathy. The first album, The Bells Of 1 2, is one of my favourites of all time, and I don’t see that changing any time soon.

The Bells Of 1 2 is wonderful. Cohesive yet at the same time full of variety, it manages to bring out incredible levels of depth from a very minimal setup. The opener 1 2 relies almost entirely on piano, as does Enter One, Sol Seppy’s most recognisable track. It’s recognised for a reason. It’s absolutely beautiful.

But there’s more than that on show. Slo Fuzz was the first song I heard, pushed forward through – as the name suggests – fuzzy bass lines with floating synth work and excellent quiet/loud dynamics. Move features noisy, shoegaze-esque distortion and a discordant feel. Come Running is upbeat with a brilliantly catchy chorus.

It’s one of those albums that seems to never stray far from my grasp, never accumulating dust. Michalitsianos gave us a new EP last year, continuing the level of quality, and a promise of an album in 2014. I have high hopes, even after the seven year wait. Bring it on.

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