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Archive for May 2011

So much… 21 May 2011


Photo credit: David J

Don’t really know where to start… so much has happened, so much is going on, and I realise it’s time I mentioned a few things in passing. Like, I’m making an album. The E.P. that I started recording at Kerry Brown‘s Coldwater Studios a few months ago is growing in scope, backwards and forwards in time. It’s currently a dozen songs of love, loss, heartache and delight, laden with thick butterings of strings captured on luscious 2″ tape engineered by Kevin Dippold on the vintage tape machine that recorded Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness. You can learn more on the new album blog.

Oh, and I’m playing live with the Woolly Bandits, Damien Youth and Michael Berg, including a show with the Woolly Bandits tonight at On The Rox, upstairs from the Roxy on Sunset Strip. Strings, back-up vocals and my legendary tambourine shakin’, yeah!

David J‘s album is practically done and ready to roll, and it’s amazing. His voice sounds as perfect as piping hot PG Tips with exactly the right quantity of milk, sugar and whiskey…

Last week we shot the video for David’s new version of Love & Rocket‘s “I’ll Be Your Chauffeur”. It’s being produced by David J with programming and loops by Rob Garza from Thievery Corporation, and features an amazing young vocalist David discovered in the Bay Area, a pitch-perfect 17 year old named McKenna.

Which brings me to Bela. Don’t know what to say about this, but the short version is, last week David J, Jill Tracy and I revisited Bela Lugosi Is Dead in a studio adjacent to Oakland Cemetery, and it was an unforgettable, super magic night. The spirits were close, summoning the spectre of Lord Byron.

One detail I can reveal to you exclusively, strings-lovers…

You may know I like to play hard. I often play so hard that my bow hair shreds. Most violinists get their bows rehaired every year or so. Well, sometimes I get through a bow in one show. Indeed, I’ve been known to wreck a bow in one song. And at a few memorable shows, I’ve also broken a string.

Well, on Bela night, I got through a bow. And then, I got through another bow. And kept playing, kept playing, kept playing. A string broke. Whatever, more playing, other strings… Then another string…. SNAP! Aaagh, still more music needing to be played, more music being channeled from who knows where, more sounds and scrapes and scratches coming through from the ether.

SNAP!!! and SNAP!!!!!! NO STRINGS LEFT!!!!!

And still more to play… pulling at the undead strings, pulling them tight to get a sick creaking aching sound out of them, resonant with the spirit of Bela and Byron and whatever else was coming through the tortured body of that poor violin.

I scraped the fingerboard, hit the headstock, scratched the strings and bowed the belly of that undead beast. And had probably the most fun possible with one’s clothing intact.

To be continued…

May 18th, 2011 18 May 2011

I emailed Liam Watson in London today. We had recorded four songs on 2″ tape in 2004 at his Toe Rag Studios, where The White Stripes recorded Elephant. Because, following one of many encouraging and inspiring conversations about this record with David J, it’s now obvious – these Toe Rag songs are a part of this same body of work.

I’ve been making this album for years, as I stumble through the labyrinth of heartache that is my quest for true love. It’s all there, but it’s all over there… in London, on a 2″ tape that I hope is still in Liam’s basement, but quite frankly, could be in a dumpster by now, or who knows where!

These songs recorded with Steven Severin on bass, the guy from Siouxsie and the Banshees, and with Amina Bates on guitar from Scanners, and Nick Yeatman who is Ed Harcourt‘s drummer, keeping it pure and driving the songs gently forward.

There are four:

1. June Baby
2. The Highest Mountain
3. Special Things
4. Rum Cove

May 17th, 2011 17 May 2011

Strings Day. I arrive at Coldwater with sheet music that I’ve prepared this past few weeks, and with my family. Violin, viola, cello and, for today, the little musical saw.

I’ve decided to drop Soliloquy for now. It’s a strong song, but isn’t working for me as a part of this album at the moment. Actually, it was originally intended as a duet (despite the title), and may be resurrected as such at a future date. But for now, the three songs to hand are:

1. What Should I Say?
2. Nearly Yours
3. The Right Guy

We’ve multi-tracked four-part strings on all three songs, all on one day, which I guess is super fast work. I felt extremely focused and unemotional about today’s work. I guess all of the emotional content was embedded in the charts that I’d written this past few weeks, and the parts the angels had sent in the dream last night… so today was light and expedient. Job done!

May 16th, 2011 16 May 2011

Ready for tomorrow’s session, I’d gone to bed with all my charts neatly piled ready for the morning. Instruments in cases, all prepared and in order for the studio.

But sleeping in the night, the angels sent a better version of the string arrangement for ‘The Right Guy’… Clear as crystal, they re-arranged the parts into something far more complex than my waking mind could fathom. I awoke with the parts fresh enough to write down, and this is what will be recorded tomorrow. Blessing to my team!

May 15th, 2011 15 May 2011

Showed some songs to Damien Youth, something old, something new:

1. Angel Song
2. The Highest Mountain
3. June Baby

Actually I showed Angel Song to Damien and Sarah Morrison. Still a sketch, currently played on autoharp. Wasn’t sure if it was substantial, as it’s kinda funny and a bit country, so it was fortifying to get both of their thumbs up. Means a lot to me as Damien’s songs are amazing and both of their musical knowledge is encyclopaedic.

Then I got my phone out and played the other two songs to Damien on headphones. He say yes!

Confidence builds. Confidence comes from the inside, but it certainly helps when people you respect say something nice.


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