Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Solo Album 2: Blog #2 (Woodwind and Brass to the Moon)

I'm trying to blog a little more often, so here’s a second (mini) update re: the production of my next solo album...

As indicated previously I'm already tracking parts for several songs while others are still forming. At this point there are about nine pieces 'on the go', with a few others hatching or close to existing. I don't yet know how many will make the final cut, but it’s already clear that this album will have a longer running time than the previous.

Recent sessions have focused on recording the French horn and flute parts. My old friend Jacqueline Kershaw performed the horn lines I had written - This will be the third time she's appeared on record with me having previously featured on several 'Faith In Worthless Things' tracks as well as my production of 'Propeller' (by GRICE). Jax and I go back to our early school days so it's great to be making music together after all these years :-)

Vivien Goodwin-Darke is the flautist for this project and performs both written parts and a little free-improv. Viv is a member of Billy Bottle & The Multiple whose recent album 'Unrecorded Beam' I produced. It's so great to work with her again and add her flavour into the mix. And speaking of "flavour" she makes a mean 'swamp' soup (tastes better than it sounds) which helped fuel our recording session ;-)

Both Jax and Viv are pictured above during the actual sessions...

Troy is soon to record an additional track and I'm currently prepping several demos for my second drummer / percussionist to do his thing in a couple of weeks, as well as a guest bassist who will most likely appear on one song. I'll reveal more next time... There are lots of sessions to be arranged with players located all over the world, so the next few months will be busy (but interesting).

In other news I'm currently arranging backing vocals for several tracks on Fabio Trentini's upcoming 3rd Moonbound album. Lisa will sing the parts which we began recording just a few days ago :-) It's sounding great!

More soonage x


Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Solo Album 2: Blog #1 (Dreams, Demos & Drums)

So, my next solo album is now properly "in production" (cue virtual fanfare) :-) As the year progresses this project will doubtless compete with my other musical work commitments and periodically rest on the shelf, but right now I'm ultra focused on the songs (some completely written and arranged / others still emerging) that will fill up my next circular piece of plastic... Huzzah!

Though it's early days I already feel that this is the strongest set of compositions I've penned to-date, both in terms of the musical and lyrical content, but also simply (yet importantly) as an uncompromised reflection of where I'm at right now. None of that guarantees an audience of course, but I'm unusually at ease with what I'm doing which must be a sign of some sort.

I've recently put together demos (mainly played / programmed via MIDI keys) that both I and contributing players will use as a road map, and in fact am still doing so as new songs emerge – Some parts are written exactly as they'll be performed, whilst others give the players a little room for interpretation. It's the 'old-fashioned' approach of writing songs up-front and leaving fewer arrangements to the production process, though one could also make the case that this *is* part of the production process... I like to work in a variety of ways, and there'll doubtless be a lot of digital arranging as parts are recorded, however I'm starting out with more defined compositions / arrangements than I have previously. Who knows if it'll end exactly the way it began? That's part of the fun though, eh? ;-)

Some (though not all) players from 'Faith In Worthless Things' are returning, with a number of new folks in the mix. I'm keen to move things around and incorporate new people as a way of keeping things fresh and also best serving the material. Naturally my old friend and Unsung Productions colleague Markus Reuter will appear, as will my vocalist wife Lisa, though I'll be taking lead vocal duties on several songs this time which may surprise some folks... The words and melodies of 'FiWT' largely came from me but were channelled through Lisa's beautiful voice – That gave the album a particular quality that was conducive to the landscape I was painting, however this time I'll be more obviously present in the recordings. It's partly a confidence / challenge thing – I've reached a point where I'm (somewhat) less inhibited as a 'performer'. But it's equally (maybe mostly?) a reaction to the type of material I've been writing, much of which felt like I should deliver it myself.

The first major sessions have already taken place: US-based drummer Troy Jones (whose wonderful 'New Peace' album I mixed last year) is one of two players occupying the drum stool for this album. He has already recorded drums and percussion for five songs, and will appear on at least one more... Initially I was hesitant about producing drums long-distance, though I had no doubts about Troy's abilities. Nonetheless the sessions turned out to be incredibly productive, positive and fun, with Troy responding well to direction and quickly learning to interpret my demos and commentary as if we were working in the room together! Lots of e-mails were exchanged, as well as Skype conversations and file transfers, but the results prove that the relationship is ultimately more important than location or distance. I've already devoted considerably more time to arranging the drums on this record than I did for the whole of 'FiWT', which further indicates the stylistic differences and direction of this project... 'Faith' was deliberately lite on drums (for the most part), but from from the outset I envisaged this set as being more rhythmically dynamic, and Troy's brilliant contributions have solidified that. The above snap of him was taken whilst hitting things for my album :-)

Next-up are sessions for both French horn and flute, taking place (this time more locally and in-person) over the next week. I'll also be heading to Berlin in a few weeks to work closely with Markus on his contributions... I'll blog periodically (come on, you know I don't do "daily updates" ;-)) during the production process and aim to publish at least a few pics along the way.

That's all for now. Cheerio and thanks for caring x