So the album is out tomorrow, that means I had better finish this story today. I will post links and ways to buy the album tomorrow morning some time.
Yesterdays post ran up to the end of 2005. Now begins the years of completely useless attempts to record an album.
Album attempt #1
In late 2006, with the band having sadly finished, I decided that I was going to record an album, I was going to put every ounce of effort possible into it. I called myself ‘Me Grimlock’ and the music was along similar lines to the Jagaver stuff. I got four songs before losing momentum and not getting any further. This is Grimlock by the way, in case you are trying to remember.
As well as only getting four songs, I really didn’t put that much effort in. I didn’t find a drummer, I recorded it all at home and mixed it by myself. I quite like the songs though…
So attempt one fizzled out.
Album Attempt #2
As we went into 2007, having completely given up on ‘Me Grimlock’, I decided I would try to get some acoustic pop style songs together for an album. I can put clips for every single song I managed because I only did two. Pathetic effort!
King of Awkward
Album Attempt #3
I tried again later in 2007, basically I couldn’t make my mind up what style of music I wanted to do. I started recording stuff with Scott (who ended up co-producing the current album), these were generally lager fuelled recording session so were not the most productive ever, but were probably the most fun. This was definitely the best attempt though, we were working on these until 2009 but I basically got into a flap and decided I didn’t really like the songs any more (even they were actually pretty bloody good) and abandoned it.
In fact, listening back now, I remember there was actually a song which dealt with the fact that I was becoming entirely incapable of finishing any musical projects.
This is the only song we actually finished (I think), Scott mixed it. It’s amazing that Scott ever agreed to work on ’Squandered This Daylight’ with my given the amount of time he had previously put into a load of songs that never got listened to.
Staring at the Sun
Album Attempt #4
I suspect this is getting boring now, it certainly was for me in 2009, which saw another attempt. 5 songs this time, most of them never got heard outside of my spare room. It’s quite ridiculous, my computer is full of songs with quite a lot of potential which I never managed to finish properly, there are hundreds of the bloody things! Look, here’s another.
Living in the Past
Album Attempt #5
In 2010 I entered something called FAWM (February Album Writing Month). It’s a challenge to write and record an album in the month of February and is pretty popular. All over the world useless musicians use it to give themselves a deadline and actually finish something. Do you think I did? No. Of course I didn’t. I recorded 7 songs and then gave up. These were going back to being a bit more electronic, they were ok but again I lacked the conviction to push through with it really.
I was clearly getting pretty desperate, because I even recorded something that sounds suspiciously like house music.
Album Attempt #6
That brings us up to this album attempt, and barring any massive internet explosion destroying Amazon and iTunes, it will be released tomorrow and I can definitely say that I (and many other people) have put about as much time and effort into it as has been possible. I will post the links and preview MP3′s for it in the morning, and remember that even if you totally hate my music it’s for two amazing causes and you don’t actually HAVE to listen to it
I will end this four parter with a quick MP3 timeliney thing…
I finished the last post in the year 2000. I was slowly getting better, and more experimental. This is a clip from ‘Talamorphis’, which was pretty wierd but specially requested by my good friend Tom Morton (the other half of Flameboy, see part 1)!
I was getting more and more into electronic music, and using some wonderfully difficult to operate software called Scream Tracker which I am tempted to download right now. It was pretty much amazing and geeky.
Although I’ve so far been pretty blunt about how bad the music was, I do really enjoy listening back to the songs.
It was amazing fun, those first few years, I was constantly recording, learning and improving. For the first time I had found something I was genuinely passionate about. In two years I had gone from this…
To stuff like this…
Fair to say that’s quite an improvement. Although there’s still a bit of an Alvin, Simon, Theodore type quality to my voice.
Now it’s time for the angst I am afraid. After the initial burst of improvement, I completely stalled at this point. I bought a 12 track recorder but didn’t really have the skills to use it properly. I did record a mostly electronic album in 2001 called ’10 Steps Ahead’, I thought it was pretty interesting but it was met with a frightening lack of enthusiasm by anybody I played it to.
Until leaving college, I always had a close group of friends, heavily into music, who I could immediately play stuff to. They were pretty generous and also into the same music as me, so I generally got a confidence building response. But they had all gone off to uni now whilst I was working as a salesman in Totton. Now I was playing stuff to people I worked with, or the blokes I went to football with, and they were not into music in the same way, nor were they particularly bothered about playing to my insecurities.
Stripped of my bubble of ready-made fans, my confidence took a massive hit. I had to face up to the fact that my music still wasn’t good enough to interest anybody other than my closest mates. I stopped recording, I still loved it but failed to see the point when nobody other than me got any enjoyment from it.
Eventually, I stopped being a mopey git, got up off my backside and in September 2002 I took my stupid floppy hair to Brighton to sort the situation out by studying Music Tech. To be honest I wasn’t that optimistic, at the time I thought I had probably peaked as a musician (because I was an idiot) but I thought I should try something.
It was the best decision I ever made, suddenly I was surrounded by recording studios, awesome musicians, and a whole host of amazing tutors. My music was transformed. The first thing I did was rope a drummer into playing on one of my songs and we recorded it in the studio at the uni.
Listening now I still get goosebumps, this one song meant so much to me, to get some positive feedback after my confidence taking such a hit. Suddenly I was playing this to people and they were surprised, impressed, they liked it. This is ‘Stuck Inside’, the song which reignited my passion for making music.
I was on a roll now. I started writing more and more with the intention of getting a band together. I was getting more confident with my vocals and better at recording. I wrote this song ‘Broken Dreamer’ to play to potential band mates.
I found my band, we were called Jagaver. Jack (drums), Dom (guitar) and Naho/Bug (bass). We bloody rocked.
Naho left and was replaced with Dan and we still rocked. Here is Broken Dreamer as a band (I can’t remember who played bass but no matter I hope as they were both equally awesome!).
For a while it seemed as though things might take off for us, but it never quite happened. We had an absolutely incredible gig at The Freebut, which was pretty much the coolest venue in Brighton, and got played on XFM, but we never managed to capitalise properly. Was amazing fun though and I still listen back to the songs with a lot of pride.
As I had the band for my more serious side, I was still doing some more light-hearted solo stuff. In 2005 I released an album in Brighton called ‘We May Be Tall and Furry’, which was a bit of an electro-pop fest. People seemed to love it (although unfortunately the degree moderators didn’t really get it!). I actually played a couple of weddings and birthdays off the back of this, which was fun. Here is ‘Hunting the Hunters’.
That brings us up to the end of 2005, the end of my uni course. I had come a pretty long way from those early days with a tape recorder. Tomorrow I will look at the period from 2006-2010, which is when this album blog started! Cheers for reading and listening.
So yesterday I took you back to my quite frankly embarrassing musical beginnings. Today I continue the build up to my album release by moving on towards the millennium.
It’s May 1999. Manchester United have just beaten Bayern Munich on “that night in Barcelona”, Shanks and Bigfoot are at number 1 with ‘Sweet Like Chocolate’, and I was enjoying the benefits of the newly introduced £3.60 minimum wage at McDonalds.
The last solo music I released was in September 98′, but I hadn’t been slacking, oh no, I had been honing my craft (and there was a lot of honing to be done). As the world hurtled towards a new age of technology I was ahead of the game. I had taken the bus to Shirley, gone into Fret Music, and come out with one of these.
This cost me over a months worth of McDonalds wages. Thousands of Big Mac’s. Days spent mopping floors. But now at last I had it. My four track. One cassette tape, limitless possibilities. Ok, so it was a bit limited but when you can’t actually play any instruments properly 4 tracks is MORE than enough. I immediately set to work and released ‘Toxic Jumper – Slam Dunk Da Punk’. Here’s a clip from a song which I think was supposed to be a witty response to the grown ups who were trying to get me to do something with my life, ’Lazy Git’, with lyrics that I am sure will delight my current employers (NB these lyrics are the opinion of a 17 year old james consterdine and not the one who now works in a school so you can’t sack me, probably).
It’s still really bad of course, but am I wrong to say there is some sort of tune emerging? I also had a good stab at murdering ‘Hey Jude’ by turning it into a punk song about a surfer, although I do quite like the lyric “remember, to stop sharks biting your heart” for some reason.
I came to a realisation around this time, I was trying to record funny songs but I really wasn’t funny, at all. So I switched to being very very serious instead.
I ended the millenium with a tape recorded under the name ‘Demon’. The album was called ‘Blurry at the Edges’ and for some reason had a picture of Zippy on the cover. It was mostly loud and guitary but I was also getting interested in other types of music, there is a brilliantly painful dance track called ‘Suburbia’ which repeats the following for 8 minutes… “C’mon!”
I still couldn’t sing, but my guitar playing was improving and I was listening to A LOT of Placebo. This clip from ‘Reunion’ sounds a bit like music, I think.
I arrived in the year 2000 with a four track and a fairly consistent set of 5 or 6 people who were prepared to listen to my music. But I was about to throw them all by getting heavily into trip-hop. You might think it’s not possible to do good trip-hop on a four track, and you would be right, but I gave my Massive Attack impression a bloody good low-fi go. I will leave you with a clip from my first recording of the new millennium, the angst ridden and ever so slightly creepy ‘Does He Do it Better’. Thanks for reading, in the next part I will spend two exciting years working as a sales junior, before moving to Brighton and starting a noisy band.
You want to read this post, you really do, it has clips from my music when I was 16, if you think I’m bad now wait till you hear this!!!
We are days away from the album release, I am just waiting for confirmation! In the meantime I am going to put together a few nostalgic posts tracking my progress from a crap musician into whatever it is that I am now (a crap musician with lots of equipment probably).
To start this series of posts off we are heading right back to 1998, oh yes, Tony Blair was the hope of a nation, Oasis were amazing, the millennium dome was going to be incredible, and I had just bought a guitar and a tape recorder. My debut EP “Toxic Jumper – Perspiration Overload” was about to be unleashed upon Peter Symonds College, and bloody hell it was appalling! I have listened to all of it, and really don’t want to play any of it to you. In the end I’ve ignored great tracks like ‘Typical Housewife’ and a cover of Whigfield’s ‘Think Of You’ and opted for a short sequence from the hilarious ‘My Favourite Bands’, a song about rubber bands. Prepare yourself, I mean it.
“Once I needed something, to erase some pencil, but I didn’t have a rubber only some small lentils” – Lyrics need some work I think.
1998 then saw the release of not only my second, but also my third album. I can honestly say that the phrase ‘quantity over quality’ has NEVER BEEN MORE APPLICABLE. The topically named ‘GCSE.P’ and it’s follow-up ’Be a Horsey’ (I have no idea) were both equally as terrible as ‘Perspiration Overload’ and so I have neglected to include any clips. Take the clip you heard, multiply by 14 and you have these two albums.
“I hate Croatians, why do they always fight? It would be better if Whitney Houston was Croatian, because she’s the queen of the night” – Simply finding words that rhymed was apparently enough for me to consider lyrics finished back then.
In the Christmas holiday of 1998 I started recording with Tom Morton of ‘Lardpony’ fame. Under the name ‘Flameboy’ we recorded the tolerance preaching ’Big Gay Bauble E.P’.
It’s still pretty appalling, there’s no getting away from it, but listen REEEEALLY carefully, there’s some sort of progression here, there is multi-tracking, there are drums (sort of)! You may feel that multiple tracks of my musicianship is just amplifying the pain, but this was pretty cutting edge for us at the time. I still couldn’t sing or play guitar but my eyes had been opened to the joys of owning a four-track. Also, Tom would regularly tell me that my lyrics were crap and force me to think of ones that were marginally less crap. Here’s a clip from ‘Power Cuts Ong’.
“He brought some candles, which allowed us to see, because we couldn’t turn the lights on, obviously” – Ok, so it’s hardly Shakespeare, but it’s better than my line about the lentils, that’s progress.
That brings us to the end of my most prolific ever year of recording. After this I appear to have taken a break until May 1999, I think the reaction to those initial 3 tapes may have shocked me into actually trying to learn how a guitar worked. You have all that to look forward to in my next post in the lead up to my album release!
I’ve decided that when the album eventually appears for sale I am going to give any money it makes to charity. It might not be a lot but I hope it’s something. Specifially I will give half to Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research and half to Prostate Cancer UK.
Those who know me will know why Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research is close to my heart, they really are an incredible charity. Prostate Cancer UK was supported by my Uncle Clive, who was always massively encouraging and positive when we talked about my music. It was also entirely his fault that I ended up on a stage in Cuba rapping Wild Wild West (a moment that, believe it or not, directly led to me starting this album project) so the donation to them will be in his memory. I hope that the work I’ve put into the album will go on to make some money for these two charities. I will set up some way to keep track of what the album has raised.
As for the album itself, it has been distributed and I’m just waiting for it to go live now. It should appear on Amazon (CD and MP3) and also iTunes and Google Play (MP3 only). The CD will be £8 but I’m not sure about the MP3 version price as the sites set that themselves. I’ve had the CD’s professionally produced so this isn’t something I’ve just burnt on my computer, they are even shrink wrapped, oh yes, shrink wrapped.
I will update this site when I have a definite release date but whilst we wait, I’ve been told (by one person) that the snippets I uploaded comparing the original demos to the finished version were quite interesting. So here is one from track four on the album ‘Chasing Shadows’. I think it’s quite a good one to show how songs develop, as the original demo was recorded on acoustic guitar, but it developed into a piano based number which has the same lyrics and melody but a COMPLETELY different feel to it..
So here is the original rough demo, acoustic guitar and some slightly jaunty drums.
I did quite like it initially but after a few listens it felt like there wasn’t really any emotion in there, it was a bit empty, so I tried it on the piano. I definitely have my own style on piano. Give me the music for ‘Celebrate’ by Kool and the Gang and it will come out haunting and eerie! It had exactly that effect on this song.
When recording time came it was my cousin Martin who played the piano part, since his technique does not involve holding down the sustain pedal down with a door wedge.
So here is the final album version, which had become considerably less jaunty and a lot more gentle but I think it has a much better feel to it.
So there you go. I hope most people can see the merit of the final version over the original despite it’s less jolly nature, if not let me know and I will travel back to 2011 and smack myself around the face a few times.
Two years ago, I named this blog ‘The neverending album’. This morning I was working on a post and WordPress questioned my spelling of ‘neverending’. It’s never done so before, but I looked it up on the oxford dictionary website and apparently it’s meant to be ‘never-ending’.
I feel a bit confused by this. I know I’ve never been the greatest writer, I tend to ramble and use far too many commas,. I don’t understand apostrophes very well, I don’t know whether the words commas and apostrophes should have apostrophes. But for the most part I don’t worry myself over it.
However, this is the title of my blog, and it has apparently been wrong for over two years! Is this why I don’t get many readers? Have people been telling their friends to look up my blog only for their searches for the never-ending album to yield nothing? Did the head of Sony Music stumble across my music only to dismiss me because I don’t have the aptitude to spell check my sodding blog title? Damn you, hyphen. Damn you ruining a promising career in making slightly downbeat music. It’s clearly a conspiracy. I have friends who are English teachers. Nobody told me. You’re all in it together aren’t you? You, and the English language, and the hyphens. Damn you.
I wonder if the producers of ‘The Neverending Story’ came to the same realisation in 1984. Maybe they will read this blog and realise that they too, are complete idiots.
Anyway, back to the album, it is being printed as you read this. Well, maybe not exactly as you read it, I don’t really know. They don’t have an update thing like when you order a Dominos pizza. It might’ve already been printed, or it might still be waiting, but some time soon or recently, my album will be or will have been printed. Clear? I expect it to be on sale within a month, at last!
Whilst trying hard not to get on and do the artwork, I started playing a bit of piano. I was trying to think about how to play these songs solo, and whilst most work on a guitar, a few don’t. The opening track ‘Belong’ for example, is Cello led in the recorded version, so it sounds a bit lacking on just an acoustic guitar. Here’s a clip from the recorded version.
So despite not actually being able to play the piano I’ve tried to put a piano version together. I think it’s ok, actually.
My album is finally getting mastered. There was a bit of a false start when I paid £177 to a studio that apparently closed two years ago, but after a fine piece of investigationing (yes, wordpress, I know this is not a word but I like it and I am stubborn) I managed to track down the non-studio owner and reclaim my mastering money, excellent investigationing.
So now I have found a new, very enthusiastic and talented mastering person, who has told me that “You just need to release it now, set it free, and let it have a life of its’ own!”. I like this.
As I stand on the verge of doing so though, I wonder if this is how my parents felt when I left home and went off for a life of my own. Actually, I’m probably a bad example, I reckon my album is at least capable of boiling a potato (thanks to my mate Dave for teaching me ten years ago that you have to chop it up before putting it in the water, yes, seriously).
Whilst I sit at home, hoping that my album is making the most of its potential after years of nurturing, will it actually be eating kebabs and stealing shopping trolleys? Whilst I hope that it’s getting noticed by the people who matter (record companies) will it actually be drinking absinthe and spending its time trying to chat up the latest Pixie Lott album?
Will I get a phone call, “oh yeah, that money you gave me for promotional work, I spent it, on fish fingers mostly”.
If that’s the case, I may have to wait about 5 years before my album grows up and actually starts putting some effort in, and given the speed at which I produce music these days, I will probably be at least halfway through my next album by then.
Anyway, I’m sure I had a point when I started this. The album goes off for mastering next week and so we are creeping, veeeeeeery slowly towards it being finished. Hold yourselves back people (mum), not long to wait now.
Here’s another sneaky preview as I prepare to set my album free into the world.
Shall I leave it there for today? Nah, I suppose I should provide a little more info. When I chose the name ‘The Neverending Album’ for this blog it was meant to be a slightly amusing title based on the fact I never finish anything, 18 months on and it is MOCKING ME!
Right, that’s got that off my chest. As it happens we are actually making progress, but it’s not the type of progress that is anyway interesting to write about, I will try though.
Last week I emailed Scott with the latest mix of Belong and he replied to say he liked it but thought the bass was getting too loud towards the end and could do with a 1db cut so I replied and said I couldn’t really hear what he meant and so we both re-listened to it 73 and times and eventually NO IT’S JUST TOO BORING!!!!!
Let’s just say it’s nearly there. The tracks are mixed and we are discussing the order. I still don’t have definite artwork but have a couple of possibilities.
My attention is starting to turn towards what to do with the ‘release’ of the album, and this is where it gets polltastic. I’ve already decided to donate most of whatever pathetic profit I make to Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research, but I don’t know how much to ask for. On the one hand, I’ve spent 18 months recording this, a huge amount of effort has gone in from numerous friendly musicians, and I want to get as much as I can for the charity…. On the other hand, it is just me, and realistically are people going to pay the same amount as they would for a Bryan Adams, Bonjovi or Meatloaf album?
So, poll 1…
Poll 2 is how I should go about marketing it… I mean, I could do some sort of launch event, but that has the potential to be me, Laura and my Mum sat alone in a pub somewhere. Now don’t get me wrong I’m sure we would have a lovely evening, but we might just struggle to hit whatever bar spend we’d agreed with the pub (though I’m sure if I got mum onto the Baileys we’d have a shot).
The final stages of mixing this album remind me somewhat of working at McDonalds back in my college days…
“That floor needs mopping”
“But I just mopped it”
“Oh, well do it again, it isn’t perfectly clean”
“Where isn’t it perfectly clean?”
“I’m not sure but I can just tell it isn’t”
5 minutes later
“I’ve re-mopped it”
“You’ve left a mop mark”
“You’ve made a mop mark, there in the corner. People can see it has been mopped.”
“Of course they can, they just saw me mop it”
“I know, but it needs to be better finished”
2 Minutes later
“I’ve mopped up the mop mark.”
“I know, well done, but now it looks uneven because the rest of the floor has already dried. You will have to start again.”
Ok, so was probably a slightly more enthusiastic employee than that. You don’t get your gold star for “cleaning and mopping and stuff like that” by talking back to the boss. Now, I’ve forgotten what point I was making. Hang on…..
Oh YES! It’s like mixing an album. I’m not painting Scott as the perfectionist boss, at least his suggestions all make sense, but it’s similar in that every time you change something, it creates a new problem, sometimes creating one that you can’t quite put your finger on. I turn the bass down -2db, suddenly the reverb on the vocal sounds a little heavy, reduce the amount of reverb but now the vocal sounds a bit thin, adjust the eq on the vocal but now the bloody bass sounds too loud again!
You really could go on forever with it, it’s definitely the part of the whole process I find hardest. We have however slogged away and at last have 5 tracks pretty much finished, and it feels as though we are closing in on the others.
It really is hard to get a perspective on songs when you’ve been working on them for so long. One thing that has helped is revisiting the original demo tracks I recorded and comparing to where they are now. I’ve put together a little comparison track…
The track below starts out as the original demo for Faces to Hide, which is essentially in the style of most of my music before this album. Programmed drums, strings from a keyboard, both lead and backing vocals my own, guitar recorded at home. It starts as the old demo and then switches back and forth with the current mix, hopefully it’s pretty easy to tell where the demo switches with the final track.
Apart from emailing back and forth with Scott, trying to get these mixes sorted, I’ve started to think about artwork and also how I’m going to release the album, so we really are getting closer, slowly.