End of an album

So, The Neverending Album ended. Not entirely sure what to do next!

A couple of months on from it’s release, and a big thank you to everybody that bought it. It has raised around £320 for the charities. Sales have now ground to a halt, but I still have 40 CD’s sitting in my lounge. Now that the novelty of having a professionally made CD has worn off I don’t really want 40 copies myself!

If you’ve already got a copy but think you know somebody who would like it, please pass it on. I’ve tried to get it advertised in papers etc, and have sent it off to radio stations, but not had much joy. So a bit of word of mouth advertising would be great.

Hopefully, if that sells a few more, Laura can have that corner of the lounge back, and I can go back to trying to work out what to do now that the 3 years spent on this album has finished.

Cheers

James

A Trip Back in Time – Part 4, The Neverending Album Attempts

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.

me-grimlock-fight-sharkticons

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…

Tunnel Vision

Stay Young

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!

Angry Teenagers 

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.

Useless Guy 

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.

Throttle 

I was clearly getting pretty desperate, because I even recorded something that sounds suspiciously like house music.

Stop Again

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…

James

 

 

A Trip Back in Time – Part 3, The Brighton Years

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.

scream23

 

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.

jimmyband

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.

Jagaver Gig Photos 1 013

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!).

band

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’.

tallandfurry

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.

A Trip Back in Time – Part 2, From Comedy Punk to Creepy Trip-Hop

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.

fostex

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.

20130320_213834

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!”

demon

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.

A Trip Back in Time – Part 1, 1998

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.

20130319_202144

“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.

20130319_203536 copy

“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’.

20130319_211231

“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!

Hope you don’t have nightmares, James.

If you scroll down past the ramblings you’ll see me playing piano

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.

Eat My Poll

OH GOD I AM STILL WORKING ON THIS BLOODY ALBUM!

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).

So, Poll 2.

As always, thanks for reading.

James

In pursuit of perfection (and a mop mark free floor)

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”

“what?”

“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.

A liking for Recycling

You know it’s been too long since you updated your blog, when your password no longer works. You know it’s REALLY been to long when you realise that’s because you’re trying to sign into blogspot.com instead of WordPress.

Having finally found my way here, a quick update. 5 songs are mixed and just need a small amount of tweaking, 4 songs are recorded and partially mixed but not ‘properly’ mixed yet, and 1 song is being reworked.

The song being reworked was called ‘Beliefs’. It’s sometimes hard to admit that a song just isn’t working out, especially after putting so much time into it. In this case, it wasn’t that hard. Every time I listened to it I wanted to go back in time and punch myself in the face, I hated the verse, I hated the chorus. It wasn’t actually bad, it was just so decidedly average in every single way that I could feel my brain melting with mediocrity as I listened. It was the ‘Ford Escort’ of songs, not fast, not slow, not angry, not happy, not sad, not making a point, not anything, just….ok.

But, there were a few things I liked, and which could possibly be salvaged. The drums were quite cool, and it would be a shame to waste the violin. So I set about recycling the track.

I started with this… This is the instrumental part of the old chorus (which as I said, is ok).

I cut out the bits I did like, the drums and violin, in fact I took just the first half of the violin, then I looped it.

and then simply started playing over the top, and the start of a new song was born from the ashes.

The next job was to build it up a bit, bass, more guitars etc…

But it’s still missing something, what happens if I apply some heavy reverb and some distortion to the drum loop?

No distortion –

Distortion –

Ooooooh. So now we have…

Maybe for a bit of variation later on I could add more strings. But none of the originals work with the new melody except for the small bit I have. How does it sound backwards?

and with the original violin too? Quite good actually (I nearly wrote nice, but realise I can never again use that to describe something in a positive way).

So before you know it, the start of a quite cool sounding new track.

I’ve built the track up a bit further, it has some new lyrics now, but having gone that far with the ‘recycling’ I couldn’t shake the feeling that it would be much improved if I could get Harry to put a new drum track together, rather than relying on the loops. The resulting ‘recycled song’ will be a bit like Trigger’s broom (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pbha4XclSMU), it’s the same song but it’s just had new drums, new guitar parts, new vocals, different chords, the melody is different, the lyrics have changed, BUT….there is a 2 second violin loop from the original.

So I have Harry booked in for March 20th, and once that’s recorded I really am nearly there, and you will be the first to know about it, provided I can find my way back to this blog.

James

Join the Caravan, of James

If you’ve ever thought to yourself “I would really like to see four versions of James performing an acapella version of one of his tracks”, and let’s be honest who hasn’t, you’re in the right place…

Laura and I recently watched a film called Julie & Julia (obviously I wanted to watch something more manly, like ‘The Devil Wears Prada’ but this was Laura’s choice), which had been written based on a succesful blog. It was the first film ever to be adapted from a blog.

I did briefly wonder whether my blog could be similarly adapted. Unfortunately, I concluded it would require a huge amount of artistic licence to make it film-worthy. I can’t really picture a decent trailer even… “THE NEVERENDING ALBUM. The story of a man, sitting in a room, picking up a guitar, breaking a string, changing the string, doing some singing, deleting the singing, doing the singing again, deleting the singing, emailing Scott, doing the singing again…” You see where I’m going with that.

I guess something could be made of having to drive to Trowbridge to pick up Harry, maybe it could be a race against time for some reason, or perhaps I could be chased by the headmaster of the school I work at, in a Ferrari, angry that I’m not paying for using the studio (not that I’m supposed to, but that could be added too).

Nope, it would be a crap film.

The only thing it would have going for it is the potential for a good, old fashioned montage. This could revolve around my singing. I’m currently finishing off the vocals for the album and the singing lessons I had a year ago are finally paying off.

The montage could start with me struggling to hit a note, and getting frustrated, looking up to the sky and screaming “NOOOOOOOOO”. Then the music could kick in (something along the lines of ‘You’re the Best’ from the original Karate Kid film). Over this music I would be shown doing chin ups whilst singing scales, standing in the crane position whilst practicing my breathing, improving my singing posture by some obsure method like tying a zebra to the back of my head to help me keep my chin up. Then the end shot where I’m suddenly singing like Charlotte Church.

Nope. It would still be a crap film.

Oh well. Onto the reason for the title of the post. As I said, my singing lessons are finally paying off. I took a number of things from those lessons… A greater understanding of how sounds are physically produced, a better idea of my strengths and limitations (and how to gear my writing around them), but most of all I took confidence. Lizzie (my singing teacher) simply gave me a lot more confidence in the voice I already had, and gave me the belief that if I practiced I was a decent singer. For that alone, the lessons were worth every penny. Some of the technical stuff she tought me has perhaps not stuck, I’ve found it incredibly hard to change singing habits ingrained over 15 years, but the confidence has stuck (mostly), and for me to no longer be completely riddled with doubt over my singing is just brilliant.

To demonstrate this point, I have recorded an acapella version of a song (a bit like the Housemartins, although not quite as cheerful, hence the slightly obscure post title) and uploaded it to youtube. Just over a year ago I would NEVER have had the confidence to do this.

I know I’m still never going to win x-factor (although I do appear to have the wavy hand motions you need to be succesful), but for the first time ever really, I’m almost comfortable with it.

HAPPY CHRISTMAS!!

(In case the video doesn’t work, here’s the link… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yP9wqV_Dvq4)

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