Shrink Wrapped & Ready To Go

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.

Eat My Poll


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.


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”


“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.

Screw you, doubt.

So, I’ve mostly been recording vocals recently. As such I haven’t updated the blog, as all it would be is a less than endearing outpouring of self-doubt.

I spent 5 hours recording vocals on Saturday, and didn’t like any of it. So as a big (well, medium sized at least) “screw you” to the lack of confidence which rather pathetically follows me around, here is a video of me doing some singing.

Look out for what I think is rather unfortunately me dancing like my Dad during the instrumental bits. Also, I’ve never noticed before but I do appear to rub my nose on the pop shield an awful lot, lucky it’s my own personal nose-rubbed pop shield.

I left that effect on the video purely because it makes it look as though I have no eyes, which I like, for some reason.

All we hear is….. Radial Fractures

So, it appears that I angered the gods of bass. Having openly mocked the suggestion that not warming up to play could cause serious injury, they apparently took matters into their own hands because a week later I broke my arm. Admittedly, I didn’t break it actually playing bass, but it is clear to me that the ‘bass gods’ went and had a quiet word with the ‘clumsy lanky idiot playing football gods’ and arranged for me to injure myself. So, bass gods, I apologise.

My stupid arm has prevented me from doing much recording of my own. That hasn’t stopped me roping in a number of unsuspecting musicians, Caroline (violin/viola), Martin (piano) and Claire (viola). These recording sessions have followed a fairly common pattern.

Firstly I send the musician in question a recording of me playing the part badly (on a keyboard) and a score. They look over the score and mistake it for one that’s been written by somebody who knows what they’re doing. Assuming that as it looks like a proper score it will bear some relation to the part they’ve heard, they put it to one side. They turn up for the recording session and we start to record only to find out that my scores are in fact (in no particular order) in the wrong key, missing some pages, in the wrong time signature, only physically possible to play if you have 6 hands etc etc. We then spend some time working out what to do before the musician in question eventually bails me out with their general musical talent.

You would think that somebody who has written and recorded music for about 15 years would be able to respond to the question “are these meant to be quavers?” with something other than “sorry are you talking about crisps?”, but alas, I am entirely reliant on my computer for producing anything vaguely resembling a score.

Anyway, all three of them were absolutely brilliant and I am massively grateful for them giving up their time to help me out. Here are some pictures of Martin and Caroline in the studio, I completely forgot to take any of Claire so have created an artist’s impression. I might try to get a job doing those courtroom drawings next, as long as nobody turns up with a viola I would probably be fine.

As with the drums previously, the effect of replacing the synthesized or sampled versions of these instruments with the real thing can really help bring a track to life.

Here is a section of ‘Faces to Hide’ with synthesized strings.

and here is the version with the real thing, a massive improvement I hope you will agree 

It’s even more obvious in a quieter song….

Here is a snippet from ‘Chasing Shadows’ with me playing the piano (I say playing, it really consists of mashing the keys in the hope the right notes come out), and with synthesized strings.

and here is the same song now, with Martin playing the piano part and some viola from Claire

It should go without saying that I’m much, much happier with the newer versions of these songs. Chasing Shadows in particular has been transformed by having somebody who can play the piano with some sort of subtlety.

Next up, cello and backing vocals this week, then just my vocals to do before the real work starts when I have to mix it.

Cheers for reading.

The Ace of Bass

I’ve not updated the blog for a while, that doesn’t mean that I’m not making progress it just means the progress I am making is too mind numbingly boring to write about, nonetheless I shall try (and there’s an opening sentence that’s GUARANTEED to raise my readership figures).

Mostly I’ve been recording bass guitar parts. I’ve also been working with a violinist but I’m going to save that for the next post and instead thrill you with bass guitar information only.

I’m trying to be methodical as I work my way through, which goes against the grain somewhat. In what is either very organised or very sad (probably both), I’ve created a nice wall chart (essentially an excuse to get my colouring pens out).

A yellow box means ‘this song needs this instrument’, a black line through the yellow box means it’s done. So as you can see I’m getting there. Progress is slow but steady and each black line through a yellow box takes me slightly closer to finishing the album which I’ve now worked on for 9 months.

Having dazzled you with my exciting chart I will now move back to the bass guitar. I used to love playing bass in my school band, but these days I find recording it a pretty torturous affair. The drums and bass guitar hold everything together, if they are rhythmically a bit sloppy the whole song sounds loose and basically a bit crap. If they are together and on the money, it can make the whole recording sound much tighter. I am a decent bass player, but prone to lapses of concentration which can make the whole process a little frustrating.

Out of interest I looked up the following article to see how many of the criteria of a ‘good bassist’ I meet

Well it’s not a bad start, I do actually own a bass AND I have somewhere to practice, 2-0 to me. But then it all starts going a bit wrong … I’ve never had a bass guitar book, or a teacher, I don’t know what all the notes are called, I haven’t researched music theory, what the hell is a triad? I don’t think I’ve ever played a scale on the bass, in fact I’ve never played anything on bass that I didn’t write myself, I’ve never played music written for other instruments, and is there really such a thing as a bass pick (plectrum)? I just use my guitar plectrum to play.

But it’s not just the fact that I use a guitar plectrum, apparently even using an official bass one is something to be ashamed of… “For people who play with picks, people who use their fingers may ridicule you!” Wow, what kind of evil bastard musicians do these people hang around with? Should any fellow bass players be thinking of ridiculing me for this, I would like to point out that your bass playing will most likely go rapidly downhill once I poke you in the eye with a guitar plectrum 🙂

This also frightens me quite a bit… “Always ALWAYS warm up before playing. Failing to do so may result in permanent hand injuries!”

Right. Well today I’m going to the studio to record some more bass, acoustic guitar and piano, I guess I’d better run there in order to warm up and avoid any bass related hand maiming, wish me luck.


The Harry Effect

So having talked at length last month about Harry the drummer, I am going to risk inflating his ego slightly further.

Harry appears to have had a strange effect on my songwriting. I was in the studio on Monday trying to get a guitar part recorded, it wasn’t going very well and I kept forgetting it and arse-ing it up. Then, out of nowhere, a thought that has never occured to me before. “I should write it down”.

I don’t write anything down, I never have. I come up with a song, I record a rough version and then when it comes to playing it again I listen to it and work out what I did first time around. I know that doesn’t sound very productive, and that’s because it really isn’t. So Harry turning up with sheets of hand-written notes was something of an eye opener and this idea appears to have since been lurking in my head waiting for me to be a bit useless, it didn’t have to wait too long.

So to you it may look like a sheet of badly written notes, but to me it is quite an epiphony. Part of the problem is probably that I’ve always been quite good at playing things ‘from ear’ so I’ve kind of relied on that rather than thinking “how can I make this as easy for myself as possible”. The fact that it took a drummer to make me realise this speaks volumes!

I also took my new found organisation to another level when recording the piano for ‘Enforcers’. I’m not much of a piano player, but rather than do my usual, with failed attempt after failed attempt to play a part (resulting in me wanting only to set fire to the piano), I turned up with coloured stickers to mark out the keys for each chord in the piece. Again, this may look fairly obvious but it has never occured to me before.









The other area on which Harry has had an effect is my bank balance. Before he arrived I had recorded the school drum kit as a test, which is a pretty decent kit. However, Harry turned up with his special ‘DW’ kit and comparing the two recordings I suddenly remembered how important it is to invest in quality instruments. So therefore it is entirely his fault that I bought a new guitar on Friday.














As for the songs, I spent two days in the studio over the bank holiday and the songs are starting to build up nicely. It’s encouraging to occasionally go back and hear how the songs were a couple of months back, and then listen to the current versions.

Here is a clip from ‘Enforcers’ 6 weeks ago – Drum machine drums, synthesized piano, acoustic guitar…

…and here is a clip from it now (still nowhere near finished but coming along) – Real drums, real piano, other parts added.

Thanks as always for reading. Please send the link to anybody you think might be interested!


Drum n’ Bass

So with the drums finally recorded it’s time to get moving. First up, bass parts. I started my musical journey playing bass for ‘Amber’ when I was 15. Actually, “playing” is probably too strong a word, more like blindly hitting the strings in the hope that at least 50% of the notes would match what the others were doing.

The top one is us playing on the back of a lorry in a pub carpark, the other is us playing at a school fete, rock and roll! Aren’t my shoes shiny! Anyway, that is where my bass skills were first honed to perfection, despite the fact that my bass weighed more than I did and had a neck that was thicker than my arm.

So with such a wealth of bass experience I can’t possibly go wrong really. I am going to work on the tracks in batches of 3, mostly because I don’t write anything down and will forget how to play them if I try todo more.

I’ve written the first 3 and it’s just a case of practising them until I’m happy they’re good enough to record at the moment. Here’s a clip from ‘Fall Back’ as it stands currently, not very interesting with just Drum and Bass but this is where I’m at.

Also, here is another youtube clip, another acoustic track. This one is in black and white because it’s all arty and that.

What a difference a drum makes

What a difference a drum makes, or should I say a drummer.

It’s seemed like ages waiting but yesterday was drum recording day at last. Now, I’ve had some great drummers in the bands I’ve been in but they’ve never been the most organised of people, so when Harry emailed to say his car had failed its MOT and he couldn’t drive down it all seemed to be drummer business as usual.

However when we finally got him to the studio and he asked for a music stand for his hand written sheets of drum music and detailed notes for each song, I realised he was taking it pretty seriously.

I would like to say a massive thank you to Harry for the time he’s put into learning the songs, working on the drum parts, and giving up his weekend to record them. His professionalism belied his relatively young age and he can definitely go a long way with that attitude.

As I have mentioned before, having him down for the drumming was a bit of a leap of faith, I hadn’t really heard him play for 4 years (when he was 14 or 15). But I had heard enough good things to think it wasn’t too much of a risk. Nonetheless when we finally got the kit set up and I played the first track to his headphones for a practice run I was nervous to hear what he had come up with. The nerves lasted all of about 30 seconds and within a minute I was sitting in the control room with a huge grin on my face, it sounded awesome.

The drum machine vs drummer debate is an ultimately one sided argument in my opinion, despite the fact that a drum machine will never forget it’s sticks or turn up drunk to a rehearsal, there’s just no comparison for this type of music. There are clever people who can make programmed drums sound very close to the real thing, but I’m not one of them, no matter how hard I try.

So, to demonstrate here are two audio files. They are both the end section of a song called Healthy Distance. One is the version I sent Harry, with my drums to show him what I was after. The other is Harry’s version from yesterday. Only demo’s again at this stage, I’ve only spent 5 minutes mixing the drums but you should get my point nonetheless.

Hopefully that shows what a difference recorded drums can make, even just on a rough demo. If you only listened to one bar you might be fooled but over a whole section, Harry’s drumming adds so much!

Basically, the songs that I loved, I hoped the drums would help them live up to my expectations, and they did. The songs that I wasn’t yet 100% sure about, I hoped that the drums would bring them to life, and they really have.

So now the real work for me starts as I can start working on building the tracks up and doing some serious recording. Watch this space.

Singing Lessons

‘Keep your head up, maintain an open posture, don’t breathe too sharply,widen your jaw’. I’m pretty sure I was the only person thinking this in the Northam Stand as we belted out a rendition of “Nigel Adkins’ Red Army” at St Mary’s on Saturday afternoon. Most people were probably just thinking about football, and the fact that Nigel Adkins’ Red Army don’t really play in red at the moment but we sing it anyway because white army sounds a bit odd.

As it turns out, these singing lessons are really really hard. So as with the above example I am taking absolutely any opportunity to try and drum the suggested changes in.

When I booked that first singing lesson I thought I would turn up, be corrected on all the basic points of technique where I’m faltering, and then go away and put the new techniques into practice resulting in magical improvements. I believe I mentioned singing like Shirley Bassey at the time.

In reality it’s been really tough going.

I am actually making some progress but it’s a proper slog and much harder than I anticipated. I have built up quite a lot of bad habits over the years and although everything my teacher says makes total sense (we’ve talked about breathing, support, posture etc etc) it is really hard breaking those habits. I’ve gone back to lessons a couple of times thinking I’ve cracked one of the changes, only to be told I’m stil doing it the ‘James’ way. I guess it’s just a case of keeping on going and hoping it sticks.

As for the album. I am feeling really optimistic about the way the songs are sounding. Harry the drummer seems to like them, and as he’s the only person to have heard them all so far that is good news.

I am going to have to think of some sort of way to get it ‘out there’ when it’s eventually finished. In general this blog gets around 40 views per post, which is great and thanks to everyone who reads it, but given how much time I’m putting into this album I would love to think it would be heard by more than 40 people. Any suggestions welcome if you have some miracle marketing ploy.

Finally, another very short snippet. I’ve written a song with cello and violin parts. This is just a clip from the demo I’ve sent to Harry so just programmed drums, rough guitar and at the moment the ‘strings’ are programmed too so require quite a lot of imagination when listening, but I think with real strings this will sound pretty good. At the moment I may have a violinist but I’m not sure about cello, so if you know anyone who might be interested let me know 🙂


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