First thing, I spontaneously do some fliers for the acts who are on at the Kamel Klub for the rest of the month and e-mail them as TIFF files for them to print out and distribute. I must remember to do this earlier and for more people. Send some to Rich Barnard, Beowulf and Katrina (who will be headlining next week)
I spend a lot of time looking at/for nonsense on the internet. It has to be said that there’s a lot of nonsense on the internet to find.
Simon Seligman puts tape of Hugh Hopper and £5.00 not through the front door. I’d said that I might go to the Human Soundwave Company tonight (mainly to get out of the house), but now I do not need to. he must have wandered all the way over from Queen’s Park. am getting quite nervous of tuesday’s recording – he wants to do four hours of recording and distill it down to a full length CD. I’m not sure that the ratio works, or what I can do to improve it.
Do not get to the Soundwave tonight. Make colossal pizza instead. Colossal pizza is a great comfort.
Ben calls about maybe going over to see him this evening. In the event I decide to stay in and try to finish the Nick cover – it’s taking longer than I though it would.
Someone calls me saying they have got my number from someone called Julia (?) and that they would like a gig. What, just like that? It transpires (several times during the conversation) that he is just arrived in London. Well, fine, I suppose. I do clubs so that I can book people I’ve seen and like. What I say is that I only book people that I’ve seen play. He finds this somewhat mystifying, I think. I’ve booked up completely so that I don’t have to talk to people who want gigs. That may sound hard-hearted, but please be aware that I do try to get out to open-mikes wherever possible, where anybody interesting will already be playing. I’ll book them there. Possibly on the spot. It’s been known. Whenever I’ve given in to the blandishments of a cold caller it’s been a disaster. An even bigger disaster than usual.
So I gave him my mobile number. Altogether now: Doh!
My Pratchett addiction has now moved on to encompass Carpe Jugulum (which I have just finished), and Maskerade (which I have just begun).
Save those fliers for Woodstock and send them as GIF and TIFF files as I said I would. It’s a shame I have to pronounce the fact that I’ve successfully done what I said I would from the rooftops (or, indeed, across the world on the Internet), since I hoped I was more reliable than that.
I’m planning to update this site in Dreamweaver in future (I’ve done it all typing the HTML straight into BBEdit so far, which is why it’s so spartan), so I have a look around it. It would make some things easier, but I have to look into things like this (the Diary) which is inefficient, but not painfully so in BBEdit (essentially I have to copy all the HTML tags, update them and write each day’s entry in between), but no more efficient in Dreamweaver, and with an overhead in confusion for all its WYSIWYGness. But there would be more scope for Bells and, indeed, Whistles. And possibly my mooted Absurdly Overdone Flash Version.
So most of the day is spent either making nine parallel versions of web pages (in nine different languages) and their attendant graphics or waiting to be briefed on same.
Apart from that…?
I correctly guess that Steve Chin is referencing Gypsy on the VAC message board. I am getting increasingly (an perhaps ill-advisedly) embroiled in a heated discussion on the …Some of the Corpses Are Amusing message board about whether serial killers’ victims’ relatives are represented in the media. Certainly ill-advised, considering the main topic of discussion is comedy. Otherwise I look back at the day and assume that I’ve mislaid some hours somewhere.
Up, breakfast, bath and off to the Central Location. After the Enter Key Fright on Monday, I decide not to take the G4 keyboard with me. That would be tempting fate. I should get a carrying case for it (and the USB music keyboard as well).
When I get to the Location, the recxeptionist is obviously more interested in planning her weekend on the phone than telling me which room to go to, so I wander off upstairs. After a couple of minutes, the receptionist comes steaming after me, asking what I want. I had been just about to ‘phone Denise, to see what room she is in, but the receptionist shows me in to the right room, where Denise isn’t yet, but another of the peope working on the Project, Ben, is. After the introductions and so forth, we chat about computers, data and sound engineering (which is Ben’s other trade) until Denise turns up Richard comes back from parking his car, and later Andy, who is doing the server-side dynamic stuf (and is writing all sorts of indecipherable code).
Everybody but Denise (who is using a house iMac) has a laptop, Richard has two, a powerbook and a PC which he’s planning to use as an NT4 FTP server. So I need to go tinkering with the TCP/IP, making more Configurations which I’ll presumably sort out one day.
We get an overview of the project and it takes a couple of hours to get the networking sorted out. Then the rest of the day is spent copying different languages into the pages in Dreamweaver and making sure that the graphics are all connected (each buttin needs to be in the requisite directory, even though they are all, at the moment, identical – they will be translated at some point in the future).
I’m so transfixed by it all that I don’t get my lunch until 5:00, by which time it isn’t really lunch anymore.
When I get home I call Woodstock to apologise about not geting the fliers to her and suggest I e-mail them as a 4-up TIFF file (which has worked pretty well so far) and as a GIF in the body of an e-mail. This seems to be an acceptable solution.
After all that tinkering I’ve done the Powerbook is behaving strangely – it takes a few restarts to settle down. And I plug one end of the USB cable into the Mac, but forget to plug the other end into the USB music keyboard, which makes me think that that has decided to play silly buggers with me as well. But it all sorts out.
I finish rereading Guards, Guards, and do some ambient techno-style plinking. I wonder whether, since I haven’t really got my heart in the genre, it could ever be convincing. It is a deceptively simple genre – there may be only a handful of sounds and loops in total, but when it is done best, they are put together so artfully that you don’t notice how simple it is – repetitive but not boring and never dull. I worry that the piece I’m working on is guilty of these last two crimes and is flawed in conception, but I need to follow through to a certain point, even if it can’t be described as completion per se.
Potter around doing bits of work – for example, finishing a cover for Ness (soon not to be) at Scholastic.
The servers of my ISP go down. Eventually I get throught to company, and a techy rings me back and confims that, yes the servers are down sir and we can’t promise any time when they’ll be back up, sir. In that very British way that makes the word “sir” half a term of abuse and half a statement of superiority.
We have mastered the art of servility with contempt.
Scrabble around and get Microsoft Explorer and Outlook set up to a free ISP and its mail and Netscape (which I usually use in any case) set up for my normal ISP, with accompanying Locations and Configurations, all whilst in a mood of semi-reverie, so I’m not exactly sure what I’ve done.
For lunch I manage to do a vegetarian fry-up – vegeburgers, fried mushrooms and onions and pasta. The pasta isn’t fried, obviously. It’s certainly filling, and dissuades me from eating anything for the rest of the day.
I finally manage to download the work – some flow chart graphics that need to be translated into eight languages. I try opening the layered file in Photoshop and Fireworks before deciding to open up a flattened one in Photoshop, match the type and make my own layers.
Once that’s done it’s relatively easy to copy the different translations by cutting and pasting from Word into the text boxes of the layered files. Richard has sent me four languages to convert and sent Denise the other four, and when I have done mine, I suggest that Denise sends over her four for me to do rather than me sending her the layered version. This is what happens.
At 6:40 I try to beat the post – 7:00 – with the fliers for Woodstock Taylor for Sunday. I would have done it, too, if I hadn’t have run out of paper, since I had the envelopes and stamps all ready. No A4 paper anywhere. Darn.
The Plan is that we all meet at a central location (just round the corner from the Houses of Parliament – you can’t really get more central than that), tomorrow, so that we can all get an overview and be briefed properly rather than continue to labour in the demi-mode of shadows and fog which is the world of teleworking.
I try out keyboards on the stuff I recorded with Peter yesterday – now I can hear the guitar, vocal and accordian together (there were only two headphone sockets, so I was working deaf, as it were), the wole thing comes alive. I experiment with some Hammond and string samples – a possible problem is that I am so steeped in post-ironic nonsense that I might go for a sound that is horribly cheesy because it is cheesy, and Peter (not being post-ironic) might not go for it. Alternatively, he may be so pre-ironic that he wouldn’t necessarily hear the sound as cheesy. or perhaps it isn’t cheesy. I don’t know.
Spend the beginning bit of the morning putting stuff on a disk to take to Scholastic, and copying files from the Powerbook to the old G3 to be burned to disk or to make way for Peter Cadle’s files which will be amended this afternoon.
I foolishly use my copy of Norton on the Powerbook – the disk icon disappears, and all I get is a This disk is unreadable. Do you want to reformat it? error message. I dig out my original System disk and use it to fix the drive.
I deliver the disk to Scholastic – they have been widely refurbished, it’s actually quite disorientating. I chat for a bit and then go off to visit the gym for the first time in a week.
It’s a tremendous relief, not too much exertion, just enough to gently remind my body that it might be expected to do such things occasionally. I tolerate the MTV with as much humour as I can muster and I particularly enjoy the Hot Room afterwards.
Getting home, I quickly make and eat a bowl of pasta and get the equipment ready to take up to Peter’s.
We have been recording his album for about a year now – we tried some initial tracks at my house, which weren’t to impressive, and then last summer I went up to his place to record The Virtuosos doing a backing track of one of the songs. It was much better recording there, so I went back for a few sessions to redo Peter’s guitar and vocals, and today we are recording Katherine, the accordianist with the Virtuosos.
I have dragooned my pa into driving me up there – I know it is unidignified for someone of my advanced years to rely so on lifts from a parent, but I really do need to get a lift to carry all this gear – two small flightcases, one containing the mixer, the other the microphones; a bag containing leads, the computer and two mike stands. It’s the mike stands that are the real pains in the behind – they are so unwieldy and difficult to carry.
On the way I call someone about some work he desperately needs to be done, however my phone just keeps dying on me. I really don’t need misbehaving technology at the moment.
When I get there, Katherine is already there running through her parts with Peter. I discover that the Enter key has gone missing from the keyboard I bought last week, and this makes me somewhat despondent, coming on top of the phone and the close shave with the hard disk this morning. It really feels as though everything is falling down around me. I retrace my steps back to where the car was to make sure that it’s not fallen out there. No sign of it.
My mood is not improved by an hour’s struggle to get the sound working (Katherine needs to monitor herself and the Mac through headphones, so I am sending the signal into the mac via the sends on the mixer (one of which is post-fader, so I can’t just kill the faders) and bringing the Mac in on another couple of channels. I give her a good poewerful burst of feedback, which leave her ears ringing and me feeling incompetent and wretched. Then there appears to be either no signal or only an overpowering and distorting signal going in. A bit of poking around results in my discovering that the sound input is set permanantly to “Zoomed Video”, whetever that might be. I struggle for a while to get the input set and then restart and finally get some levels and can record.
We are doing three songs: Dovetail, Menilmontant and Bless This Guitar. We do six takes of the accordian part of Dovetail, four (I think) of Menilmontant and several of Bless This Guitar, and finish just before 6:00, in time to be picked up.
All the time Peter has been making notes of which bits of which takes he likes, so I will have to splice them together at some point. He says that he’ll send me a chart or something in a few days.
When I get home, I discover that the Enter key fell into my slipper (!) just as I was packing to come out. So that’s alright then.
When I open the washing machine door, water pours out – I think it must have been broken, but in fact it looks like I stopped it halfway through the cycle. All the same, it’s a venerable washing machine. It won’t last forever.
I’m getting intimations of mortality from machines here…
After dinner I talk to Denise about stuff and this work that I’ll be doing, email the guy in question (I wasn’t sure that I dictated my e-mail address clearly enough, and anyway, it’s a difficult one to get across properly) and download the evaluation copy of Dreamweaver 4.0 to do it with.
Up at Seven as usual, when I log on (and my Mac makes contact with some server with a clock on it), notice that it’s 9:15 am. I can’t have spent an hour eating breakfast, surely?
No, the clocks have gone forward, of course. So time, as it usually does at this time of year, is hanging by two threads – the one my mind imagines it to be and the one my body knows it to be.
Some more primaries and scales. I try D major at first position and shifting via an open string. That’s fairly fluid. E major barely possible, though.
My pa is off to the supermarket at 10:00 (what my body still earnestly believes to be 9:00), and I stock up with fresh-type things to eat. Including a fully-sized baguette. Oh dear, oh dear, down the slippery slope to being a full-time bread buyer again.
At home, I make some calls – Denise (not in), Judith (who I’ll probably not see at the Kamel tonight, and not in), and Laura (in). We have a long chat – Laura’s car has been removed by miscreants. I am nonplussed by the iniquity of the Car Insurance industry. Also discuss possible Keyboard Amplification Strategies and what might make The Best Job.
I put all my “unused” guitars into their cases. My intention is to concentrate on the ones that I’m likely to use for the time being, which means the classical, the Ovation and the Steinberger (with a special mention for the fretless bass). All the others will, hopefully, be either stashed or hung decoratively on the walls. Sadly I [lay instruments so comprehensively that, when I’ve finished with them, they have no real resale value, or at least their sentimental value is greater than any nominal monetary value they may possess.
I don’t make it to the gym, again. This is at least the fourth day I have invested something that I haven’t done with all the importance of something I do. I am making a habit of it. If good, but failed, intention was enough, I’d have the body of an athlete. Instead I have the body an athlete would have if you locked them in a dark room and fed them nothing but cheese.
Mushroom soup for lunch and more Fifth Elephant, which isn’t about an elephant at all. I don’t think there’s any other popular writer dealing with cultural difference quite like this, in such an entertaining way. Instead of only reading five pages at each mealtime, I sit down and finish it during the afternoon.
After Dinner, Ellie rings about information and fliers for next Sunday.
Change the sheets. I now have clean sheets and a tidy (or at least less messy) flat. Soon I ought to be able to play the guitar very fast indeed.
Simon calls to say that he is less than happy with the performance last night (not, he hastens to add my performance. he feels that it was more of an ego trip for him and less of an incantation or rite, that we need to be in a triangle for more alchemical energy. Perhaps curiously, I sort of see what he means.
The washing machine needs baling again – this is happening more often. Worrying trend. Hang up wet clothes.
Amazingly I am awake.
I do a flier for the Kamel Klub in April – A5 two-up on a sheet of A4 – and email it as a TIFF to Katrina to print out and hand out tomorrow night.
Tidy up a bit and hoover the living room and the hallway. I fully expect to hear a solid I-Told-You-So, but it only takes about five minutes if the last time you did it was a couple of weeks ago, not last year. And yes, you did tell me so. And yes, you were right. And no,I didn’t listen.
Fail to get to gym again. I will surely get there eventually, hopefully before I am fully walrus-shaped.
Have a bath. Not quite the Ultra-Cleanliness that the Hot Room and Shower at the gym affords, but will have to do.
Lunch. Not so much a properly thought out meal as whatever I can muster – I am at the end of my supplies again. Rice with a tomato sauce that was left over from the time I made pizza last and some frozen Quorn pieces, sautéd and micro’d for a few minutes. It’s the first time that I’ve actually had the Quorn bits without actually cooking them in a sauce of some kind or another. They really have done qute a good job of imitating chicken. I eat half and put the rest in the fridge for later.
I set off to Queen’s park for a rehearsal with Simon and Tom (playing congas). I realise that in about 1988 I came here – I was aiming for a street parallel to the one I am going to today – to visit someone, misunderstood the directions and ended up in Notting Hill (actually quite a long way away). I have no idea how I failed to notice that I had been walking for over half an our to reach a place that was supposed to be five minutes from the station.
Simon plays us some grooves of the kind that perhaps he would like. i am playing through a tiny practice amp which is distorting and is in no way satisfactory. I will have to take my Trace Elliot to Finborough tonight. Which means that I will have to blag a lift from my Pa. Although being driven to gigs by your parents is embarrassing when you’re 16, I suppose there must come a time when you don’t care any more.
On way back, I pop into the newsagent’s and buy Private Eye. I haven’t bought one for weeks. How many have I missed? At least one. And for the first time since 1990.
In the corner shop I get a carton of milk and relent and buy baguette to have with honey for Afters (I had promised myself that it would only be home-made bread from now on, or some such bourgeois affectation).
Leave at 7:00 to get to the Finborough. Set stuff up. It transpires that Veronique barely suspects what we have in store for her. There is a sofa down there, which makes the place feel like a liveing room – dead cosy.
We sit around jamming a bit before the show starts – firstly Simon is extemporising on the theme of Kevin Ayres, then I’m jamming with Dave Russell on a sort of one chord blues theme and something a bit looser and jazzier.
It’s a very good evening for floorspots – I do a couple, Ivor Game is down, Sarit from the VAC is there, a couple of others whose names I dont catch, as well as the usuals. The first spot (randomly chosen) is Dave, playing a Lightning Hopkins and a cover of the last Madonna single – I’m sure he nearly has enough madonna covers for an album now.
Generally the while living room vibe has made everything a bit laid back – I do Mr Wrong and admit that I’m on the verge of sending myself to sleep. I also play Secret Agent with the rectal concealment introduction. I’m not getting much back from the audience though, at least during the songs – perhaps they’re even more laid back than me. I don’t think I’m playing badly. But there’s not much energy happening.
The first main act is Steve Dowsett, who plays a lot of new material he’s been recording.
And then it’s us. Well, first Simon and Tom have to make a toilet visit, leaving me standing there with the bass on, and then we’re off. Start out doing the Groove and some talk of the heroics of love and then Simon’s onto his Kevin Ayres again and I go into some kind of walking bass thing, back to the groove, back to the walking and then finish with the tempo ostensibly a lot faster, but playing the bassline at half-speed. This seems to go down well, so we do two others – For Michaelis and Artists in Rock, which, since I know them, I have some chance of punctuating.
We are certainly whipping up a lot more energy, or at least Simon is.
The Soundwave is advertised as being “Music, Poetry and Wierd Things”, and I think it’s possible that we managed to be all three.
It’s actually quite tricky getting it all packed away after – the next act up, Dispersion, decide to open with something that’s both long and silent, as I’m trying to get the leads into the back as quietly as I possibly can. Have to leave without really saying goodbye in order to get my lift home.
Finish cover and send it over.
In the morning I had intended to go to the gym, but the 11:00 dealine tcks by and I fail to get there, deciding to when lunch had settled (4:00) instead.
Decide that I’ll drop by Denmark Street before I go andtry to get the groovy little Danelectro amp (it looks like an especially tasteless retro radio – all pastel colours and faux-chrome). As I am hanging about Denmark Street, I somehow convince myself that now is the time to get the Ovation shallow-bodied guitar, or at least the Applause version of it, New Standard Tuning for the use of, since I notice that they are a lot less expensive than I thought (and a lot less expensive than the proper grown-up Ovation versions).
I try the black one that’s hanging toward the front, and it plays perfectly well, except for the bottom E string at the 13th fret, which buzzes quite badly. On the one hand it’s hardly the most utilised fret on the guitar (particularly in NST, which results in some very odd intonation on the bottom string, apparantly), on the other it’s still a fault, something that mars my enjoyment of the instrument. Perhaps I’m just overly squeamish. I also figure that since it’s the grooviest looking one, everybody has had a go with it and it might not be the freshest chicken in the shop. As it were. Consequently I get a brown sunburst that has been hanging towards the back of the room. It actually feels and (I think) plays better, although all that will change when I get the new strings on it. I also get a strap and an NST set of strings, the guages for which I carry in my personal disorganiser (and luckily I notice that the batteries are about to run down – I’ll change them when I get home).
On the one hand the last thing I need is another guitar. On the other, this will represent a commitment of some sort to GC, a restatement of my intention.
My living room is beginning to resemble a guitar shop. That also sells books. That has been done over by professional clutterers.
I put the new strings on the guitar and do an hour (at least) of the primaries – it’s true, they really do fall into place on a shallow-body guitar (presumably no differently than on the unaffordably expensive ones). I do crosspicking until it stops feeling fluent – have found that, that something starts out stiff, then becomes fluent, then when I’ve done too much of it, becomes stiff again. Hopefully I can open a wider window of fluency.
I watch a bit of Flashdance on the TV – I am struck by the way the American music industry absorbs things in almost as entertaining a way as the Bollywood one – there is one song – Maniac, I forget who it’s by – that has all the affectations of Rawk – particularly that straining, gravelly voice – but embedded in a solid mass of Giorgio Moroder techno beats. The signifiers of authenticity in 80s Rock – that mannered singing, the carefully controlled “wild” guitar solo – are so inauthentic, so over-dramatised that any sense of a genuine relation to music exists in the synthesizers. Perhaps I’ll listen to more of this.
Sluggish morning. Start diaries.
Get into writing a new piece – loads of strings and forward motion. It becomes clear that it ought to be called Showdown in Oiltown. It’s that sort of piece. If you know if a very small corporation that’s a bit strapped for cash, I have just the piece ofr their corporate video…
I’s not really finished, of course, until I add the superfluous Mellotron Choir. Nothing ever is.
I also try to do something using dice to suggest titles and instrumentation and so forth. Only partial success (that is to say, predominantly a failure).
Big cheese sandwiches for lunch. Switch to Fifth Elephant – still in a Pratchett sort of a mood.
Have to have a lie down at 6:00. I intended to have bath before I went out but, of course, the light in the bathroom is still not working.
I set out and find that the Innes CDs are in the hallway. This is prompt delivery, the company (a Yorkshire desgin company who are doing it as much, I suspect, for love as anything else) are to be commended.
Set off for Zarathustra’s. When I get outside, I’m surprised to discover that it isn’t as cold as it seemed to be indoors. Hmm. And there is a tinge of Spring on the air.
The club is very quiet. I seem to have that effect on venues, although perhaps I shouldn’t admit it to the world. Just usperformers there, and there’s a long wait for the start. I recognise one of the other people who’s playing – I met him the last time I played here, and at the Bedford Arms last year (BBC Music day or somesuch): his name’s Vince. At about 9:15 I go on and do a short set (five songs?). Enjoy it hugely. Reflect afterwards that I’m really enjoying playing at the moment. Should get out and do even more of it. Leave before the main act (Kathleen Haskard) goes on in order to get home and sleep. Walk across to Kingsway and catch 171. It’s that “I’m the only sober person in the entire world” sort of time.
Stop at shop to get more cocoa. Can tell it’s an affectation because I buy cocoa to which I add sugar rather than drinking chocolate (which is, after all, just cocoa with sugar in it).
Listen to selected tracks from the Innes Cds as I drink my cocoa – Theme, Godfrey Daniel, Lazy Days (resored from a dodgy tape?) and particularly Time to Kill, which I play twice.
Consequently late to bed.
Am I losing it?