Shed

Never seen a venue kill the atmosphere of an event as comprehensively as when Gary Numan played the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall last week.
Numan is on a roll, making great new music and packing venues. This part of the tour was an extension of the recent album cycle and he was really just having some fun playing with the Skaparis Orchestra on a string of UK dates.
A great idea which sounded epic as well as intimate at times. The music really lends itself to the addition of an orchestra, the electronics and guitars did not fight with the unusual additions, it blended perfectly.

But. It was the wrong place for this. Numan’s shows are lively, loud affairs. This all seated, posh venue with it’s bright wood panelling which makes it feel like a waiting room felt wrong from the moment I walked into the auditorium. It usually sounds great in here, classical and jazz fit so well, it’s just not rock n roll.
The music started, and it was so quiet. You could talk over it. The audience stayed seated, the ushers made sure of it.

Two songs in and Numan was visibly annoyed, he was animated and agitated, trying to get a reaction from the audience. The ushers didn’t agree with this and it took maybe an hour for them to finally give up and let people do what they should have been doing all along.
Numan was still raging though, he might be 60 but he’s definitely not going through the motions for the cash.

It got louder too towards the end too, did the soundman try and help the situation in the only way he could?

The orchestra were excellent, all young folks having the time of their lives. The conductor was a nutjob too, so into it. Brilliant to watch.
Numan’s wee lassie sang a couple of numbers, cracking voice and watching dad and girl interact on stage was such a joy.

So many positives tonight, the music was just so good. Support from Chris Payne who played his awesome 1980 classic Fade to Grey, never thought I’d see that song played by its writer.
But that venue, that bloody venue, what a horrible mismatch.

Slayer

I saw Slayer were doing a farewell tour. Getting used to seeing that now as the bands of my youth get old, lose interest or members and make albums that no one buys or wants to hear at the shows.
I first saw them in ’86 and then plenty more times over the next few years then sporadically after that as they changed drummers and made what felt like recycled music. Maybe other stuff was just more appealing at the time.
I saw the reformed original line up a few years back and they were as good as ever, but I never really stuck to them again.

However, Gus said, want a Slayer ticket for Glasgow? Well, okay.

Best decision I’ve made in a while.

Missed Autopsy and Anthrax (haven’t seen either since the 90s, Monday night traffic, early show etc) but Lamb of God were surprisingly good, they had the full light show and played at headliner volume.
The singer had been driven to Glen Coe the day before on a break in the dates and now loves our wee country he says.

Slayer upped the ante though. Jeez. Taped intro and lights projected on a screen followed by endless pyro, glorious lighting and the loudest PA I’ve heard at an indoor venue for, I don’t know, for ever? Motorhead at the Barras in ’84 maybe?
I know it’s only two of the original four members (one deceased, one in the huff), but it was just epic. I’d forgotten just how intense Slayer can be but also that there’s moments of subtlety scattered through the waves of mayhem that let you catch your breath so they can crush you again.

I absolutely loved it. My ears were trashed, my knees were gone and my voice still isn’t back. It was an 80s metal show from start to stop.
The old CD’s are out and new ones have been bought, this was in the nick of time, I nearly missed it. Thanks Gus.

GUNSHIP

I was a teenager in the 80’s so I know what it was really like, in those ten years I went from child to man (ish…). It wasn’t a straight line between the two either and I still remember so much of it.
’80 was a big deal, the future was here and I was ready for it with one hand slowly letting go of my Hornby train set controller and the other hand on a leather jacket putting badges on the lapel. By ’81 I was going to the Glasgow Apollo and I was set in a new direction which I’ve never strayed from: music.
In ’83 there were suddenly girls, practical rather than theoretical. ’84 I got my first electric guitar. The next two years were a scrabble for a plan for my future but having discovered girls and guitars I blew it and left school wondering what to do next.
Still, by the end of the decade I was an engineer and had hair down past my waist.
And a 32″ waist. Oof.

All through this, what folk now call “The 80’s” was happening around me at arms length. The horrendous fashion and the universal neon highlights didn’t come anywhere near me but the sound of synthesizers was never far away if you were a movie fan and in the very early 80’s synths were still a bit counter culture and unusual in popular music. Their initial other worldliness softened as new wave absorbed them into regular pop and their voice became as unremarkable as a distorted guitar had become.

So when 80’s cultural references became increasingly popular I was a little dismissive, I remember Reagan, Thatcher and the birth of AIDS as much as anything from that time and I wasn’t a fan of Miami Vice. There wasn’t much in a revival for me, the music I loved back then is mostly still alive and well.
This attitude persisted until Stranger Things gripped me and didn’t let go. Googling the composers of the soundtrack started a chain of events thanks to the hardcore spying techniques used by the popular search engine and led me discover what is called synthwave by some – new artists making new music inspired by the sounds of the 80’s.

A lot of it just sounds like Jan Hammer or Tangerine Dream but one band has shone bright and pink out of the crowd for me, GUNSHIP. They write songs, not soundtrack pieces and the vocals bring the retro synth sounds alive. With a fat modern production and an ocean of analogue tones their debut album has been my favourite music for months.
There’s lots of cues from the past in their songs, but they still sound fresh, not recycled in any way. Their videos are brilliant too, plenty of cultural reference liberties taken with style and humour.

It’s so rare for me to find new music I really love, but GUNSHIP have done it for me and I have preordered a signed copy of the second album.
Hey, I’m not 50 just yet, so what the hell.

 

Still Savage

I can’t think of many bands that I got into back in the day that still impress or inspire me when they make new music. As much as I love Black Sabbath, their world #1 comeback album “13” is something I’ll probably never listen to again. Alice Cooper’s recent Paranormal album is actually the best thing he’s done in many years but I still skip to the two tracks at the end where the original 70’s band are performing some new stuff.

The original Alice Cooper Group played a short set at the end of every show on Alice’s UK tour last year and it was emotional. I’ve heard those songs played by the hired hands in Alice’s touring bands dozens of times over the past 30 odd years and for the first time they sounded just right. A bunch of rusty 70 year olds crushed a bunch of fast fingered young pros.
I don’t know if there’s a future for the originals as a unit, but being in the room with that handful of classic songs played by the hands that wrote them lit a little flame inside me somewhere.

I digressed myself again.

Success seems to suck the inspiration out of musicians, you’d think the widespread free downloading that has made recorded music almost worthless would fire them up and have them wreaking a terrible vengeance etc, but all they do is charge more money for concert tickets and t-shirts. I think I should get all that stuff half price because I still buy the CD, I’m not part of the problem, give me a break you bastards.

The one glaring exception in my musical world is Gary Numan. In the mid 80’s he lost his way, while there were still tracks that shone and the live shows were mostly fun (other than the tuneless backing vocalists he took along for a few years) I was buying the new music from habit, or probably from fan loyalty. Something that doesn’t apply across the spectrum of music I like, I abandoned Judas Priest a few years ago when their reunion derailed in a pileup of Strictly Come Dancing costumes and cliched video game soundtrack metal.

I’m glad I stuck with Numan because he eventually pulled himself back. From the mid 90’s he made music again that I wanted to listen to, there were still misfires here and there but the new world of social media showed the man behind the erratic journey and made it a little more understandable.
Forward to 2013 and the Splinter album was very strong, all the threads of promise shown in the preceding years had finally joined together and here was an almsot complete album, a belter of a Numan album.

Then last year he released Savage. I wasn’t ready at my age for music to impact me the way this album has. I watch Holly enthuse over Panic! at the Disco albums and stuff and then I look back at myself holding the Savage CD booklet (see, told you) in my hands as the music pours into my head through my headphones. It’s gripped me the way music first did 40 years ago and I don’t know why.
Taking an as objective step back as I can manage, it’s his best work since Telekon. In fact it stands side by side with that album, Replicas and The Pleasure Principle. Five months on and I haven’t wavered on that thought, turns out there was no novelty to wear off.
The Glasgow live show was as good as any I can remember ever seeing, that synths are heavier than guitars in the live arena I can live with, metal doesn’t have a monopoly on heavy.

I’m taking something from this: that getting older means nothing. If a man in his 50’s can still create something new and inspire with it then there’s hope for us all. If a man nearly 50 can be inspired and still find that inner fanboy alive and well, then there’s hope for him.

Needing a restring

Music is never far from my ears or fingers but I have to wonder if it’s worth the effort sometimes. Years ago I learned that doing stuff all by yourself can be a good idea. Mistakes have to be fully owned and although a success not shared with others can feel a little underwhelming the fact that it’s all hassle free can definitely outweigh that.

I went into the studio late last year to record an album with one of my old bands, twometersdeep. I was pretty reluctant at first, some of the personalities at play were often too complex to work with and me being the only engine running in a forward gear all the time burned me out when we were together the last time.
But jamming again showed how easy it was for us to create music we all loved and I got pulled straight in. A handful of rehearsals with my old mate Stevie from my other band Trinity on drums and we decided to give it a go.

The first week we were all in there to record guide tracks but by the third week I was in the studio by myself laying down guitar tracks with Stevie having finished the drums sitting in the control room being in turns encouraging and sarcastic. I was in my element, I felt inspired, I was winging it the entire time and I put down some of the best guitar I’ve ever done.

And that’s where it ends. The next sound heard by the studio engineer was the sound of the toys thrown from the pram hitting the studio floor.
I’m disappointed. Not in anyone else, but in myself for not knowing it was going to happen and I’d been stuck with a job half done and no one but me to finish it. Again.

I just want to play.

Control

Just finishing up my next review for Walkhighlands which is, should I say what it is? It’s good anyway, something a bit old school. As much as the brands and technology want to keep moving us forward onto the next thing, some basic stuff just works. I think it works better with a hood too.
The next few months is what’s making me think, the seasonal range changes can make a review only a few months old out of date which is kind of annoying, gear really shouldn’t date so fast.
But I still don’t want to repeat any of last years review subjects so I’m trying to get to winter 2016 without a single retread of something. I’ll be cutting it close at times, lightweight waterproofs where I did winter weight last time around, backpacking and larger capacity rucksacks where I’ve just recently done day sacks. Hey, if it all gets too much I’ll do socks. Oh, socks, the difference between a good day and a bad day? Goes to look at 2016 socks…

While I think about that, here’s me in the recording studio thinking about why I’m trying the 17th take on a guitar solo I’ve been playing live and in rehearsal for a year.

Phones

The Two T’s

My recharged love of making music continues with two main focuses. One is the reunion of the original Trinity lineup from the early 90’s. We’re all of a certain age, all dads and after a near death via whisky night out, we’re the friends we used to be once again which is the best thing about it all.
We have plans, we’ll see how that pans out early next year, writing and rehearsing will continue for the time being. Band Facebook page has photies and sounds.
Which one am I below?

TWee

Twometresdeep is still there, injuries and the difficulties of getting the five of us in the same place at the same time has made for gig cancellations and lack of playing time, but we have a bunch of new songs of which I am very proud and the following recording of which I am very pleased. The cleanest guitar part I ever played in my life.

We recorded this in Red Eye in Clydebank under the expert engineering eye of George. No click tracks, it’s almost one-take with the band playing live. I’m pretty chuffed with that.
Laura stuck a wee video together for it.

Got it covered

I really have to remember to bookmark some of the more interesting things I do on here in posts so I don’t forget them.

I’ve done a couple of covers recently, one each for the areas I love the most: music and mountains.
The first is the cover of Moonwalker, the book by Alan Rowan. It’s a fine account of night time ascents, something that I can very readily relate to.
I took the shot on the cover, indeed that’s also me in it the shot and it was cleverly adapted to perfectly fit the title by not me.
That’s a black Diamond Raven Ultra in my hand. How sad is it that I remember that.

moonwalker

Next up was something I hadn’t done for a long time, then I got all excited and properly into it. I did the cover for The Red Eyes EP, out now and very good indeed – old school punk with better musicianship, songwriting and production.
Main man (and old school pal) Alan described what he wanted and I did my best to make it. I did it from scratch too, I made the old-looking paper by crushing and dying white paper and everything else there is either hand drawn or placed onto the paper as it’s a single photie.
It was fun and I was so pleased when the band liked it and used it.

Making stuff is fun.

theredeyes

Stick on Side Two

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The last gig of the year is done and the (concrete) dust has settled. Being in the band has been a total joy, there’s been moments, with five folk stuck together like that there’s bound to be, but the music makes me glad from my weather-beaten head to my merino comforted toes.
The gig kept me away from the snow, but it was no contest, hills are easier to get onto than a stage. I’m happy to prioritise this way round, you never know when it’ll all go tits-up so I’ll enjoy it while I can.
No more live shows for a while, we’re recording first and when that’s done we’ll see. I love recording, I love winging it while the tape’s rolling and I know that attitude will freak the rest of the band out.
I’m sure they’ll be fine once their nerves settle.

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There’s some great shot here from the gig. The snappers are eindp.co.uk and click and pray  and they both know their stuff, worth going to have a look.

Talking of photies, the new LX7 is taking a little bedding in, but we’ll get there. The rainbow frames the Lang Craigs sculpture and the retro pickup just nice.
Pity I was up to my waist in mud while I was taking those.

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TwoMetresDeep – More Gigs

The TwoMetresDeep gig last week at the Lucky Break was great, played a new song, jammed like bastards for way too long on Rainbow Drops, accidentally (really) played a Sabbath cover and generally had a fine time.
Another couple coming up. Next week we’re playing a short acoustic set at the Artisan Centre in Dumbarton on Friday 4th. The show’s free entry, bring-a-bottle, runs from 1900 til 2200 or later no doubt and there’s another diverse bunch of artists on too. It sounds a bit like a 60s “Gathering”, but it’ll be a joy I’m sure and our songs lend themselves to acoustic versions. Christ, am I getting old?
No.
Glasgow on the 13th at Shadow Central for a fiver I think and it’ll be a heavy set we play as it’s a rock crowd in there. Magic, I’ll be all fuzz and flying v’s.

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War of the Worlds. Again.

Holly has a problem. Every time she discovers a new “thing”, like fossils, pirates, Victorian dresses, Alice Cooper or whatever, we like miracle workers say “Oh, hand on a minute…” and after some rummaging appear with a selection of items relevant to her new and sometimes fleeting interest.
And there’s Holly’s problem, she’s just like us. Doomed to life of finding interest in almost everything and the inescapable urge to know more about whatever it is.
Awesome.

So we’re driving in the £100 Ka and fishing out a tape to play I found sides 3 and 4 of Jeff Wayne’s War of the Worlds on an old TDK C90. Some guitar, some synth, some disco, some rock, flood of melody and then Richard Burton. Holly was captured. We listened through the tape twice.
What about the Martians? What happened to Carrie? What’s wrong with the man’s digging? Did this happen a long time ago? When I told her she still had the first half to listen to I thought she was going to explode.

So, rummaging back at base I found the DVD of the 2006 live show we saw in Glasgow which was fantastic, Chris Spedding, Herbie Flowers and a Martian fighting machine on stage? Yes please. She sat transfixed by the DVD before examining in great detail the ’78 album and it’s wonderful book with all the iconic paintings. Then there were drawings and more questions.
At the back of my mind an email was ringing bells, so a wee search found the head’s-up for the latest and apparently final live tour. Next week in the Glasgow Hydro.

The question was popped “What do you want for this year’s pantomime? You can have Cinderella, Jack and the Beanstalk, that ballet thing your mum mentioned or War of the Worlds…”
Granny, grandpa, mummy, the girl and me will be in the nosebleed seats at the Hydro next week. Merry Christmas and Ulla!

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Ghost – A song by me.

I wrote and recorded this ages back as a back story to Princess Louise’s haunted dress which is in a glass case in Kelvingrove Museum in Glasgow and I use to tell scary stories to Holly.
She comes alive at night and possesses the unwary to try and make her escape, but is always stopped when she can’t leave the building before dawn.
I did all the instruments myself, it’s a bit of fun but it’s got some good bits in it too.
The artwork I edited up out of a photo I took in Kelvingrove and a Victorian ballet dancer I stole from the internet.
Too much time on my hands? I wish.