Bwaahhh!


Had a fantastic day today. Spent it indoors at the Audio Lounge in Maryhill recording a new tune with my china Craig.
It was something of an unknown how it would turn out, new studio, new engineer, new gear and new sounds as I’m really detuned and play the guitar through a bass amp these days. But, Colin the engineer was on the ball and we got on well, so it was pretty easy all things considered. Craig got the drums down after a few takes and then I started laying down various guitar tracks, the bass and a couple of vocals, with varying degress of success. Bloody time consuming when you’re a two-piece I’ll tell you.
I played all the guitar tracks on my new Flying V, it just felt and sounded right. First time I’ve ever recorded without my favourite Les Paul, I’m saying that shows character growth.
I like the song right now, I hope I still like it tomorrow. I left the vocals clean, no distortion to mask my deficiencies, we’ll see I how I feel about that later on.

It’s called Princess (Click for that stupid pop-up player thing, play it loud mutha (it’s a metal thing…)). The words are a little strange, it’s kinda heavy with a surprising burst of melody and harmony when you least expect it. Happy.

Vee

I always wanted a white Flying V with a white headstock. It’s an ’80s metal thing, mostly because of Accept, they were tripping over all-white vees on stage. But, they’re hard to get and Gibson have only made black-faced headstock models since the early 80’s, unless you want to pay $5000 for a custom shop affair.
Bless the Japanese, international patents and copyrights have no power in their domestic market, so they make replicas and sell them while sticking two fingers up at the owners of the names of the original brand (Gibson and Fender are just logos remember, the heritage is entirely illusory).
So, this very day arrived a 1979 Gibson Block-Marker Flying V, made in Japan last year.
Took it to the studio tonight, tuned it and plugged it in for the first time. Consequently, I was grinning like a mentalist for the whole night. 30 years too late I’ve got just what I’ve always wanted.

I’ll Be Your Sister

Binge and bastard purge.

I’m dead on my feet tonight. This week so far has been played without a pause: 40 hours of pipes so far, more at the weekend; two nights in the hills, a late-evening meeting with a customer, a night in the studio (where if we can’t get a recording slot for the new tunes soon we are going to melt into a bubble of feedback and slaver) and then dinner at my folks tonight where Holly went loopy.
I used to be able to have 18 hours of activity in every 24, day after day and leap out from under the duvet at dawn in Bruce Lee style, ready for more. Well, apart from the time where we all fell asleep in a cooling tower on a factory roof after a very late gig.
The bass player and crew guy worked with me at the time and we were all totally burst from playing ’til after 0200 in an airless sweat hole in Glasgow. By the time we got back to base and unloaded the van it was time to put the tools back in and get going again. The day was doomed from the start, but Davy and I woke up at lunch time and staggered to the canteen while poor Rab got discovered sleeping and got a new hole punched in his arse by Jimmy. We sniggered like schoolboys ‘cos we didn’t get into trouble too.
But aye, youthful energy is wasted on us when we don’t have the perspective which age presents to us to appreciate it, and indeed exploit it properly.

I caught myself doing something very odd tonight. I’ve got some mountain bits and pieces to do in July for a couple of folk, and I was actually planning a route around what side of the ridge the sun would be shining on so I could get the right photies. The heating engineer in me got up, left the room, and flew back through the door a few seconds later with a kitchen stool to break across my teeth.
Aye, that’s better.

Syphon Filter

I found a magic site which has the soundtrack to my Playstation days of 10 or more years ago free to download.
The music of the day is mostly straight-to-DVD action/horror movie fare, but it brings back memories of all sorts. Mostly what Ielse I was doing when I was playing the games as a single man in his (very late) 20’s.

Also, to celebrate the new look, I thought I’d have an action adventure theme tune for a bit. It’s now turned off from instantly annoying mode, so you have to click it. Syphon Filter

Heaven and Hell

Another figure from my childhood has gone, Ronnie James Dio died today.

When I was young I think I felt that my heroes were bulletproof and beyond reproach. As I grew, I lost interest, finding new outlets for my energy and enthusiasm, but in later life I’ve rediscovered a lot of the music (TV and movies too) that I loved and have found my feelings haven’t really changed. The appreciation is on more levels now, I can see it from more angles, from a little more distance. I know it’s not perfect now, but it was perfect for me at one time and that makes it timelessly personal and endlessly joyful.

Here’s to our heroes.

Wheels of Steel

Aye, this week is like an episode of Quantum Leap. Or maybe Stargate Universe, but nobody’s watching that as it sends you into a coma, so that’s a rubbish reference point.
Some rather wacky test kit is appearing, Minim Down Pants and Boots from PHD and Trango boots from LaSportiva. Help ma Boab.

Went to see Gary Numan last night at the ABC with my mate Craig (the drummer one, not the angry looking bald one, although he is bald as well, as are we all), it was outstanding. He was touring his ’79 album “The Pleasure Principle” and played it with great care and maybe even affection for the material, apart from Cars which was played way too fast. Daft bugger.
Four keyboard players of stage creates a huge sound using those 70’s synth tones. Metal bands should be jealous of the heaviness.
It was nice to come out into clear skies and crisp air, the rain is gone for the time being. Still is, we have mist out there just now, the trees now over the river are just starting to poke through. After the gig we headed to the west end for cuppas and a snack, and it was like a fair. Christmas has started early, the alleys where the wine bars and restaurants are are full of revelers and fairylights, street vendors and buskers. There was even happy smiley faces in their best outfits, still just a little merry rather than wellied.
Maybe Quantum Leap isn’t far enough for me, maybe it’s more like Lost in Space? Whatever it’s nice to visit another planet now and again.

Now, my dilemma is the weather forecast and it’s effect on what happens to me over the next few days. There’s a window there, but whether I can get through it, or I’ll just get one arm and my head in and get stuck, only a man with a packed rucksack will be able talk about after the attempt.

Eight bucks even buys a folding chair

It’s like being on holiday this week, apart from all the work.
On Tuesday Holly and I hung out all day, I took her into see the folks at an engineers merchants that Jimmy and I have known forever and there was much fussing from the girls in the office. Then there was lunch at Tiso (where they make a mean babyccino) and a visit to the Xscape where we marvelled at the snowboarder gear in the Ellis Brighams. The colours, the mental patterns (orange and purple tartan), the sheer fun designed into some of this kit is so uplifting. Then you see the dull walkers and climbers gear in the regular EB store round the corner and your smile is removed by the notion that you’ve landed in a shop on the wrong side of the Iron Curtain in 1971. Why must this be? They did have the new version Black Diamond Raven Ultra ice axe, now with sparkly orange shaft, so there is hope.
There was more fun and games, and we met up with Joycee too, when I got home I was knackered. That was the best day I’ve had for a long time.

The fun continued last night with Alice Cooper at the Armadillo in Glasgow. It’s a rubbish venue for rock’n’roll, but it got better as the show went on and from the third row we had a face and ear full of all that was happening. The sight of Alice singing the lovely wee ballad “I Never Cry” with a noose around his neck standing in the gallows was just wonderful. He was sharp, his voice was great and he played songs I’ve never heard him play, some of my favourites too. Joycee and I missed his last show in Glasgow as Holly was being born as his support band were on stage, so this was kinda right for out first proper night out since (!?).
It was just brilliant.

The interest continued outside where the aftershow melee in the carpark was at full throttle. There’s a strip of no-mans land in the SECC grounds where a few cars can fit and claim free parking, but it tapers away from the pavement leaving a drop of a couple of feet onto the old dockside cobbles at one point. As we walked out to where we’d parked towards the city (walking is free, laziness costs about a fiver) with the rest of the merry punters, we were all intrigued by the loud banging noise coming from a brand new Beemer parked at this sketchy cheapskate zone. As a crowd gathered to peer around the back of the car we saw the driver trying to lever up his rear wheel (which was hanging in space, the car lying on its chassis at that corner) with what looked like bits of broken packing case. The car at this area was starting to look a little creased shall we say.
Whether or not the assembled group had grasped the real story of how this came about (he’d spent two years wages on his car and couldn’t afford parking or intelligence/ was just a cheapskate bastard) I don’t know, but sympathy was unforthcoming. One passerby quipped “If you’d bought an Audi you could driven out with your four wheel drive”. All we could hear was laughter and sarcasm until we got out of earshot. I do wonder what effect that episode will have had on both the car and the mind of the driver.

I’m not claiming any vehicle superiority here, Joycee’s Renault Nogaun is in the garage again. The quicker we get beaming technology the better, or replace all the cars and roads with a huge Scalextric style system. You just press “Go” and your wee transport bubble sets off and you can sleep, eat or whatever and you don’t have to operate machinery to get somewhere.
Anyway, that’s getting into the realms of David Essex as the infantryman from War of the Worlds, “…I knew I’d have to leave this strange dreamer…”. Well said Richard.

Carry on.

Friday

The week is almost done. Thank Jimmy for that.
I nipped out to the rehearsal studio last night, ill or not I’m a Scotsman and I’m not paying for something without getting the benefit (we’ve got a block room-booking).
It was a good idea, I had a great time. We’ve settled on what tune we’re recording and we’ve pencilled in studio dates, one day recording, one day mixing. Sounds a lot for one song, but I have to overdub like a bastard as I play everything except the drums, and also “sing”. Craig (not the same Craig often seen on here) usually gets his drum track down after a handful of tries and then enjoys watching my stress increase as the day goes and and I run out of talent and energy alarmingly quickly.
I like recording old-school too, so it’s all live-room playing with mic’ed speakers. None of this plugged into a desk amp emulation bollocks, I like to feel those low frequencies through my Converse when I’m playing.
So, low-budget detuned doom metal coming to an outdoor blog sometime soon…

There’s more gear arrived (Ooh, and a nice Dirty Harry t-shirt), but it’ll have to wait ’til next week as I’m working off of our old Bontempi “My First Laptop” and I’m not leaving the couch again until Monday.
But there’s a couple of things that need a mention as you people out there have a had a hand in their appearance one way or another. One is the redesigned, lighter and better Radical Design Wheelie which I’ll get up on here shortly. I had a quick shot and this one will make it over rougher ground, I’ve got half a mind and that half mind says that a wander around the Cairngorm passes might be a possible. I can carry it with shoulder straps, so the Chalamain Gap won’t see me buckle a wheel. It could be fun. There’s room in it for luxury sized supplies too.
The other new arrival is the X-Bionic Trekking Underwear Pants, that’s the mid compression version with the very long legs. These have been a subject of much discussion, and because of that, they’re here. A quick measurement says that unstretched the inside leg is 9″, so these aren’t giving you a wedgie.
It occurs to me that these would be good under zip-off trousers as the long legs should cover the zip area in some models that I can always feel (my leg hairs may be like over sensitive anntenae though, who’s to say?), and when zipped off you’re going to have some good tick protection there as well.
Anyway, all good. Coming soon and the like.

Good luck tae ye!

Outdoors again, and nowhere near a mountain. It looks like getting the miles in on the bike is taking over at the moment, but I’m heading to the Arrochar Alps as soon as there’s a gap in the weather. I’m not missing taking a right turn at Tarbet on Loch Lomond though, I’ve seen enough of the A82 for a wee while.
Instead, I watched Jimmy get the Wee Spark towed along the canal by a horse for the first time which was fun. The Wee Spark is a 1/3 size Clyde Puffer which he built in our workshop and is now a legend in the world of boats an’ that.
Holly got to pat the horse and was very pleased with that, and the speed at which the horse could pull the boat was frightening, horses are badass.

I did many hours in the saddle as well, racking up 60km on Sunday, with about half of it in the rain. The new bike feels good (that’s it above) and covers the ground well for a full-susser. I’ve dropped a good bit of weight off it already since I replaced some of its low-rent stock items with the good kit off my old frame, and I’ll get another kilo or two off it before the WHW trip as well. Bikes are the realm of the super-geek, tinkering, replacing, fettling, improving, feeding that bottomless pit that eats your money and laughs when it’s still “Hmmm, not quite right yet”.
The glorious apparel I’m sporting above is a Honey Stinger/Big Agnes team jersey that was presented to me when I was through at the UK HQ a few weeks back. I’ve worn it a few times now and it’s actually really good. The fit is spot on, the zip goes down to my navel and the fabric is pretty much all-conditions specific. And I thought that cycle gear looked crap and performed as convincingly as a hamster on a stick. Being wrong is good.
The photie above also captures the moment when I was distracted whilst waiting for the timer to go off and was thinking “That dug coming towards me is helluva big…”

I took a wee run around the harbour on the way home after tearing round the woods on the singletrack with the last of my energy as hunger took a firm hold. It was both dismal and magnetic watching the greys shift and change as the rain flowed over the water and onto the hills.
I was soaked to the skin when I got home, and decided to have a bath to enjoy some of that therapeutic stuff that baths are supposed to provide. I fitted a corner bath in our Mickey Mouse bathroom to save space however, and jammed in there with bubbles and myriad toys and tea-set components I must have looked like a murder victim in a wheelie bin.
Still, with my feet sticking out over the side, I fell asleep with Rammstein’s Reise, Reise on the iPod, quite happy with my lot.

Les Paul

Les Paul gave his name to Gibson’s already rather old fashioned looking, but new electric guitar back in the ’50s, but through time the Les Paul became more than an instrument, it became a symbol, a visual and aural statement of intent and attitude by its player.
The name Les Paul became the physical embodiment of Rock and Roll. That’s a pretty cool legacy to leave the world with. Good lad.


That’s my ’76 LP Custom. 5kg of downtuned glory, lightweight doesn’t belong everywhere. Alright!

Driver

I realised during the week that’s it’s coming up for ten years since I bought Driver. Ranking alongside Syphon Filter, Silent Hill, Resident Evil 2 and Colin McRae 2.0 as my favourite games for the original Playstation.
I’d always hankered after a copy of the soundtrack, and thanks to the wonderful world of geeks, such things are findable now, especially on YouTube. It’s a 70’s funk-a-rama and always brought me much joy, especially when it was competing with the on-screen siren and distressed engine sounds in some RSI inducing chase or other.
The game itself was all the best cop movie chases rolled into one, and as such you had the thrill of throwing your thinly disguised to avoid paying royalties muscle car around four American cities avoiding both bad guys and cops. You’re undercover you see.
Seeing it now, it’s like looking at a Lego sculpture. Ah, how our eyes have grown used to the smoothness of today’s games.
Still, I really miss that era of gaming.

The Altitude of the Beast!

Such things appeal to my inner teenage metal fan as well as my current sense of mischief. It was a moment of levity in the midst of an at times, difficult couple of days.
The altitude is one thing, but the gradient map at the top of the display is interesting as well, as it shows the gentle up and down over the pass into Glen Affric and then the steeper ascent to the ridge.
I’ve always been a doubter of technology on the hills, I like mechanical stuff, a compass, your knees etc. But over the past couple of years this watch has been brilliant and has probably stopped my buying a GPS as it + map = that’ll do me fine.

Heaven and Hell

It’s not Black Sabbath, but it’s probably the closest we’ll get to a new Sabbath album. Although, it is Sabbath from a certain point of view, being the post Ozzy and Bill Ward era Sabs lineup that recorded Mob Rules, Live Evil and later on Dehumanizer. The politics and family trees of modern music must be the most complex of threads to follow.
I saw Heaven and Hell the night before Holly was born, the only reason I made it to the gig was because the staff threw me out of the hospital even though Joycee was in early labour. But the SECC where they were playing is almost across the road from the maternity wards and I spent the whole night with my phone in my hand just in case.
However, Holly waited until Alice Cooper was warming up for his gig at the same venue the next night before she showed, she so nearly had Alice as a middle name for that. I still have the tickets somewhere, and I’ve learned never to book anything months in advance from that.

Anyway, for a bunch of older gentlemen they seem to making some half decent noises if that new track is anything to go by. It’s nice when your childhood heroes don’t become embarassing.
The cover’s rubbish though, and adolescent horror fantasy that belongs on a low budget 80’s thrash album, they should have stuck to the classics like the late 70’s Sabs man trying to catch the Rubik’s Cube while throwing off his hippy greatcoat as seen below.

Wood

 

The place we’re working just now has a huge victorian kitchen. You really expect servants to be scurrying around preparing the masters dinner and Gordon Jackson should telling us off for chatting to the maids and dipping a finger in the pot to taste the broth.

There’s a huge centre table with a spalted beech top, two inches thick and maybe five by six feet, split in the middle and opened in a book-matched style. It’s a lovely bit of wood and has been finished semi-matt, which has really brought out the grain and colours. However, I’ve been sitting near this thing  for weeks with a cuppa smelling “something”. And it’s Tung Oil.

Way back when I looked like that monochrome guy with the hair many pages below I used to have great fun invalidating the warranty on Gibson guitars by stripping the finish off an replacing it either with a matt oiled finish, or do what later became popular with many manufactureres and “age” the guitar.

I used the Tung Oil for some of the finishes and the smell in the kitchen was like “Go straight to 1992, do not pass GO do not collect 200 Euros”. It’s true what they say, smell is the biggest memory trigger.

My main guitar was (is if ever get off my arse) a Les Paul which was once wine red and is now what you see in the pictures. I love the oiled finish, it feels smooth to the touch and brings out the grain on the plainest of woods. It lost it’s smell many years ago but for months after is was finished it smelled like that kitchen table until sweat, smoky clubs (aye, them were the days…not) and beer rendered it harmless. The guitar itself is the thing I would throw to JYC out of the window of the burning house after the photo albums and before I jumped out myself. It has so much history attached to it. Friends long gone, songs long forgotten, stories never told and the scars of being dropped, thrown into drumkits/drummers.

Also, it has almost no treble frequencies in it. If ever a guitar was designed for C# and 30bpm, this is it. Alright!