Days in the life of a songwriter 33

Sooooo, back again. First things first. Tomorrow we’ll be playing a long overdue live set at The Workshop in Shoreditch. They call it The Workshop Hoxton, whatever. I have been told we’ll be in quite a folky setting, which is why we won’t be having any drums, let’s see what it’s like. The Facebook event page is here. And Symptomatic (promoter) have created a flyer which looks like this: The Workshop

The line up will consist of Imogen Burman on cello, Hakon Sveinsson on piano and Joe Carter on trumpet, plus me on vocals and acoustic guitar. In case you’d like to check it out, we’ll be on just after half 9 for a 30 minutes’ set. In case you can’t be bothered to follow the links, The Workshop is at 243 Old Street, London.

Last night I went to a songwriter’s night called the 15 minute club, organised by Laurence Hobbs at All Star Lanes Holborn, it must have been my lucky night, as Yann Destal was the first performer on the night and put in a stand-out performance. He was backed by his Takamine acoustic guitar and a couple of pedals and sometimes, two background singers, that he had brought along from France. I think the other performers were facing a bit of an uphill struggle after him. But Ridley Barbet from Yorkshire managed to play a good set straight after Yann.


Days in the life of a songwriter 32

Where was I? Let’s talk about something I started recently. The kitchen sessions. I did dip my toes a little bit last year, when I recorded myself playing a song (Can You Take Me Home) on an acoustic guitar in a friend’s living room. But the idea is, to turn this into a regular feature, using a little video camera that records the vid plus the audio in decent quality in our kitchen about once every two weeks. The camera is a Zoom Q3 and the only other accessory you need is a tripod. Almost any tripod will do. The first one I did, was a song that talks about Peter Gabriel. It’s called St Peter and it’s up on the old Youtube if you click the link. The guitar is an Alhambra classical guitar which I borrowed from a friend, it’s a lovely guitar but my own classical is making its way here as we speak. Probably crossing France at the moment.

I shall keep it fairly brief today, as I need to get back into mixing my Norwegian project, more about that later. I managed to read a few books on mixing in the past year and if you would like to up your skills in that department I recommend you read these 3. Especially in the order given as each one gets more involved and technical than the one before. The first one I read was The Producer’s Manual by Paul White who is also the editor of Sound on Sound magazine, pretty straightforward with good advice and tips on how to record stuff as well. Then, go on to Mixing Secrets for the Small Studio, Mike Senior, who does write articles for Sound On Sound, has a wealth of experience when it comes to mixing, and basically gives you failsafe recipes on how to do it, in a hands on manner. Lastly, there is a book, which, if read first will only confuse you, but if read after the aforementioned ones, will give you a wealth of information about why you actually do things the way you do them and what else you could do and how you could do it in a different way. It’s called Mixing, Concepts, Practices and Tools, by Roey Izhaki, who teaches at SAE amongst other bodies. I’m not making any money from this, just thought I’d tell you which books worked for me. If you know how to monetise this, tell me.

So, about to wrap up for the day, but a friend has asked me to write a few lines about a friend of theirs and their up coming release. The band is called ‘Woodman Stone’ and the new offering from them will be officially released on Monday 25th of March. I believe they hail from Leicester as that’s where they recorded “Someone Else’s Dreams Will Fill Our Home” (but not sure). Their songs spring forth from their dreams and they came up with a bit of a myth concerning their origins, apparently they came into this world in a post apocalyptic post 3rd world war type of scenario, there must be some time warping going on that I’m not entirely aware of. Tom Robinson of 6 music wasn’t put off by this conundrum, but I guess he skipped the reading bit and went straight for the music. Good man. The music is quite a mix of pop styles with an electric indie folk feel. Especially the vocals give it a folk twist for me, as the vocals seem less produced than the instruments. So yes, good songwriting skills well recorded, see whether it’s your cuppa. I’ll add an itunes link here next week.

Days in the life of a songwriter 31

Okay, just sat down for about 10 minutes to see if I could come up with a list of things I would like to talk about. Yes, made a list almost all the way down an A4 sheet.

I don’t think it really matters where I start, so let’s just dive in somewhere. Well, musicians usually do gigs once in a while, or all the time if there is no day job to distract them. Some even manage to do both. Now, if you aren’t famous already, and you aren’t playing covers, chances are you aren’t making a lot of money. You might be losing money! By the time you and a couple of other fools (i.e., the band) have rocked up at the venue, you are a few travelcards down, you will be spending money on drinks and you might have had a couple of rehearsal, which means 30-50 quid per rehearsal and a few more travelcards …… yes, you are right, down again. So let’s say 30 people make it to your gig, that means the venue will give you about 30 pounds, or 40 if they are feeling generous. Well, you can see where this is going. You have just made a loss. (At least that’s how it is in London)

Here’s where a new-ish thing is coming to the rescue. Second Life has been around for a number of years, but for people like me who aren’t into gaming or most things virtual, I didn’t even know it existed. Thanks to my friend Jordan (Reyne), I was introduced to it. She has been playing gigs on there for about 2 years I think. Anyway, she invited me to a special morning, where 3 acts from London performed in succession. First Jordan, then me, then Maxdymz (industrial metal). That was back in September 2012. Since then I pretty much started playing my own gigs by the end of October and now have a couple of regular slots in this virtual world. In case you are in the dark about Second Life or SL for short, it is a virtual world that you can explore using an avatar. You can walk, fly, travel and be teleported to places, a bit like in the old Star Trek. So, if I play a gig, people see my avatar on stage and I see their avatars arrive at the venue. They can use local chat to communicate and they can even tip a muso, using SL’s online currency, Lindens. The audience then listens to me singing into a mic in my room and my guitar plugged into my little mixing desk.

I was hooked up with someone who spends a lot of time in SL. And she agreed to be my online booker (I call her my pimp), which is a total blessing, as it is not easy selling yourself. So, if someone else does it, greatttttt. If anyone wants to book a gig, I’ll say, please get in touch with Secret (Rage) as she has all the dates. Well, you can see, you can play gigs without leaving your room or your pyjamas behind!!! You can’t get rich, but you can make a few bob, to help you out a bit and once you are established, even get a fixed fee from the venues. It’s still all pocket-money, but every little helps and people who like what you do will follow you onto other platforms too, like Facebook and so forth. You are spreading the word.

In order to be able to do this, you need: a microphone, an instrument, a small mixing desk, a decent (external) soundcard, headphones. And you need to find someone on SL to let you stream audio into this virtual world. I pay 1500 Lindens a month for it, which is 3.75 pounds. And you need to download a little program that will stream your audio to that person’s server. There are various small ones around. I use something called BUTT.  Image

You can see my avatar (or avi) doing a gig at a venue called Key West in Second Life above. If there is anything you’d like to know, that I left off, or whatever, leave a comment and I’ll add whatever it is, provided I know the answer.

Managed to update the info on Bandcamp as well, where you can buy all the new songs. Put more stuff on Soundcloud as well, and have started doing kitchen sessions, where I play a song in simple acoustic fashion in our kitchen and put it on Youtube. Right, next blog post soon, and if you have a minute have a look at the updated Amphibic website as well.

Next blog post soon.

Amphibic on American television, yeah baby!

Right, where was I? I left for Christmas and the whole family thing ensued. Saw nephews and nieces, ate way too much and managed to get a bit of musician-geek-DIY done. I re-surrected a mic which I had converted to a tube mic (courtesy of Dave Royer who published an article on this way back). In case you’d like to do the same follow the link. I had used a different mic back then and wasn’t that pleased by the result. But with too much time on my hands, and as luck would have it, an MXL2001 which is the mic that Dave had intended the circuit for, I ripped the circuit from the old mic and put it in the MXL. I finally got round and did some early testing of this mic yesterday and I have a feeling I’ll be using it quite a bit now (yes it sounds fantastic). Maybe I should mention that I’m a big fan of dynamic mics (simpler technology), especially the Sennheiser MD421 and the old Shure SM58. I also like lo-fi throwbacks like the Beyerdynamic M55. And I should add that it’s better to record than not to record, as what is happening in front of the mic is what really counts.

Okay, that’s enough geek-age. Just before the year was out, I was joined by someone dear to me and there was a big feast featuring wild boar that night. On the last day of the year we ended up on the roof terrace of my mate’s house which is fairly high up, we had given up the plan of driving to the top of a nearby hill, to see the fireworks mayhem that visits Germany every New Year’s eve. This is due to the fact that everyone can and will buy fireworks. We did hear the fire engines later that night, as there are always a few house fires and someone’s probably lost some part of their body and possibly their eye sight. On to happier news.

There were a few more days where I could chill and I managed to borrow a car to drive up to the Dutch border where Steven (at Haldern Pop) had been storing my old guitar case for my Strat (for about 4 years). Thanks Steven! I also picked up a last batch of CDs from them. Before I got to Haldern I drove past Ollie’s place to pick up my old VOX AC10 amp from about 1958. It’s tan and I bought it in London in 1993 or so, when it was in a terrible state. They are very rare and fetch more than a thousand US. Anyway, it was good to see Ollie, Steffie and their little one, Leo. We had a couple of beers in the evening and shared a coffee in the morning, then back on the road. Ollie gave me a Fender Tex Mex pickup which is now the twinkle in my brunette guitar’s eye.

Just before I came back an email reached me to tell me that the song Hungry Man, from our EP THERE WERE MILLIONS OF THEM, had made it onto American television. It was used in a show called ‘Switched at Birth’. I think the episode is called ‘Starry Night’. I will have to see whether I should offer this publisher a few more songs, or whether I should spread the wares over a couple of publishers? But I would like to keep some new songs back, in order not to run out of ammunition for publishers here. The company in the US specializes in TV and Film.

Anyway, back here now, have done three jobs. Met Atul at his musician’s meet up on Saturday, where I met Felix Macintosh who runs Tigersonic studios. Went to see the film ‘The Artist” on the weekend and that’s it. Will do some recording now…..

Amphibic make the ITV evening news!!!

Sorry for a bit of a break (two weeks instead of one) but one, I was dead busy last week, and two, I had the feeling that I was putting out too much!? Let me know what you think please.

One thing that I haven’t mentioned when I mentioned the Ideal Home Show the other day, was that I’m contemplating using stop animation to produce a video. I saw this stand by a company calle Hue Animation who supply you with their software, camera and plasticine to create stop animation videos. I thought it’s great stuff for me or other artists to create videos for their songs. You need 8 frames per second which means you need to create 1680 frames (individual pics) for a 3 and a half minute pop song. I can do that and I bet you can too! That’s my good deed for the day.

Jordan Reyne tipped me off about a bandcamp meet up which took place at the book club 10 days ago and I went. Bandcamp helps bands to sell their wares online and from what I saw and heard they do it better than most. They are very friendly people and even shelled out a couple of drinks and I’m sure you know that it’s almost impossible to get a free drink with a bloody gig in London!! It also had a bit of a ‘camp’ (as in tent) like atmosphere about it, a bit boyscout-y if you like. Anyway, I liked it. I do have a bandcamp profile now (see link on the right) and you’ll see it grow over the coming days.

After a couple more rehearsals we played our 12 Bar Club gig on the 1st of Dec. Just before our sound check an ITV camera crew appeared to do a feature on Denmark Street and its musical history (Sex Pistols, a Rolling Stone album was recorded there, publishers were and are based there, music shops and clubs are still there…). Well they filmed our sound check and did a mini interview with Imogen and myself and we ended up on London tonight, on Saturday evening. I found out on facebook.

The next day I went down to Goldsmith’s as Sam Lee (period folkster) was holding a master class there. He talked about his journey and how he got started. He has been running a folk club for I think 6 years in London, it’s called the Magpie’s Nest. Promoting other people for a few years means that he’s been able to connect with lots of very interesting people and is in a fantastic postition to release his own album. He did some unaccompanied singing of traditional folk songs which he does in a very serene way, I was damn impressed by the man. I had a very brief chat with him before he set off across the country to meet an Irish traveller community to hear their old songs! Great stuff.

Oh yes, our gig went well, apart from trumpeter Joe being off sick, as he’d spent the night bringing his guts up. Well, we still struggled to get 6 of us onto the stage.

Matt Jamison, Charlie Ashcroft and Jim Gellatly at Amazing Radio have all played our songs so far. Thanks lads. And I have to say, after listening to quite a few of their shows now, that they are doing a great job, only using unsigned bands and talent. Tune in sometime if you can. They are on DAB far left on the dial.

Right, last point. Am off to see the lovely Sarah Ward at JazzFM now, we’ll be talking about Christmas markets, catch up on old times and play a song. The show will be broadcast close to Christmas, but I’ll keep you posted. Laters.

Days in the life of a songwriter 25

Failed miserably in my quest to finally see Ash’s film, Self Made, by Gillian Wearing. Only realised just before we wanted to go to the BFI last Saturday that they were showing it at half six which was much too bloody early for yours truly. So, no, it hasn’t been seen yet. Damn. My journey to the World Travel Market took place on Wednesday but I was a bit disappointed. It was alright, I just didn’t see as many old faces as I had imagined…oh well. I got some much needed CDRs in the post and also a bottom skin (it’s actually called side skin) for my blue Del Rey snare. So I can hopefully put it to good use soon.

Well, we still went out and saw a movie, Tintin and something unicorn (the Adventures of Tintin: The secret of the unicorn). It was very well done, with lots of action and 3D and all (the good people at the Odeon charged us a quid extra for the 3D glasses, after taking 17 something off us already) .. if I don’t lose them I can use them next time… Jamie Bell, was Tintin’s voice, Andy Serkis did a sterling job as Captain Haddock and Daniel Craig weighed in as the baddie Ivan Ivanovitch Saccharin. My mate Olaf confessed that he, at times, forgot that it’s a CGI animated cartoon, which speaks for the plot and the pretty impressive action scenes, but keep in mind, it is still a kids movie, you need to be a kid at heart to enjoy it. We had a good laugh and our Saturday was saved. Here’s the trailer:

Had a proper rehearsal with Ben and we’re almost there. A violin player from Goldsmith’s got in touch which means we are heading towards a complete line-up with full steam ahead. Today’s the day when I finally hook up my old piano module to an amp in my room, in order to be able to play/learn piano at any time without being hooked up to my computer. Have also spoken to Celine about some regular lessons, yeah!

I used to work for JazzFm as a techie a few years back (amongst a few other London stations) and I got a call from a lady whose show I used to work on. Her name is Sarah Ward and she asked me to do a little interview with her for a show near Christmas, to talk about music, travelling and Christmas markets. Jazz Fm was resurrected a couple of years back and is now online and on DAB, which is great for fans of Jazz as the old JazzFm became Smooth Radio. Anyway, working with Sarah was always fun and I’m really looking forward to seeing her again. There will be coffee and chats!

Almost forgot, looking forward to our gig at the 12 Bar Club on December 1st. Okay, time for lunch kids.

Days in the life of a songwriter 24

Haven’t seen the film Self Made yet but will hopefully rectify that this Saturday as it’s showing at the BFI. Managed to see Jari play with Sanai Joe’s group at the Archangel and met a few of Sanai’s friends too. I shot a video of them doing one song on my new Zoom Q3 (audio and video recorder) just to practise a bit. This was after my dentist ‘Tom” had given me a lovely new filling, he replaced an old one. On Thursday I went down to the Imperial College, met up with Ben in Beit Squad and had a little try out session at the Jazz-Rock society’s studio. Jake joined us on violin and it sounded pretty good.

On Saturday we went to a huge bonfire/fireworks display in Maida Vale, courtesy of our mate James whose flat borders this big garden where some pros perform a fantastic show every year. We came with booze, saw the show had a few drinks, met old pals and towards the end I played about 4 songs, as I had wisely brought the old Seagull acoustic along. A songwriter named Lucinda also played a couple of tunes on the very same geetaarrr. Had a great lie-in after that, yeah! Then went down to have a wander round Portobello and ended up in the kitchen and pantry place off Kensington Park Road, great sofas.

I quite like baking bread and I like using wild (slightly different) ingredients. I have this new stuff called Masa Harina, it’s what middle and south Americans use to make tortillas. Anyway, the variety I bought killed off the yeast in my dough (I tested this out on Monday in little test bowls!). Obviously the bread I made using about a quarter of Masa Harina, didn’t move at all. In short it didn’t rise. Now I know better.

Tomorrow I’m going to dip into the World Travel Market, surprise a couple of old faces and maybe meet a few new ones. Got out my Gibson 335 copy (it’s a Vintage VSA 535) a few days ago to run through songs in the set using the little Vox amp. This guitar still blows me away. Maybe I should get in touch with the makers and see whether I can strike a sponsorship deal. Anyway, also got the tap delay out (geek alert), it’s called Head Rush (by Akai) and got back in the swing of using it. You can tap a button with your foot to tell it the pace of the song, so your delay will be in sync. Love it!!! 🙂 Okay, don’t want to freak you out. Invite for the new gig on December first is coming soon.

Almost forgot. Last thing.  Sorted out a profile on Sonicbids where you can submit your music in order to get into festivals. Well, we are on it now and managed to submit to SXSW just before the deadline. Here’s our profile, Amphibic at Sonicbids. We are slowly getting there, when it comes to online presence.