A few weeks ago, I had the privilege of meeting a brilliant man named Pete Jones. I met him through my manager who has recently signed him on to White Knight Records.
Despite being blind, an ailment that can’t be truly comprehended by those who don’t have it, he has an incredible talent for playing guitar and keyboards, along with a cracking voice.
One thing that is pretty impressive is his ideasthesia to which he can relate touching objects to musical notes! (In the case of our meeting, the coffee table next to him was a middle C).
We discussed our love of Genesis, in particular, Selling England by the Pound as well as unconventional recording methods. I record with Logic and Pro-Tools and a very intrisacly detailed production process whereas Pete uses a 16 tape cassette and an Sm58 microphone! It sounds awesome too.
The thing I took most from our meeting though was his sheer joy at writing the music he wants to write. He was an X factor finalist on British television to which Sony, as a major label is susceptible to doing, treated him pretty mercilessly. That phase is past and his joy for music is now soaring and I’m proud to be involved in a musical community with him.
Here is a recent video of him performing a song called A visit to Chigwick. It is distinctively British, does not take itself seriously and will be a nostalgic trip for many who grew up in the 70’s.
When I was in Africa, I had the privilege of meeting a wonderful woman called Edith Wakumire. She lost her mother at six months old, with her Father left to fend for herself and her brothers and sisters. Seen as a disgrace to the eyes of the community, her father was murdered when she was aged twelve. Most orphans this age in Uganda are left with two options, be sold off into prostitution or married multiple times. Despite the horrific circumstances, she defied traditions under Idi Amin’s tyrannical rule, Edith sold coffee and bamboo so she could attend school from the age of 9. She also worked in teacher training in Kampala, and managed to further her training in Singapore before returning to her home to establish the Uganda Women Concern Ministry. An organisation that oversees the care of 11,000 affected by HIV AIDS as well as sponsor the education of orphans.
I have seen the work of the ministry first hand, widowed women given work by creating jewellery out of old magazines, some of which I bought for my family back home.
I have seen communities where every child, women and man will die of AIDS. Because of the ministry’s efforts, their passing is to be seen through as compassionately and respectfully as possible.
When I met Edith, she had a streak of joy in her eyes, ever faithful and ever believing in goodness.
Today is international women’s day.
We live in a world where each and every one of us owes our existence to women, yet equal pay, opportunities and respect remain an elusive to the vast amount of majority in the world.
May today and every continuous day be a step forward for humanity and the equality of women.
This year thus far has been an impeccable one for music thus far and yesterday is what I could call one of the most highly anticipated Monday’s of my life as I waited for the post man to deliver the deluxe edition of Steven Wilson’s new album Hand. Cannot. Erase.
Anyone who has heard of my work with Eden Shadow or has met me in person will be aware that I take a lot of influence from this artist. I grew up with Porcupine Tree and besides Dream Theater, Tool and Opeth; Wilson has been one of very few artists to carry the torch through the last two decades for a genre of music that was constantly pushing boundaries (deemed by many as prog).
Besides being an unusual artist emerging through the 90’s, it has become very clear to me why Wilson has now gained the deserved amount of success he has had with Porcupine Tree and now his solo career. Firstly, the guy is relentless and completely prolific in writing music every single day, continuously making records, he has failed at achieving what he’s wanted at times but he’s kept going. It took him 15 years before he gained any prevalent recognition for what he was doing when PT released In Absentia, and every time he has faced success, he is adamant in ensuring that he does not repeat himself. Secondly, his attention to detail at times is astounding, you take many of his records, and the way in which they’re presented both sonically and in it’s packaging is remarkable, leading to a unique and immersive experience. Finally and what i would argue to be most important point is the context of his music. I have heard so much music from this scene, which is completely contrived and says so little that I would say even though most of my time is dedicated to writing progressive rock music, I avoid listening to most of it! The older I get, the more I realise what makes music work for me is how much I see of myself in it, which is when people ask me what my favourite records, I’ll say something like Vespertine by Bjork because it is a complete reflection of my introverted self. Wilson has more and more through the years delivered albums where he has had something to say. Music is a language after all. He is also one of very few artists who, low and behold, can actually be articulate in an interview, listen to to a question and say something insightful.
In terms of having something to say, and a mirror to hold up, after listening to Hand. Cannot. Erase. for the first time, I regard this album as one of the most relevant to me he has yet written. The album concept in brief is this,
“The story of Hand.Cannot.Erase. is a about a girl who grows up, moves to the city and begins to erase herself”
This is loosely based on the disappearance of Joyce Carol Vincent, who was a young woman, had a family, had friends but erased herself from everyone around her, died in her apartment and wasn’t discovered for three years. That is an incredibly macabre subject matter, but it holds a lot of pathos about modern day life in the city, and I have experienced this myself! I moved from the Welsh countryside to my student town, just outside London, and there were times when I was in London on my own and I felt completely isolated from the millions of people around me.
It’s not just the idea of being able to isolate yourself in a metropolis that is explored in this album, it’s also the impact that social media has had on my generation in particular and the fact there are people who can loose themselves in social media and video games where they do not walk outside their front doors for days on end. I am all to aware of the benefits of social media, but I share some ambivalence about it. More so than anything else, I use social media to share ideas, to share my thoughts, my music as well as other people’s idea and works but all too often, people who are using social media for those purposes are contending with a mass volume of trivial noise of people portraying their lives in a way that is faux. The lyrics from ‘Home Invasion’ seriously hit home.
Download sex and download God. Download the funds to meet the cost. Download a dream home and a wife. Download the ocean and the sky.
Another day of life has passed me by. But I have lost all faith in what’s outside. They only are the stars across the sky And the wreckage of the night.
Download love and download war. Download the shit you didn’t want. Download the things that make you MAD. Download the life you wish you had.
I’ll save describing the music or concepts any further, but in my humble opinion, this album is again an incredible achievement and I look forward to seeing it live. For more context, here’s a great interview.