Back in the studio

Over the last few days, myself, Aled Lloyd and Andrew Bishop travelled to mid Wales and recorded drums and guitars for my second album.

The studio we are in is Giant Wafer, and it’s an absolutely beautiful environment to create music in.

The direction I have taken with this new record is very different to anything I have done before and I look forward to sharing more details with you.

In the meantime, here are some photos of us in action.

Giri/Haji

This series is excellent.

I am loving crime series at the moment, but Giri/Haji (or translated in English as Duty/Shame) was very unique in a good way.

Firstly, the BBC and Japanese collaboration made for a fantastic international experience with strong casts and contrasting locations. The style was a real fusion of British Crime and Japanese style.

If you don’t watch series or films because of foreign languages and subtitles, your loss.

Secondly, the intrigue wasn’t in the mystery itself, more the tension of the whirlwind so many characters found themselves in after a string of bad choices and the consequences they had on people around them.

There was a chaos to the series, it is absolutely brutal but also outright hilarious with some really captivating and charming performances, most notably from Will Sharpe and Aoi Okuyama.

It’s wonderful to live in a world where series that are really niche and out there can be enjoyed by it’s audience. It’s a shame it got cancelled after the first series, but the 8 episodes are a thrilling roller coaster and can be there to be enjoyed on demand.

I thoroughly recommend this series.

P.S. Speaking of ‘On Demand’. The amount of people still watching appointment viewed terrestrial TV is big, and the complaints for the blanket coverage on the royal death over the weekend were unprecedented!

Forgot the inane adverts and the energy needed to formally complain when your show of choice gets booted for the commentary about the commentary about the royal coverage…there are so many options available to you, which you can have all at your fingertips…now!

Recording a live performance.

We are in an age where recording devices are aplenty. As is the ability to manipulate the recording to make something appear to be a full take when it’s not.

I take pride when I can do a full performance of something, but sometimes things need editing.

Some people have the privilege and means to record in an environment with endless time to make their craft.

A lot more of us if we do have that space have a precious amount of time in there.

Adrenaline kicks in and we are aware of every error. A 4 minute performance is marred in our head because of an error that took place in a second.

Though, for all this pressure, it’s easy to underestimate a quality that is important.

We are humans, making mistakes and errors is part of the process of making something. When so much has gone well in a take, is it really worth discrediting because of one minuscule discrepancy that only you (or the real analytical snobs) can discern?

There’s also a charm in the imperfection of a note as well.

There’s a subjectivity here, a need for careful judgement, but I know for a fact that aiming for perfection alone sets up a trap for ourselves.

The War of Art

This book changed the way I think.

Steven Pressfield is the author of ‘The War of Art’ and the ingenious thing he did was give a name to something profound and huge that we all deal with.

Resistance.

Resistance is basically the part of your brain that wants you to be comfortable, not take risks, sit down, shut up and do your (day) job. Resistance doesn’t want you to elevate to higher levels because it’s too afraid of the anguish involved in activity that requires a high level of commitment and effort.

This last week, resistance has been grating away at me. It’s made me want to avoid creating, working and made me second guess myself. It isn’t going to go away.

I listen, I allow these thoughts to process, I say thank you but I’ll keep going and press forward, despite it’s incessant nagging. I finally managed to map out a new track and got into a flow state, where I was continuing with my work until 3am.

Once you overcome those voices, you can then engage with doing creative work and it gets easier once you overcome the hurdle of starting.

If you write, if you create, if you want to do something that elevates you, but you won’t because your being held back by something.

Read this book.

Re-recordings

Some things can only be done once.

You can try to replicate it, all the ingredients are the same, but the same emotional investment you gave in that moment isn’t quite ticking this time round.

That always comes to mind every time I hear re-recorded releases. I have a few but none of them supersede the original.

Taylor Swift has just released her versions of ‘Fearless’ and I cross checked the two versions out of curiosity.

Everything’s been done with pinpoint accuracy where things should sound the same, but to my ears, they simply don’t!

Swift really caught the zeitgeist for teenage girls with her second album. I was busy listening to prog metal but I remember friends of mine who had her music on repeat.

There’s an authenticity and innocence in her earlier work, and 12 years down the line, I’d argue it’s nigh on impossible to recreate that magic of the original master.

Just imagine the possibility of a re-recording of any favourite records of yours. I can’t think of any scenario where that would be beneficial.

I understand the motivation and the situation with her label has been well documented, and whilst many will believe she’s been done wrong, everything that took place was legal, make of it what you will.

So what’s the intention with these re-recordings? The most obvious thing to me is the dignity of ownership. It could be and does feel like an act of defiance as well. It could be money, but all parties involved have plenty, but then again, being rich can become a hedonic treadmill.

If fans love it, that’s totally cool and to be respected, I’m just weighing in because it interests me and I think there can be a few lessons to consider.

A.) Careful about what you sign up for and what your rights are. Musicians are notorious for falling into this trap. Be enthusiastic about the work, but stand your ground if a contract looks like it’ll take something away from you.

B.) As artists, what’s the best approach with our time, to look forwards or backwards? To continue creating something new or innovative or try to recreate what’s already done?

Disability Sports Wales

Back in December, I was approached by Disability Sports Wales to provide some music for their awards ceremony.

Their awards ceremony took place online due to Covid restrictions this year but they have done a spectacular job in recognising and celebrating the work that organisations and individuals are doing to provide sporting opportunities that are inclusive and explores possibilities for everyone to reach their potential.

To find out more, the video can be viewed below.

Energy in = energy out

There are external forces at play, all the time.

We all have different sets of privilege and power.

Nevertheless, I strongly believe the choices we make are still profoundly impactful on the outcomes of where we end up and where we are headed.

Being able to make good choices is a skill, one that requires introspection and a sense of philosophy.

Positive energy that we spread can result in positive outcomes.

But the same goes for negative, and maybe negative energy spreads easier. It certainly feels that way at times.

At this point I share my concern for the conflict in Northern Ireland. The Good Friday Agreement was a much needed solution to a deeply rooted and complex problem. The solutions that were made all were put into threat when Brexit happened, something that kept the negotiations going for years.

And when lies are spread and promises broken, serious consequences can happen, and those responsible can’t deny that they were warned about this.

I sincerely hope that there is a peaceful resolve.

Exiles

This song as well as ‘Anything is Possible’, ‘Continents Away’ and ‘Kaleidoscope’ all explore the resolution element of ‘Between a Disillusion and Resolution’.

There is a common thread of introspection in identity, belonging, curiosity and travel and ‘Exiles’ especially deals with the idea that to find out more of yourself, you may need to venture further afield.

British people working overseas are normally referred to as ‘Expats’. The dictionary definition of this is ‘to exile oneself’.

Moving to the Middle East for four years definitely did this for me. During my time at home in Wales in 2015, I felt disillusioned and afraid that I may end up stuck in a dead end for longer than I’d ever want to be. Sometimes, a complete uproot is what is needed. And when the time was right, I always had home to come back to. I’m home in Wales again for the time being and the experiences I had have been amazing.

This song is for those who venture further afield, looking to explore, learn and challenge themselves.

Anything is Possible

This song was inspired the Elizabeth Strout novel of the same name.

Strout has this extraordinary way of writing about human beings in small knit communities. It may be fiction, but the feelings, interactions, desires and fears are as real as anything I’ve ever read.

One particularly moment in the book sees a character returning from her work life in the city to her family’s home and village. She ends up being unable to stay due to an overbearing amount of panic and anxiety as if she returned to a childhood trauma.

The whole idea of running away from a place, a memory or a childhood fascinates me, and ‘anything is possible’ was written with the belief of good fortune, good connections and good things being able to happen, no matter what has happened before, so long as you are open to it.

SEASPIRACY

This Netflix documentary riled a lot of people.

On one hand, you have members of the public and watching in shock horror of the reality of the situation in regards to fishing and the industry.

On the other you have companies responding to defend themselves and marine biologists weighing in to debunk some of the misinformation that was included in the documentary.

And whilst I get that the prediction that fish being extinct from the sea by 2048 and the source used for that number was debunked, the intention was in the shock factor.

Misleading? Perhaps, but humans like predicting the future and we are also terrible at it.

I haven’t eaten fish in 7 years after turning vegetarian so I watched it more out of curiosity than looking for it to change my thinking about my diet.

I however, learnt a lot, and for all the defence and debunking that the documentary will come under scrutiny for, I have to credit Ali Tabrizi for having the courage to tackle a daunting subject, one in which consumers for the most part would rather avoid the reality.

There are revelations where people watching have a right to be angry, here are some that stuck with me:

‘Dolphin safe’ being a completely meaningless and disingenuous message for consumers.

Bycatch being far too unregulated.

Shark fin soup and cutting shark fins being a completely pointless and cruel business.

Media hysteria for plastic straws that ultimately accounts for 0.03% of all plastic in the ocean and the blind eye that has been given to plastic pollution caused by fishing. (One criticism I’ve seen about the documentary is that it downplays consumer habits making a difference, I don’t agree, it was much needed relativism).

Human rights abuse and slavery of poor people in the fish trade.

Developed countries fishing in a way that leads to a domino effect of poverty and health crisis in under developed countries.

Salmon fishing being outright gross.

No proper definition on sustainable fishing. Once again the documentary was criticised for saying there was no such thing as sustainable fishing but it’s a bit understandable for Ali to conclude that that is the case when no one was willing to give him a straight answer. I imagine there is sustainable fishing but I’m none the wiser for what that actually looks like.

I’m sure there’s more but it’s 90 intense minutes and a lot to take in. The documentary is designed to provoke and when there’s not much of a mainstream discussion point that has been established, that’s what it has done so my belief is that it contributes to the narrative in a very positive way.

Final thoughts. The documentary steers towards a conclusion where a plant based diet is recommended but it’s not done in the way that some critics have pointed out. For me, I felt it was more of a personal story and what Ali thought was best for him. In no way, do I believe it imposes the notion that vegan diets are a viable alternative for everyone.

As a vegetarian, I acknowledge it as a personal choice and whilst I encourage it, I don’t expect it to be right for everyone. I do however, think that the western and developed world relies far too heavily on meat.

Ultimately, we are amidst a climate and environmental crisis that I’ve grown up in. I’m sick of people denying it, I’m sick of corporations and politicians turning a blind eye to the facts whilst playing lip service and going down the same consumerist and capitalist path of unsustainably. Our generation and future generations have to live through this and clean up this mess.

Things have to change and they are, but they need to change faster.

And to make it happen, you have to hyperbolise the worse case scenarios, you have to piss people off and you have to make a ruckus.

Ali and his team did just that.

Make of it what you will, and if the fishing industry comes under fire and sees a decline in demand, the world will be a bit better for it.