The Upside Down

There’s a reference here but it’s not ‘Stranger Things’

The title was inspired by a quote from ‘Mary Poppins’ the musical where she describes the Banks family as an upside down family.

So much of the story of Mary Poppins is about the tension between a Father’s duty to business, working life and his family.

There are plenty of instances where this has been the case in real life where there are complex problems within a family set up that can sometimes end up buried and cause long term resentment.

Lyrically, it is one of the most complicated topics I cover in the album. The idea of disillusionment and how choices can impact any family but how introspection and seeking resolutions with empathy and forgiveness is a way to come to terms with everything.

The story of Mary Poppins has a wonderful arc for Mr. Banks. I wish that arc can be true for life itself as well.

Myopia

Myopia was written in response to short term thinking from people in power. Another track that justifies the word ‘disillusionment’ in the album title.

Initially, the lyrics explore the trap of making selfish decisions that in turn, leave other people in worse off positions and exploited. Another running theme is about profit being a priority above duty.

The big closing moment that finishes this track is in regards to our climate and the mess we are making of the planet and whilst positive strides have been made, there is still a lot of lip service, empty promises and unsustainable processes going on.

The use of the word ‘Prudence’ has declined in the last few years but I think it should become fashionable again.

I certainly wish that we all behave in a way that is more prudent and less myopic.

Grey Day

There are days when you wake up and feel like rubbish.

It could be just a horrible phase, a rough period or clinical depression. Nothing exact as such.

I wrote this song about those kind of days.

The voices in your head that keep telling you that you’re not good enough are winning (I call this ‘resistance’) and you are left with little energy to do anything else other than wallow.

The thing I’ve learnt is that things always get lighter when you take a walk and open up to someone about it.

Men in particular are awful at this, and it’s becoming more prevalent in the media how false sense of masculinity and bottling up feelings is doing more harm than good.

I wanted to write this song to express the fact that’s it’s okay to have these kind of days and it’s also okay to talk about it.

Half Notion

I wrote Half Notion after reading this brilliant quote from Guillermo Del Toro.

I always say, when you’re young and unsuccessful, you don’t have the money, and if you’re not careful, when you’re old and successful, you don’t have the passion. To be put in either of those two positions is a tragedy. I think one of the toughest times in any man’s life is his twenties, because in your twenties you’re fiercely screaming who you are, but you have only half a notion of who you are. Then as you grow older, you whisper who you are, but people are closer to you, and they listen. By that time, you have half a notion, a quarter of a notion, of who you are. I think the tragedy is when you finally have all the people that you need surrounding you, and you have nothing left to say.”

Reading this passage from ‘cabinet of curiosities’ gave me a heck of a lot of comfort in my early twenties. The very idea that it’s okay to not have a clue about anything. The problem is school and society tells you that you need to get your act together swiftly, and that you need to be successful sharpish.

Passion, desire and anxiety go hand in hand whilst you’re still trying to figure it all out. Half Notion musically and lyrically deals with me living that experience.

The middle solo is one of my proudest moments on the guitar as well.

If you’re in your twenties, early or late and you feel like you are still figuring everything out, that’s fine and you’re far from alone in feeling that. You’ve got time and in the meantime, enjoy the exploration.

Dreams to Ashes

Track 1 of my solo debut album was initially written in 2015 and completed in 2018.

Musically, it’s a progressive metal track through and through with 5/4 being the opening time signature amongst other jagged rhythms and riffs.

Most of the track is guitars, bass and drums but there are moments where I use acoustic guitars, synths and other textures. The ending is particularly dense.

Lyrically, the album is about what has been called by some as the lost decade. The growing chaos and division that occurred from 2016 onwards and futures being determined by lack of upward mobility, soaring house prices and inequality, prejudice and hatred.

This opening track was one of the reasons I wanted to include the word ‘disillusion’ in the album title.

Amidst all the frustration I expressed in this track, and my observation of it all, I throw in an element of hope in there. The problems are definitely there, but many of us see them and are doing something about it. Here is to changing things for the better.

Between a Disillusion and Resolution

A year ago today, my debut solo album ‘Between a Disillusion and Resolution’ was released.

Before this, I had released my music as the progressive rock group Eden Shadow and decided to release music under my own name.

The whole process felt liberating and the nine tracks on the album features many facets of my musical personality included some progressive rock and metal elements, but I also steered towards a songwriting focus with songs such as ‘Grey Day’, ‘Kaleidoscope’ and ‘Anything is Possible’.

I wrote a lot of these songs whilst I was teaching music in Dubai and thematically the album was an exploration of transience and personal evolution. The music is eclectic and probably the most personal I have released and I thoroughly enjoyed the process of writing and recording it with my team of fellow musicians and artists.

The album is available digitally and when live shows can happen, I will be going through the process of having physical copies available, the links are below.

In the meantime, I am working on my next solo material and go into the studio next month.

I look forward to sharing more musical creations with you in the not too distant future.

Writing and recording a solo

When I write music and have a basis for a solo, I get really excited. This is an opportunity to take my musicianship further and express myself on the guitar in a way where I push my limits.

Once you have the chords and know what scales you need to use, there’s then the possibilities and choices you can make to unfold a narrative.

You can use a variety of techniques, dynamics, and pitch to build tension and really take the track to a new height.

Very rarely do I achieve this in the first take. I don’t even achieve it in the next ten either. It takes exploration and trial and error and eventually you find yourself in a flow state where the magic starts to happen. That may be a hundred takes later.

Don’t give up before you get there.

The gap in the middle

I’m working on a piece where I know the beginning and I know the ending.

What has been the real challenge is deciding what happens in between.

The beginning establishes the melodic motif and information, there’s a development of ideas, particularly rhythmic, and the ending starts with a return of the precious melodic material in much more dramatic fashion with a flurry of interplay between the instruments. I’m digging it but the gap in the middle has eluded me for weeks.

I’m getting there now, and from carefully chopping away at it, I’ve managed to find what works, I’m suggesting where I’m going without giving the full game away, especially from a tonal and harmony point of view.

It’s an abstract process but eventually by chipping away at it, you find a creative solution, one that bridges the piece together and allows it to establish the sense of direction.

Long term planning

Humans are not very good at it.

The agricultural and industrial revolutions have made us exceptionally good at utilising the Earth’s resources and improving lives for many of us, but it’s come at a cost.

And whilst I’m no expert or a virologist, I’m confident in saying that this pandemic is a cause of us taking our exploitation of resources too far, in particular the way we treat animals.

I greatly admire the innovations that have happened and developments of technology in the sustainable world of energy, but whilst there are many amazing people working in this field, there are those who are still working with resources that will benefit a minority in the short term whilst harming many of us in the long term.

We should not wait for disasters to bring out the best of us as that might be too late.

The choices we make today are essential in how we determine the course for the next century and the generations to come.

The fields that people choose to work in, the choices we make, the pressure we put on people in positions of power to live and work with the long term in mind is essential.

Let’s go Crazy

The famous track opens up Prince’s iconic album ‘Purple Rain’.

What blows my mind about this song is that besides the intro and outdo, it almost entirely comprises of two chords that repeat.

Between verse and chorus, Prince very cleverly arranged the music in a way to transform the energy of the song. Mainly it’s through his charisma as a performer.

The film version is also 7 minutes long!

It makes me wonder though, what are the possibilities of creation. If you could only use two chords, what would you do with them?

I think setting yourself a parameter like that, makes you approach creativity in ways you did not previously consider.

Prince did go crazy and so can you!