Continents Away

I’m lucky to have friends from all over the world. The not so good thing about that is being away from them for long periods of time.

Continents Away was written about the moments you get to spend with the people you love, but those moments heightened by the fact you know that you are going to be thousands of miles away from each other.

Living in the Middle East had me experience sense of transience in a more frequent way than I had ever experienced before.

Relationships that are long distance most definitely teach us to seize the moment, but there is also that desire in us to make sure we support each other whilst we are away drawn to whatever it is that steers us in different directions.

Kaleidoscope

I remember losing my gaze in a kaleidoscope my Grandmother use to have and the twisting motion bringing about a new wave of symmetrical colours and patterns.

I wrote this song about celebrating curiosity, especially through the form of travel and the whole notion of things being the same, but different.

Working out in the Middle East gave me that opportunity, to see the world but also meet people from everywhere, and I am happy to have friends that are from all the world.

Whilst there are cultural differences, there are many common values we all share no matter where we are from. Especially in a time where Xenophobia has creeped into the narrative, I wanted to write this song to celebrate the idea of cultures and people from anywhere in the world being able to integrate with each other.

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.

Penny For a King?

Penny for a King?

A product of isolation.

My fellow musicians, Rich and Dean (who are currently based in Hong Kong) decided to put an album of original songs together, to which I had the pleasure of working on.

The album is a mixture of rock, grunge and blues with a plethora of attitude. There are riffs galore and it was really fun to mix.

You can listen to it via the following links:

https://music.apple.com/gb/album/a-product-of-isolation/1552187720

Building technical control

One of the best books I ever used to learn to develop and expand my guitar technique was Troy Stetina’s ‘Speed Mechanics for Guitar’.

He’s a monster guitar player but explained perfectly in the paragraphs amongst the exercises as to why we were doing the exercises and what benefit they had.

An entire section of the book was dedicated to the left hand whilst the other focused on the right. Amongst them were details on finger movement efficiency, dexterity and independence as well as a wide range of different movements that are idiomatic for the electric guitar.

The main idea that was re-enforced throughout the book was that speed is a pointless goal unless you aim for accuracy as well.

As I worked through the book along my metronome as a teenager, there were things gradually improving throughout the entire manner to which I played. I felt more in control, used the required amount of energy but nothing excessive and could play passages I thought were well beyond my ability.

These technical exercises played and still play a vital role in my journey for control on my instrument. Looking at the little details and the small steps you can take to level up is always something worth dedicating the time towards.

The Ravel Affair

I am currently attempting to write my first string quartet. It is a significantly new creative path for me and very challenging but nevertheless rewarding.

Upon my research of different quartets, Ravel’s String Quartet in F Major is one of my favourites. I consider it to be a beautiful piece with extraordinary passages and details typical of Ravel’s musical personality that would continue to evolve later on in his career.

What I find remarkable about the story of this piece is that it was his final submission to the conservatoire de Paris and Prix de Rome competitions to which both rejected the piece. Aside from having mixed reviews from the Parisian press, his teacher, Gabriel Faure, to whom the piece is dedicated to, dismissed the last movement as ‘stunted and in fact a failure’. Ravel himself believed that the quartet was an inadequate realisation.

Thankfully Debussy, whose own string quartet piece, which was written ten years previously and most likely had some influence on Ravel, wrote to him a letter with some words of encouragement and insisted he did not touch a single note of the piece he had written.

From what I’ve read, the truth appears that Ravel was an unconventional character with unconventional approaches to musical composition that was difficult for the conservatoire’s ultra conservative director to accept. He had enough resilience, or indifference to any other criticism than his own to keep going on his own path and it just so happens that the frustrations and failure he dealt with led him to propelling forward in his career and eventually being revered as one of the greatest French composers of all time.

Sometimes, art and the work created just so happens to be received in a time where the culture is not ready to accept its value. Some works find that appreciation is manifested at a later date, in some cases even beyond the life of the artist. Ravel’s String Quartet is now one of the most played chamber pieces.

The reason I like stories like this is that it reaffirms that steering your own creative path and focusing on what it is you want to achieve is better than changing what you do and who you are merely to fit in.

More often than not, innovation comes from the outside.