The weather is sweet

Sitting here on a Sunday morning.   Flexing the fingers in anticipation of writing a piece of text that is going to inspire you for the week ahead.  … no such luck!  Ha ha!  I have been taking a break from music – just a handful of days.  It has been fulfilling in its own way.  I have been producing tracks like a machine and it is always wise to take a step back and survey the accomplishments.

I am currently awaiting vocal files from Bill for what will likely be the final track of the Eleventh Hour album.  It is a track which may well take you by surprise – especially considering the two we have just worked on.  But I hope it will be a pleasant surprise.  Apple pie and custard on a spring day.

2011 will be a year of getting things into order.  Getting the Eleventh Hour album “escapism” into a shape where we can pin down a release date.  And I do of course still plan to make the Confession album “all monsters and dust” available too!  These plans won’t stop me working on new material in the meantime… but it is certainly important to note that 2011 will be a year of “attempting achievements”.

I’ve been soaking in some great films recently.  I feel that great art brings about great art.  In the past, certain films have inspired me to write great songs.  More in the Alexi in Winter period to be fair… but it does also creep into my more recent work.  My current desire is to achieve what I have always stated is my aim in music – cinematic pieces.  As I have said before… I’m not talking about film soundtrack work – I’m talking about pieces of music that put flesh on the bone.  Music that aspires to more than a 3 minute blast of pop.

So… I watched Raging Bull three times this last week.  What a guttural punch of a film.  Beautifully shot and disturbingly realised.  Tremendous acting, direction and cinematography.  Absolutely epic.  It is certainly not a film for everyone.  It is not a film about boxing.  It is a film about jealously and obsession.  Pretty hard to watch at times.  But like I said… it’s all there to be ‘soaked in’.  Better to flow a Raging Bull than a Transformers! Ha ha!  Then I watched A Matter of Life and Death.  Wow… I’m ashamed to admit that I’d never seen it before.  But what a film.  Deep.  And very, very sweet.  Another film to absorb and digest.

I have some crazy ideas for new music.  But I’m putting it all on hold.  It’s a nice day and there’s gardening to do!  Ha ha!

The Calm and the Storm

So… it’s been a while since I last wrote anything of any worth.  What have I been doing I hear you ask?  I have been completing the latest Eleventh Hour song.  You may recall that I have written a few times of wanting to produce an epic work of art.  A long song that showcases more than you can usually manage in a typical three and a half minute pop song.  Well… I believe I’ve done it.  I started working on a song which I had provisionally titled “Epicness”.  I gave it a theme and a structure.  Bill then grafted hard to come up with lyrics for a song which weighs in at seven and a half minutes.  Lyrics on that scale are some achievement and a cause for celebration.  The words are great, but I had never doubted it for a second.  The song is called THE CALM AND THE STORM.  Fasten your seatbelts and press play!

Les Miserables at Queens Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue, January 2011

Where do you start with a ‘review’ of Les Miserables?!?  It has to be said that this show is a true epic work of art.  Anyone who has read this site before will understand all too well how preoccupied I am with all things epic.  I strive to produce the epic.  Well… Les Miserables is about as epic as they come.  Other words such as;  grandiose… emotional… heart-wrenching… all-consuming… come across as clichés I suppose.  But believe me… this is one hell of a show!

As Les Mis has been playing since 1985 then I would assume that most of you out there will have seen it by now.   I was, unfortunately, very late to the party.  I was only really converted to the cause a couple of years ago when my girlfriend played me the CD in the car.  “Here we go…” I thought, “another musical” (she likes musicals!).  But that was the end of the sarcasm.  I was blown away by the sheer audacity of the piece.  The complexity of the story.  The beauty of the music and the clarity of the lyrics.

So, I bought her a DVD of the show for Christmas.  I think it was the 10th Anniversary Concert at the Albert Hall.   And then I was blown away all over again.  Now… what I didn’t quite understand at first was that the DVD wasn’t actually the show.  It was just the actors singing the songs from the show.  I say ‘just’ – I thought the guy playing Jean Valjean was outstanding – but you get my drift?  It wasn’t actually “the show” apparently.  To see “the show” – I knew I was going to be in for a treat!

Now… I was taking my girlfriend to see Les Miserables.  So of course all of my enjoyment had to be secondary to hers.  Luckily she had a great time… and because of that I can now write about it as if it were just for me. 😉

Queens Theatre, London is a pretty, welcoming little theatre.  It oozes history and just being there you feel the aura of ‘specialness to come’.  I believe this theatre has played nothing but Les Mis for a few years now and – whether that is true or not – it shows!

Without giving too much away, and condensing the story to its essence, we have the tale of a convict pursued by a relentless policeman in revolutionary France.  There are many important side-stories… but basically, we are experiencing the life story of Jean Valjean.  When you see it for real it makes a lot more sense than just watching the DVD with the songs!  I now understand the difference between ‘watching the songs in a theatre’, and ‘watching the actual show in a theatre’.  The sets are awesome.  Truly marvellous.  Just to imagine the sheer work that must have to be put into every single night simply to construct and manoeuvre the backdrops.  The huge set-pieces, the spectacle, the immaculate singing.  The emotion.  Definitely deserved the standing ovation!

The actor playing Jean Valjean was the standout… although that always seems to be the case with Les Mis (from my extremely limited experience).  I also thought the guy playing the policeman Javert was outstanding.  The comedy couple, the landlord and his wife were excellent.  The only disappointments were some of the upper class/soldier characters, particularly Marius.  It’s hard to invest much sympathy in a character so dripping wet!

The show is a bit of a slog.  3 hours.  But it never drags.  Every second seems well judged and well paced.  This is the epitome of epic.  The “something special” that I myself am striving for.  I am nearing completion of a gargantuan piece of music that I am collaborating on with the American artist Bill Ryan.  This piece of music is going to be somewhere in the region of 7 minutes or so.  It will form part of the Eleventh Hour‘s debut album and I am hoping it will shape up to be the centre-piece of the whole show.  It certainly has the potential… it’s only for Bill or I to drop the ball now and spoil it.  🙂  Ha ha!  If I could just squeeze a fraction of the grandeur of Les Mis into the song then I will face 2011 as a happy man.

Anyway… in short… Les Miserables at the Queens Theatre, London is well worth a trip.  Bloody outstanding.  10/10.

Two Thousand and Eleven

I missed the opportunity to reminisce on the previous year (damn that red wine!).  So, instead here is a clink of a glass to a whole new year.  2011.

I started this website to write about the process of creating music… specifically my new album “All Monsters and Dust“.  The album has progressed and is in fact approaching completion.  I’ll be honest with you… it is a collection of songs that have been a long time in the making.  To listen to them through now is like reading a diary, or digging up fossils in the desert.  It has been a struggle, but a struggle that I have always felt compelled to struggle for.  And if 2010 proved anything, it proved that I have got it in me to complete something if I really put my mind to it.

So, here’s to 2011.  As I stated, this site was supposed to be documenting the creation and completion of my “All Monsters and Dust” album.  However, I got side-tracked on what was supposed to be a small project with American artist Bill Ryan.  The evidence of this waylayment is indeed captured on the writings on this site.  The side-project became a real all-encompassing life consumer when Bill and I decided to produce a full album of material.  This single ‘easy’ decision led to the creation of the Eleventh Hour.  Now… this year, 2011, seems the perfect year for the Eleventh Hour.  Nobody has heard of us yet.  We are a secret.  You, the readers of this site, are the only people aware of our existence.  We have a small holding on Facebook and Soundcloud… but basically, we are an unknown quantity to the world at large.  This has positives and negatives, but at the moment it can only be a positive. The invisibility allows us to create songs in private, away from prying eyes – or rather ears.  I am interested in the opinions of the few – you… but really, this is personal.  Music is always personal… but this feels real and true.

I am currently working on song #11 for the Eleventh Hour album.  Song 11, for the Eleventh Hour, in 2011.  Seems like some kind of Omen (good I hope).  I intend to make this song rock.  The album already has light and shade, but I hope to add a dimension and widen the scope with an element of danger.  I like that term, ‘danger’.  Bill was the first to talk of adding ‘danger’ to the album.  I just hope I can come close to creating what he has in his head.  The thing with us as a partnership, collaboration, duo, etc, etc, whatever… is that we are adaptable.  If Bill has issues with the music I have sent him he can have a go at changing my mind.  My mind is not easily changed… but I like that Bill and I do honestly accept that “there is no spoon”. Ha ha!

As I’ve talked/written about previously, the Eleventh Hour has allowed me to expand my horizons.  The project has freed me somewhat from the constraints of expressing myself through lyrics.  I have, for a change, been allowed to create musical landscapes… it has been for Bill to populate them.  For this Eleventh Hour project I am responsible for the majority of the music and Bill for the majority of the lyrics.  Now… we can leave the argument about which is the most important for another day… but the particulars of the way Bill and I have fallen into the method of creation of this album have allowed me to write faster than ever before.  I find ideas streaming from my head.  I try to catch them like a butterfly in a net.  I then stamp that butterfly as flat as I can and send it over to Bill in the hope that he likes the colours.  So far… so good.  The random words I type here, when combined, are the reason I am so optimistic and enthusiastic about the year ahead.  We have an album to finish.  That, to be honest, is the easy part.  We have to step out of the shadows and blind the world with Eleventh Hour light!  Ha ha!  I’m ready for the challenge.  And I’m sure now that you’ve flitted in and out of this site and songs you’ll also be interested in the conclusion?  Yes? No?

I am now going to turn my attentions to another song.  Like I say, when the mojo is working you just have to run with it.  You have to be single-minded, determined.  I hear new music everyday, up and coming bands.  New sounds.  New styles.  Yet I can say with all confidence that I am certain that the finished Eleventh Hour album will be a surprise to many people.  It will hit hard with unbridled emotion and a gutteral punch.  Most of all it will be a statement of who I am – the result of everything that has come before.

So, bring it on 2011.  Fists in the air for “The Eleventh Hour”!  🙂