Hard Art

It’s past midnight again… I’m a sucker for punishment.  Ha ha!

So, have you checked out the new Eleventh Hour site?  www.eleventhhourinitiative.com

The new site has allowed me to push Bill a little more to the forefront when it comes to talking about the Eleventh Hour material.  I can now publish pieces from him and I think he’s quite enjoying it.  I’ve told him to wax lyrical about his involvement with the project and he has taken up the challenge admirably!!!  So… seriously, check it out.  He has been writing about the concepts that have influenced his contribution to the début Eleventh Hour Initiative album.  I will likely post some articles on the site about my musical influences and the importance of the album in the context of my musical life at a later date.  I shall let Bill take centre stage for the time being!

But… I will always be posting here.  And I do have things to say.  I set this site up as a place where I could share ideas about music and let people into what it takes to actually write an album.  A kind of ‘behind the scenes’.  That’s the thing you see… “writing an album”.  I don’t like to do things by halves!  I like to set myself a challenge and see if I can run with it!

I finished All Monsters and Dust.  I am working on the finishing touches for the whole ‘package’ of Eleventh Hour material (and I don’t say that lightly – there is a whole lot to do!!!).  But importantly… I am already a quarter of the way through the next Confession of the Whole School album.

The next Confession of the Whole School album will be an interesting affair.  For you see, in the past I have spent so much time refining my music. Refining my words.  Seriously, when I look back on past albums I can physically see the sheer hard work.  I have a box in the attic with papers from my time of writing the Alexi in Winter album. ( Hmmm…. Note to self, link to that album below now! )

I have pages of endless drafts of lyrics for songs such as Salt Cellars.  I had so much to say, and with such a narrow scope at that time.  The songs were focussed and the album was all the better for it.  But those songs were art.  And they were hard art.  And they were unrewarded art. But they document a time of my life and I am thankful that if I wanted to, I could play that album and hear a specific period of my life.  Those songs were so thought out.  They were complex and deep.  And most importantly, they were ‘proper’ songs.  They could have been on the Bends or on a Travis album or something.  You know what I mean?  Proper songs.  Acoustic guitar songs!!!  Singer songwriter songs.  They were of an age of fragmented Brit-pop.  The end of an era really.

There is a slight crossover with some of the early songs of what eventually became my first entirely solo album All Monsters and Dust.  You can hear it in a comparison between songs such as Love is Blind and Legend, Icon, God.  On the Eleventh Hour site I will likely, in the future, talk about similar ‘cross-over’s.  I talk about the Alexi in Winter period as being a distinct sound and a focussed set of songs.  Well… I feel similarly about the Eleventh Hour album.  It is an extremely specific, focussed set of songs.  But there is a genuine reference back to my Alexi in Winter period and, although I haven’t yet done it, I reckon listening to both albums back to back would be interesting.  But, as I say, I hope to go into detail about this on the other site.

This site is for my personal ramblings!  You may have noticed I like to ramble!  Big time!!!

So, Alexi in Winter was a very specific set of songs.  A collection of songs rooted in a particular set of emotions.  Rejection, anger, sorrow… mixed with a little bravado.  A very intimate collection of songs in a way.

All Monsters and Dust on the other hand was more scattershot.  This randomness was primarily due to the length of time it took to put together!  I went through a lot in those ten years.  The track listing takes you on a journey through my life.  The Comedy is Over dealt with similar issues to Alexi in Winter.  Fall dealt with anger and death.  ’50s Teen Flick dealt with yet another rejection.  The newer songs dealt with the aftermath.  Finally, Perhaps I’ll Kill You paved the way for a new album.  A new album with new rules…

And so, here I sit at 0039 hours.  Eyes stinging.  I know I ramble on about the same topics again and again but you must understand – this is like therapy for me!!!  And if my albums are diaries then this blog is the diary of a diary!

The point of this post was to say that the new album, (remember, I mentioned it a while ago!) is a departure from the Alexi in Winter days.  The lyrics are stream of consciousness. There are no pages and pages of corrected ideas.  I stand by what I now create… but I am unsure whether it is better or worse for its lack of discipline – for its lack of considered thought.  What I will say though is that this album will be my most adventurous.  It will not be a hit.  It can’t be.  It is too personal and too bold.  But it will be cohesive.  In its own way it will be just as cohesive as the Eleventh Hour Initiative album.  This next Confession of the Whole School album will be this current era of my life set to music.  I am so lucky in that I can be adventurous musically and commercially with the Eleventh Hour, and yet still hit you smack in the face with my solo material.  Bill wrote on our site about the importance to him that the general public ‘like’ our music.  I agree to a certain extent.  I… have  to agree.  It is important that people like my music.  And it is especially important that people love the Eleventh Hour Initiative.  It is a special project.  I would go so far as to say it is a magical project born of a magical situation.  While Bill is more modest, I am certainly the loud-mouth, and I say that my mix of ‘epic music’ with his ‘poetic genius lyrics’ stand head and shoulders above most music out there today.  I want the Eleventh Hour Initiative to succeed and I sincerely believe it deserves to succeed.  But… deep down, (and I will point this at my own music rather than the Eleventh Hour) – although I appreciate it is important that people like my music, I do not really care whether anyone likes my music.  ‘Important’ is one thing.  I mean, obviously some people have to like the music or serious questions would be surfacing.  Questions such as “Is it any good or am I just living a fantasy life like all the other people out there that think they have a voice and think that owning a music creation game on their computer makes them a “musician”?”.  I have had people adore my songs in the past.  Adore I say.  Ha ha!  Adoration does not change the spin of the Earth.  I’ll be honest… It changes very little.  I hold the majority of the general public in contempt.  They do not represent me and I do not represent them.  If you truly like my music – if you truly enjoy my music.. then you are a King.  Or a Queen if you prefer (you never know… there may be some women reading this.  Funny things happen at sea).  If you have enjoyed what has come before then you are going to love my next album.  I am making an album of white noise.  I am filtering the noise into music.  I am decimating the sound of 500 million explosions and picking out fragments of tone.  Pitch?  Ha ha!  I’m aiming for disorganised cacophony!  But with a strong narrative.  I will not be in character.  I will be talking directly to you.  TO YOU.  And if you don’t like what I have to say then you are going to despise the album!  Ha ha!  And, I know you should never begin a sentence with ‘and’.

Oh, and remember… always take my words with a pinch of salt.  ‘Cause you can never be sure when I have a wry smile on my face and a twinkle in my eyes. 😉

Goodnight.

p.s. have another listen to the only song currently ‘out in the open’ from my next album.  Think of it as a sneak preview! I present, again, ACTION HERO!

The Eleventh Hour Initiative

First of all… Remember to buy my album All Monsters and Dust!!! – http://confessionofthewholeschool.bandcamp.com/

I am taking a little break from music for a few days.  Things to do you see.  There’s the Royal Wedding to watch:

Hmmm.  Let’s hope the weather stays stunning.  I’ve read that it’s due to turn.  Fingers crossed!  Ha ha!

It has been a full-on few months.  I completed that first solo album and I’ve nearly finished the Eleventh Hour album.  I thought I’d just talk a little bit about a few changes Bill and I have made with our collaborative project.  Well… what started as the Eleventh Hour has now become THE ELEVENTH HOUR INITIATIVE.  I will write more about the reasons for the change closer to the time of the album release… but basically this new band name is a better summation of what Bill and I are all about.  It’s a closer fit to the scope of the album.  It is a mission statement in itself.  We have a band name that sets an agenda.

The album title will still be Escapism.  I will probably ask Bill to write a little piece on the theme of the album and the thinking behind the songs.  At this stage I will say that the title of the album genuinely fits the motivation and emotion of the songs.  So, the Eleventh Hour Initiative‘s debut album, Escapism is so very nearly complete.

I am having a ball with music at the moment.  I have produced songs at a phenomenal (for me!!!) rate and I am SO pleased with the results.  I listened to All Monsters and Dust through and I was knocked out by some of the inventiveness and catchiness of the tunes.  Obviously I am hugely biased… but it is an album that was so long in the making that any sense of cohesion could have been lost.  But on the contrary, I think the songs hang together well as a track listing and exhibit the essence of a ten year struggle with music.

On the other hand, the forthcoming Eleventh Hour Initiative album is a different Beast altogether.  This will be no long drawn out affair.  This will be no distillation of years of effort.  This album… Escapism… will be the most concise album I have yet produced.  It will be on a par with my Alexi in Winter work in that it will showcase a defined period of my life.  The music has flowed and actually been ‘easy’ to capture on ‘tape’.  This is a complete, rounded album – musically speaking.  With regards to the lyrics the album is also resolutely concise.  Razor sharp in fact.  Bill’s words have encompassed many topics and taken us on many roads and pathways and many peaks and troughs.  Yet throughout there has been the consistent theme of escape.  The fit with the music has been total.  This is total music.  This will eventually be a total album.  This album will rank mightily fine alongside the best of anything I have ever done.  In some ways, because of the speed of its inception and the scope of its endeavour it may just be the pinnacle of my artistic life so far.  Until its release you can still play the music by clicking on the album below.  We want to wet your appetite and we are sure that you will be the first to download the album when it does become available.  Remember… until then you really are the select few.  In years to come others will trawl this website to see what we were talking about before the album’s release.  But my friends… you are here now.  The select few.

The Future

So… I sit here to type.  What words shall I inflict upon you this evening?  This is a site dedicated to my thoughts on music… therefore the subject of music it is that I shall force upon you!

I have written a lot of music in my life.  A lot of songs.  There have been common themes, and common emotions.  Most of the themes and emotions can be traced through most of the songs that have ever been written.  Obviously people have had something to say – the reason they ‘write’ the song.  And there are only so many things that people want to say.  Songs of love.  Songs of lust.  Revenge, despair, devotion, religion, stupidity, deception… okay, I must admit that even typing the list brings the realisation that I can’t just ‘box up’ music into an easy little package.  A song has a reason to be… and a song has a time to be.

I have written punk pop songs.  Most of these amateurish efforts were in my first couple of bands.  A time where you feel like everything you do is fresh and novel.  A time where you believe you can take on the world armed with nothing but your own bloody God-like genius.  And usually a time where the nature of the songs is overwhelmingly frustration.  Of the bands that escaped oblivion and got these early works out into the wide world a lot of them are punk bands.  I’m thinking the Buzzcocks and the Undertones.  For me… the Buzzcocks got everything right.  Ever Fallen in Love (With Someone You Shouldn’t’ve) still stands tall and proud amongst the greatest songs ever written.  The awkwardness of songs like What Do I Get? and Everybody’s Happy Nowadays.  Absolute class!

And so when I think back to the songs I wrote in a similar spirit I was writing of pain and unrequainted love… as if I was so important.   The solar system spun around me.  I was the axis.

Life does eventually knock that spirit out of you.  But for those precious moments… years… you feel on top of the world – yet also in a pit of despair.  Hindsight’s always 20/20 and if I could relive those years there are certainly things I would savour and things I would do differently.  But we can’t do that.  We can never do that.  Life is a remorseless plunge onwards…. into the dark depths!  Ha ha!

Moving into my Alexi in Winter period I maintained the theme of loneliness and isolation.  I equate this period of my songwriting with the works of Nick Drake and Tim Buckley.  A lot of introspection and a lot of still believing that the woes of the individual are wanted to be heard by the masses.  When the years knock you, you eventually realise that you just aren’t that important to the strangers out there.  They just don’t care.  You are lucky to be one of the few that the masses appreciate hearing the woes of.  Morrissey et al are indeed lucky.  They may not realise this but that does not stop it from being true.

I’m thundering through my songwriting career here… but I’m trying to get to the punch-line – the point of this essay!  Ha ha!

After Alexi in Winter came the writing and recording of All Monsters and Dust.  Now, this has been an important album for many reasons.  I think it’s important to note the evolution of the songwriting.  From the Alexi in Winter-esque overtones of The Comedy is Over… to the kind of post-rock of The Last Gasp.  I think All Monsters and Dust traces a kind of growing up.  Not growing up in a po-faced, boring, middle of the road grow a beard kind of way.  I just mean the acceptance that the world is here to knock you down.  Knock you down and teach you a lesson.  The world doesn’t ‘owe’ a songwriter any recognition.  The world is here to kick a musician in the teeth! Ha ha!  And kick it does!  And bite!  And claw!

The internet revolution has been responsible for many things.  Good and Evil.  For me it has opened up possibilities with my songwriting.  The interweb has allowed me to connect with people I could only have dreamed of before.  I have certainly played live with many amazing musicians including Seth Lakeman, and my Alex in Winter album/ep showcased my own introspection during that period of time to a (in my opinion) dazzling degree.  However, the ability to work with a musician from a different country has opened my eyes and released my ears!  The Eleventh Hour project with Bill Ryan has I think been my most concise work yet.  I believe I have taken those years of being bashed in the face and turned everything on its head.  I have learned how to craft the perfect pop song.  I am an expert in song structure.  I know what a hook is and I know how to get you right between the eyes.  Bill has brought a new hocus pocus to the equation and allowed me to concentrate more vividly than ever before on the music.  The creation of perfect music.  Bill has written some beautiful lyrics and I feel we are nearing the completion of the Eleventh Hour‘s debut album.  I appreciate that I am talking very highly of this work… and that I would do because I wrote it.. but that is not the point.  It doesn’t matter that I am bigging myself up.  I am explaining what it feels like to finally reach the top of the hill.  The Grand Old Duke of York.  I’ve marched to the top of the hill.  I can now see for miles around.  To the horizon.  I’m not OVER the hill you understand!!!  That is not the analogy I am trying to express.  I am saying that I am at the top of the hill, surveying the landscape.  I can see all the “rules of music” spread out before me.  I can see all the checkboxes.  I can see the lists.  I can see the disappointed faces. I can see EVERYTHING.  I can see for miles and miles and miles!

I can now break the rules. I can now ignore the rules with complete confidence.  The worst you could level at me is that I’ve lost my mind… that the songs stink.  But I rise above it.  I know the rules… I ignore the rules.  I do so at my peril.  But it is my peril.  Please understand… this is not a rant in which I am saying I know everything.  You must understand that I know I know NOTHING.  But I SEE EVERYTHING!  Ha ha.  That probably reads like hippy bullshit.  And if you don’t get it you likely never will.

Here’s one for you.  Listen to a song from my ‘prime’ Alexi in Winter period.  A song like, for example, Salt Cellars. You will hear a complete ‘sticking-like-glue’ to the rules of songwriting TM.  And there is NOTHING wrong with that.  I loved the song then and I think it still has charm now.  Okay.  Now listen to a song like Fall.  You can sense the change.  It kind of pricks your ears.  There’s something a little different… but you could still imagine Jonny, Jase and I playing it.  It could be Alexi in Winter… but an angrier, more eclectic Alexi in Winter.  Now listen to Reconstruct a Memory.  I believe that’s the point I realised that I don’t have to conform.  I can be who the hell I want.  I don’t have to be in anyone’s shadow.  I don’t have to better anyone.  I don’t have to sound like my idols.  I can just sound like me. You have to understand that albums like The Bends and Definitely Maybe changed the face of British  music.  For the better in that me and my mates could form a band and pretend we were stars.  Playing pubs.  Being ‘seen’ out and about.  Getting the girl.  Whatever.  But to be honest… mostly for the worse.  We were totally in the shadow of those albums.  And when you’re trying to play ‘indie rockTM’ how the hell do you better a song like High and Dry?  And my word does it take a long time for the following to sink in!!! :  Why the hell do you want to better The Bends?!?  Just Be Yourself.  Sounds so simple.  Yet bands of the time didn’t realise this and most bands today still don’t.

Listen to Perhaps I’ll Kill You.  Okay… the lyrics specifically state a lot of what I’m saying here – but even just the music.  Listen to it.  I’m not trying to BE anyone!  I am me.  I may want my music to convey the ambition of the Theatre but in a more concise form… but that is not a genre.  I am not trying to actually ‘outdo’ anyone specific. I am finally being me.  Just me.  Now… if you don’t like the music then you can just turn away.  Never listen to another note.  Never read another word from me.  But for those few of you who like it… well.. the world is finally OUR OYSTER!!!

I suppose this rant has actually begun to become my manifesto.  Perhaps this post can be my manifesto.  When I’m feeling deflated I shall read it back.  Listen to the latest Eleventh Hour song.  I am carrying out my manifesto.  And I am taking Bill with me.  He has a mind of his own and he does not have to believe in a single word of this prose.  But he is with me for the ride.  I finally feel free.  Musically free. Lyrically free.

I am currently working on a song that is taking these concepts to new heights.  Perhaps I am building a ladder on top of the hill.  I’m not sure what I’m leaning the ladder against?  Possibly the fool?!?  Well… that’s for me to find out I suppose. Rant over.  Get back to watching Eastenders!  Ha ha!  😉

vids

Just a quickie.

I’ve added another youtube video to the HISTORY section of this site. Again, not very good quality but please understand that these vids were filmed on crappy cameras. It also doesn’t help that the cameraman on each occasion chooses to stand right in front of the PA speakers. However, on the lastest addition the cameraman was my brother so I’ll let him off 😉

A couple of new songs are coming on strong. I shall add them to the “album in progress” as soon as I can. I can’t wait until I get to a time when I can start deciding on a final track listing!

I shall also unveil the album title soon!

Oh, and my girl, if you read this… I miss you xxx