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Inspiring Influence (Spotify Playlist)

I recently went on a journey to Bristol, and found for the first time in a while I was sat, on my own, headphones on and listening to music without interruption from the outside world.

Sitting behind me I have shelving holding around 500+ CDs spanning multiple genres, and on this thing I’m writing on (computer) I have access to the worlds library of music through services like Spotify, iTunes, YouTube etc.

I’ve been thinking more and more recently about how my ears have become pigeonholed to a genre since using Spotify. I used it to find new music, but this is often through the function of ‘related artists’ to what I’m already listening to. For this reason It’s very rare these days that I search for a new artist/band to listen to that aren’t based around an electronic backing, as this is predominantly what I listen to these days.

I’ve had a playlist in Spotify for some time. It was labeleld ‘Sounds to re-create’. These weren’t tracks to copy, but more the soundworld that I wanted to start exploring more. I’d play it whilst running, walking to work, cleaning the house or in the shower (surprisingly the shower thing is when it all started… My girlfriend had bought me one of those bluetooth shower speakers)

What I started realising is that yes, this had a big impact on how I was writing music, but I wasn’t sure if it was positive. I think it definitely helped me to find the soundworld I was looking for, but has it made my creativity stagnant?

Today I decided that I was going to expand on this playlist, and start to incorporate more. I then started to recognise that my music isn’t just influenced by what I’m listening to now. Musically speaking (as apposed to soundworld) I’m heavily influenced by what I was listening to in the past. I find that melody lines are influenced by Pat Metheny guitar licks I used to hear being played by my Dad (he had this mixtape that would be played in the car on long holiday car journeys), harmonies that I personally relate to nu-metal vocals (Deftones, Korn, Linkin Park etc), build-ups I feel are influenced by post-rock (This Will Destroy You, Sigur Ros), Rhythm and Basslines from Hip-Hop/Beats, Nu-Jazz etc (Flying Lotus, Shigeto, Bonobo, Mount Kimbie, Cinematic Orchestra).

As I’m writing this I’m realising more and more where my sound has developed from, but also that I need to make sure those multiple influences are being recognised by my ears on a regularly basis, rather than just thinking of them from time to time.

So. For this reason I spent a good few hours (seriously, like 5 hours doing this) surfing through my music collection, and picking one track from almost every artist. The track’s I chose weren’t necessarily my favourite track (although some simply are), more just a track that might incorporate the bands overall sound (quiet and loud peaks).

From doing this, I have also started to find the connections between bands that I listen to a little more. I’m heavily influenced by harmony over genre, I couldn’t tell you the specifics but I feel that there is a running theme. I was never a genre based listener as such, more if I found an artist or band that I literally liked the ‘sound’ of (whether that be electronic, jazz, nu-metal, rock, whatever) that I would want to hear more, and often aim to buy their catalog of albums. (My amazon wishlist is crazy big)

Anyway, I would like to share this playlist with you. If I’m honest, the genres aren’t exactly wide-spanning, but what I believe you will find is that if you listen to a bands catalog, there’s often a lot more going on with them.

I also recognise that the time I spent listening to music most was whilst in my mid-late teens/early 20s, and where I developed most of my CD catalog working a day job and living with my parents (I had access to way more stuff through my Dad’s vast collection whilst I was living at home. I’m still trying to buy all the stuff I really enjoyed of his)

I’d also like to add that yes, a handful of these artists/bands I’m not proud to have liked, but I wanted to recognise the music I listened to whilst growing up. Some of them were one hit wonders for me, If I hear one track I like, I will often buy their album and give it a few listens despite the stigma attached to them, and they will surely have influenced me in some shape or form.

I’m planning on updating this playlist slowly as time goes on. Some tracks may be replaced. So enjoy, maybe you’ll find something you like too. It is in a vague order, but I suggest hitting random and going from there. See what it comes up with.

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What’s about to happen… New releases, Networking, Sŵn Festival and more!

I briefly spoke about what’s been going on this year, but didn’t mention what’s about to happen…

Workflow has been few and far between due to increased live shows and the day job. I spent quite a bit of time concentrating on how I was going to start performing my music live. Chose a drum kit, and created an Ableton Live template to have running beside me with my Livid Instruments CNTRL:R, a small Korg Volca Keys Synth, and sometimes a little Akai MPK Mini 2 Keyboard (mainly for playing the synth). Playing that synth live is a pain on the ribbon controller…

I’ve still got a lot of work to do on the live aspect of playing. I make a point of meeting members of the audience and talking to them about what they enjoyed, and try getting some honest critisism. Some love it, but some get bored of seeing someone ‘just play drums’ and want to see something more. I try to put as much into my live show as possible when I’m playing, but I think taking it one step further may be the key.

First of all what I’m playing. Live drums can’t be good enough if I’m just playing what’s already on the track, so my aim is to start experimenting more. Filling the holes a little, stripping back to the idea of live drums being texture to add to the production, something extra you don’t hear on the original to make my live shows unique. I discovered more recently that if I try recording my drums to place into my productions that it kills the need for them live, but I don’t want that to happen. For this reason I think the most I’ll ever record in is the odd cymbal or percussion. Adding a live sound on top of electronic drums is so much more powerful.

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NEW EP RELEASE 10/07/14

With this in mind, on the 10th July I’ll be releasing a new EP for you all to enjoy, entitled ‘Imperfections’. This release for me is a middle ground. I’m wanting to release another album by the end of this year, but that’s quite far away, so I wanted to get something out there for you all to enjoy in the meantime.

This EP is made up of 4 tracks… ‘Running Crows’, ‘Dancing Dragons’, ‘New Dreams’, and ‘Underwater Coin Catcher’.

I wanted to keep a vibe going throughout the EP, so I spent an afternoon creating ideas for it a few weeks ago in one session (picture below high on caffeine after I’d finished the session in my living room). Those ideas I arranged a week later in my studio, and I’ve been mixing them whenever I’ve had the chance to since. Finally I’m at a point where I’ve just got a few small changes to make before mastering them to send to you, and I really hope you’ll enjoy it.

I’m planning to do a short performance of this EP along with a couple of older tracks on the 16th July at Fizzi’s networking event at Fourbars in Cardiff. This is a free networking event for musicians and creatives to get together and meet each other. Create contacts, make friends… It was a great evening last time, and I’m so pleased to have been invited back to play for them. Although it’s a little nerve wracking.

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Free Music Networking Event 16/07/15

I would also like to mention that after the previous meetup I got in contact with Ian Tully, one of the attendees who runs ‘Cardiff Electronic Producers Group’ on Facebook. These guys meet up once a month or so, and the next one will be held at Waterloo Gardens Teahouse in Penylan, Cardiff on the 30th July. I’ll be there so it would be awesome to meet some fellow producers.

Last but CERTAINLY NOT LEAST I would like to announce that I’ll be playing Sŵn Festival 2015 in November. Details about venue etc will be announced closer to the time, but I’m so very pleased to be featured at this event.

swn-festival-listings-poster-web“This year’s Sŵn will take place on Saturday 7th and Sunday 8th November (a little later than usual due to the Rugby World Cup) across a bundle of venues in Cardiff. If you’re new to the festival, all you need to know is that one wristband gets you in to all the venues (subject to capacity), as you walk/run/meander around to discover as much new music as possible.” – http://swnfest.com/

It’s always nice to see how other people describe you too –> http://swnfest.com/artist/5th-spear-2/

What’s been going on… (With audio and video to enjoy)

So, previously I spoke about the beginnings of this year. Playing ‘Dim Sŵn’ in April, and the following gigs that playing such a great festival led to.

Well I have to say I’ve been kept busy. Since I’ve supported Bloodsport and Giant Swan at The Abacus, an art gallery that replaced the old bus station ticket office here in Cardiff. It was such a cool little venue to play, and the bands I was supporting were great to meet, making some awesome noises. Both bands were experimental and unique in their own way. I was massively impressed by Giant Swan’s crazy setup of of drum machines and guitar pedals. I felt silly asking them afterwards whether they had sidechain compression setup in there somewhere, the kicks were pumping so much. They didn’t even know what i was talking about. Pure, clean, analog noise. Awesome.

Shortly after I was given the honour of supporting ‘Slowly Rolling Camera‘. A band consisting of some AMAZING musicians, with jazzy electronic sounds often compared with ‘The Cinematic Orchestra’. I felt so lucky to support these guys, and to see some old friendly faces again. Their drummer being the amazing Elliot Bennett, and the tech head behind it all Deri Roberts, not forgetting their amazing bassist Aidan Thorne. All of which and worked with whilst studying at Uni. It was great to see what they’d moved on with and accomplished together.

This set saw me stripping back to just a laptop (no drums), controller and new Korg Volca Keys synth I’d picked up the week previous. It was an odd situation playing at the back of the venue next to the mixing desk, which I quite enjoyed as for once I could hear what the audience were hearing, yet led to people wondering when I was playing, thinking that I was DJing. However, it did lead to some wonderful comments such as ‘Is this Goldpanda‘ or, ‘This really sounds like Bonobo‘. I saw this as a good thing.

Anyway. My brother caught a few short clips and here was my fave.

Next saw me playing at Gwdihw. A small popular alternative bar tucked around a corner in Cardiff City Centre. They get quite a few bands playing in there, but this was a first collaboration between ‘All My friends‘ and ‘Electronic Music Wales‘, a night I hope they continue to do. All acts were electronic based. A duo called ‘Superhand‘ were headlining, with fellow support from a new group called ‘Ghostlawns’.

Superhand had elements of Clark in there, with vocals that reminded me of Emika. Some really nice chilled vibes, but crazy at times.

Electronic Music Wales were nice enough to invite me down to the venue for an interview earlier in the week, with a very passionate blog runner Harish. This was my first video interview, so I had no idea what to expect………..

I later got a last minute opportunity to play a short set at a new venue. Ten Feet Tall.. This was an odd mix of bands playing together. Fellow support were ‘How I Faked the Moon Landing‘, and indie band fueled by sounds akin to The Killers.

Tellison were great headliners, and again another great band to meet. Lovely guys, the lead having a day job working for Sega, which is freakin’ sweet. Their sound was a mish mash of bands such as Death Cab for Cutie and Reuben etc. One of the first bands in a while that I’ve walked up to afterwards and requested to buy a CD from, and I’m still listening to it. Some great tracks from these guys. Certainly my ‘cup of tea’ when I’m in the mood.

So that’s what’s been going on… Expect an update of what’s about to happen shortly…

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The Beginning of 2015

So my last post was looking back on 2014, re-capping on my achievements throughout the year, and rounding up with a compilation of work. Doing this has lead onto a great start for 2015 (even though we’re four months in already).

April 11th saw me play my first live gig as 5th Spear at this years ‘Dim Swn’. This was a one day event held by co-founders John Rostron and Huw Stephens. The event first started back in 2007, and was quickly labelled ‘Best Small Festival’ by NME magazine after a great line up held in 2013.

2015’s ‘Dim Swn’ was held only for one day, seen as a taster for a longer weekend event to be held possibly later this year, and saw some great artists come to play for an amazing audience. Below is a playlist put together on Soundcloud of the artists who played this year.

So being my first gig, there were of course some hiccups, but I’m told nothing noticeable. It was great to get to play to a crowd, it’s been way too long since I’ve had such an experience, and found myself exhausted after the fact.

Photographer Gareth Bull attended the gigs held at Clwb Ifor Bach and managed to get some great photos from the night.

He was generous to send over some photos he took of my set and was kind enough to let me post them. Check them out over on my Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/5thspear

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Off the back of my set at Dim Swn, I’ve now been offered a small handful of gigs, and I’m really looking forward to my next one supporting both Blood Sport, and Giant Swan. I’m insanely excited to see both of these acts. Blood Sport being compared to bands such as ‘Battles’, and Giant Swan making loud techno-ish noises using guitars and FX pedals, which all looks like a hella lot of fun. You can buy tickets here and check out the even on Facebook here

Well I hope to see some of you at the next couple of gigs, and hopefully this year is going to be as productive as the last x