News: December – Nearing the End of 2016

Yet another year doing my thing. Year Two has been released into the ether, and all of the feedback has been positive which has delighted me. A real confidence booster if I’m honest. I was a little worried it wouldn’t be taken well or deemed as boring. ‘Waking Up With Clapping Head Syndrome’ and ‘Slightly All the Feels’ have been featured on both Adam Walton and Bethan Elfyn’s shows on BBC Radio Wales also, so I’m glad to still have support from Adam in my second year.

October saw me playing 2 live shows alongside Matthew Creed from Jammy Custard. One being our first live set outside of Cardiff featuring at Bristol’s new electronic open mic sessions known as CHK ONE. A unique idea that really seems to have hit the spot with the community. Artists pre-register their interest to play and founder Jae Task curates the applications. They seem to be doing really well and hype around the night is increasing quickly. The guys live video the night, and I’m really please with how it turned out. Check it out below

November saw another live set at performed at Brickstock at Brickworks, a festival run by Fizzi Events. Cardiff Electronic Music Producers Network (CEPN) invited me down to play. It was a fun quirky evening. The same night I invited my friend Simeon Smith to come and take some photos using his oldschool cameras, and these are the new photos you’ve seen floating around my social media links. It was great doing a a shoot with this dude. He’s fun, creative, relaxed, and all round good guy.

At the end of November Simeon popped up again, and invited me to play alongside him for his own set at CHK ONE, which I was more than pleased to do. We performed tracks from his most recent EP entitled All Is Undone’. It was great fun playing a show and not having to worry about the electronic side for once, simply trying to be the best drummer I could. Something I hope to do again soon.

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I’ve recently added a limited run of CDs to my merchandise section on Bandcamp so if you’d like hardcopies of my releases handmade and put together with my loving hands, head over to http://5thspear.bandcamp.com/merch for that stuff, and keep an eye, as I’m making it my duty to make sure I have stuff on there at all times, but don’t you worry. I shall have it with me at gigs also. Hopefully.

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December is now a planning month, I’ve got loads of new ideas for what I want to get up to over the next year, and one of those ideas is running my blog on creativity, which I will be updating each week. The next news update will be in January, but there will be plenty of bits in between, so make sure to stop by, follow me on Twitter/Instagram for daily notes, and like my Facebook page for events and giggles. x

News: Year Two

So, March was the last time I posted something here.

What have I been doing? Well, a whole lot of nothing, and a whole lot of everything.

I’ve played a couple of shows, but mostly been trying to keep my head down around the day job to get my next release sorted, and now I’m finished, and I’m happy.

It’s been tough, probably one of the toughest processes I’ve been through. I had planned to release this at the start of the year but just couldn’t get it done. When I thought it was finished I asked for feedback from friends and colleagues. All the feedback was positive, with one home truth: “You can do better”

I agreed whole heartily, and decided to stick at it. It’s frustrating when your brain thinks something is finished, but you heart says no. I was simply being lazy.

I gave it a rest for a week, a month, I think that then turned into 4 months, then came back to it. I started adding new sections, cutting the tracks down in size, deleting whole sections and sounds, re-arranging, re-arranging, re-arranging, recording new parts. Everything.

Throughout this process I had a gig to prepare for, my second headline show. I decided that half of the stuff had to be new material. I was playing in Cardiff with the mindset that everyone who had seen me play had heard it all before. I was glad I chose to do this. The comments were outstanding. Positive vibes all around about the new material, and people really seemed to engage and enjoy it more than previously. This was another push in the right direction.

Life got in the way again, motivation quickly disappeared, procrastination kicked in. The struggle that every creative battles with.

I finally got myself back into it a few weeks ago, nailed it within a few days, and guess what. Today it’s been uploaded. I’ve decided to hold off on it until the 7th Oct, but I wanted to just get it up into the ether ready to be distributed across all the platforms as close together as possible.

One final thing I would like to add. Being a musician is about being a musician. I’m an electronic musician, yet this album is relatively organic. I’ve never been about trying to make new sounds with the fanciest synth out there, in fact I’ve found that often to be tedious. For me it’s about getting an idea ‘down on paper’, and going with it. This whole album is just that. Electronic sounds do feature, but most of it is about me finding a bit of a voice, in both production style and melody creation (something I’ve struggled with for a long time).

This release is truly a stepping stone for myself, and I’m only looking forward to carrying on with writing new material having learned so much from what I’ve just achieved.

So guys, keep an eye out. Year Two is coming.

 

 

News: 2016

So it’s begun. We’re already 13 days into 2016, and I can’t believe it. Any fellow creative will understand. I look at what I’ve done and I think of all the time that I wasted, it gets me down, I get upset. HOWEVER. 2015 was also packed with a load of stuff that pushed my music making passion forward. You can scroll down and look through sparse blog posts regarding what I got up to. Adding it all up it actually puts a grin on my face. I’m very lucky to have gotten to where I am so far in such a short period of time.

The highlight I’m looking forward to though is this…

MY FIRST HEADLINE SHOW.

To see my name in big on a poster like this is awesome. I’ve stepped into a few bars around Cardiff to have people say they’re coming and looking forward to it, which I hate to say, makes me hella proud of myself 🙂

Blue Box Promotions is run by the legend Adam Whitmore, who I’ve met before at networking events and who also takes part in a lot of other promotion groups around Cardiff. When he first invited me to come and play at Free For All festival I jumped at the chance of kicking the new year off with a festival show. When he asked if I would headline the Friday night, I was ecstatic.

Thanks to all. Lets start 2016 with a bang… After those big flashy things exploded in the sky… Peace x

[Due Update] Writing Music No.1 (2012)

Over the past couple of days I’ve been poking my head around websites with articles related to writing music. I have to say. There aren’t a lot that really give you any help. A lot of them are extremely basic, and I can understand how this might aid people who are literally just starting to write, but what about the people who have been writing for years?

Now, I’m not exactly a pro. My tracks are proof of that, but I have been trying my hand at writing for a long time. I began with my guitar and voice, writing singer/songwriter stuff influenced by people such as John Mayer, Dave Matthews, City and Colour, and more. I did this for quite a few years, from that age of about 15 until I was around 19/20. I still do, and I know that compared to some people those 4/5 years are nothing, but I learnt a lot from doing that. I didn’t have any official training, the only instrument I had to been taught was Drums (and a little bit of piano when I was even younger), but my guitar and voice was simply through self-learning. I didn’t use tabs, I used my ear (a technique that everyone should try). The great thing about using my ears was that I soon realised that most of the guitar tabs you found online were wrong, and that they were simply using the root notes of the chords being played, rather than actually using what the original writer had intended. These are the types of chords you hear being played by buskers on the highstreet as they scream their lungs out thinking that they’re amazing. I tell you what, the ones I actually pay attention to or even give money to, are the ones that either make the song their own, or play the actual chords.

Sidetracking again, but basically, I had those few years of playing guitar, going to open mic nights, playing at my own nights, and even being invited to play at Glastonbury Festival with my band at the time. One thing I discovered though whilst writing my own stuff, the song for my acoustic band, and the songs for my ’emo/screamo’ band at the time, was that you found yourself writing completely different styles, (obviously) but your writing style would be completely different also. Styles, build-ups, structure. They were all different. This brings me back to my opening comments.

I recently posted up a blog about templating creativity, for myself, it’s exactly what I needed to do. I struggle to find the time to actually sit down and write music. Making that template has increased the possibility that I’ll actually get to do so, and the arrangement/structure template I’m using will also aid in that, but I find myself listening to tracks I had written when I first started using Music Software (whilst I was studying at A-Level), and I listen to the MUSIC side of things thinking, ‘How on earth did I come up with that?’.

To be honest, I think that the reason I was writing music back then, that I struggle to write now, was purely down to not having been taught how to write music. You might find that comment funny, but if you look at most of the musicians in the charts, or with their own albums etc being made commercial now, ask them if they went at studied music after college, whether they went and did a degree. I might be talking out of my own ass here, but a lot of the people I’ve read about and met who are making great tracks now, haven’t gone through education, they haven’t been taught how to make music, they’ve simply followed their instincts and done it.

Instinct can be a very important thing when it comes to music, and I think that a lot of us forget about it. We’re often taught ‘when you use this chord, you then have to use this chord’, I remember specifically being asked to analyze a couple of albums whilst studying Music Technology. Those albums were The Beach Boys ‘Pet Sounds’, and Marvin Gayes ‘What’s going on?’. Both albums are beautiful. They show a true passion for music, for story telling, a talent for sharing emotion, but also having fun. My tutor at the time started saying things like ‘Now here you can hear how Marvin Gaye has chosen to use these chords, and how he’ used them to represent the lyrics’. That’s a simplified version of what he might say, but we’d then also get questions similar in our exams ‘How have the Black Eyed Peas used chord structures to represent the lyrics’ blah blah blah.

Now I don’t know about anyone else, but when I write songs, I don’t sit down and go ‘yeh, I’m going to use these chords cus I think they’ll represent my struggle through my life, and I’m gunna add a minor 13th because when I was 13 years old I got my first chest hair’. It’s ridiculous, the way I would see writing music was simply ‘do I like it or not’. I have to admit, most of the chords I play I don’t even know the names of. I just sit down, fling notes together and see whether it sounds ok, I’ll then maybe change or add other notes to see how it might change the chord, or whether it sounds nicer. I’ll get the feel for a track and then carry on writing it.

I’ve found that throughout my education, although I’ve learnt a lot, which I’m entirely grateful for, I’ve found myself taking a step back musically, you’re sat down and told ‘you need to add this, or you should change this chord, maybe you should use a jazz mode’, instead of just being told, use your instinct. I would actually prefer it if a tutor told me to use my instinct, and then told me that my track was crap than to tell me how to change it, as even though the track might sound better with added input, it probably still sounds crap at the end of the day!

I feel like I’m ranting again. Basically. Use your instincts when writing music. I’ve actually found that the best people to ask about your music, if you want advice, are people who aren’t musicians. This might sound strange, but if you start asking other musicians, all you’ll get is their ideas, their way of thinking, you won’t get the general advice of whether the track is good or not. Musicians might say that a track is good, because they see potential in it, but that’s still the potential through their eyes, not your own, they could have a completely different idea to how that track should sound compared to what you might think, and if you follow what they want, you probably will end up not liking the track, because you haven’t created it.

When you ask non-musicians about your music, they’re going to basically tell you whether or not it will work on the dancefloor, whether or no they would buy it, and they’re advice is going to sound simple, things like ‘it doesn’t sound loud enough here’ or ‘it’s not fast enough’ or ‘it needs vocals’. The latter is the most common one for me, but there’s a reason for that. Most people want vocals in a track to connect with, and it’s a very important part of music. What they will often mean by saying this is that you need a hook. If you go to a gig with people such as Pendulum or Chase & Status, a couple of the bands that really broke into the commercial realm over the past few years, you’ll hear that on the tracks without vocals, the crowd are all singing the melody line as if it was being sung in the original track. This is because this is how they remember the track. A musician will probably remember the drum beat, or the sound of the synth or guitar tone, where as a none musician will cling onto the easiest thing they can, the hook, or the vocals.

Anyway, I’ve rambled on for quite a while, I think this might be the first in a group of ramblings about writing music… Watch this space.

 

[Due Update] Preparing to Produce Music (2012)

Yesterday I decided to start improving my workflow. It’s been something I’ve had planned to do for a while. Simple things like cleaning and organizing the studio, creating folders and archives on my computer etc, buying external hard drives that I can store things on and make portable. Basically, everything any studio should do to get ready to create. It feels odd saying all of these, because in my head you should be able to create whenever you want with whatever you want, but to be honest when you have a day job, a house to clean and everything else to do with life it can be hard to simply sit down and start working that creative mind,  so these are simply things that I’ve done to make that process easier.

1. Clean the Studio

It’s something that should be done regularly if you’re anything like me. I have a habit of pulling out mic stands and cables, then just leaving them out set up thinking ‘I’ll use that again soon’, when in fact what really happens is I look through the doorway and go ‘It’s a mess in there, I don’t wanna work in there until it’s clean’. This just sets you back further, and discourages you from actually using the studio. So a rule I’m going to try and keep now is tidy after each session. This means that it’s clean when I next want to use it, and I don’t have to spend two hours cleaning it up again before being creative.

2. Clean the Computer

This might seem random, but it can be a very important part. So often I’ll open up track, and find that files are missing, or I can’t find the track I want to work on, or that preset that I thought I had saved. Also having tonnes of copies of tracks scattered around the hard drive, never knowing which one was the most recent edit. There are a few things that I’ve done to improve this.

1. Create a folder system – This is something that really effects your workflow, it makes it easy to find things and means that sorting out stuff in the future is a lot easier. This actually took me a few days to sort out, as the first thing I did was ARCHIVE. It’s so easy to just accumulate all of your work and leave it where it is. This just takes up HD space, and slows down your computer, you also then end up with shed loads of copies, which becomes even harder to sort out when archiving, and even worse when you’re trying to keep two different computers organized. So, what do these look like? It’s simple.

On my desktop I have these Icons/Folders, and that’s it. I have a copy of my CV (as I’m currently looking for more work) but obviously it’s useful to have this handy when applying for work, or to add to. It also means that I don’t have to go crawling through all my documents to find the most recent copy. The Next folder is simply ‘Finished Projects’. This is what it sounds like. When I’ve finished a track or recording, the project folder and bounce go into this folder, ready to be called up if needed, but more importantly, it’s now out of the way, and I don’t feel like I have to go back and work on it again. It’s FINISHED.

Secondly I have a portable HD. This has a similar file system to what I have on my desktop, but it’s used to switch between computers when I’m wanting to work on different things. For example if I’m working on a mix down, I’ll be using it on my desktop to take advantage of my monitors, so I’ll open up the ‘Work in Progress’ Folder and work out of that. I have a samples folder so that I know where they all are, presets, so that I don’t lose them all the time, Archives for backup and finished work, then some of the others are obvious. It’s always useful to carry around a folder containing backups of Install files also (Setups), in case you ever have a system crash whilst you’re on the road and find yourself having to re-install all of your drivers etc. Yes, you can go and download them all again, but if you have access to them straight away, it makes life a lot easier.

3. Create Templates

Now this is something that I’m actually going to post separately, and look into with a little bit more detail, but I’ll give you a general idea now. Templates can be useful for a number of reasons. Obviously if you’re a DJ using something like Ableton Live, a you can set up a project/template so that you can just drag tracks in, warp them, and have the project ready with your favorite control surface so that you’re ready to mix straight away. Another reason which I have discovered more recently is simply to break the barrier that stops me from being creative, and that’s the ‘New Song’ syndrome. What is this I hear you ask? Well, basically when starting a new track you might start with a synth line, so you open up your software (wait for it to load) then you create a new track (wait for it to load) then you drop a VST onto the track (wait for it to load) then you create your instrument (bass, sub, kick, whatever). Ok, so you’ve done that, now I don’t know about you but I’ll pretty much EQ everything, so you drop an EQ on there, then maybe a compressor, then maybe you set up a send to some reverb, delay, distortion or whatever else the kids are using these days.

Hey look, we’ve made ONE track with a few notes and we’ve had to do all of that? How about the other 20+ we’re about to add to that? You may realize I’m getting frustrated, this is purely down to the fact that I’m annoyed that I never did this years ago.

Below is a screen shot of a template I’ve recently created to cure this itch, and in my next post I’ll be going into more details on what it contains and why I’ve done it, and also I’ll be posting up soon as to why I am now using Cockos Reaper, and not using Ableton or Logic etc.