Archive for April, 2011

Top Ten Alternative Kings

Posted in Me Oh My with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 29, 2011 by Gideon K

In keeping with the noise surround the non-event that is the royal wedding, I thought I’d touch on the theme of royalty and more importantly the throne for this post. I present you with my Top Ten Alternative Kings:

In no particular order…..

King Buzzo

He has side-show bob hair. He sings like a 70s rock god turned axe-murderer. He is responsible for some of the most consistent heaviness, best riffs and metallic strangeness, and nothing about the MElvins makes ANY sense whatsoever. Buzzzzzzzzzz.

King Crimson

21st Century Schizoid man. Need I say more?

King Heroin

This song and poem are harrowing when told like this and make me want to hear whole albums of James Brown reciting poetry. This is how to make the same groove and riff work for 4-5 minutes straight. It sounds like funk noir.

“You dare defy me, I who am king?”

Jim Morrison, The Lizard King

It takes a certain something to make indecent exposure a kind of art form. At their best the Doors do what only the truest of the dark arts can do – make you feel like you’re the coolest person alive. (Apart from light my fire – I can’t stand that wimpy-ass flowery cripple of a song.)

PS Leather trousers baby.

King Only

I love Greg Dulli. This is one of those songs that’s so simple but hits the mark for me so much that I kinda wish I’d written it. I don’t like the album version though because they overdid with the trip-hop and trumpets stuff. Keep it it raw.

Fisher King

This film is sad and happy and beautiful and poetic. The idea that you can turn it all around and build towers out of rubble, appeals greatly, as does its unrelenting optimism and celebration of life. Plus Tom Waits has a cameo that actually makes sense for once.

King Ink

Because It has an insanely heavy riff. Because the birthday party were insanely heavy. Because it’s one of the few types of music you could scare people with. Because you’re not sure what it’s really about even if you think the song is about Nick trying to write at the time and not being sure how to because everything in his immediate vicinity is shit and it stinks and he can’t stand himself and yet also feels like he is a giant wading through it all.

“Oh yeah, Oh yeah, what a wonderful life!”

PS Leather trousers again. Baby.

King Kong

He had guts, he had style, and most of all he had heart. A sucka for the ladies too. Gotta love the big fella.

Stephen King

He’s hardcore, hard-working and pretty much wrote every film you saw before you started watching cult Japanese cartoon movies and European arthouse films. People make blockbusters out of his throwaway short stories. He’s so hardcore someone needs to invent a new term for hardcore and apply it only to him.

“Read and write four to six hours a day. If you cannot find the time for that, you can’t expect to become a good writer.” – Stephen King

Elvis Presley – THE King

If Elvis hadn’t existed, no one could’ve made him up. What a badass.

“Wait, so he’s kinda pudgy-faced, really good-looking, and he loves his mum but he’s a bad boy and the biggest singer of all time? And when he dies everyone from overweight Americans to little Japanese guys are going to dress up like him and make a living at it? And he’s going to dance like there’s something very VERY wrong with him?!”

There has never been a singer like Elvis.

(Okay, so it’s actually number 11)

Fucking Hell

Best descriptive expletive. I mean what a juxtaposition! – What would the fucking in hell be like? Really bad because it’s hell? Really great because heaven is all twee and saintly? Would it just chafe because the sheer heat evaporates any sort of moisture or lubrication – including sweat? The mind grapples with the possibilities.

Did I miss anything out?

It’s Just a Box With Strings On It

Posted in Me Oh My with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 18, 2011 by Gideon K

Over the past year playing with my last band, I’ve been privileged to have some great experiences learning from other people.

When Jim, my fellow vocalist and guitarist and I went to Ireland in October to do some overdubs and mixing of our songs, we spent a few evenings up in Tom Newman’s living room huddled round the fireplace, drinking way too much whisky, singing songs and collectively purging our various blues and nursing existential woes.

Tom was reminiscing a bit. The story goes that he was in the studio somewhere with Mike Oldfield, who picked up a fiddle and turned to Tom, standing 10-15 feet away and said “catch”.

He then threw the instrument right at Tom, who caught the instrument simply on instinct, without thinking.

“You’ve just caught a Stradivarius.” Says Mike.

Now, this story alone would give most classical violinists a heart-attack, or at the very least some level of serious trauma. Stradivarius violins are esteemed beyond pretty much any other instruments in tone, respect and above all market value. The price of that little box would’ve been at least a quarter of a million, and that’s back in the 80s or early 90s when this story took place.

Tom said at that moment his perception of Mike Oldfield changed, and he started to think ‘you know, this guy is pretty cool’.

As much as musicians, mythologise their instruments or have fetishes for them, ultimately a guitar or a violin is just a box with some strings on it.

All that matters is what you do with it.

And it was this logic by which Tom managed to convince himself out of having a stroke when the roudy Irishman he was entertaining on this particular occasion started fooling around with a 300 year old, £300,000 Nicolò Amati viola Tom was doing a repair job on at the time, playing it like a ukulele, or using a hacksaw blade as a make-shift violin bow.

(There’s video footage of it somewhere if you don’t believe me)

But that’s another story…

Anyway, it’s just a box with some strings on.

Creation Comes First

Posted in Creativity with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 11, 2011 by Gideon K

Does anyone notice how in the bible and in most creation other stories, creation came first and commerce came a long time after?

Do you not think that if God thinks it’s a good idea to do things that way, we should consider taking note?

Especially seeing as he’s still (just about) in the game after all this time.

“What really interests me is whether God had any choice in the creation of the world.” – Albert Einstein

It’s amazing how some people talk about writing a song and before they even have the tune, or a single lyric they are already talking about what they’re going to wear in the video, where on the album it’s going to go or whether they could get ‘X Famous Singer’ to do a version of it.

To me, it seems like that way is very cart-horse.

Besides, as a musician when it comes to the muse I can be pretty superstitious.

If you focus on the creativity part though and do justice to that, I truly believe the commerce side will be much easier – as an after thought.

And you’ll believe in your product because you’ll know it’s the best thing you could’ve done. That makes something a lot easier to sell.

It’s ok to guide or channel your creative flow into a specific direction, but if you’re only doing something because you think you’ll get paid for it I think you warp your natural urges into something else. You put a kink in the hose of your own creativity.

For me, if my primary reason for creation is anything other than a need to dig something up from myself, to perform catharsis, or a quest to find something out, then the result is usually mundane and uninspiring.

Craft and commerce definitely have their place and I’m highly interested in both, but without the other element you’re left with ‘a corpse without soul’ to quote Merciful Fate.

You can take this all with a pinch of salt given that I don’t make a living playing music and am hardly killing it commercially, but hey, do you think God saw any of the royalties from book sales?

Certainty vs Uncertainty

Posted in Creativity with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 6, 2011 by Gideon K

Who actually wants to know for sure what consequences an action will have?

“The only thing that makes life possible is permanent, intolerable uncertainty; not knowing what comes next.” – Ursula K. Le Guin

Personally I get a thrill out of not knowing exactly how my life is going to end up, so I have a kind of rule of thumb in terms of keeping myself occupied, entertained and excited.

In any given scenario there is usually a point at which you have to make a decision about how either to act, or not act.

Example: You’re walking down the street and you see someone with a funny hat or a really cool pair of shoes.

Option 1: Don’t say anything and carry on.

Option 2: Talk to them, tell them whatever you were thinking and make use of that little observation your mind has given you.

If you don’t say anything, you know exactly what is going to happen – you’re both going to keep walking, and your day will carry on where it was going.

Option 1 = Certain

If you do start talking to them, you don’t know what is going to happen. You may find out that you both get along very well. You may find out that the person is a total prick. You may just share a brief moment of laughter, or perhaps nothing at all.

Option 2 = Uncertain

This is a very simple example. But utilizing it can help turn seemingly everyday drudgery into something more… adventurous.


Let me put a disclaimer here that before taking the uncertain option you should take into account whether the outcome will be either:

a)      Be likely to cause offense and discomfort

b)      Put you or anyone in danger

c)      Contrary to your principles or moral standards

ie you don’t HAVE to tell someone they smell bad, just because they happen to… – it might hurt their feelings.


How does this relate to creativity?

Well say you’re writing a certain type of song, with a certain kind of feel. You get to a point in the song where the obvious thing would be to end with a bridge and a repeated chorus.

You know what that would sound like before you’ve even written it. That’s the certainty option.

Why not try something else? Try changing the tempo of the song. If it’s a rock song, make it switch at the end to a waltz or a tango. Slow it down, speed it up. The worst that could happen is that it could sound crap and you just move on to the next thing.

Break out of your comfort zone. Certainty is boring.

“Uncertainty and expectation are the joys of life. Security is an insipid thing.” – William Congreve

I hope you find this useful.

London Songwriters Meetup

Posted in Me Oh My with tags , , , , , , on April 1, 2011 by Gideon K

I went to check out a London songwriters meetup event last sunday. I’ve been looking for social events centred around this sort of thing.

Was interesting. I showed up a bit late and missed the collaborative part (well it was a sunday and it started at 1 – come on…) and so ended up talking to one of the organisers.

One interesting topic of conversation that came up was her inability to finish songs, and that this is a common thing I’ve picked from speaking to a lot of people. It’s the difference between those that do and those that don’t, I think – the actual finishing of a piece of work.

Nobody I speak to that laments about being unable to finish things, ever seems to have a solution or forward plan of action in terms of how to get past that.

Then I guess nobody who complains about things ever does.

After the groups played their collaborative efforts, finished or otherwise, there was a section for people to play one of their own songs. I was there, so I put my name down for it. After each person had played one of their own songs, people would write anonymous feedback on little bits of paper for the person.

Everyone had been playing things they’d just written that day so I in the spirit of it I did a song I’d hadn’t played live before. I fluffed a bit of my singing simply through not having my breathing timed properly – need to practice that.

The other thing was that I slipped and became unsteady a few times with my chords, BUT, no one said they noticed it because I kept my right hand playing the whole time and kept the groove going.

I’ve been teaching this to my guitar students recently – the difference between playing it like a guitar student and a person who actually plays the guitar well is down to groove. The whole point of music is to make you feel something. That’s usually down to the motion of it physically moving you – keep the right hand going and the left hand will take care of itself.

Most of the feedback didn’t tell me anything I didn’t know. One or two didn’t get the songs’ meaning. Everyone else seemed to, or thought they did, which is even better.

Unfortunately the group didn’t really stimulate or challenge me that much, and although I enjoyed the conversation with people, I didn’t really learn anything.

It was fun though and everyone was really nice.

I’d like to find more songwriter groups and check them out. Maybe I should just focus more on getting out there and playing to people again.