Archive for May, 2011

Top Ten Alternative Queens

Posted in Me Oh My with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 31, 2011 by Gideon K

Okay, just so no one can accuse me of being overtly patriarchal I’ve made a list of my top 10 alternative Queens. And just so you can see how pointless the whole argument is, or perhaps how subconsciously chauvinist I might be, they’re nearly all males anyway.

Queen

First and most obvious, but what a ridiculous and brilliant band. You don’t see any bands doing things the way they did anymore. You don’t get to make music like queen if you’re worried about being cool. I shall forever love their outrageousness, flamboyance, and ability to throw you around and get away with almost anything. Almost.

This song is killer. I mean how do you make such peerless guitar shredding, mind exploding, riffage out of a guitar made from a fireplace?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AQDxHaJi1A0

Melvins – Queen

Another melvins track. Just because they’re wicked. This was the first track I heard of theirs during my formative teen years and I was sold from the first note. They’re a great band when they bother to write actual songs.

This is what Metal should be like – dark, moody, with a hint of the absolute maniacally fucked up.

http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x1u5y9_melvins-queen_music

Queens of the Stone Age

The modern rock motherload. Someone once described them as being ‘Heavy metal music for people who’ve had sex’. I’d go with that. Everything that a rock band should and shouldn’t be, and making all of it work. Fun times, sexy times, rockin harder, grooving relentlessly and more solidly than any other guitar band of the 21st Century.

Too many songs to choose from, but I’ll go with this.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OXrwFBG7-7s

Dancing Queen

 

Right, whose idea was ABBA?! Absolutely ridiculous. Just a sign of how absurd the 70s were, they just happened to be the biggest band in the world.

That aside, what a tune. Seriously. Anyone who says they don’t play air piano when this song comes on is a liar.

Even if you hate it you still love it. It’s perfect example of all the things people love and hate about pop music.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xFrGuyw1V8s

Queen of Siam

 

Lydia Lunch is pretty badass in terms of sheer attitude, anger and resilience. A truly independent woman. Queen of Siam is one of the few records of hers I can actually listen to though (although Big Sexy Noise one I’ve been listening to recently and it’s Heavier than an elephant in jackboots) ie that there are some not entirely atonal tracks on it. This track is some real femme fatale shiiiiiiit.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cFTQtdQiDzw

Little Queen of Spades

 

Robert Johnson is eternal. I love that there are only a few pictures of him in existence. At first I thought this was just is a badass blues about some hot chick. However it’s about a card sharp who seems to be taking all of poor Bobby J’s money. It does however, key into that feeling you get when someone has the deck stacked against you in more ways than you know – literally and metaphorically.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JpyUX0mb2Os

Queen Bitch

 

Not actually one of my favourite Bowie tracks (Oh God, I can do better than that!) but hiding under the veil of fairly standard 3 chord glam rock, and lyrics which seem to be a just a description of people who sound like a total pain in the ass, by someone who sounds like a total pain in the ass,  is a song which captures a good deal of the horrible emptiness of being the one who doesn’t get the girl, of being the 1 in the 3, being outside, calling a cab to just get away from wherever the hell you find yourself because being stuck in the room with only the thoughts of the other guy who got the girl you coulda, woulda, shoulda, is just too much. Sneaky little git old D.B…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O8oGyGo1q-k

50Ft Queenie

 

No bullshit, rollercoaster rock. The kind of track that makes you wanna go and cause trouble. She’s stomping on all the boys, and swinging her massive dick around – bend over Cassanova – and THAT snare sound!! Albini!! PJ Harvey – second to no one indeed.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jKLiU7Hq93w

Rocket Queen

For the longest time I couldn’t stand Guns n Roses. Everything about that ‘most dangerous band in the world’ thing made me cough up on the smell of stale hair spray and sweat-cracked leather. However, somewhere along the line, the majority of the tracks on Appetite for destruction sucked me in with their alley-cat aggro-isms. Generally I like anything if it’s done well, but sleazy, dirty gutter-rock done well… can be just magic. Complete with genuine recording of Axl having sex with some chick in the studio, just so they could have that added… ‘ambience’.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1TnL-LJKWE0

Queen of the Rodeo

It’s got our boys Alice in Chains singing heartfelt and completely un-PC harmonies about being a cross-dressing, hard-drinking, girlfriend-stealing ‘human-waste’. Yes, they’re taking the piss, spoofing their country, metal and boozy cowboy influences, but they sound like they’re having FUN – not something enough people associate with Alice in Chains most of the time. A great singalong to crack out when you’re jamming and drunk.

Oh, and if it offends you, you probably don’t get it.

“So cowboy, if you’re lookin for lovin….”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9vu4WumrCmM

Yeah, I’m not very good at keeping to limits like these, so in true rock n roll fashion, this list goes up to 11…

Queen Jane Approximately

Highway 61 was the first Dylan album I got into and it still keeps me coming back for it’s electric righteousness and acrobatic, rollercoaster imagery.

This song seems to me to be about being condescending, but also having some compassion. He’s saying that once the Queen Jane in question is finished with all her little detours into various worlds of pretense, deceit and silliness, to come and find him when she’s ready for a more authentic reality and questions. There’s a life to be lived that isn’t wrapped up in meaninglessness and false expectations.

I would welcome anyone else’s interpretation though, especially as I attempt to dodge the shoes thrown at me by pious Dylan-ites calling me a revisionist and a traitor…

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You’re A Lifer

Posted in Creativity with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 30, 2011 by Gideon K

There are moments in life where you feel like you’ve taken a step in a certain direction, or just looked around knowing that there are certain other paths it is now impossible for you to take.

I read this in an interview with Mike Patton for Filter Magazine some years ago and it resonated deeply with me.

“I can’t remember the exact moment or the day but it sort of happened over time. I think you realise it more when you see how you fit into the scheme of the real world, when you come home and realise that everybody’s out partying on Friday night and you’re home working without even thinking about it… without trying, without forcing yourself, and realising, you know, that it isn’t work, that it’s you. It’s just you and there’s not a lot you can do about it.

It’s a knee-jerk battling reaction and for me it’s expensive, but I just had to do it. And I will do it, and I’m lucky enough to be making a living doing it so I can do it all the time. But you know, you realise that yeah, it’s no joke anymore, or if nothing else the joke’s on you and you’re in this. You’re a lifer.”Mike Patton

There’s not really much for me to add to this. It captures that feeling when you’ve found that thing in your life that nothing else compares to.

Maybe I’m just working my mind progressively further down one particular funnel, but I can’t imagine a point in my life where music, writing and generally expressing my creativity is not a central feature of my existence. It becomes more of a necessity for me on an almost daily basis.

If I hadn’t known it before, my realisation came in recording in Ireland last summer.

No matter what time I went to bed in the night, I was up the next day at 7. No alarm, nothing, just awake, alert, ready to GO.

I was working 12, 14 hour days, fully concentrating on what I was doing.

I would go running round the grounds of the castle some mornings, breathing mountain air, feeling alive, doing what I was supposed to be doing.

Compare this experience with the drudgery of waking up and forcing yourself to get out of bed to go to a job you hate doing. Not even because it’s such a bad job – it’s just not what you were built for.

“A man’s work is nothing but this slow trek to rediscover, through the detours of art, those two or three great and simple images in whose presence his heart first opened.”Albert Camus

They say every action we take, where we end up and what we do are down to our choices, but when my body and my whole being react like this and give me such obvious hints about what will lead me to happiness and fulfillment in life, what choice do I have?

Other than the one about whether I step up to the plate and take it or not….

Cheap Instruments & What Fate Hands You

Posted in Me Oh My with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 25, 2011 by Gideon K

I have this strange fatalism regarding instruments.

I think a lot of the musical changes in history have come from circumstance as much as anything else. We should consciously cultivate this. That’s why I think there’s a lack of imagination and a soul-starvation to people in bands spending stupid money on expensive American guitars.

Really obvious and unimaginative example:

A lot of indie/alt/rock bands play Fender Jaguars and Jazzmasters, because they have a great and unique sound, and all their favourite bands use them.

All their idols played them in the 80s, mostly because they were dirt cheap. No one wanted them back in the era of post-Van Halen pointy guitars. That’s the only way Sonic Youth could afford to have thousands of them, the same reason why My Bloody Valentine, Dinosaur Jr, Nirvana, etc etc used them.

Now however, people spend loads of money on them. But to me it’s completely counter to the spirit they were used in the first place.

Is it really necessary to spend stupid amounts of money on some crazy thing when there might well be something just as great but different lurking in the dusty, forgotten corner of some tucked-away junk shop?

This goes for everything. If bands aren’t willing to be creative and spontaneous about how they outfit and equip themselves, how likely are they to be creative or unique in other areas?

Billy Corgan said he wrote most of the songs on Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness on an old electric he got for $60 in a junk shop.

Josh Homme bought his Ovation GP from a record store that had just a banjo, an acoustic guitar, and the electric that he bought.

Nearly all my guitars are secondhand, old and Japanese – All under £300 except for one. They sound great, and what’s more – they sound unique. No one else is playing them.

You can probably tell I’m in thrall to the romantic notion of finding lost treasure in forgotten places….

I wholeheartedly advocate junk shops, car boot sales, ebay, gumtree, craigslist etc, or my favourite – charity shops. Just keep an eye out.

I like the fact that I don’t know where my next musical fling is going to come from, and it leaves you with some interesting stories about each of your toys.

Here’s how I see it: The era will provide whether it’s in a way you like or not. But there will be ample equipment that has been thrown out that is ripe for re-use.

Find out what type of gear is really good but unpopular, and go get yourself some great gear for cheap.

Happy hunting.

Why Don’t You Smoke?

Posted in Me Oh My with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on May 20, 2011 by Gideon K

Someone actually asked me this. They couldn’t understand that as a singer I could be a fan of Leonard Cohen, Nick Cave, Tom Waits, Mark Lanegan etc and yet I’m not a smoker.

There are quite a few reasons behind this, but mainly because smoking is fucking DUMB.

I know, I know, Rock n Roll is supposed to be about recklessness, nihilism, living fast and dying young, but forgive me; that just seems a little too boring.

Let’s look at some of the supposed advantages of smoking:

Err…. none.

Like all other drugs, it takes far more than it ever gives you.

This is not a huge socio-political moralistic rant here, simply on an individual level I just don’t get it.

I used to. I used to love a good smoke, now and then. But eventually as part of the process of growing up and figuring out what my priorities are it actually came to the point where the last cigarette I had just felt disgusting by about halfway through and that was it.

No more.

The basic answer however is that smoking damages the voice, and almost any artist or singer with brains eventually stops. It’s a subtle form of self-destruction that I could never square with the rest of me. I don’t want to destroy myself and want to take care of the body and mind I have, but if I WAS being self-destructive I like to think I’d be choosing something a bit more effective than cigarettes.

I think scars can be very beautiful on people, but less so and less often when they are self-inflicted.

However, the main focus of this train of thought was supposed to be how smoking affects the singing voice.

In keeping with my attitude towards certainty/uncertainty, if I smoke, and smoke a lot, we all know exactly what my voice is going to sound like, right? I’m much more interested and curious to see where my voice might go if I don’t smoke.

My voice is pretty low as it is (listen if you don’t believe me), and with both practice and age it’s only going to get lower. Whether smoking would aid that or not, smoking would detrimentally affect my ability to hit the higher notes, which are currently also expanding in range for me.

Instead of the obvious, easy and stupid way of changing my voice via smoking, I’d rather spend my time training my voice and exercising it, exploring avenues that don’t irreparably damage my instrument, because I want to sound like me, not the cookie monster.

Besides, it stinks.

What Will Other People Think?

Posted in Creativity with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 17, 2011 by Gideon K

It’s a question everyone asks themselves. But beyond a certain point, who cares?

I know, I know, as part of a society of communally living people, sharing certain space we have to be mindful of how others feel and their comfort levels etc.

Everyone, myself included has worries sometimes about doing things and wondering what reaction people will have to you.

‘What will people say if I write these words?’

‘I can’t say that on stage’

‘People will laugh at me or call me something derogatory if I wear that’

Fuck em. It doesn’t matter.

I’m going to wear leather trousers and be called a twat. I don’t care.

I’m going to be called pretentious for writing the lyrics I do. They ring true to me, so I don’t care.

People will tell me I’m a twat for starting a blog, and that I can’t write anyway. I don’t care.

I’m going to do these things for my own sense of curiosity, because instead of asking someone what it’s like to do something, instead of wondering what it feels like, I’m just going to do it and know for myself.

Who wants a second-hand existence?

The thing is, everyone else is so busy being self-conscious, worrying what other people are thinking about them that the things you worry most about other people commenting on actually go unnoticed. No one cares what you’re doing really.

The only things that really matter are:

  • Will I be proud of myself when this is done?
  • Will I learn from this, whatever happens?
  • Is this the best use of my time, energy, resources?
  • Will my family and those I love be able to be proud of me?

Everything else is just static.

“Opinions are like assholes – everyone has one, and most of them stink.”

The point is that your creative fulfillment and happiness is of far greater importance than what anybody might say about it.

So have fun.

Lip Service

Posted in Creativity with tags , , , , , , , , on May 13, 2011 by Gideon K

There’s something I have to confess. It’s been bugging me a bit since I started this blog.

I wonder if writing (a blog) about creativity just a way of avoiding actually BEING creative, doing creative things – am I just paying lip service to being creative?

The main thing fuelling this concern is the idea that for every amount of time spent writing a blog post or thinking about a subject related to this, I could and maybe should be spending that time songwriting.

Or more pressingly on some days I concern myself on whether I spend more time talking abut creativity than doing it – not my style

“Between saying and doing many a pair of shoes is worn out.”  – Italian Proverb

If I talk about something, I tend to eventually get it done.

Whether there is something to this way of thought or not, I doubt it’s healthy. The idea that one always has to be doing something constructive, and feeling guilty otherwise – is destructive.

It doesn’t work for me either. Forcing it too much actually stops it from flowing strongly, naturally and freely. It Strangles it. Also neglects other aspects.

For me all the work is in order to create a suitable apparatus for the goods to flow. Setting up a row of dominoes so that you can watch the whole sweep down in a swift wave and enjoy the ride.

This doesn’t really answer my initial question, or does it?

Writing the blog neither adds nor subtracts from my other writing. It’s just additional motion to contend with. It keeps my mind focused on these questions and constantly evaluating my progress output and technique etc.

I also think these doubts or concerns are mostly head noise and the only way to find out anything for yourself is just to do what you feel you should and see where it takes you.
“After all is said and done, a lot more will have been said than done.”  ~Author Unknown