Not quite in the league of a Boxing Day tsunami, but some sad news this Chrismas, though hardly surprising for a 75-year old and he's left a wealth of recordings behind. Derek Bailey is/was one of my big musical inspirations - someone who, on hearing for the first time, I instantly clicked with. It's a pity I won't get to see him play live.
The other old master who I'd love to see play while there's still the chance is Cecil Taylor. How much longer will he be around?
As for my own musical response, my first instinct was to whip out the banjo and free improvise a tribute to DB. But it took a while to get things set up for recordings and there were noisy kids running around. I did come up with a new track yesterday though - which, being made with multitracking and post- roduction effects is at the opposite end of the spectrum to free improvisation. It's a Christmas Day recording of two Aussies talking about 'the Lebs' with a bit of FruityLoops for added silliness.
I'm over in Gosford, New South Wales at the moment, loving the warm weather & water, and making field recordings of the birds & insects. I reckon you could just make a straight field recording and the noise/drone fans would snap it up... the birds are a bit more raucous than the NZ ones and the way the waves of cicadas and frogs fade in and out is very 'noise'. Looks like the album I'm working on will consist of "Melbourne in winter" and "New South Wales in summer" halves.
Off to Sydney this afternoon...
Oh and I've got gig dates for a January North Island tour!
Friday 13th - Photospace Gallery, Wellington
Tuesday 17th - Missing Link, New Plymouth
Thurs 19th or Sat 21st (tbc) - the Wine Cellar, Auckland
Walking into town the other day, I saw chalked into the footpath the message "The World is getting better - pass it on"
So there you go - not bad for a Christmas message.
I'm finishing off packing at the moment - have to drive down to Christchurch tonight to catch the plane to Sydney tomorrow! It's all a bit surreal. There was a phone call from Cynthia's cousin's wife, who we'd planned to stay with, saying she'd broken up with him as he was having an affair. This is a week or so after Cynthia's other friend in Gosford, who we were also going to stay with, broke up with her husband. And a spate of race riots on the beaches... All after we bought the tickets of course.
Anyway, I'll be out of the country for a fortnight, not sure what I'm getting into.
And I'm playing a gig in Wellington on Friday 13th of January, assuming I get back in one piece.
Happy Christmas & new year...
This just arrived in the mailbox (warning - entry contains swearing):
To Drummers (wannabes)
Well its been a good afternoon then you started your fucking drumming.
Its happening to often now & is pissing all your neighbours off. Everytime I want to sleep or have a relaxing afternoon your fucking horrid noise starts up.
I have a friend in a band, he can't drum for shit but compared to you he is a god damn expert.
HERE'S SOME HINTS:
1) You can't drum
2) You have no god damn rhythm
3) You CAN'T drum!!!
YOU SUCK, SHUT THE FUCK UP!!!!
Next time noise control will be called.
SIGNED - THE WHOLE FRICKING NEIGHBORHOOD!
Hmm, second time this year I've been on the receiving end of a stream of semi-literate invective (spot the grammatical errors in it). While as a beginner I can't make any claim for musical worth in my drumming practice (none of it's going on an album for a while yet), I'll just point out that:
a) The claim to speak for 'the whole fricking neighborhood' is specious. The neighbours here have all been spoken to and are OK with there being a drumkit here, except for one neighbour who Cynthia's not on good terms with - as he has repeatedly walked across her section (private property) and trampled on plants. Presumably this is the letter-writer...
b) Drumming practice is in short bursts, ten minutes max, no more than once or twice a day and never late at night. Nothing like the weedeater on the opposite section...
c) Isn't it a logical absurdity to insist so dementedly that we (I'm not the only one who has a go on the kit) CAN'T drum, when clearly we can - as the sound of drumming is what they're complaining about. If we couldn't drum, there'd be nothing to complain about. Bit of a Catch 22. Presumably they mean 'you can't drum like [insert name of proficient drummer]'...
d) Maybe doesn't help that I'm inclined to go for a John French-influenced sound (the drummer for Captain Beefheart & the Magic Band in their Trout Mask Replica period).
Funnily, I've been thinking of adding a reviews page to www.fiffdimension.co.nz as a way to attract visitors and keep the content fresh. It would be hypocritical for me to not include the above note, so that can go in first! It can go along with other classic reviews I've had, such as a 'you're terrible!' in Melbourne, the infamous Mantis Shaped and Worrying review in NZ Musician (it got good reviews as well but they're not so much fun), and the lovely quote from my mother (overheard talking to my aunt several years ago), 'David loves to play guitar but he sounds terrible and has absolutely no talent'.
That which does not kill us makes us stronger and all that. Nick Cave has a song called 'Scum' about his critics - "you're on the shit list / thrust and twist, twist and screw / you gave me a bad review / and maybe you think it's all just water under the bridge / well my un-friend, I'm the type that holds a grudge / I am your creator, you fucking traitor, chronic masturbator, shitlicker, user, self-abuser..." etc. Has to bring a smile. My favourite response to critics though is Neil Young's quiet observation in 'Ambulance Blues', "Now all you critics sit alone / you're no better than me for what you've shown".
Best part is, running a music website, producing a music show for regional tv, and studying at the Nelson School of Music, I can focus on music fulltime for the next year!
But what if they're right?
* Have to write a letter to my 96-year-old Nana who's unwell and probably won't be around much longer.
* Frustrating paradox at the local tv station: Kelly, the production guy, is completely snowed under with pre-Christmas work. They should just hurry up and hire me, I could do most of the work fairly easily. But there's only one computer to use for editing and Kelly doesn't have time to supervise me during the settling-in period...
* Two tv series proposals on the go - one for a local music show which I could produce for regional tv, and one for a comedy-drama mini series which is a massive project.
* I guess I'm throwing my lot in with media-oriented work for the next year. Have to somehow make sure conservation doesn't fall by the wayside as it's ultimately more important in the long run. I've planted several native trees on the property here, does that count?
* Off to Australia again on the 22nd! What with the sudden breakup of the couple we were planning to stay with and race riots in Sydney, it should be an interesting experience. And my first Christmas away from family.
* Will also be an opportunity to finish off the new album, After Maths & Sciences. It's loosely a concept album around the idea of 'observations by a NZer in Australia' and resisting the pull of entropy - I finally got out of my country for a while. Instrumentation is banjo, computer, field recordings plus a bit of acoustic guitar and harmonica. No songs. And despite what I said in the last entry about thinking in terms of tracks rather than albums, 'Australia' is too big a concept to reduce to one track. It's also a loose template - I could potentially travel the whole world making an album in each country out of field recordings and ideas that occur to me while there.
* And regarding the gigs I was supposed to be organising for Mike & Fran early in the new year - Mike's broken his wrist! And Warwick and Damian are too vague to pin down. I should have plenty of chances to play in Nelson myself next year; part of the challenge is going to be re-learning how to function without my usual collaborators.
* One of the joys of being in the upper South Island is eating a lot of fresh berries.
Got back from Little River (near Christchurch) last night, had an enjoyable weekend away. Damian showed me a few new computer tricks – sending files between two laptops by infra red, who’d a thunk it? – and we had a jam with me on drums and him playing no-input feedback by plugging my effects pedal into itself.
On the way down across Lewis Pass we stopped at a hot spring, one that’s deliberately not in Lonely Planet (let the tourists pay at Hanmer Springs).
Interesting conversation along the way about using the internet effectively and functioning as an artist in the digital age. I’ll try following Damian’s recommendation of thinking in terms of tracks rather than albums, and making them available on the internet. I do think the album format is very important – tracks sequenced to give an overall progression or narrative arc greater than the sum of its parts. On the other hand my focus on albums might have held me back in some ways – for a start hardly anyone buys them. And my reluctance to repeat myself has meant not playing live as much as I should have - I don’t like to do something that’s on an album, at least not the same way twice.
The other way of looking at things is to keep everything fluid and unfixed – no definitive versions, but a kitset of parts for endless remixing. Listening to music on a computer hard drive (or iPod) on shuffle mode offers interesting juxtapositions and variety. These days on my hard drive I’m listening to dub and electronic music alongside Harry Smith’s Anthology of American Folk Music, Einstürzende Neubauten, The Fall, Jacques Loussier’s jazz arrangements of Bach, songwriters like Bob Dylan, Nick Cave and Van Morrison, some jazz, solo acoustic guitar by John Fahey and Derek Bailey, and my own recordings. It all goes together. Add something to the playlist and it turns up eventually – you could sneak up on listeners that way. Have to get the headphone output fixed so I can run it through a stereo – at the moment it’s all coming from the tinny little computer speaker. I tend to save the loud rock stuff (The Birthday Party, Fugazi, Mr Bungle, Last Exit, The Boredoms etc) for CD.
Anyway I’ve got plenty of instruments and software to play with. I’m teaching myself to play the computer as an instrument (with Fruityloops and Live 4). I have a strong suspicion I could find an audience for some kind of rhythmic brew including banjo textures. I can even pitch shift it and use the banjo as a bass instrument. Then there are computer-generated beats, field recordings, acoustic and electric guitars, real drums, keyboards, loops of all the above, and effects. And I should get my saxophone fixed ($200 repair job required) and start learning that again too, especially if they’ll give me some lessons at the music school next year. No excuses for boredom…
The dance party at Little River was good fun – great how in NZ we can have them out in the country (complete with cowshit and gorse to step on). I would have liked more live instrumentalists, though I had fun with hand drums, banjo and a violinist by the fireside circle. Damian played skreeks & skritches alongside some other DJs. I could have done without the George W Bush samples but I suppose it’s a reminder of the world we live in.
Overall a good weekend away, and a good way to spend a birthday – getting new ideas for the future.
This is an interesting one to compare to the entries from one and two years ago... overall it's been a very good year. After two years' gradual disengagement, I finally broke free of Wellington. There was the artistic vindication of winning best music award with Ascension Band in the Fringe Festival; then my first overseas trip as an adult, spending four months in Melbourne; I found a girlfriend there; took up the banjo; completed my professional qualification in journalism; moved to Nelson; got the new & improved www.fiffdimension.co.nz website (which I mostly designed in Melbourne) up & running; and have some strong goals for the next couple of years. No wonder the readership of this weblog's declined - where's all the angst gone? Don't worry, I still have my days...
The only downer of the year was - funnily enough - the three months between Melbourne and Nelson spent back in Wellington. Shorthand was an unpleasant burden, though thankfully I managed to pass it. And there was Ascension Band's dissolution due to lack of funds and the stupid hugging incident. We failed to build on the Fringe Festival win and it looks like there won't be a summer tour this year. But I don't think this is the end of the band - it's too good an idea. It's a temporary hiatus. Ultimately we should take it to Europe in 2007 - people are keen on the idea but who's willing to put the work in? Will be interesting to find out...
In the meantime there's 2006, which will be a year to lay plans and gather strength. It amuses me to think that at 27, the classic rock star death age, I'll be at music school picking up what Fran, Mike, Nigel, Jesse et al have known all along. I'm still just getting started really - 'he not busy being born is busy dying'* and all that. I played Cynthia The Marion Flow album yesterday and she pointed out that I actually knew what I was doing back then. That album really does capture an authentic individual style. I've got to find my way back to the source of it somehow. Hopefully being in a smaller town (with great beaches and bush nearby) where I can be a big fish in a small pond will help, rather than getting intimidated & distracted by Wellingtonians like Peter Jackson, Jeff Henderson and Campbell Kneale. The thing to remember is, if none of those guys existed I'd still have done my own thing and it's something they can't do.
In the near future there are some trips out of Nelson coming, to make sure it doesn't feel constrictive. Damian's arriving this afternoon so we can have a jam etc and then go down to Christchurch for the weekend where he's playing at Massive's Summer Soulstice at Little River. Then on December 22 Cynthia & I are going back to Australia - Sydney this time - for a fortnight over Christmas & New Year's. Hopefully we can still hook up with Mike & Fran while they're in NZ until Jan 8. Then a North Island trip to Wellington, New Plymouth, Auckland, and hopefully Great Barrier Island in mid-late January (to see the Stooges at the Big Day Out - first time I've wanted to go to one). And music school starts on Feb 7.
Here's to the next 27...
* - Bob Dylan, 'It's Alright Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)'