An odd sort of week, with a bout of food poisoning on one hand and my journalism diploma arriving on the other. I had to take Thursday and Friday off sick and had a high temperature and aching all over. There was something strange about being wrapped up at night in a sleeping bag, three duvets on top, electric blanket on, wearing thermals - and shivering cold. It's taken a while for my appetite to come back but fingers crossed I'm OK from here.
Journalism diploma should hopefully reduce the hassles I've had in the past with finding work - it better after all the hassle of getting it. There was an amusing series of emails a few weeks back regarding the big class of '04 reunion for some Massey anniversary - the replies gradually trickling in of 'sorry, can't make it' from various corners of the country and globe. I think in the end about two people showed up. One of the big selling points of the course is how 90% of graduates were in paid professional employment not long afterwards - I'm in the 10%. I felt like most of the class were on a different planet from me (one of the few I've stayed in touch with now has a page on my website).
I have reservations about journalism as a profession (poorly paid, highly stressful, elitist, competitive, deskjob) though there are also advantages (writing that actually gets published, meeting interesting people, potential to explore interesting subjects). And it still seems preferable to taking the academic route - better to write clear sentences on a range of subjects than unnecessarily convoluted jargon-filled discourse and end up knowing more and more about less and less.
What I want from a job, apart from a liveable wage (I have no great ambition to get rich), variety, chance to be creative, and ideally some exercise as well, is some sense of doing something useful and ethically satisfying. I think I'm happiest planting trees - I've planted nearly thirty on the property here so far this year (three feijoa, two olive, one mandarin, one lemon, one fig, the rest native species) plus flaxes, ferns, mosses etc. It's great to have a bit of land available - and in an age of global warming, trees are something we need a lot more of, as they remove C02 from the atmosphere. They'll also hopefully offset some of the damage caused by taking international airplane flights. I must look for opportunities to plant trees on a bigger scale...
One week to go til the gig in Brisbane. Australia's been great for me in overcoming the sense of claustrophobia I had, and it's only the first stepping stone. This will be my third trip there in 18 months, with another planned for early next year to earn money to travel further.
There's a lot of preparation work still to do: rehearsing the set, making CDs and t-shirts to sell, making a DVD of backing video projections, packing etc. As well as finishing off term 2 coursework and getting ready for the end of term concert (Thursday night, Nelson School of Music if there's anyone in Nelson reading this - I'm the one playing guitar and tenor sax for The Clang). And of course the video camera chose this week to break down. I've never been to Brisbane before in my life, not sure what to expect. We arrive Saturday morning and are playing first on Saturday night. Maybe that's the way things should be...
PS Current listening: Howlin Wolf, Dixieland jazz compilation, Bach, Chopin, Dead Kennedys, Nick Cave's Abattoir Blues - looking for Charlie Patton next.
The dates have been rushing past insanely fast this term, now we're at the winter solstice which is one of my favourite times of the year. I think it makes a psychological difference that the daylight hours are going to stop shrinking from here on. What was I doing the last few winter solstices?
2002: Writing by candlelight in my cupboard-sized room in Mt Victoria
2003: Jamming with Mike Kingston and Simon Sweetman - sounded great, and the name 'The Winter' logically suggested itself.
2004: Can't remember, probably bogged down in journalism coursework
2005: In Melbourne, went to a hand-drumming hippie gathering in one of the parks. Freezing cold.
2006: Getting ready for end of term concert at music school next Thursday - followed by my first paid overseas gig, in Brisbane on July 1st. Yes I'm nervous.
Richard Nunns (musicologist, specialist in taonga puroro or traditional Maori instruments) gave a couple of workshops at the music school recently. He's been studying taonga puoro for 40 or so years, and in the last eight years managed to give up his teaching dayjob to play music fulltime. So now he plays with everyone from classical composers to Pitch Black and Salmonella Dub to Wellington free-jazzers, and in several different countries.
It's always inspiring to talk to people like that who've managed, as Leonard Cohen put it, to be paid for their work rather than working for pay. Nelson painter Kerry Walker was another one I met recently. At 27 I'm already noticing people I went to school with settling into raising families & careers & mortgages while I'm still chipping away Don Quixote-style at my writing & music. I'm very lucky this year to be able to do it fulltime. It's a myth that inspiration (a rare commodity) is where it all comes from - persistence/stubbornness is most of it. Nunns said he thinks about his music nearly all day every day, so that sounds familiar.
Also good that he had some praise for my writing. I talked to him after the workshop and he said a key to his success over the last few years was finding a niche. It looks like the banjo niche is filling up rapidly though in Wellington as Dan Beban's back from England with one, as well as Jeff Henderson taking it up last year. But I'm out of the Wellington scene now, and it's a change for the better for me.
I've been finding myself less and less interested in playing lead guitar on the music course - there are a dozen other guitarists, most of them more technically advanced than I (at lead guitar that is - I seem to be better than many at music theory and listen to a wider range of styles, but the downside is I've got slow fingers and a terrible ear for pitch) so it's kind of offputting. And no matter how good you get, there'll always be a better guitarist out there somewhere. So instead I'm working on the banjo, saxophone and electronic sounds - things that noone else (on the course) is doing. I did an electro-acoustic piece on banjo and laptop for the class last week - raised a few eyebrows.
As for this week - I did a website update and made a page for Cynthia. And we went up to Mt Arthur to throw a few snowballs in the weekend, and went past a feijoa hedge on the way back and collected a box of feijoas. Mmm, feijoas...
Things have been going well for me in Nelson, all sorts of new
possibilities opening up. I've just got the equipment to make myself
into a self-contained documentary crew & music studio combined. I'm
also gearing up for my first international gig, in Brisbane on July 1.
There's supposed to be a good music scene over there, with a lot of
people incorporating visuals & abstract film etc.
I'm also playing at the Lines of Flight festival in Dunedin in early October as well as coming up with a show for the Fringe Festival around the same time.
I think I can find a niche somehow and also be able to make videos, burn to DVD etc, and move much faster than the 'making a film' model which requires huge budget & crews/resources and takes months.
I'm also interested in getting videos etc happening on the website. I
think we're in the 21st century now and it's distinctly different from
Mid term gig at the Shark Club last night went well, with some noticeable improvements among several of the class since the beginning of the year. I was playing in an upbeat pop/rock covers band (Sublime, White Stripes, the Hives, Arctic Monkeys) called The Clang, which should raise a smile for anyone familiar with my own music. I had fun jumping around on stage, and being the only sax player on the course, but couldn't hear myself very well in the monitors. And I'll have to get a decent set of musician-quality earplugs, as a year's worth of playing in a rock band five days a week will cause long-term hearing damage otherwise.
I've updated www.fiffdimension.co.nz, added some new information, used more intelligent quotes from the critics (as the great Derek Bailey said, "I just assume the good reviews are all written by discerning intelligent likeable fellows who are a credit to their profession, and the bad reviews are all written by ignorant tone-deaf motherfuckers"), given the layout a spring cleaning -
- and added an entire 5 minute mp3, 'The Greenhough', from After Maths & Sciences. Go have a listen, tell me what you think.
I've got my first proper international gig coming up - at the Liquid Architecture festival in Brisbane on July 1st, and also putting together a music/theatre piece for Dunedin Fringe Festival. Title is 'the Ballad of William Knife' - something about a ficticious schizoid Scottish ancestor in the colonial days who loses the plot and goes bush to become a sculptor, with flashes forward to 21st century Wellington, London and Sydney. Suraya's coming back from London, Chris Palmer's keen to travel down, and I might get a couple of others from Nelson to join in. There's also Lines of Flight (noise festival) there around the same time.
For next year the idea is to see out the summer in NZ, then go to Oz for 2-3 months, spending time in Canberra and Melbourne, then go to Thailand from Perth and onwards through Asia to Europe, travelling overland by rail as much as possible. I aim to play gigs in Scandinavia (have made some contacts in Finland and Sweden, need to find someone in Norway) and there's a festival at CESTA in Czech Republic in August. I may settle in Scotland for a wee while, and also keen to spend time in France, Portugal and Iceland.
And I've done as I said I would and deleted everything pre-2005 from this weblog - now I've got a 467-page diary on my hard drive to print out. The old stuff's now faded into irrelevance and wasn't achieving anything by being in the public domain. (and Stonesoup needs the server space). On the other hand 2005 seems like a new beginning - the best year I'd had for a while, with artistic breakthroughs with Ascension Band and my Australian album, finishing my journalism diploma, and getting out of Wellington.
I also started using 'Dave Black' as a moniker or persona and wrapped up the earlier 'Dave Edwards' albums by making a best-of compilation. 'Black' has numerous resonances, mainly that it's my mother's maiden name (my granddad, James Kell Lamie Black, moved to NZ from Belfast around WW2 and worked as a hydro engineer on the South Island dams - I visited Lake Tekapo recently, where his ashes are scattered) so not too much of a stretch. I got so far into the early albums that they took over my life, and I had very little reward for my eight years work.
The difference with 'After Maths & Sciences' is that it's not about me, it's about my surroundings (ie Australia) while making it. I found a way to mix a drop of politics (the Cronulla riots, bomb threats, climate change) into the music without sloganeering, just reflecting the times: instead of writing lyrics I recorded Aussies talking in their own words (& accents). And as for what I've seen of Australia, they may be more affluent than NZ now, but they'll be in big trouble before long when their water sources run out.
'Black' could also be an allusion to 'the black dog' of depression which I've had to deal with since age 15 or so... rather than getting mired in it, it's now externalised, where it's less likely to damage me? Kind of an update of Johnny Cash's 'the man in black' persona.
"Well you wonder why I always dress in black
Why you never see bright colours on my back
And why does my appearance seem to have a sombre tone?
Well there's a reason for the things that I have on..."