Selection of images taken October / early part of November
Why ambient ? (and album update)
Sometimes I think it’s a good idea to recollect why you got into something in the first place. Creating ambient music is almost second-nature to me now, but I’d never heard any ambient music until I was about 20. Here’s some musings on why I got into ambient at the time:
I grew up with heavy rock music, but being a sensitive soul I liked ‘quiet music’ as well (in particular Gregorian chant and plainsong), so I was always open to new musical forms.
Regarding my introduction to ambient, one particular memory I have is of living in house in a ‘funky’ (well pretty dodgy) area of Leeds in the 80’s with some buddhist fellers. There wasn’t a television in the house so we listend to a lot of music on an old record player. One chap’s favourite record was ‘The pearl’ by Harold Budd and Brian Eno.
At first, I found it too minimal, but over time I became drawn into it – it seemed to fill the room with it’s graceful melancholy. I became aware that this ‘background music’ was actually more ‘powerful’ than that description belies. It took time for ambient to become part of my musical world, but that’s the nature of this kind of music – it takes time.
I’ve always preferred music on headphones and at the time, my Walkman was a precious thing to me. I remember one day, listening to Brian Eno’s ‘Apollo’ in a really dismal supermarket and it removed me from the tedious banality of the surroundings and created a far better ‘soundtrack’ to the mundane sights around me. I thought at the time, that I’d like to try to create this aural experience with my own music at some point. Now as an ambient artist myself, the music I make has become something of a therapy for me – an internal retreat from an all too noisy world into somewhere stiller and calmer.
My preference for ambient is for the tonal, continuous work of Eno, Harold Budd and David Sylvian’s instrumental work (to refer to some well known artists). I find the distractions of the glitchy end of the spectrum to be at odds with what I require from listening to a music that (to me) is primarily reflective. I’m a fan of ‘electronic’ music (in the broadest sense of the term), but I make a distinction in this case. I suppose this is all a bit rich for someone who’s favourite band is Killing Joke !, but I feel different types of music are appropriate for different times and I listen to the noisy stuff far less than I do the quiet musics.
IRIS album update:
‘IRIS’ is currently being worked on, it’s an increasingly large project which I hope to have finished by early 2015. In the meantime, I released a ‘single’ yesterday from the work-in-progress material from the album. The track’s title is ‘Supernature‘ and is somewhat more experimental than the rest of the material which will comprise the album, so I thought I’d release it separately.
Some new guitar videos
Just uploaded the fourth of my recent guitar videos. Just posting some points / info regarding how they were made:
They are just one take improvisations and I always make some mistakes, if the mistakes are pretty horrid I repeat the take (sometimes it takes up to four or five attempts to get a decent take), If they’re not too bad I leave them in.
The camera (my Sony RX100) is on a tripod and the tripod is next to a large mirror, so I can look into the mirror and see the reflection of the screen on the back of the camera and use this to ‘frame’ things properly. Unfortunately, in my exuberance when playing, I sometimes move out of frame – particularly my right hand – doh !
I’ve been adding some video effects on these recent videos.
The playing is just noodling really, I try to show a different sound or technique for each of them. I don’t play live currently, so these are an outlet for ‘performance’ of some kind.
For these videos, I’m using a great Amp simulator called ‘Flextron’ made by AXP. It’s a good as (or better) than all the other amp simulators / cabinet simulators I’ve tried and it’s made things much more flexible for me as I can place effects before the overdrive, which works best for phasers, wah pedals etc. I was using the overdrive from my Zoom G2.1u before, which was the first thing in the effects chain. ‘Flextron’ is free and available here:
Here’s the newst one, which is a different approach to the others:
Inspiration versus creative work’
Here’s some food for thought.
A quote from the artist and Photographer Chuck Close:
“The advice I like to give young artists, or really anybody who’ll listen to me, is not to wait around for inspiration. Inspiration is for amateurs; the rest of us just show up and get to work. If you wait around for the clouds to part and a bolt of lightning to strike you in the brain, you are not going to make an awful lot of work. All the best ideas come out of the process; they come out of the work itself. Things occur to you. If you’re sitting around trying to dream up a great art idea, you can sit there a long time before anything happens. But if you just get to work, something will occur to you and something else will occur to you and something else that you reject will push you in another direction. Inspiration is absolutely unnecessary and somehow deceptive. You feel like you need this great idea before you can get down to work, and I find that’s almost never the case.”
Good advice in my view, but perhaps more so for the artist who can work on their material full-time.
To put this quote in context, I’m currently working on my new album ‘IRIS‘, I’ve just finished a phase of reworking and all the tracks are still at a very early stage. The work-in-progress material I’m working with is almost three hours in total duration – it’s a sizeable project !
I’m now going to move on to the next phase, which will require making listening notes and then another bout of reworking. From experience, I may need repeat this process at least another four or five times over again – it’s what’s required to get the album finished and it is a lot of work. Don’t get me wrong though, I’m not complaining about this, even work can be fun ( when it’s creative work) and having been through this process a fair few times now, it’s not such a daunting prospect.
So, in terms of inspiration, I’d say that my situation is more along the lines of what Chuck said, it’s the ‘real’ work stage where it all happens and any form of inspiration is more motivation, in that I want to advance the work and get the ruddy album finished ! Indeed, if I was to wait for inspiration, I think I’d be waiting for quite some time, the work brings up new facets by actually doing it.
Of course, any creative type needs to make some changes to spice things up, so here’s my current set-up, with even less gear and even more lights and buttons ! I’ve upgraded to Ableton Live Standard with their super-good sampler (cunningly called ‘Sampler’) and I think I’II get a fair bit of mileage from it. There’s an awful lot more you can do with these Launchpads than just launching clips (in Ableton Live) as well.
imac (invert) look as well !
New ways of working – controllers
Before diving into working on my next album, I thought I’d ‘take stock’ and re-evaluate my working methods. I’ve always considered Midi-controllers to be pretty dull things – useful, but unexciting. Recently I bought some of the Novation ‘Launch series’ controllers and I have to say, I think I was wrong.
Looking at Ableton ‘Live’ (*) too, is a different approach for me (even though I’ve used the old soundcloud version in the past), the way in which these controllers work with Live is very interesting. I’m not sure how much I will use this combination, but I can see some ‘sound-mangling’ potentials. Also, the Launchpad (mini) works very well with FL Studio‘s performance mode and Image-line’s ‘Deckadance‘ (which I’ve used in the past), I use FL predominantly, at present. The level of ‘tweakability’ and live control afforded by these controllers is something I’d not really incorporated into my work, so perhaps it’s time I did ! I have to say, I’m a sucker for anything with lights and such like !
(* I’m currently using ‘Live Intro’, as I’m just trying things out, at present)
Here’s a current work-in-progress set up: (the elephants are there to inspire me)