Archive for the ‘music’ Category

I’m proud to announce the release of my new album. I’ve spent the summer months (and my last few buttons) holed-up in a backstreet recording studio, and hopefully the results won’t be compared with other activities associated with backstreets.

Since my ‘Postcards’ CD that saw the light about seven years ago,  I have discovered open tunings and a few other things that have contributed to the music easing out of me more naturally.

However, seven years is a painful interlude and after a lot of often frustrating recording experiences in different places, and a lot of cash spent, I had only four tracks completed for this latest CD, which came to be called ‘Gravity’.

People often said to me “why don’t you get into home recording? If you got a little bedroom set up you could spend as much time recording as you wanted”. Well as much as I like the idea of tinkering in my bedroom, I’m just not technologically-minded like that. I have virtually endless capacity for working on songs, arrangements and performances but I always leave fingering the knobs to someone else (!).  These songs don’t deserve to sound like demos. And even though I’m not ambitious by many peoples’ standards I do need to do them justice with a professional engineer.

So it was, early in June when I felt financially able to commit to finishing the album, I booked some time with Andy Fernihough at Crash Studios in Liverpool.

Slowly we worked through the songs I had in mind, with much trial and error involved in the process. Just like if I was trying to paint a picture that I could see in my mind, there was much rubbing out and starting again, adding and subtracting, with me trying to communicate what I wanted to Andy who had to try and realise it on the sound desk.

It’s caring about the details that makes the difference. Deciding whether the tambourine you’ve added to a track makes it swing nicely or actually make it seem to lose momentum. Or whether the bass guitar needs EQ-ing differently to help it cut through the mix.

“Away From the Town” comes towards the end of the album. Although it is a great song, when we finished it, it wasn’t sounding as good as I knew it could do. It needed a big, washy reverb so the syllables subtly wash back over each other. When we went back and perfected that reverb it really stood out as a highlight of the album.

Towards the end of the process there was the process of mastering and trying to make the ten tracks sound like they belonged together. This was tricky as some of them were recorded in different places with different equipment. It is always a process full of compromises.

 

In summary, I’m happy with the album. I would give it 9 out of 10. It’s probably not as varied as the previous one, but its just as consistent (i.e. there are no crap bits). Credit has to go to the three engineers who worked on it: Andy Fernihough, Will Purton and Jeff Jepson.

Listen or buy (please!) on the link above. Contact me if you want a physical CD.  tomgeorgearts@hotmail.co.uk

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In addition to doing live gigs, I have been playing on the streets of towns and cities for years, and I have had some interesting experiences and opportunities come my way as a result.

Recently I was approached to contribute a track to an album featuring music by some of the world’s finest buskers. The Busking Project is an initiative set up with the aim of giving buskers the chance to sell their original music online in a similar way to how they earn a living on the street.

TBP release one ten-track album a month on their website, featuring music of many styles.  They currently have four albums available, all of which you can freely download once you donate $5 to the project.

How You Contribute and What You Get – The public are invited to donate an amount as little as $1 to the project and 60% of this goes directly to the artists featured on the site; the other 40% going to maintaining the project. This 60% is a vastly better deal for the artists than any conventional record deal, so you can be sure that you are supporting the producers of the music.

For a $1 donation you are kept informed of the progress of the project, $3 gives you access to videos and blogs but it all gets more exiting if  you donate $5, which gives you a downloads of this month’s album ‘Keep Streets Live’ – FEATURING ME!

VISIT https://www.patreon.com/busk to get involved.

If you don’t want to be kept informed about the project, you can simply sign up for one month and download all the albums (for $5, come on!) then delete your subscription.

This seems like a pretty good deal for the artists and you. How’s that possible? There is no record company involved.

But in case you need further convincing to support my involvement in this project, have a listen here to the track I have contributed, ‘Love’s on Fire’:

 

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New old song…!!

This is a pop/punk track that I’d completely forgotten about. I used to play it with a band called Mind of a Toy in about 2007..? It’s a decent recording and as I could use it on my upcoming album (might have to re-record the vocals though). I don’t play this kind of stuff much anymore….but I think this song is too good to languish in the shadows unheard…

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At a time so much in flux, who better to speak to us about the challenges we all face than trans musician Anhoni. Previously known as Antony Hegarty, this artist always used his/her experience of transgender identity to offer fresh perspectives on how we might all live together on this planet. Whether you call that political, social or spiritual barely matters. Now, with a new album environmental-themed album, s/he invites us to confront our own eco-hypocrisy.

Throughout this interview, which I’ve transcribed from Radio 4’s Loose Ends programme last week, Anhoni is breathlessly articulate, the words coming out so clearly articulated and so rapidly that it seems rehearsed. If so, I have no problem with that. S/he has powerful things to say, not just in the promotion of an album. I look forward to a book from this gentle messenger.

The last time you were on the programme I remember you saying that the world needs more female leaders, and as it happens we do seem to getting more. We’re going to have a new prime minister who’s going to be a woman, there may be a woman president in America, there are three women leaders in Scotland…is this the sort of thing you had in mind? Do you think it’s going to improve the world?

When I say we need more feminine governance its that we need a collective representation of femininity, which of course is a massive array of points of view. It’s not that any one female leader is going to burst the bubble, its more that if there more than 30% women at the table, the culture changes…what would it look like if we had 70% of women at the table? What kinds of untapped wisdom and unique perspectives, born of the specific experiences of womanhood might we capitalise upon, in order that a less heirarchical conversation can happen?

Do you think though, that in 50 or 100 years’ time in our queer/trans utopia that we’ll still be talking about these gender binaries? Will there still be such a thing as womanness or maleness?

Honestly I think in 50 or 100 yeas time we’re gonna be so preocupied with catastrophic environmental changes that I can’t imagine we’ll have much time to dally in identity politics. Right now is the time we have deal with this wall of impending and imprecendented events that are on the horizon…massive chunks of the biosphere are collapsing and the conversaton about identity politics is really important but its not the endgame. The reason to do it is because unrepresented voices might offer a new pearl of wisdom that might spark a new trajectory.
Hearing you sing, there seems to be this emotion there at the forefront. Would you say you’re upset or angry about these things?
I’m a singer so my currency is my emotion and intuition – that’s my medium in a way. And I’m a human being so i’m a feeling creature. But to me emotion, thinking, intuition, intellect – to me they’re much more intergrated process than they might generally be identified as.

You’ve called your album ‘Hopelessness’. Are you feeling hopeless?

Yes, I’ve felt a lot of that under the current state of affairs, but also I’m not alone in that. I think a lot of people are feeling very hopeless but it was on the basis of that that I’ve sought to address and excavate that emotional place.

Essentially what you’ve made is a protest album. Is there a record company executive in your mind saying ‘No, we want songs about love and loss and human emotion’?

To go back to your question about why I named the album ‘Hopelessness’, how are we going to take effective action when we’re not even allowed to acknowledge the place of despair that most people are sitting in today. I think there’s actually something quite productive about processing hopelessness in the same way that it’s productive to process grief and that if you process the feeling you reach a clearer vista to reach clearer decisions.
In fact, not processing hopelessness might be stilting us; I mean we all come from 2000 years of sky-God religions prophesising apocalypse as a climax to our experience here on earth. We were born into hopelessness. A lot of the mythology that’s at the root of our cultures looked forward to this day and has insidiously collaborated with neo-liberal capitalism to create a perfect storm of conditions, that will finally realise a transcendental apocalypse, so that we can all piss off to heaven, do you know what I mean?


I’m thinking of the potential of dreaming that we can move beyond those models of thinking, to concieve of entirely new ways of walking upon the earth. At this point we’ve got nothing to lose! Now every greengrocer knows…that the world as we know it is coming to an end, the question now is about what kind of radical thought we can engage that’s actually useful.

What’s happened to Antony and The Johnsons?

I feel like I’d exhausted this pastoral aesthetic and it was beginning to feel a bit toothless, to be honest, that’s why I reached for a harder, more euphoric, galvanising sound because I wanted to express the affairs of my heart very plainly, and to mark the time, and I didn’t really want to hide behind some gossamer curtain of ornamental violin twiddles. I just wanted it to be very direct.

Why the change of name?

“I’ve always talked about being transgender in the media, but I was beginning to feel it was time for me to take a feminine name just to honour my specific experience, and also because I’m getting older and I feel like I’ve got nothing to lose. It’s one thing to tell people that you’re transgender, but then why humour them with the idea that you’re comfortable with a male pronoun or a male name?
Was it difficult to make that transition because you’re known as Anthony with a male pronoun?

It’s like a tipping point. You get to a point where it’s like there’s no going back and you’re ready for the next thing. It’s developmental; you get to a point where its like: ‘This is who I am and this is how I want to move through the world today and you dont really care about the consequences.


In the song “4 Degrees” (about the projected rise of 4 degrees in the earth’s temperature) you take the guise of someone who says ‘Never mind’.

My intention with the record was not just an exercise in finger pointing but to start to examine my complicity in these virulent systems and to give voice not to my intention but to the reality of my footprint. It’s all very well for me to say I want the best for the world but flying here to do this concert, the narrative of the song was sublimated in the reality of my action, my behaviour.

I’ve become very interested in this giant disparity between my sense of myself and the reality of who I am. I feel like somehwere in that massive system of denial is the potential for change. Like, if I could learn to be honest about who I am so that I really understood the effect of my footprint and I could stop living in this delusional, half-sleeping state of virulence, all the while thinking I’m doing the best that I can and justifying myself…

It’s a given that I’m a hypocrite, in the same way that it’s a given that I’m a mysogenist, it’s a given that I’m a racist, it’s a given that I’m homophobic, do you what what I mean? All of those things are enmbedded in me, in many ways I think of my body as a microcosm of the brokenness of the world. It’s not like I’m immune. I’m a porous creature. I’m a part of this world and so the things that are wrong inside me are very likely a tiny photograph of the things that are wrong in the world.

The programme on which this is based can be found at  http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b07jwj19

(UK only)

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“Evidently, it’s elementary, they want us all gone eventually…”

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bossI seem to have bought one of these; a device that will revolutionise my performances. As I don’t have a band, nor the ability to find one (nor the patience to lead one, nor the finances to pay one) this will be the way to enhance my live sound. What a loop pedal does is to enable you to set up various musical phrases, chords, beats etc. that will repeat (as if on loops of old-skool tape) as you play, adding depth to your music.

I do mostly acoustic gigs, however most of my songs are ‘band’ songs; they’re written with a full folk-rock/indie arrangement in mind. Only in the studio can I fully realise them as I originally heard them in my mind’s ear when they were composed. Some of you will have heard my song ‘Drifter’, performed here with flautist George Roberts:

Here is the recorded version:

So when I play live, there is a bit of a mis-match between what I’m presenting to people and how I actually see myself as an artist. I do have some folky tunes that don’t require extra adornment, but most of my stuff would benefit from some level of embellishment.

The trouble is that extra layers of sound don’t neccessarily add interest to a live set; in fact, for a solo act they can work against it. In ‘organic’ music (as opposed to electronic), the interest is generated by the fact that musician is actually playing in front of you in real time. Layers of recorded sound (even if you’re recording them  yourself during the performance) can detract from the spontaneity and humanity of your performance. If a solo performer’s sound gets bigger and more interesting during a gig, they themselves tend to lose charisma in comparison.

The widespread use of these pedals has led to a genre of ‘loop-folk’ where acoustic guitarists layer-up guitar parts, often to a beat that they have laid down by tapping the body of the guitar. Unfortunately, they usually use simple three or four chord sequences that don’t vary. The fact they are usually using the same sound for all their parts doesn’t help. I will have to work out how to drop in and out of loops so things don’t get tedious – dynamics and chord modulation are important to me.

This device will never become my ‘band in a box’. For reasons I’ve already explained, I don’t want to dilute the immediacy of my performance (such as it is), nor do I want to risk a poor imitation of the recorded versions. But it will enable me to feature my guitar technique more, which is more from the rock tradition – soloing over chords – than the folky self-accompanying style, which is what I have been restricted to. It will also enable me to lay down beatbox rhythms  and vocal harmonies, and add tonal colour.

These pedals should be used wisely, like The Force, otherwise the dark side beckons!

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Today BBC 6 music is making a big fuss about the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds album because it was released exactly fifty years ago. Well, how astounding. What a perfect opportunity to celebrate a seminal work of popular culture, apart from the fact that Brian Wilson’s alleged masterwork sounds exactly the same as it did in 2015. And I can assure you that next year the notes will all still be in the same place.

The rock industry, like all aspects of mass-market culture – including books, films and wars – now relies almost exclusively on anniversaries to flog its wares to us.

The Beatles industry similarly kicks up a fuss about Sgt Pepper every ten years, provoking a frenzy of fake nostalgia for the ‘summer of love’ as if the whole nation was floating around on acid in 1967. Sure, the album was a hit but middle-of-the-road crooner Jim Reeves actually sold more records that year. The truth is that these albums accrue cultural value gradually, rather than landing like cultural meteorites.

A while back Iggy Pop re-released the Raw Power album (remastered and fucked-about-with no doubt) to celebrate the fact that it was forty years old, as if its original release had been some kind of great cultural moment – far from it, The Stooges were virtually unknown during their early career and Raw Power was one of a clutch of recordings that existed virtually underground, gaining a reputation over time.

All this wayward historiography would not be such a bad thing if it didn’t grab all the attention that could be available to current musicians.

These days it’s not uncommon to walk past a rack of music magazines in the supermarket and see a line of exclusively dead faces pouting at you. How depressing that pop journalists, lovers of an art form that can embody the present-day zeitgeist like no other should find themselves writing for what are essentially history magazines.

David Hepworth, the ex-Whistle Test anchorman, embodies this tendency of backward looking rock journalism. He has just published 1971- Never a Dull Moment, a misty-eyed eulogy to the cheesecloth generation, wherein he celebrates a year that produced enduring classics such as Led Zeppelin 4, Sticky Fingers and Tapestry. I’m sure it’s a great read but if he really wanted to cash in he should surely have waited until 2021…

Anyway, it has been decreed that today we must have a double collective orgasm because not only is this the anniversary of Pet Sounds, but also Bob Dylan’s album Blonde on Blonde was also released exactly 50 years ago. How amazing!

Blonde on Blonde is a great collection of music, but to me it sounds the same (and is equally as good as) his previous albums Highway 61 Revisited and Bringing it all Back Home. They all feature his mid-sixties persona of the acid-beatnick, musically featuring a ramshackle mix of epic folky ballads, mind-blowing lyrics and spiky rock’n’roll. It’s all great stuff, but personally I can’t fit a Rizla paper between those albums. Hang on though, Blonde on Blonde’s a double album – it must be a classic…

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