WinterSons

It’s on Amazon, Bandcamp and iTunes too.

I should probably just let the music speak for itself, but releasing this song bursts a dam that’s been holding back so many emotions, bad decisions, frustrations and so much more besides.

I enjoy playing bass in They Theory immensely and we’ve got some cracking gigs booked this year. They took me in as I was, they didn’t ask for anything really, I played bass like I do and they just smiled and went with it. It’s a heavier band now because of that but they seem happy enough. This all makes me glad and was one of things that kept me playing and shook me out of my dwam last year.

In The Violet Signs it was a different story. The band grew from a time that was a musical limbo for me, confidence and creativity were at an all-time low and I was just happy to still be playing. Through time my chops came back a little and I found myself writing some nice melodic parts, although the glacial pace we worked at saw so many good ideas fall by the wayside. Still, three songs were recorded and although disquiet grew in the band throughout this time for various reasons, it was the last song we did though that finally snapped me out of the daze.

The Violets played a gig in Glasgow and it was okay, I was happy enough on the night. It wasn’t without issue but I’m not throwing anyone under a bus lest I deservedly join them there. Afterwards though there was some lingering weirdness in my mind and when I heard back the many videos that emerged later I couldn’t believe how weak it all sounded. I’d cut back on the fatness of the guitar to suit the nature of the music and on all but one song it sounded awful. I didn’t recognise the man on stage with that Flying V at all.

What the hell was I doing there?

Recording was booked, recording was cancelled, recording was rebooked elsewhere. I had already quietly signed out of all the bands social media accounts, I had one foot out of the door when the booking process was happening but these folks were my friends (I think?) and I went into the studio to lay down my guitar tracks with optimism.

Loved the recording day, great studio, great engineer and we played pretty well. There was the usual occasions of frustrating oddness but as we sat with takeaway on the control room floor listening back I was happy.

Then the mixing came and I went. Just one step at a time then I eventually said “whatever” and just muted everything and pretended it wasn’t happening.

“We need to mix it so people will like it on their phones”.

The engineer ran out of patience with the ever more ludicrous requests, handed the files over and shut the door. That was embarrassing.

The recording was saved by an old friend of mine and Stevie’s who finished the song at his home studio where he is a low key multinstrumentalist darkwave globally successful artist. The song was released.

There was relief. And I refused to do a video for it. We were done.

I looked at my guitar setup and it just wasn’t mine. eBay fixed that fast and Stevie and I were back in jamming on whatever came out of us. Happiness mostly.

The song you’ll find from the advert above, EightyThree, grew from a regularly visited riff and became the front runner quite fast. We have pretty much a full album worth of songs in various states of completion now, might get to some of that too.

We recorded the song on the afternoon of the 28th of December ’23. I did some rhythm guitars live in the room with Stevie’s drums and then I layered more guitars, the bass and vocals while Diane the engineer and Stevie cajoled and encouraged me through the control room window. All the lead guitar licks and solos are from one take, and that was the first take too. No structure, no melody, just fuzz, wah and a big grin. It really is like coming home.

Have I learned anything from all this? Oh I think so.

 

3/3

Thirty years ago, the three of us played our somewhat doomy metal in every toilet in the central belt as well as in some of the nice venues too. We all went on our separate life paths after a few years of this and after a few fleeting coincidental meetings we ended up in a rehearsal room nearly ten years ago with a view of doing “something”. This was short lived, big upheavals in our personal lives shut that down and there was radio silence for a long time.

I kept in comms with Stevie and we both ended up playing in The Violet Signs. It was before the gig TVS did back in February I fired a flare into the digital darkness to see if Davy would spot it and come and hang out with us for the evening. He did.
Comms were reestablished and banter ensued, nights out in town with the three of us were arranged and enjoyed. The subject of playing music again just never came up, not by avoidance, it just didn’t. I had my pals, that’s plenty.

However, after a few drinks at the most recent get together the “what if” was suddenly right there and I couldn’t duck it. It’s hard to describe why this can be awkward, music is hard work if you’re creating it from nothing, it relies on skill and application, inspiration that may or may not arrive, it’s investment from your heart and soul too so it can all be deeply and unreasonably personal. Share those various elements amongst a group of people and it’s a potential minefield of problems with artistic differences (it’s a real thing, not just an excuse to dump a band member that you read about) and personality clashes. I had my pals, we were having laughs, I didn’t want to ruin it. Again.

But when everyone is older, wiser, open and honest, that makes anything possible.
With a little prep time we got back in a rehearsal room and what a glorious noise it was.

There no real agenda, no pressure, maybe we’ll do some stuff that folk can hear. Time will tell.

On a separate personal note, I can’t tell you the joy I have at hitting the guitar and hearing “me” coming out of the amp again.
After so long of pulling back, toning down, understating, being listener friendly and “oh, don’t use too much gain” I am now detuned, turned up, fuzzed out and my grin is wide.

Home to stay.

They Theory

I have have been the bass player in They Theory for a wee while now. It went from a jam with an old pal to recording a live EP in 666 seconds.
We’ve played a couple of gigs which were a lot of fun, maybe especially the second one at the Flying Duck in Glasgow. The seconds of silence before the applause broke out showed me that it’s actually still possible to stun an audience in the space year 2023.

I’m loving playing the bass, I play it like I play the guitar, with more bravado and optimism than talent, but also with fuzz and a wah pedal. I’m getting better too. I played the whole set with a pick when I joined, I now play finger style unless the tone of the songs calls for that sharper pick attack. 54 and still learning.
My proudest bass moment so far was at the soundcheck for our gig at the 13th Note in Glasgow where my first note had the other assembled band members and staff diving for cover like someone had shouted “grenade”. The soundman said “oof”.

Lovely people, great times, the biggest of noises. Yes please.

Here’s Dream Flight, live at the T Room.

The Violet Signs, Ivory Blacks, 10/2/23

Can you really review your own gig? Maybe we’ll just get the story of it all from the perspective of the fella on stage right.
That’s me btw.

I was really looking forward to it, at no point did I have nerves despite it being such a long time since I was last on stage with a guitar. There’s some human condition stuff at play here though. I’m old now, I play like a play, I’m not going to be a pop star, I’m really just here for the banter. Knowing all that is like having a free ticket to Calmsville, stopping only at Funston and Yay I Get To Play A Flying V Really Loud City.

I’m not belittling the event in any way with that, we worked hard to get ourselves in shape for this. It’s important to get it right for us but especially for the folk who paid to get in and I was taking it completely seriously.
I know the songs inside out, I had admined my gear meticulously and I couldn’t have been better prepped. But I’m just one part of a whole and I have to trust the other parts as much as I trust myself.
Mind you that’s a flexible parameter because I know I can screw up quite easily. Still, wasn’t worried.

Going to a gig is very different to playing one, a musicians day is a lot longer and a lot less fun than a ticket holders. I was there first and at a time when most folk were still looking at the clock and wondering why they weren’t on the way home for their dinner yet.
Once inside time flew past though and it turned out that everyone was rather nice to us. The headliners Rattlesnake Tattoo were very friendly and chatty, it probably helps that they’re also of an age and consequently free of pressure too.
Gordon the promoter passed on a message from my buddy Rosie in Texas who he also knows which I won’t forget in a hurry and Gordon also kept us all fed and watered through the evening. This is a rarity in my sporadic experience.

As the er, Special Guests we soundchecked second so that everything was set up ready for us to go on first at 8. As we got into it the soundman immediately started wanting the guitar louder and then pretty soon, louder still. My gear is vintage, but it’s 70’s theatre sized backline and consequently I could feel the air moving past my legs when I was playing if I stood in front of my amp. It was hilarious and actually a bit disconcerting, I can’t remember ever being that loud on stage.
I wonder if I’ll lose control of the guitar and descend into howling feedback, I’ll try… No I won’t, time up. Doors opening soon.

The doors did open and not a soul came through them. I checked on that constantly, up and down the stairs from the dressing room like a puppy wanting out to pee. I would have gone onstage right there and then and happily played to the empty venue, I just wanted to play.
But folks did start filtering in soon enough and in amongst them a lot of folk very dear to me, friends and loved ones from now and also then.
I often feel like an uncharted island and when someone lands on my shore I’m always surprised. Pleasantly so. It was a joy to see you all.

Smiles and laughter, hugs and hand shakes. Actually no, no handshakes, I think I just hugged everyone, probably why we all came down with the same cold bug the following week. Anyway, I was running round hugging and shouting over the DJ into folks ears and time just disappeared. It was suddenly ten to 8.
I hopped on stage and started tuning the guitars. The band sorted their own respective corners and then we were ready to go. I stood with my favourite guitar hanging from my neck and peered past the lights to a healthily filled venue.

Yes please.

I just stagger around, I can’t help it, maybe it’s “my thing”. Ach, it is what it is.
It came to my first solo and I kinda fudged it, not because my hands were suddenly disconnected from my brain, but I was worried the volume was going to overpower all the single notes and I’d lose control of the guitar so I held it back a bit too much. It was in key, but not my best work. I didn’t hold back again though, it turns out I can get used to that volume. Oh yes. Not going back in the corner now.

Big cheer, grins all round, into the second song. This is where I nearly kicked my pedalboard off the stage when I went for my wah pedal. Duct tape the corners of the board onto the floor next time I guess.
More cheers, some banter from Laura and on we went into the set. We never lost a song, one was pretty close due to I shall say a discrepancy in key choice between performers, but when questioned later, folk didn’t seem to really notice. That’s probably more worrying than reassuring though.
I saw a familiar wee face and waved back, don’t think I saw Linda bopping away at the front until near the end. You can’t see a thing with all the lights.

I strangled a couple of notes here and there, but when we got to the end of the fastest 40 minutes of my life I hadn’t disgraced myself and I’d had an absolute blast. That’s a win.
And the trust I mentioned, everyone did their bit and let the others do theirs, any slack was absorbed by the rest. That’s a band right there.

Guitars away, more hugs, more shouting into ears, so many unexpected compliments and then helping Letty sort out the CD’s we were selling. Too late btw, all gone.

I always saw the gig as a defining moment, a crux, a test for the band. You can play in isolation all you want, record and release music, but those minutes you spend on stage are where you can’t hide from yourself, each other or anyone in the room.
We have recordings of various qualities of most of the set and we all have different favourites which I suppose is funny and awkward in equal measure. We’ve had different thoughts and conclusions and ideas about what to do next. Exactly what I was expecting. So we shall see.

From the view on stage right there was four minutes of Big Muff into vintage Laney that took me to the place where I get a tingle in my chest when I play.
I won’t be letting that go, time to come home.

First though, I’ll be letting my er, hair down with They Theory in the 13th Note in Glasgow this Friday. Can’t wait.

 

 

Wait For It

Due to unexpectedly severe solar activity shaving off a layer of our vital and protective upper atmosphere and consequently also affecting the amount of internet available over the next week, Letty has very wisely taken to her Bunker of Rock and will emerge (possibly with superpowers) next week to stand victorious on the ruins of civilization. And then play Colours.
Wednesday 21st, 6 til 8, K107fm

Colours

Bless Letty for giving us our first airplay and bless her again for giving the new one its first play anywhere.

What’s hilarious is that we’ll be shooting the video for it while the show is on air.

53, good grief.

From Scotland with Love, live

I’ve spoken of or referenced the film From Scotland with Love many times and it remains one of the finest representations of my country and my bond to it that I’ve ever experienced. The beautiful old films used and the wonderful story telling and editing are only the half of it though, the music holds the the film together, it lifts and lowers it through the range of emotions depicted throughout, but listened to all by itself it still walks straight into my heart and soul. It really is a remarkable piece of work and it remains one of my favourite albums.

When we realised we’d missed King Creosote playing the music at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall a few years ago, how this happened I still don’t know as I’m on every mailing list for every gig on this island, we were heartbroken, it felt like we’d missed a last chance.
Then when a performance of the soundtrack at Glasgow’s wonderfully restored Victorian bandstand was announced the joy and relief could not be contained. Covid cancellations stretched our optimism by months and then years, but last Thursday we were finally sat under those clear summer skies we won’t soon forget waiting to hear those oh so familiar songs.

It was after 9 before they band came on, Kenny Anderson with guitar and headphones centre stage, watching the rest and guiding them through the most affecting hour and a bit of music I’ve ever seen.
The film played on big screens either side of the stage, the images becoming sharper as the the light faded completely. The songs synced with the familiar scenes but the this slightly stripped down version of the music felt even more personal, Kenny’s voice is maybe a little older now and it felt like tonight he was the perfect blend of story teller and singer.

Time flashed past with every single moment a precious gem.

The film’s director Virginia Heath came on for the final bow which was lovely and the sold out amphitheater gave the performers a standing ovation from the last note, through the credits and until the stage was empty.

Every face I saw was mix of tears and smiles. The most emotional show I’d ever seen was in December 1997 when the original Black Sabbath took the stage in Birmingham and this show was right there with that.
It was just a wonderful night, sitting hand in hand or hugging, laughing or crying together because of people making music and pictures. Imagine that.

Tony and Ozzy

I wasn’t watching it, wasn’t even near a telly when Mother phoned me “BBC1, BBC1, Black Sabbath, oh you need to see it…”

I got the livestream on my phone and there they were right enough, the two of them sounding good and Ozzy looking surprisingly well.

I’m 53 and they’re still my heroes. I smiled so wide and cried so easily. I never though I’d see this again.

✌️

 

 

Canned

Finished off recording the new single.

I look at myself there and my first reaction is that I’m old enough to know better, you old grey haired and bespectacled man.

Happily I’m actually young enough not to care.

It really is true, you don’t stop playing because you get old, you get old because you stop playing.

Excited for this one.

And… Action!

I spent this weekend on an unusual adventure, the band made a video for our recent single You’ll be There.

It was kinda hilarious, I think being older takes the angst out of this stuff and we had a relaxed and fun shoot which went very smoothly.

Ian Mutch who filmed it was easy going, efficient and good company and he’s already cut together something that I think is releasable.

I feel for everyone on my social media when we do release this.

For now here’s an “ace guitarist mountaineer” from the day. Not my words, it’s what they called me on the radio, where we are played regularly.

All that’s also hilarious.

I think it’s a A5 variant

While I spent a lot of time looking out tents and stoves and whatnot, it turns out that packing for the studio would actually lead to my first post lockdown escape.

It’s nearly five months since we last stood socially distanced in this room. Still keeping our distance, but with a few vaccinations around the room now we tried to get stiff fingers and quiet voices back into full working order.
There really is nothing quite like creating and playing music with other people. These folks here give me energy and inspiration even though I was genuinely in extreme pain with the last chords of the last song before we ground to a happy halt after three hours of non stop playing.

We found our groove pretty fast which is a very good sign, a few bars of Black Sabbath before getting straight into our own tunes.
We’ll be ready to record soon, I think a couple of songs are shouting “pick me” at us. It’s not metal, not even close. Folks that know me are going to be raising an eyebrow, can’t wait to share it.

Back in next week, work to do. Ah what a joy.

Flicking the Vee

We’re being reroofed so I haven’t been opening the bedroom curtains. The steps up through the scaffolding run past the window and it’s not dirty laundry I want them to miss on their way up to painfully slowly and incompetently replace the slates, it’s everything else.

However has made this wee happy accident possible and the sliver of light that was slicing in through the gap in the curtains had to be caught.

I was nearly going to put a rucksack in to catch it, but this was way better. Another of my most favourite things.

Lockdown has kept this out of the studio for what feels like a lifetime.

I miss making music with other people as much as I miss the hills beyond my council border.