Thursday 10th October, 2013
Been a while since the last blog. I guess I've been putting this one off because... well it's odd. For starters I'm aware that I would suggest to others not doing this - you let people take what they want from music you make, and your opinion doesn't matter so much once it's out there to the world. It's also emotionally opaque, having to analyse why I don't like (and even more painfully for a modest Englishman say why I actually do like) aspects of what I have done on my two solo albums.
A bit of background first, as in why the hell would a drummer have a solo album, let alone two? I was in a band that I loved and was very committed to for a long time called Unbelievable Truth, and was part of the writing and creative process. When the singer finally called it a day in 2000 I was still in the habit of writing, and already had some bits that were intended to be worked on with Andy and Jase (my UT band mates). With the band gone I didn't want to just stop being a musician so I started putting the music together. However two things pushed me towards making it my project. First was the trauma (I know that sounds overstated, but... I'd need a book to explain why it's an appropriate word) of UT splitting up meant I wanted to not have to rely on anyone else. But also I wasn't confident enough (jesus, what? another bracket? the UT breakup had hurled me depressionwards and hacked heavily into my self-esteem) to think that anyone else would want to be involved in any music I was making - but I still wanted to do it my way. So there.
I did get Jase involved a fair amount, because I totally trust and love him, and really I know that I'm better as a collaborator than doing everything on my own. But paranoically I wanted to keep it all close to my chest.
Miseryguts came out in 2003, although it was a slow process from the first track being finished in 2001. I sent it to lots of places for reviews (which weren't too bad) and made it available through my website, but never even tried to get involved with a record or distribution company, again through the battered self-esteem. Anyway - here's my take on what I did:
Beginning To Wonder: one of the earliest things I wrote, putting the riff together backstage at a UT show supporting Tori Amos as I recall. It's not a bad riff, but immediately we hit the thing that is my biggest hurdle to respecting my solo work. I've been fortunate to have been involved with some exceptional singers in my career. Working with Andy Yorke and Mark Mulcahy, or even the very distinctive Jamie Stuart, rather leaves most other vocalists in the world wanting. I've always thought I had a good backing vocalists voice - it always seems to float unobtrusively but audibly and not have too much personality of it's own, acting much more as an enhancer to whatever the main vocal is doing. But as a lead voice it's... ok. Just way waaayy not as good as mssrs Yorke and Mulcahy. And it's the most important thing in any band / act / recording. Songs finished. On to the next.
Ghosts: An interesting set of chords, particularly the first mental C chord which was the impetus for the whole progression. The backing was supposed to be a little like Squonk by Genesis - I like the low end simplicity of removing bass guitar and using a (sadly not real) Moog Taurus.
The "look into my eyes" vocal bit makes me cringe. My lack of confidence vocally is also represented by not being able to leave my vocal uneffected (a bit of distortion and some doubling for this song).
The mellotron / guitar solo bit was a reference to an Aimee Mann song I love. Some cool drum breaks in the end section.
Blind Man: Collaboration - Jase's crazy pitch-shifted bass parts make this song. The slide guitar riff was left over from a previous band (Mundaka) and repurposed. I kind of like the 'round' vocal. I find melodies really hard. I can make music all day and night but until there's a good vocal melody to tie it into a song music is meaningless smoke. Andy Yorke's melodies were always effortless and sublime, and once again I felt I could never truly match up. Why isn't someone else singing, dammit?
Pleasure Babies: I'm sure there's a good song in here somewhere, but this arrangement sounds all congested and depressed and doesn't do it justice. Another example of how collaboration is better - there are ideas that are good here (the Jackson 5 electric guitar for instance) that needed someone to say "that's a good idea, let's use it in a different song where it works better, eh?"
Nice intro. This song is about my 'Amy'. More super treated vocals so I (as a producer) can pretend it's not me singing. Outro is good too. Should have used those bits, built something else and jettisoned the rest maybe? Me and a Motown pop song clearly don't mix well.
Everlasting Mile: more over-production and aural depression. I really like this song, especially when I just play it on piano. But like the second UT album I was trying to do something 'modern' and 'progressive' and 'edgy' and the song itself suffers for it. The singing in this doesn't make me want to chop my own liver out and feed it to ducks (except the odd over-emoted word). Maybe I should write everything in G#. I believe I was mid-way through playing this song at the last solo show I ever did, when my lack of self-confidence got the better of me. I suddenly halted and walked out and haven't played any of this live since then. I think that was 2008.
Directions: My first post-UT release, I put this out on my website in 2001 not long after our retrospective Misc Music came out. Andy really likes this song. If we ever do any more UT gigs I might get him to sing it. I really enjoy all of the ebow acoustic guitar stuff that's going on in the background. In my mind the acoustic guitar solo was supposed to sound like Wish You Were Here. I know it doesn't. Lovely BVs from Jase.
Deep Cover: another song that sounded delicate and lovely (although fiendishly difficult) on acoustic guitar, and didn't necessarily survive the transplant to a 'full band' arrangement. Lyrics inspired by glumness and a Lawrence Fishburne / Jeff Goldblum film. Got my friend Ken Turner (no relation) in to do a guitar solo. He did 6 or so versions and I edited together all the best bits. Nice solo. Mmmmmm. Nice.
As with everything else though, it feels like the melody is written my an instrumentalist rather than a singer. It feels thought about and smart and planned instead of instinctive and touching and sincere. It's one of my main problems with this album.
Into The Hills: When I played a few shows this song became much heavier, first inspired by Loz Colbert (Ride drummer who I was honoured to have play for me) and particularly when Matt (Nasir) came in on guitar later. Better that way, really. Collaboration is an advantage, taking things ways you wouldn't necessarily have thought of without prompting. Interesting lyrics, in that they're all lovey dovey but not inspired by someone who I was in that kind of relationship with, Canadian singer songwriter Emm Gryner. The line "when you're not here the Chrysler Building is the only beautiful thing in New York" came when I arrived there to do some house shows backing her up, with the rest getting jotted down on the bus ride to upstate NY.
This Isn't What I Expected: Bigging myself up, I really like the lyrics to this song - the verse and chorus support the sentiment of each other and work as whole. And again, it's not bad, but needs a good singer and someone to tease the best out of the melody. To illustrate what I was saying before about the melodies not being instinctive: for this song I had it all but needed a chorus. So I started on the lowest note I could sing and worked my way up to the highest, as a conceptual way of making something happen. And it's fine, but I feel I can detect the artifice behind it, when all the best vocal melodies seem to me to float free of any musical intention and sublimate into just communication.
Gulag Parenting: Another lyric I'm quite proud of, since the gulag (Russian prison) parenting could refer to being psychologically trapped by your own upbringing, or being a parent yourself. I didn't really have a concept for the drums on this until I did a rehearsal with Loz and played it this way. Did I mention the benefits of collaboration? I did have to push from my mind that this was the guy who FUCKING PLAYED LEAVE THEM ALL BEHIND!!! in order not to be over daunted, but he's so lovely that it was easy.
For a purported 'prog' album (that was what I wanted to make) here's the first keyboard solo of the whole thing, inspired by Martin Orford's wonderful solo on IQ's Headlong. When we did this live we ended with a drum workout echoing a fantastic Mogwai gig I'd seen. Let's pull lots of disparate influences together, huh?
You Get My Best: The last song written for the album. The UT publishing deal was up for renewal, and this was my last best hope to keep the contract in place, so I took it in a played it for them. No dice. It was a depressing night, and no good for my esteem (of course) - they decided that they were dropping me and Jase, even though I was still writing and doing stuff (not just this, but Good Show by Dive Dive was just about to come out and we were very active, plus a few other projects I was involved in), but were going to keep Andy on even though he was determinedly and deliberately doing nothing musical at all.
This song is about my kids.
Chasing The High: This was actually written and pretty much finished for pre-UT band Mundaka, but I wanted to revive it. I'm sure I could like this if it wasn't my voice singing. I like the vocal effects on this one. Took quite a while to put together - lots of different treatments that fade in and out and take over from each other. This song is my best bass playing on a record. Really desperately wanted to be Jon Evans from Tori Amos' live band on this. Or Bruce Thomas of The Attractions in his calmer moments. I like playing bass. I should do it more.
So there you have it. I'll do album 2 another blog time. But reading it back it seems like my real problem is I just didn't really want to make a solo album. I wanted to work with other people but felt cornered into not being able to, both physically and psychologically. Would love to hear your reactions. Particularly the ego-boosting ones. :)
Saturday 23rd January, 2016
It's been a long time since my last blog. Yeah, sure, I know. Sorry. Just leave it. OK? Something came up yesterday though that seemed worthy of talking about. Apparently it's 10 years since Milow's album The Bigger Picture was released, and album that I produced and played on. I thought it be... read
Saturday 20th September, 2014
Been concentrating on updating the site to include contact links for hiring me as a session drummer. But over the summer I did a couple of shows with my old pals in the Genesis tribute band Los Endos. Here's a couple of drum views of songs from those with... read
Wednesday 18th June, 2014
1989 - 1992: Once Around The Park My dad, still with his eye on solid academic achievement, insisted that I at least consider university. Out of respect I applied for places on a number of courses, but the interview process was somewhat unusual, since the hardening of my ambition to be somehow with... read
Monday 12th May, 2014
Sorry it's been so long since the last time I blogged here. I have been busy, that much is true, but it would be a lie to pretend that was entirely the reason. Many days I wonder the worth of adding to the ever-growing mountain of unsolicited writing out there, of my... read
Friday 25th April, 2014
Hello everyone. Sorry, this blog has been long neglected. My next thing to post was the next chapter of Puritan, but I was waiting until I could get some relevant audio tracks into the computer world, which involved borrowing a DAT machine and finding time between tours to record it and blah... read
Tuesday 29th October, 2013
I was intending my next blog to be another "Bloggin' The Shuffle", but something happened that took me elsewhere. A friend who is studying screenwriting asked me about musical structure. Most screenplays follow a three act format, roughly akin to sonata form in music, and her thought was to compare other forms... read
Friday 6th September, 2013
I said over there on the albums page that my next blog would be my own self-assessment of my solo work, but I think I'm going to postpone that. It's something I struggle with in a way - I want to talk about it, but I would encourage anyone else away that... read
Sunday 11th August, 2013
1985 - 1989: Sentimental Mercenary In A Free Fire Zone After a summer of unpacking boxes and trying to make the new house a home I started at Abingdon School in September 1985. With the determination for morbidity that only a teenager can muster, I hated it and was depressed in a I... read
Thursday 25th July, 2013
Just got a little while in the middle of the night before we leave for Heathrow to start another tour. Although they never stop. It's one continuous tour. But I was having some thoughts about work and working and who does what. I've been both sides of the touring fence multiple times being... read
Thursday 11th July, 2013
As many of you here may know apart from being a drummer I was once a lighting designer, the guy who makes the lights do their thing at a rock show (there's many other kinds of LD of course, but rock was what I did). So with that in my background have... read
Tuesday 4th June, 2013
1982 - 1985: Above The Riverbed The World's Run Dry More gigs, better gigs. After the party we started to get a bit more serious with the school band, or as serious as you can be when you're 12 years old. We called ourselves Nightshade and had a stable lineup of Adrian guitar,... read
Sunday 26th May, 2013
Some things are curious to me. Things which appear to be a lack of analysis, opinions not properly thought through. Then again that sometimes is just me and my Spock-ness, not appreciating the random foible of desire. I read about the band that I play in on the internet. There, I've admitted In... read
Monday 29th April, 2013
Hello from Hamburg! Ich Bein Eine Hamburger. Or something. Got an hour after breakfast on the bus before we have to travel to record a German TV show called Ina's Nacht, so what better way to make GOOD USE of my time than another quick session of bloggin' the shuffle. This off... read
Monday 22nd April, 2013
1971 - 1982: It's Cold Outside, But It Gets So Hot In Here Oh shit. That's mum and dad. Keep your head, don't giggle, just keep tidying up the bottles and cans into the bin bag in the garage. I think they're angry, but I'm finding it curiously hard to read these who... read
Monday 8th April, 2013
So here's another in what I anticipate to be a series. Jeez, what a lot of series we have running - Puritan (to be continues when I get access to my old photos and a scanner, so I can make it a bit more visually interesting), Blogging The Shuffle (which will when... read
Sunday 24th March, 2013
I'm writing this from Shanghai in China, my first visit to this country. I'm not going to give you my impressions. I'm not Michael Palin, nor indeed Bill Bryson (although I can recommend all of Mr. Bryson's travel books as some of the most amusing writing I've ever had the pleasure embarrassingly... read
Thursday 14th March, 2013
This is the original reason that it occurred to me to start blogging. I'd find myself on the tourbus with my iPod on having memories and thoughts triggered as shuffle offered up various tidbits that I wouldn't have put on of my own accord. So I'm going to give that a at... read
Sunday 10th March, 2013
Introduction October 12th 2010, Albuquerque, NM, USA I'm 39 and 11 days old, which is clearly much too old to be any kind of musician on the road with a rock band. I'm playing with English musician Frank Turner as a member of his backing band. The distinction is necessary, since things are to... read
Saturday 9th March, 2013
So, the thing is, when I was on tour a couple of years back I wrote a 'book'. It's definitely a 'book' and not a book though. It's an autobiography with the initial intention of a certain angle on the subject, although as it went along the focus drifted a bit. I... read
Monday 4th March, 2013
We started a tour in Northampton, MA on 2nd March and, being as it was not far from his hometown of Springfield, I had the pleasure of hanging out with my friend Mark Mulcahy. His name is not familiar to many, but anyone out there who knows him or his work probably... read
Saturday 2nd March, 2013
I don't really talk about myself much. Not just on the internet, but in life. I have an English paranoia about being seen to complain, or about troubling anyone else ("a friend troubled is a problem doubled", as someone once said to me). But I don't think that it's healthy. Don't me... read
All content © Nigel Powell 2017 / 2018 || Get in touch at email@example.com