Review of 2017

Busy busy!

Lots of recording, mixing and mastering this year, as ever.

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Released a few albums with my music for media company, went to Abbey Road studios , started moderating for RSL Awards , recorded and mixed another album at the Simon Says festival again  , and, it turns out, was my last as manager at Leicester College music and sound department as I move onto a new job running the Music, Music Tech and Live Events department at Confetti in Nottingham: really excited about this: lots going on there: new degrees locally and nationally, new building with 6 studios, loads of practice rooms and new staff and students to meet. It’s worth saying over and over, that my time at Leicester College has been an immense learning experience, but, overall, the best part has been the people: peerless as a team in FE: I’ll miss every one of them.

I got a release on a cassette for a song I wrote for the Dark Outside..it’s now sold out

I decided to start a Masters degree in songwriting: am one term in and I’m loving it. My course leader, Davey Ray Moor is in torch bearing band Cousteaux from the late 90’s. He’s great..I really look forwards to our weekly tutorials. Term one’s module has resulted in 5 songs I’m currently mixing: they’ll turn up in some form on future music for media albums I’m sure either as they are or as instrumentals: it’s been a great excuse to write and record: I’ve loved singing loads. It’s been great knowing I can work to exercises and ‘turn on’ my writing chops when I need to.

This year’s gig of the year was New Order at the Manchester International Festival : it was just perfect

Playing ‘Vanishing Point’ live….it hit me where it hurt and plumbed directly into 16 year old me. Was just amazing. Then you look at the place it was, the stage show as well as the set list..then add in the exhibition at Manchester Gallery and it made for one of the best musical days and nights I’ve ever had.

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Albums of the year: I will forget some , I’m sure, but

Taylor Swift: no irony here, it’s such a great pop album!

Baxter Dury: Loved his last album more, but, the new one’s great

St Vincent: effortlessly cool pop

Morrissey: Hmm….I’m a die hard fan, but need to seperate the art from the artist (he really has said some stupid stuff again this year), El Moz turned in a solid album, and as with the last one, the true star is the production by Joe Chiccarelli

Anna Of The North. Patchy but some good stuff..not as good as Shura’s album last year but treading similar water

Charlotte Gainsbourg : I LOVE the ‘Deadly Valentine’ single.. really great!

Paul at Seamus Wong told me about Protomartyr : some good stuff on their last album: love the fact they’re unlikely rock stars.

LCD’s return was great: a journey through James Murhpy’s record collection (again) and not a disappointment

Father John Misty’s album was great: my favourite album of 2015 : very rare I can listen to an album start to finish , but that album was great. 2017’s Father John Misty’s follow up was not cut from the same lyrical cloth: this time he avoids love…so for me, was harder to get into, but it’s worth the work: he’s a proper headliner now: so obvious when I saw him live in a couple of years ago. One of my favourite gigs ever.

Really love the Nadine Shah album, too if only for this song

Beck’s album was pop-tastic:

Arcade Fire’s album was patchy but had its moments

Bits of Lorde’s album was also great…..I still don’t think she’s the artist that critics see, and God knows how she got Bowie’s patronage , but she’s certainly got ‘something’

Went to Sensoria Pro again: was so good : Chris Packham, Geoff Barrow..and one of our composers won the scoring contest!

Podcasts: And The Writer Is is my new favourite podcast…really amazing conversations between writers at the top of their game.

But, others to recommend:

20kHz 

Song Exploder

Sodajerker

Adam Buxton

Richard Herring

Switched on Pop

Tape Op

Setlist

Sonic Talks

Bobby Owinski

Gear Club 

Edith Bowman

And, for no other reason than rescue dogs are ace, here’s a picture of Arthur, our Lurcher

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I go into 2018 with a real energy and I can’t wait to get stuck in!

All the best!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Summer’s nearly gone….

As ever, an extraordinary amount of time has passed since the last log post.

Have been recording for Kafka Diva’s second album…well, I’m recording the drums, they’re recording the rest at their house, then files over to me to mix and master…..we’re about half way through.

Started recording a new Shortwave Fade single last week, and there’ll be an acompanying remix EP that I’ve done for them, too.

Speaking of remixes, I’ve just finished one for a band I really really loved from the late 80’s, early 90’s : they’ve signed it off and ‘love it’….just looking how to release it..I will no doubt shout about it when they do.

I was back at Simon Says festival doing the pop up studio again: was great again…I say it pretty much every year, but it makes up for my lack of recording through the rest of the year. Highlights included The Millmen..10 piece Ska band….10 piece! 4 Mics! 4 DIs! ..really love the limitations and it sorts the men from the boys… also loved catching up with Uncle Frank

 

Books? Finished ALL the Mixerman books now…that’s all the ‘Zen and the Art of...’ series, and the newest Billionaire Apparent one…..they’re all brilliant. The Zen ones make you approach everything with some balls and attitude. He’s streaming the audio version of the ‘Daily Adventures Of Mixerman’ at the moment…so funny ,and so much to learn! Essential listening

Have released a few more music for media albums….more to come..upping the release rate with that now I have more composers on the books and a good co-publsher to do the leg work.

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Gigs….slow year but made up for it with a gig in Manchester seeing New Order and the Royal College of Music’s synth orchestra.

It was amazing….playing some of my favourite songs from my teens and early 20s..the years you’re most influenced by the music you take in, I think. Vanishing Point was just perfect…but Shellshock stole the show (surprisingly, as its not a strong single)

Albums thus far: Father John Misty’s is great, Goldfrapp’s is great, Mac De Marco’s is good….ummm….can’t think of any other this year so far…

 

2015 summed up

Some great stuff I’ve had the pleasure of being involved with this year:

Finished mixing the One Cure For Man album.. got some great reviews.. really hard working one man band I’ve worked with for a few years now.

I recorded, mixed and mastered an album (except for the tracks by Sophia Marshall and Howard Rose.. Andy Jenkinson mixed those two and did a great job… grateful to him for taking a bit of weight off my shoulders) again at Simon Says festival at DMH in July.. really enjoyed it: super quick recording project.. great snapshot of the festival

Mixed a handful of the multimillion-streaming Daydream Club ‘s new tracks.. really brilliant stuff… and a great cover too.. all will be revealed by them soon.

Finished mixing an album for Claire Schofield.. lovely honest folk.. really love this song. She recorded it all herself..so just the mix and master for me to do.

Mixed a couple of albums of meditative music for a lovely couple of people

I did a fair bit of mastering: a few children albums, one off tracks and an EP recorded at the ever lovely Seamus Wong.

I put out 2 albums of media music… 80% my stuff…. and worked on a bit of a plan for 2016 so the music for media publishing can progress at a much quicker rate. Got 6 or 7 albums in various states of completion I’m hoping to get out there next year.

I completed a remix for really brilliant artist Diagrams then donated it to art project The Dark Outside : basically it’s where tracks get played in a forest in Scotland.. the only way you can hear is by being there and listening on a radio.. then the tracks gets deleted. I did a track a couple of years ago for it, too. Just love the idea of it….seems like little point trying to promote music in the usual way, so better to do it just because….

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Other than the festival album, the only other recording was for a band called Kafkadiva.. a band I’ve worked with for around 20 years. I don’t really like recording much these days.. boredom threshold is ever closer to zero with each passing year, but they wanted to do it live in their living room: and I really like doing that sort of thing.. it’s economical for the band and I like having the space as part of the recording. It’s also super-quick and compact time-wise for me.

It’s not out yet but here’s a track from their last album I recorded and mixed

Gig of the year: easy one, this. Father John Misty in Cambridge a couple of months ago was amazing. Helped by the fact the album he was promoting is ace in every way.. he was suave, really funny and had a proper star quality… a little man crush for me that night 😉

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Album of the year, is, predictably, then, I Love You Honeybear

.. just full of amazing songs, and the arrangements and production is straight out of the 70s…. beautiful.

Other stuff I’ve enjoyed:

Liked the Blur album.. not a massive fan of Blur but they always have their moments. More of a fan of Albarn’s work ethic and career. Clever boy.

Not released this year but new to me this year was The Silver Globe by Jane Weaver… great voice and songs..

John Grant’s Grey Tickles, Black Pressure is excellent: not as excellent as Pale Green Ghosts, but has some corking tunes ..properly dark and funny lyrics.

Enjoyed bits of the Young Father’s album, too.. looking forwards to seeing them in January supporting Massive Attack.

Again, enjoyed bits of the Tame Impala album: too sickly slickly to like the whole album, but tight production and some good songs made it a good album

New Order came back…my favourite album of all time is Technique…and it’s been a downhill struggle since them. I still love Bernard’s voice, but miss Hooky’s bass (wish they’d all kiss and make up).. enough in there to make it a worthwhile effort. Still terrible lyrics, but always have been.

Really loved the Mac De Marco album: sounds like a demo , but refreshingly un-produced, but great songs

It feels like a guilty pleasure to say you like Lana Del Rey: each album sneaks into my consciousness; pretty terrible words and voice, but I like the  whole package : the production and visuals.. and there are some great songs on this album. No Video Games, though

We got a lovely dog in May called Arthur….and it’s meant I’ve been walking lots, so I’ve been listening to so many more podcasts than normal. Here’s my favourites:

All 6 Music ones : you can’t go wrong with any of the 6 Music Podcasts… The First Time is always great, but the weekly ones from RadMac and Laverne are reliably entertaining, too

Making It From The Home Studio has been a sporadic common sense source of advice.. the mix walkthroughs are particularly excellent

I love Song Exploder: a weekly exposition of song writing and production… always inspirational

Sodajerka On Songwriting is such an amazing resource.. so interesting: a different interview with classic writers every fortnight or so.. you won’t believe the caliber they’ve got.

CD Baby DIY podcast is also great

Music Business Worldwide.. really great interviews with high level industry folk

Sound On Sound podcasts.. good but infrequent

Richard Herring’s Leicester Square Theatre Podcast makes me chuckle a lot

.. as does Adam Buxton‘s relatively new podcast

..and finally, Scroobius Pip’s Distraction Pieces podcast has some really interesting guests and is worth a listen

Happy New Year to you all Continue reading

But most of all… you got Love Technique

New Order’s ‘Technique’ is my favourite ever album. In 1989 it never left my turntable, cassette machine or ears in general.

The songs were great, the beats were clean, precise and shiny, and the electronics were beautiful. The mixing of that record remains a point of reference for what I want to achieve.

In a way, this album’s been a template for me and what I try to do.

Steve and Bernard gave a keynote chat at the LEAF festival a week or two ago…really interesting chat about how the album was made.

You can watch it here

And here’s the videos and some live appearances at the time

 

Don’t do it

I bang on about not having much time to do stuff I want or need to do. So as I draw closer to finishing the studio, I thought it might be a good idea to beat myself up about the mistakes I’ve made along the way that’s cost me time.. hopefully you might learn what not to do…….

I always knew I wanted a ‘proper’ mixing desk.. and as such I built the worktop around that…..around the desk I eventually got, actually: an 80 cm depth of worktop to take the desk.

What I forgot about, or chose to not think about, was the need for patchbays and the fact you need extra rackspace for it.

Before getting the desk, I built a couple of racks for my outboard…and didn’t particularly think about where to put them… really stupid! Luckily, I’d included a cupboard I’d built for some in/out trays… and with a little modification that did the trick.. swallowed everything pretty perfectly….. hindsight , though, leads me to advise you, potential studio builders, to just build as little as you can, til you get ALL the bits…..

I replaced some shelving, too….the ones I built were OK…. but I wanted some thinner ones, and IKEA started this modular system… cheap and perfect….again, I wish I’d finished the main bits before shelving it.

So… I find myself saying ‘nearly finished’ over and over and over.. popping out to finish a job, then finding another to start, but providing the desk connections all work (I almost daren’t test the patchbay!) all I have left to do is complete sawing up some speaker shelf supports, then do a flipping good hoover, wipe down and I’m done. Ready for use….

I’ll leave you with this.. ace b-side of New Order’s Fine Time..

Oct 7th Gaps, WAA remix and Bernard Sumner Hot Chip collaboration

Sorted the gaps on the Kafkadiva album, then onto the WAA remix I’m doing. Trimmed the flab from the end and replaced a snare with a Linn snare sample. My favourite snare, fact fans.

Converse are running a series of collaborations at the moment. Bernard from New Order has done a collaboration with Hot Chip. ‘Didn’t know what love was’ is a slice of Electronic era Bernard. In true Hot Chip style, it sounds like a demo…they’ve made a career form it and lovely they are, too. Pretty good tune: best thing Bernard’s been involved with for a while.

Hot Chip have become a bit special to me over the last few years. Love their take on pop. Use of what can only be described as ‘shit sounds’ over ace songs is a winner for me. Even when the sounds aren’t shit, the results can be beautiful

and here’s another excuse to put this video up…….