Blog Archives

All change…

Tentacles-for-WP

How this site (and me) have changed since its inception in 2012.  Loads of music has been uploaded, culminating in three short “releases”; Bucket of Tentacles (2013), Analogue (2014) and The Illicium Lure (2015).  I’m very proud of what I managed to pull together as a “solo artist” since starting to learn the piano and its more than I ever really expected, but I developed a new passion, running, which I’ve gradually started sneaking into this blog.  Like many things I’ve tried in life its become an all-consuming activity to the extent that there is no time for music and I unfortunately seem to have currently lost the desire.  I go running, in the mud, instead and haven’t touched my piano since around April 2016.

I’ve really enjoyed blogging to this site, so I’ve been contemplating how to continue with a running theme, and have now set up an alternative blog at www.allhailthetrail.co.uk

For anyone interested in my running exploits then please have a visit and follow.  Otherwise, thanks for following this blog and any comments along the way.  I expect to continue uploading Bucket of Tentacles style photographs now and again and who knows, maybe some more squelchy synth noises and horror beats will re-appear.

Bucket of Tentacles is descending to the depths from where it emerged.  For the moment…..

The Bucket

 

 

Advertisements

Blinded by Technology (Peak District Challenge)

5am alarms are usually reserved for going on holiday, but as I leap (stumble) out of bed it’s for an entirely different reason.  It’s to get a train out to Hathersage for the 50km Peak District Challenge which I’m running as a duo with Michelle Edye.  We’ve both been putting the miles and pork pies in over the last few months, with lots of training sessions out in the Peaks, so are hoping we’ll be ready for the challenge ahead.  This is a running/walking event, so when we arrive at the registration hall I use my powers of perception to weigh up the competition and I decided they were running if they were wearing shorts…… scientific I know.  Given the lack of legs on show it looked like most of the entrants were going for the walking option.

We’d all received our checkpoint info about a week before and we’d had a busy route planning session linking up the checkpoints, plotting onto paper maps and studying every inch of the route, however it will soon become clear that this wasn’t true at all.  Once we’d planned it I transferred the route onto Strava and uploaded to my GPS.  Whilst I think we’re both pretty comfortable with navigation, the plan was to leave the maps in the bag and use my GPS watch the whole way which meant far less stopping and more time running.

IMG_3405

“This is all very well and good, but where do we get to eat the sausage rolls?”

P1010124

Team “Lost in the North” pretended that this was a reasonable time to be up in the morning

Suddenly, we were off around 8:30am and trotted down the lane merrily.  The weather was pleasant, conversation was flowing, birds were singing (probably) so everything was going amazingly to plan.  I think we had a few minor thoughts that this didn’t seem to be the route we planned, but being slaves to technology, completely ignored it. It was when a gentlemen told us we were heading towards Froggatt edge that faint alarm sleigh bells started jingling in the back of my mind.  Froggatt edge was at the end of the route wasn’t it? We stopped and consulted the map, which I’m sure had an “I told you so” look all over it.  Sure enough we’d started going clockwise round the route instead of anti-clockwise!

Having already done 7km and some not-insignificant uphill the best thing we could think of doing was sit down on a rock.  Michelle phoned the race organisers who offered to pick us up, but the damage was done and there was no way we wanted any ferrying around, so we decided just to carry on.  50km is 50km whichever way round you do it!

P1010125

Froggatt Edge – some five hours before we were meant to be there

The people manning the first checkpoint seemed vaguely surprised to see us, which was an entirely understandable reaction considering they were actually the last checkpoint. Nevertheless we explained our situation, ate their lovely flapjacks and continued along the route.  With the initial disappointment out of the way we started enjoying the fantastic views and ticking off the miles. It actually turned out to be a good experience as sometime around halfway we started seeing other entrants coming towards us who we recognised from registration and who looked slightly surprised to see us! Clearly we were anti-establishment, the renegades, flouting the rules of the race!

P1010134

Somewhere in the Peaks.

P1010140

Yoga….  I think.

P1010136

Team Badges

The deeper we got into the route, the more people we came across coming the other way, all trying to give each other encouragement that “lunch checkpoints weren’t far away” which really depends on your definition of far.  Or lunch.  We met various runners on other (much-longer) ultra-races and most seemed happy to pause for a quick chat to see how far we were all through our challenges.  By the time we got to the last (first) checkpoint everyone had already gone home so we text them as “proof” that we made it and continued on for the last 10km stretch to the end.

Right about now, the heavens opened.  I’m not talking about a little shower – this was the kind of rain you should be looking at out of your window, shaking your head back-and-forth, whilst clutching a cup of tea.  After a while we probably couldn’t get any wetter so decided to try and get some kind of pace going, which we probably should have named “Slow+1”.  We soon came across a wiry long haired fellow also inevitably drenched.  We started chatting and he casually tells us he’s running to Sheffield and is around 40-50 miles in to a 60 mile race like this is the most normal thing in the world to be doing on a Saturday lunchtime. It was round about then I realised we are all probably insane.

I tried to high-five Michelle to get the spirits up.  We missed.  Twice.  We considered wading through a river to get back to the end quicker. Brain function was clearly becoming difficult.

A mere 7 hours 28 minutes, 55.6km and 1,300m of elevation after starting, we arrived back at the race HQ and were instantly presented with a curry which was gratefully received. Michelle started eating everything (note how she’s attempting to conceal a large tomato in her hand in the pic below), and that was the challenge over!

Loads of thanks to the organisers who put on a great event, and to the checkpoint marshals who give up their time to stand on there in the cold for hours on end!  I think we had the second quickest time for the 50km, but doubt it will stand with such a large deviation from the suggested route.

P1010144

Done.  Ultrarunning badge in the post.

And so the long-running journey continues……  Man vs Mountain (Snowdon) on 3rd September and the Project Trail 50 miler in November!

Project Trail: Meeting the team

After the fantastic news that I’d been selected for Project Trail I headed to our nation’s Capital for the photoshoot last week.  To avoid ridiculously priced peak time trains, instead of my usual Tuesday Sweatshop run from the Manchester Arndale, I ended up going down the night before.  I phoned Murray, arranged a quick warm down game and headed off for Wimbledon.  I arrived at Euston, had a disciplined pint to relax (£4.90 and served by an Aussie – clearly I had arrived in London) and then got the tube out to Wimbledon.

Quite an uneventful night followed in the smallest hotel room ever, but I survived and headed on to Wimbledon Common to meet the Men’s Running team……  I soon met up with Rick (the editor) and the rest of the team, along with a friendly familiar face, Anne-Marie who i’d completed the Thunder Run with the previous year!  It was about now that I started eyeing up the piles of boxes on the car park which was our gear hoard – full kit from Columbia Montrail, a TomTom Runner Cardio watch, some Adidas sunglasses and enough High5 nutrition to make me seriously concerned about making it back to Manchester carrying this lot on public transport!

After meeting the other entrants (Jon and Nic) and also the competition winners from Women’s Running, we all eagerly changed into our new fancy trail running gear and headed further into the Common to find some suitable spots for photographs which will be used for the forthcoming Project Trail articles.  I’m much more used to being on the other side of a camera, but managed to pull out a few tough-runner poses even though I’m not a fan of being in “the limelight”.  We were asked a few interview questions to be used for the mag and did a quick video interview (links below), I definitely get very self-conscious in front of a video camera!  A quick run round the common later to try out our new gear and it was time to head off home!

A really great part of this whole experience is getting a training plan devised by Robbie Britton.  We have a call scheduled this week to discuss the plan so proper training will be starting very soon and apparently, I’m going to have to get very very used to hill reps!

Here’s the three of us just before heading off home, and some links to the YouTube videos below.

P1010040

Jon, Dan (me) and Nic

Project Trail: The Photoshoot https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cUFSQPic-GU

The Interviews:

Dan: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jr_N29marhw

Jon: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CbJkK9pcZ_Y

Nic: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FDbOizg5m1o

 

Ancoats

Ancoats

Since my Lumix GX1 suffered a heat stroke in Gran Canaria and I replaced with a GX7 back in Sept/Oct I barely seem to have used it.  When I’m out running I see so many things I’d love to photograph, but the two hobbies are very incompatible! I finally took a local stroll without my shorts and trainers instead armed with a camera and thought I’d focus on one particular area – the southern part of Ancoats close to Manchester City Centre.

Before I even knew I was destined to become a Manchester resident I visited here back in 2013 with work so spent some eerie time in the deserted/derelict Morning Star hostel and school which I mentioned in THIS POST.  Its a strange area on the fringe of the city, clearly industrial, but lots of deserted/derelict buildings with pockets of nice flats, kind of like the Northern Quarter has burst its seams and some hipsters have spilled over Great Ancoats Street clutching their Macbooks and little dogs.  I’ve not gone for beautiful photos here (ability problems) so just tried to capture the vibe of the area.  So, without further ado, here are a few snaps!.

Anita street

Anita Street, very clean and well presented considering the surrounding area!

Coffee

Nestled inside an old Mill, a coffee shop serving Ancoats Coffee.  A true hispter hangout.

barbed wire

I wouldn’t try getting in here….

 

Car

The hawk-eyed amongst you will be screaming “That’s not Ancoats!!!” and you’d be right.  I wanted to try out keeping some colour in a B&W photo so here is my first effort.  This car is in the NQ right by Cord bar and hasn’t moved since I began living here.

George Leigh Street

George Leigh Street

wall

I too, wish I knew the way.

Smiths

Swift half down Smith’s?

So there you go.  It was good to get out with the camera again and also try out a few different editing techniques on the pics above.  Until next time…..

 

Ectopic Beats

WALL

I’ve had an idea in my head for years about doing some kind of big doom metal track with crunching guitars and blast beats. I’ve finally got round to extracting the idea from brain to airwaves. Not content with keeping it straight “doom”, I’ve snuck in some 80s synth pop/rock, dark metal screaming, middle eastern twangs and some other synth warblings.

Not for the faint hearted or anyone with sensitive eardrums, here is ……. Ectopic Beats.

Techy stuff: All drums manually programmed on EZDrummer using the Drumkit from Hell kits, but I also managed to include a short section using the classic TR8 drum machine. For the first time I’ve also programmed all of the guitar lines (played through a Korg Kross) and most of the lead lines as well, using the in-built Cubase synth Halion Sonic. Its a totally different way of working and its been great to try something different and be able to change sounds after you’ve laid a part down, but then I don’t think you quite get the same vibe as “normal” recording.  Great to give it a try though, and that’s what the music is about on the site, trying out different stuff! The Arturia Microbrute also features here, leaving programming at the door, that’s just big dirty analogue sounds and live tweaking.

On other subjects, running is becoming all time-consuming now with the next few weeks dedicated to building up my fitness to achieve a 50km run at the end of March. Followed by the Manchester Marathon two weeks later. It may be my legs that end up in a bucket rather than the tentacles after that. I’m doing the run for sponsorship, so if any kind souls out there want to sponsor me, please visit my JustGiving page HERE

 

Piano Recital

It was time to attempt to play piano again in front of real people!  My piano teacher, Daria, had arranged a student recital at her house.  Bring nibbles and ‘performance enhancing’ alcohol!  The last time I did this was June 2014 at the Royal Northern College of Music.  I’ve been at this piano lark for quite some time now, almost 4 years and lessons for 3.5 so should be getting to some kind of believable standard. I almost certainly haven’t practiced pure piano as much as I should have as quite a lot of time has been dedicated to composing the tracks on this blog.  A difficult balance which I’ll get to later.

On the day of the recital, I recorded the pieces I was planning to play warts and all so here they are!  The first three are from the ABRSM Jazz Piano Grade 3 book (Sombrero Sam, Sails and Birks Works) and the final piece was a Christmas song, a quickly pulled together Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer 🙂

Six of us shuffled into the house all probably a bit worried about performing in front of others, but a few sniffs of red wine and there was a bit more relaxation in the air.  It was really interesting to hear others play from relatively new players to people who had far more experience.  When it came to my performance itself I messed up quite a few times but managed to get through it.  The improvisation sections were perhaps the most challenging as I found this quite hard to improvise with performance nerves going on. I’ve played plenty of gigs on drums and had mostly got over the nerves of playing and during later stages got to the point where I was reasonably comfortable playing. Let’s just say I’m not there with piano yet……

It got me thinking about how long I’ve been playing and how ‘good’ I should be. As odd as it may seem, I didn’t start piano because I wanted to learn piano. I started because being a long term drummer with an interest in recording music and pushing what you can do with sound I thought I needed to try a solo project. Very difficult on drums, so a keyboard which can produce a vast array of sounds seemed a great option.  Piano lessons have been great to develop musical groundwork and I’ve put a lot of that into the Bucket of Tentacles pieces, with certainly more musicality and development within the tracks from the first pieces I recorded for this blog.

I feel at a crossroads of sorts to decide where I want to take things, partly because I know that piano performance is never going to be ‘my thing’ and isn’t why I started this.  I’ve always liked the extreme of things, for example I don’t want to listen to something that’s a bit metal, I want it as fast, as dark and as extreme as it gets. Or as genre-hopping discordant and weird as it gets. This is where I get my love for bands like the Secret Chiefs 3 or earlier Mr Bungle who turned my thoughts of what you can do with music upside down.  I’ve had a similar experience with running, doing 5km, 10km doesn’t feel enough so I’m pushing to achieve a (short) ultramarathon 50km.

Its difficult to know where to focus my attention at the moment, my various hobbies need significant time spent practicing pure piano pieces, scales, arpeggios, technique, sight reading, music theory, feel, sound crafting on synths, drum programming, recording techniques, Cubase, applying effects, EQ, compression, listening, composing, writing music, blending sounds, mixing.  Then running, long distance runs, intervals, tempo runs, all round fitness with cross training, weights. What about my other passion photography? Huge range of skills and practice needed there including familiarity with editing software on top of what you take camera side.

I am obviously very lucky to be able to even attempt to do that much “stuff”  but its more slow development on all, rather than leaps and bounds in any one subject.

So the Bucket of Tentacles will continue into 2016 and will continue to be a record of the artistic or physical achievements that I do.  Here is to 2016 which could include a grade 3 piano exam, some extreme running and potentially a fourth ‘release’ of collections of tracks. If there is time of course!

Have a slithering Christmas and New Year.

The Illicium Lure (EP#3)

The difficult third album….. From what started as uploading a couple of sound snippets has turned into three years of music or noise uploads, loads of photos, and somehow a third EP.  Here is the latest offering of tracks recorded and uploaded over the last year, this time with some extras and a couple of minor remixes.  For the first time, this also includes a collaboration. Track 5 “Thalassa” features vocals written and performed by long term friend and band mate, Alistair Davies. Thanks Al!

The Illicium Lure

1. Lost (Self Inflicted Desolation)

2. Fleuve Parasseux

3. Streetwork

4. Interlude (Tango)

5. Thalassa

6. Cenotes

7. Interlude (Donkey Kong)

8. Number stations

9. Reload

How have “the tentacles” changed since the last collection of tracks “Analogue” in July 2014….?  I’ve continued piano lessons, learnt lots and hopefully added more musicality to some these tracks, certainly in Thalassa and Fleuve Parasseux.  Listening back, several of the tracks contain improvised synth editing.  I’ve always tried to maintain an element of improvisation on several of my tracks but listening back I have no idea how, or what I did in some of the parts.  It would be unrepeatable which I think is great but also slightly frustrating!

So another year goes by, Life goes on… some tough moments at work, got married, some great experiences along the way, and a whole new passion for running. Long live the tentacles!

Get a printed copy from THE SHOP

For the copyright purists, for (nearly) the first time I’ve ‘stolen’ a couple of bits and pieces, so here are the details: –

Track 1 – A mere use of a pre-set sequence from the Arturia microbrute, bite me.
Track 3 – The very premise of this track was recording artists from the streets.  I actually tried to make contact to ask permission but received no response.  Some drums and beat boxing parts are recorded on an iPhone in Manchester City Centre.  The radio intro/outros are pretty much all live street recordings.
Track 4 – A very short piece from a piano magazine introducing the style of tango. I enjoyed playing it so recorded it and solo’d over it!
Track 7 – The beeps and boops are recorded from me playing my 1982 Nintendo Game and Watch Donkey Kong, still working today, move over PlayStation!
Track 8 – Voices and number stations stolen from web postings on the subject. The whole track came together from listening to parts on the web and adding some random synth warblings and a beat… getting it done off the cuff.

 

Fleuve Parasseux

Time to get back to the roots of this blog and get some music up! Here is my latest offering – “Fleuve Parasseux”

River

Fleuve Parasseux:

What’s that rubbish picture I hear you say?  Its a river of course, but I have taken the liberty of inconveniencing a few electrons and altered it using the free image “glitching” website available HERE

I love that we have access to fantastic technology, but then try and mess things up so that pictures look old, retro, faded and “glitched” or produce music then distort it to make it sound like its on tape, or add record scratches etc. Why do we strive for perfection and then try and quickly get away from it?

The track itself started as a piano piece which I recorded and then developed all the other parts around it.  Whilst uncharacteristically “nice” for the most part, I tried to add my own “glitch”.

New EP coming very soon including a collection of tracks from this blog, a couple of new “interludes” and an older track with new vocals all over it (not by me thankfully!)

 

Lake District Snaps

I had a nice break in Windermere recently, and whilst of course I took all the “usual” photos of normal stuff with people in, that’s not what this blog about, so here is a few I took of the more arty-farty type!

Orest head

Moody view from Orrest Head (lots of running training up and down this “hill” over the week!)

Coniston

A beautiful little spot where I could crawl all over the place trying out long exposure

Capri1

Back when cars were great

Engine1

A bit of an engine with some close depth of field – arty or what!

Engine2

Down with the ozone layer!

Oscar

A perfectly in focus Oscar from the Lakeside aquarium. I loved his colours.

… and that’s the lot.  Musically, I have a piano track bubbling away so just need to sort out some time to record it.  Its leading up to the third Bucket of Tentacles EP, which will hopefully include a collaboration piece with some actual singing by Al over Thalassa (posted here previously).

 

Prelude (Piano Lesson)

Here are a couple of pieces from my piano lessons as its been a while since I’ve recorded any.  These have taken a while to learn as they’re classical which keeps both hands busy (and twists my brain).  Anyway, they both happen to be called “Prelude”.  The first one “Prelude in C” is noted as attributed to Bach and edited by Richard Jones, so here it is.

The second one has no noted credits on it, but the way I play it here its probably best they don’t know.  This needs a lot more work to get the hands working together, but as a record of progress, here it is warts and all.

I’m working on a new “proper” track using a great new hybrid analogue/digital synth, the Roland JD-Xi.  I’ve only had it a week, but am getting on very well with it.  The track (inc. drums) will all be created using that synth and its vocoder (!!) and is warming up to be a bit of a dark drum’n’bass / hip-hop type track.  In fact I’m going to record a few bits for it now…..