Progress Report #1
Well, it has been a fair while since we’ve published any ‘News’ on our site. We are currently beavering away on the second TEHI album. We have already spilled the beans on the name “The Only Way Out is Through“, but we are remaining tight-lipped on the content! I just wanted to say that, so far, we are really pleased with the progress we are making. The music is sounding sublime, and Bill is excelling himself with the lyrics. While it is a cliche to say things are a journey (“He’s been on a journey!” – when he’s just spent a few days in the Big Brother house, or sold a few milkshakes on the Apprentice) … this album will be a journey. Believe me. Believe us.
As I always type when I end these things – YOU’VE GOT TO CHECK OUT OUR PREVIOUS RELEASES, PRIMARILY THE SUPERB DEBUT ALBUM “ESCAPISM“. /ends shouting.
Feast For The Eyes
We’re excited to have our music featured in a promo for the great Noyes Museum in Oceanside, NJ
The Future of Rock n’ Roll
So… in the relatively short history of the Eleventh Hour Initiative it has been a pretty eventful month. Most importantly, Bill and I have finally met. For so long the hook of “The Band that Have Never Met”tm hung around our collective neck – not quite like an albatross, but certainly the most ‘quotable’ fact. That this ‘promotional gem’ no longer exists is a blessing. As a band we are, and have always been, much more than “The Band that Have Never Met”tm!
Now we can get on with business. We have to prove that we were not only the best band to have never met… but also that we are one of the best bands in the world full stop. (or period). Not that we would ever ‘claim’ to be the best band in the world! Ha ha! We’ll leave that to the Liam Gallaghers, the chancers and the star-gazers. As the Eleventh Hour Initiative it is for Bill and I to convince the world at large that we have a reason for being. A unique selling point – or any other advertising jargon you can muster. With Escapism I think we have already proved that we can release a decent (fantastic) album. In fact it’s an album that champions the cause of “The Album”. The dying album. /wipes tears from face.
Bill and I have a plan. The end result will be a project that will cause a stir. The smoke and mirrors of the Trans-Atlantic partnership are gone. We continue to make music across two continents – which is still a big deal – but we no longer have to stand in the obelisk’s shadow. We will endeavour to produce the best music that we can and we are more excited than ever before with what we are achieving. We look forward to larger scale releases and greater demand from the record buying public! Ha ha! Seriously… we are creating sounds that will prick your ears and make you re-evaluate your lives. I look forward to polishing the trophies. 😉
The Suddenly Kate Show
A review of our debut album, Escapism, on “The Suddenly Kate Show“. We particularly like the love dished out to the opening and closing tracks of the album. Often neglected, we’ve always had a soft spot for Try and Get Some Sleep and When the Start Begins.
‘Escapism’ by TEHI
I set myself the task of writing and recording a promotional video in ten minutes. I pretty much did it… maybe a couple of minutes into extra time! The moral of the story is still the same. Although TEHI is moving on to the recording of what will be a gargantuan second album… the first, ‘Escapism‘ still needs to be heard by the masses. You can play a small part in the history of this band by downloading it and, hopefully, enjoying it!
In the Studio
Having a blast working on some new material. However, that doesn’t mean you should forget about our debut album – “Escapism“. If you still hold the concept of the ‘album’ dear to your heart then you’ve got to download “Escapism“. It is our love letter to the age of buying a CD on release day. Getting it home and listening to a whole raft of new songs by your favourite band. Not just a single song… skip track… move on. “Escapism” is a 14 song adventure. “Escapism” is, in a way, the story of our lives. Bill and I proudly present “Escapism“… still available for only $5 here: http://theeleventhhourinitiative.bandcamp.com/album/escapism … alternatively, if you’d rather use Amazon or iTunes then go ahead… we’re available there too!
We recently had a great time being interviewed by Mr Ronnie Rucker for Hawaiian TV!!!
Check out Ronnie’s website here: http://beneatheverythingradio.squarespace.com/fyd/2012/9/24/neighborhood-watch-tehiband.html
Reminiscing will be the death of me
I’ve been revamping the site… a little lick of paint here and there. Changed a few things around. To buy our album, Escapism, just click the menu at the top of the screen.
I clicked on it myself… and I found myself listening to the whole album. Kind of lost myself. My conclusion is that it is an outstanding piece of work. I know I “would say that wouldn’t I?”… but it is honestly an impressive collection of songs. In fact it is probably the best, most concise thing I have ever done.
I want to take this opportunity to remind you of the album. It has been a long while since its release… but we have not yet finished with it. There is still promotion to be done. We do not have the machine behind us!
In the meantime, listen to Life Will Be the Death of Me. It blew my socks off!!!
Are we still alive?
Hello Eleventh Hour Initiative fans. I assume that if you’re reading this site, you’ve bought the album? Or why else would you be here? … frantically clicking on the site to see if there’s an update. Well… I can only apologise for the lack of content over the last few weeks. Bill and I have been recovering from creating the album! Ha ha! For whilst it was an amazing experience and I think we produced an album of real quality… it took a lot out of us as a partnership. So, we have taken time out. Not that we’ve been relaxing! Oh no. We’ve both been working on the variety show that is life. But I thought I needed to come back here and let you know that we haven’t forgotten you.
I would love to be giving you details of new product… but for now that is secret information. We have a more important cause. We have to bring ‘Escapism’ to the masses. The chosen few are not enough. You are not enough. We need to ask you a favour. Please spread the word of the Eleventh Hour Initiative. The album is available on Amazon and iTunes. If you buy the album from the Bandcamp links on this very website you can download the album sleevenotes. This digital booklet has some interesting extras and is definitely worth a browse! Okay… that was just a quick reminder of our existence! We will speak again soon!
14/14 ESCAPISM: ‘A Slingshot, Some Rocks, and 3-D Without the Glasses’
So I guess it’s up to me to write the last of our 14 posts.
‘When the Start Begins‘ is an apt title, because that’s how we see where we’re at as a band. I share a similar back-story with Emrys. I was also at the end of my musical rope when we began working on this album. The Eleventh Hour Initiative has also given me new life, and an island in the sun.
Emrys and I have also mentioned our struggles trying to connect to you, the listener. As he said, we’re just two guys trying to promote ourselves because we love these songs and we want them to be shared. We have no army of ‘professionals’ working for us behind the scenes.
It’s just us.
Honestly, it feels a bit like slinging rocks at Goliath sometimes.
Who cares? Right? I mean, why would you care how tall the mountain is that seems to be staring down at us?
My answer would be that you’re probably looking at a similar mountain in your own life.
Different goals – Same struggle.
Some give up, and just daydream about these things. Some people are pragmatic about their goals. Some, like us, and maybe you, are stubborn and refuse to accept good enough as good enough.
There is no right answer.
My point is not that we have an answer.
My point, our point as a band, and as people who write on this little blog site every few days is that we want to share everything that happens to us while we try.
Maybe it helps to see someone struggling with a similar goal? Maybe it helps to see things from a different, and not necessarily correct, position?
Where we mess up, and where you mess up, are probably more important to who we all are as people.
My dream is that just maybe it’s possible to be successful while trying your absolute best to be as honest about your weaknesses as you are with your strengths.
That’s really what we’re trying.
That’s the goal we’re asking for your support with.
We’re trying to be 3D without the glasses.
All in all, Emrys and I just made an album I’m more proud of than anything I’ve ever done. This is the last in a novel full of 14 posts containing bad grammar, humor, insight(maybe?), and a lot of genuine soul-searching.
So where does the start begin?
It begins with you passing me my slingshot. We’ve got a lot of work to do…
My genuine and heartfelt thanks to those of you who have been following along with us and supporting us along the way.
13/14 ESCAPISM: ‘Eyes Squinting into the Bright Light’
Nearing the finishing line now with the longest set of album liner notes ever! Ha ha! So… track 13 on “Escapism” is a song by the name of ‘From Shipwreck to Shore‘.
I’d say that the phrase “From shipwreck to shore” could probably define this album. Let me explain this. I was feeling shipwrecked. I had been in a number of bands before I formed the Eleventh Hour Initiative. I had released a couple of albums worth of material with varying degrees of success before I met Bill. I had been favourably reviewed in magazines and gigged on the same local circuit as bands which have now gone on to bigger and better things such as Muse. I played and recorded with phenomenal talents such as Seth Lakeman and Jonny Crosbie. But by 2009/10 I was feeling washed up… jaded. Normal life had not only caught up with me, but had settled me to the point of retirement. When it came to being a musician, I was shipwrecked.
“ocean waves beneath a high wire
not quite yet so light it on fire”
Bill wrote some really beautiful lyrics for this song, the last to be recorded for ‘Escapism’. The song sounds pop – which I am always drawn to. I like a good melody. The song also has a sense of urgency, and for me at least, a sense of danger. Danger and anger. The “high wire” line is one of the most astute and exciting lines on the album. Hats off to Bill for splendid lyrics throughout… but the words to this particular tune really push things forward.
Writing “Escapism” has been like being born again (musically… certainly not in the Stephen Baldwin sense!!!). The album as a whole has been like a breath of fresh air. The songs are all about this moment in time and have helped me to regain my musical mojo. And yet you can never escape the past. Many of the songs had roots in old ideas, never professionally recorded, but existing solely in my head or on 4-track cassette tape. ‘From Shipwreck to Shore’ was once a song about a babysitter. Let me clarify… the musical motif was once the basis of a song about a babysitter. A song that I never recorded with a band and never released to the world. I love how the same past that can break you can also make you. I am aware that I sound as pretentious as Morrissey (and am semi-stealing his lyrics!), but this concept is what makes the world go round. The same past that can make you bitter and twisted can then bring you out from the doldrums, eyes squinting into the bright light. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger and all that.
So “Escapism” has coincided with the re-emergence of Emrys as a willing songwriter – a songwriter that enjoys writing songs rather than simply ‘needing’ to write songs. If I had to hang my hat on an album I would happily hang it on this one. It is the kind of album that inspires me – and as I had a hand in creating it I do realise how egotistical that sounds!!! “Escapism” is an album that I would love to follow up. I would be fascinated as to what kind of album the Eleventh Hour Initiative could create next. But… to allow that to ever be a possibility we have to know that people have appreciated “Escapism”. For while we can certainly do what we want to do as artists and to hell with the consequences… it would indeed help to have some of you along for the ride. So, don’t hesitate to let us know how you feel about our songs, our album. And please spread the word, for we have no machine behind us. We have no invisible men pushing our presence on Youtube, manufacturing us behind the scenes as the next big thing. There is no rope pulling or guiding us – and certainly no safety cord. There is no svengali masterminding our world domination. There is only Bill and I. And you.
I found the shore. From Shipwreck to the shore. I now raise my head and observe the land before me. And it looks just mighty fine.
12/14 ESCAPISM: ‘I Always Feel Like Somebody’s Watching Me’
I’m sorry for the delay in posting this article. In the time since Emrys last wrote regarding ‘Where We Go Next’ we’ve released ‘Escapism’ to the wide world. You can download a digital copy of the album right here on the site by clicking on the link in the menu. You can also buy the album on Amazon or iTunes by typing ‘The Eleventh Hour Initiative Escapism’ into the search bar on each respective site. You can even get a physical CD from Amazon!
We’re trying out the idea of making a podcast every now and again. Yep, a real proper podcast with guests and everything. Why? We thought it might be interesting and funny, and most importantly, fun.
For all the amount of times we shill our album and all of this stuff, it’s because we want to connect with you. Buying the album, commenting, and all of these seemingly small things tell us you’re listening. I joke about how poor I am all the time, but in truth, it’s not the money, it’s the recognition and connection that keeps us going. All of the kind and good words people have said to both Emrys and myself since we’ve released this album… that’s why we do this. It’s not about being the most popular, it’s about making meaningful connections through things we love.
You need to make many moves to position yourself properly to connect the way I’m talking about.(No I’m not referring to sex) I mentioned in my last post my struggles with the almighty band bio. Well something odd, and yet helpful has turned up to assist me in this undertaking.
What does this have to do with ‘All These Secret Things’, you ask? Well if I told what all my secret things were we’d have to call the song ‘All These Plainly Known Things’ and that kind of takes the fun out of it. Anyway, my help with the band bio is kind of secret, in a way.
I was getting ready to go to work today when I noticed a guy dressed straight out of the 1940s hanging out in a tree outside my house. He even had a really antiquated camera and he was taking pictures through my window!
He looked kind of like this:
I yelled, ‘What the hell are you doing?!!!’
He made a sound, it kind of sounded like he said ‘Gadzooks!!!’ and he fell out of the tree and ran away.
…but he dropped something.
It looked like a file of some sort. It was a manilla folder with “The Eleventh Hour Initiative’s debut album ‘Escapism’ and the Possible Threats it May Pose” written in large, black letters across it.
Leafing through it I was amazed! It seemed this guy had been spying on Emrys and I since June of 2010! All kinds of awkward pictures, jotted notes and phone transcripts?
I’ve begun trying to transcribe some of his notes down to give to the authorities, but I figured I’d share a bit of it with you guys/girls. You see, I think this guy may have written our band bio for us!!!
Have a look for yourself…
‘Submitted per Request and for Your Review: The Eleventh Hour Initiative’s debut album ‘Escapism’ and The Possible Threats It May Pose.’
Band: The Eleventh Hour Initiative
Bill Ryan(NJ, USA)- Vocals, Music
Emrys Hughes(Plymouth, UK)- Music, Vocals, Production
Known Whereabouts: http://www.eleventhhourinitiative.com
Current Album Under Review– ‘Escapism’
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org or the lamp-post by the corner store
Message sent by Agent H. Fat and decoded by Agent 070278W. B=E
I have been observing William Ryan(alias: Bill) and Emrys Hughes since they began work as ‘The Eleventh Hour Initiative‘ in June of 2010. Both singers and multi-instrumentalists in their own right, they seemed to hit it off quickly despite that fact that Bill lives in the U.S.A. and Emrys resides in the U.K.. In fact, as long as I’ve been conducting surveillance on them it seems the two have never sat in the same country together, let along the same room.
A mistake I initially made, that you need to be wary of, is to discount them because their songs are written, recorded, and produced through the internet. It has certainly been observed that most music recorded on computers, even if ‘real’ instruments are primarily used, is harmless and awful, and yet something is different with these two. Despite their pretentious illusions of grandeur and their love for bands such as Radiohead, Pulp, Blur, and yes, even Coldplay; there seems to be something honest and heartfelt about their music that has so far connected to the dedicated following they have garnered on internet sites such as Soundcloud.(http://soundcloud.com/confession/sets/the-eleventh-hour/)
This is all despite the fact that the band have performed little or no promotion to this point.
Listeners have said the band reminds them of ‘Bloc Party‘, or ‘New Order’ with Foo Fighters‘ riffs‘. I try to remind some of these listeners that there is no room for heartfelt musicians making melodic indie rock that is both innovative and yet nostalgic at the same time. The listeners don’t seem to care. They say it makes them ‘feel good‘ and the band is quote, ‘class‘.
Listening in on the band’s conversations, it seems they wanted to make a true album ‘like they used to make on vinyl‘. At times, ‘Escapism‘ even seems to skate the line between a thematic collection of songs and full-blown concept album! They are obviously stupid and misguided as we live in a singles oriented low attention span environment, but we must watch for the ‘refreshing‘ label which could easily slip these two under the radar. Be warned, these are not mediocre songs lazily sung concerning nothing!
All that being said, I must also admit to the addictive quality possessed in this album. This is especially true in songs like Pitfall, Escape Plan, and Mean Machines. I find myself waking up in cold sweats humming the choruses and daydreaming about things like space and ninjas. I need to perform more tests on this album for subliminal messages. Frankly, I need more time to sit and study this album! I also need a second opinion, and this is where you come in.
I warn you, be very careful with ‘Escapism‘. This can not be emphasized enough! It will catch you when you least expect it and for the love of God it will not let go! If these songs fall into the wrong hands…well, let’s try and prevent that while we still can.
I have included my notes on the fourteen songs that make up Escapism here. Read, or destroy, at your own discretion. For more info or assistance the band can be reached at email@example.com . I can be reached at the flickering lamp-post by the corner store.(I will approach with the phrase ‘Has the mail arrived?‘ and you will reply with ‘King Felix is on the move!’)
Thank you for your assistance in this matter.
Agent H. Fat
11/14 ESCAPISM: ‘One Last Song’
We have been writing a series of articles in the run up to the release of our debut album “Escapism”. You may have noticed? To be fair, the majority of the world is unaware of our existence at this specific moment. We hope to change that… but it is likely that these 14 posts will be read in retrospect by a lot of people hoping to get a bit of background on the album. I can’t think of an example of such a wealth of material being written by a band in relation to an album. It may have happened, we may not be unique… but we are certainly trying to do something a little different! When/if these posts are ever read back to back they will be the greatest set of liner notes in history! Ha ha!
I have been given the task of writing about our song “Where We Go Next”. For starters this was the very first song that Bill and I worked on. It was kind of a toe in the water… and it led to a whole year’s work on a full album. I do understand that the album as a format is currently dead and buried. However, I do not have to go with the flow. The idea of a set of songs telling an overall story, or a collection of songs that flow thematically and have enough time to breath is a concept I hold close to my heart. I admit this is probably due in part to the era I have grown up in… but I have a feeling that what goes around comes around, and the ‘album’ may yet rise again.
Vinyl sales are on the increase and I have bought more LPs in the last month than I have CDs in the last year! Although downloads are the new King and are here to stay… I have a sneaking suspicion that, given a number of years, even the kids of today will warm to the idea of “more than one song in a row”.
And so it was that “Where We Go Next” started the process that became ‘writing a whole album”. And “Where We Go Next” became such an apt title!!! Where we go next? Where do we go next? Where we go next. Was it a question or a statement?
I’ll say right now that the album is available for purchase from Monday 12th September 2011. You will be able to buy the album from iTunes or Amazon – this is a proper album launch! However, you also have the option of simply clicking the BUY link that will magically appear on Monday on the right-hand side of this site. It just says ‘share’ right now but it will say ‘buy’ too. (Hey, and while we’re on the subject, feel free to spread the word on our behalf!!!)
Anyway… I digress. If you were to buy the album from this site by clicking on the BUY button you will also get the Digital Booklet that comes with the album. And within this Digital Booklet is a little Eleventh Hour Initiative trinket.
Let me tell you the story of the trinket.
Rewind time a little. Picture me as a solo artist. I had asked Bill if he wanted to collaborate with me on a song. I then went to Africa and took with me a Moleskine notepad. I took a posh notepad ’cause I thought it would encourage me to use it. My mission was to write a song, without a musical instrument to hand. To write a song by just noting down ideas. I found the sun, palm trees and sand – the change in scenery – conducive to songwriting and I tried my best to get something scribbled down so I could get to work on the “new song” immediately on my return to England.
… Then a volcano erupted and stranded me in Africa. The airports of Europe shut down and I had an enforced African songwriting stay. And so it was that I wrote the skeleton of what eventually became “Where We Go Next” in that little black notepad. I had an idea for the melody of the song. It was based on an idea I came up with in my youth. An idea that I never properly recorded. I did however use the chords and structure for a song called “Out of the Low Times”.
It always bugged me that I had never used the original melody though. So when I was sitting in the sun in Africa I thought it would at least be interesting to pull the melody from the dark recesses of my mind. I sat there, drinking lagers next to the pool, avoiding the attempts by the natives to get me aqua-dancing to some disco bollocks. I thought it would be cool to bring an unused idea from the past kicking and screaming into the present. And you know what? It didn’t kick and it didn’t scream. It came quietly and appreciatively. Musically, in my mind, it began to take shape as a companion piece to “Out of the Low Times”. You must remember that this was before Bill and I were the Eleventh Hour Initiative. This was the origin story! At this point it was going to be an experiment to have Bill collaborate with me on a song. We weren’t sure it would work (but I had a fair idea that it would!).
On my return to England I recorded the song as set out in that notepad. I filled wine glasses with differing amounts of water and played them as chimes. I shook a packet of Crunchy Nut Cornflakes as a shaker and I beat boxed the drums. The song on the page was brought into being. I breathed life into the monster. I then sent the music to Bill.
Bill came up with the most fantastic lyrics. Certainly lyrics worthy of reading – just don’t read them at the same time as listening to the song. Sometimes you shouldn’t multi-task even if you can! The song became “Where We Go Next”. The song became our statement of intent.
In the Digital Booklet I have included the original pages from my Moleskine notepad. This trinket makes interesting viewing for anyone with any interest in seeing how a song takes shape. And if you don’t have those kind of interests then you can at least mark me on my spelling and grammar!
“Where We Go Next” may be proved by a future society to be a landmark song. But for now I will just hold it dear as the song that reignited my spirit. The song that brought about the “Escapism” album. And therefore, perhaps the most important song I have ever written.
I thank you all.
10/14 ESCAPISM: ‘1. This post is important! 2. This post is not important!’
“Before I go on with this short history, let me make a general observation — the test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function. One should, for example, be able to see that things are hopeless and yet be determined to make them otherwise.”
F Scott Fitzgerald- ‘The Crack-Up’
Holding two ideas that contradict each other, and considering both to be equally true, seems to be the only way to cope in the world, at least to any healthy degree. For example–my system, or way of seeing the world, is that anytime I try and put everything into a neat little box there will always be an infinite amount of contradictions that crop up and destroy, or outgrow, my little box.
In other words, I have a system that notes that having a system is futile and useless. See the contradiction? I’d note the term ‘uroboros’, but that would make an already pretentious post unbearable.
The universe, in my eyes, is infinite. If I lived forever I could come up with a million theories to explain everything, and immediately a million counter theories would crop up to contend against it. Again, I’d point to the term ‘dialectic’, but we’re already behind the 8 ball!
…Philip K Dick would love this post!…
A person who leans to a more Buddhist view of life might say the solution is to become nothing.(nothing to contradict)
Someone else might say that the solution is to become everything.(contradiction is contained)
Perhaps they are both right.
Perhaps in becoming nothing you become everything, and perhaps in becoming everything you become nothing.
Confusing, isn’t it?
Confucius say what?
I think most of us, whether we realize it or not, are stuck in the middle.
In order to stay sane you need a plan of action while at the same time you need to realize that things probably won’t go to plan.
Let me repeat…
1. You need a plan
2. You need to realize that your plan has failed the second you created it.
3. Both 1 and 2 are necessary
I think all of our lives are a bit like leaving early for an appointment, and then your car breaks down anyway.
Some say, ‘Don’t drive to the appointment at all! Don’t bother! You won’t get there on time!’
Others say, ‘Leave early and believe that your car won’t break down!’
The OCD’s say, ‘Perform Maintenance checks! Change your oil every blah blah blah miles! Take a GPS! Don’t forget to charge your cell phone!’
…Then someone else, who didn’t do any maintenance checks, gets a flat tire and rear ends them.
In the end, you can say, ‘…but sometimes people make their appointments! Sometimes things go exactly to plan!’
I’d point out that sometimes things don’t, and though I don’t know the equation for chaos theory, I can say that you can never quite predict the hows, whys, and whens.
Some might say that if you were really, really bright you could calculate probabilities that would help you to be successful more than not. For my money, the possibilities are infinite, and indivisible. You know, like Pi and the Pledge of Allegiance.
For my money, and hope, the two statements…
1. We are heading to Nothing
2. We are heading to Everything
Are both true, or at least in the end, whichever way we’re headed, we’ll eventually arrive at the same place.
However, If what I’ve been talking about is true, there are probably an infinity of problems with this theory that I have yet to foresee ; ), that of course doesn’t mean I’m not right all at the same time! It might just prove that I’m right!
Do you have a headache yet?
I think it’s kind of fun …’Chasing Chaos’
9/14 ESCAPISM: ‘The Devil and the Angel’
Wales v England. Always a difficult one for me. Welsh blood English heart. I can’t remember the last time Wales beat England in the football. Rugby… now that’s a different matter – but for some reason Wales just can’t pull it together in the football. Ranked between Haiti and Grenada apparently… and that’s not good! So it’s always with faint embarrassment that I watch Wales play football. And although I support England at every sport it is always a tug of the heart-strings when they play Wales. Like two sides of my soul competing in battle, ripping each other apart and yet coming together as one when the whistle blows.
Those two sides… the devil on one shoulder and the angel on the other. The devil telling you to write simple, easy on the ear songs and the angel telling you to always write from the heart. Or is it the other way round? Anyway, they both have a point. The devil just wants you to succeed and earn a lot of money. He just wants you to write that hit song – that song that’ll earn you a million dollars. He just wants you to write simple songs that the general public can relate to . He wants you to write a “Yellow” or a “Wonderwall” and then have an Adele-like album success story. He knows you have to eat and he knows what you could do to fill that stomach. You don’t even have to sell your soul to him… you just have to stick with the melodies, stick with the McCartneyisms, write “The Bends”.
But the angel tells you that the hits aren’t important. The angel says that you have to follow your own path and write music that you can be proud of forever more. Music that is artistically satisfying and sod the money! The angel wants you to write “Kid A”.
For a songwriter this can be a tightrope. I should qualify that! There are some songwriters that will never experience this dilemma for there are many out there who couldn’t write a great song even if a friend travelled into the future, stole an almanac of classic songs then travelled back in time and placed said almanac under said songwriter’s pillow.
But for a lot of songwriters the devil and the angel are an issue. In fact, the score right now is England 1 – 0 Wales. England play in white, Wales play in red. Hmmmm… relevant? I’m serious. The devil and the angel do indeed often come out to play. The songwriter wants to be considered an artist you see. An artist – fancy that! The musician wants to be considered clever. Ha ha! He wants to write ‘clever’ music. He wants to dumbfound and even alienate his audience. For alienation can be satisfying. Alienation can even be rewarding. The devil struggles with this… but if you get it right you can alienate your audience and mesmerise them. You can seduce them with an agile twist and turn. The devil appreciates “Ok Computer” but is unsure of exactly how it happened. The devil would rather you didn’t entertain such thoughts. Forget it and listen to “Angel” by Robbie Williams a few more times. Then the devil decides that suggesting you listen to “Angel” is a bit contrary and he suggests “Highway to Hell” instead!
The switched on songwriter knows you have to strike a balance. Whether that be across the range of songs on an album – i.e. have a couple of singalong singles and a few deeper songs… or internally within the song itself. For a song can be clever and catchy – the perfect balance perhaps. And sometimes songs that sound simple and catchy are actually clever and catchy but disguised as simple and catchy. McCartney was perhaps the king of the simple and catchy (but really clever and catchy) song. There are many exponents out there including one of my favourites, Pete Shelley of the Buzzcocks. Many of those songs that you think are just throwaway pop songs actually have an intricate, delicate structure hiding beneath the surface. Or you were right in the first place and they are just throwaway pop songs! Do you know which are which? Do I? Do you care? Do I?
I think that a lot of songwriters want acceptance from their peers. They need other musicians to acknowledge their talent and fulfil their want of worthiness. And this exploration for the lost chord, the sound that will cause all others to down tools and proclaim “God-like Genius”tm status, can so often be their downfall. I can think of a whole host of musicians that have at one time or another fallen into this category. It’s not important to name them… but sometimes just because you CAN play notes only a Golden Headed Langur can hear, doesn’t mean you have to!!! (Steve Vai, not naming any names… but I am pointing at you!).
So when you find a band that gets this balance right you tend to fall in love. Most of the bands I adore strike the balance. They live with the devil and the angel and survive the conflict. When one of these bands gets it right it moves you. When the Flaming Lips released “the Soft Bulletin”, I felt that power. That album was clever and simple. It was the album Goldilocks would have chosen had the house had three record players rather than three bowls of porridge. A close to perfect album. I could have picked a whole host of albums to represent examples of ‘devil and angel’ albums. I could have picked “Revolver”, “His ‘n’ Hers”, “Grace”, “Pet Sounds”, “Silent Alarm” or “Is This It?”. Albums that reach the parts other collections of songs cannot reach. And often the very same bands will start to prefer the advice coming from one shoulder over another. They veer too far away from the line of balance – with various degrees of success. They can be lucky and still produce an album which is loved… or they can be unlucky and create an album that becomes a source of amusement and derision. I think the Flaming Lips, Lennons and Radioheads of this world have all veered from the path and enjoyed the positives and the negatives of the experience.
During the writing of “Escapism” I have walked that fine line between pretentious and commercial. Every artist wants to have a commercial success… don’t let any of them tell you otherwise. However, if you can achieve that success whilst never abandoning what you believe in then all power to you. I think Bill and I have pulled off a sweet yet clever album with “Escapism” and I’m sure the song ‘A Thousand Steps’ was a contributing factor. We chose to document every second of the songs creation – from the moment I first picked up the acoustic guitar, until the moment I finalised the mix. As we worked on ‘A Thousand Steps’ I was fearful that we might be creating a song that satisfied us as writers but left the public cold. But I’m pretty sure we took the advice of the devil and the angel and in many ways Bill and I actually become the devil and the angel during the songwriting process. One of us will make a decision and the other will flag up its potential pitfalls. A battle always rages. A friendly battle… but a rewarding battle. The outcome for us has been songs such as ‘A Thousand Steps’, ‘The Calm and the Storm’ and ‘Where We Go Next’. Songs that don’t shy from being intellectual, and yet have that commercial appeal that the public crave… we hope. However, please note that I will never confuse having an element of “commercial appeal” with being a producer of “coffee table album”s. Don’t fret… I could (and probably will) wax lyrical about coffee table albums in a future post. 😉 For now my friends, I leave you with track 9 of “Escapism”… A Thousand Steps. Oh.. and Wales lost.
8/14 ESCAPISM: ‘How Do You Feel?’
With the release of this album I’ve been trying to force myself to write some sort of short, concise band bio for reviews and such. As much as I talk, and write, these three paragraphs have been extremely tough.
We have to compartmentalize don’t we? There is just so much out there! We need to be able to easily fold things so they can fit inside of our glove compartments. How do you compartmentalize yourself? How do you fold it all into a neat square with smooth edges?
I didn’t want our songs to all be one feeling or tempo. I didn’t want it to be a ‘heavy’ album, or a ‘sad’ album, or an ‘experimental’ album, or…fill in the blanks. I wanted to be able to capture a time period with all of the strangeness and contradiction that entails.
Are you always sad? mystical? angry? love-sick? goofy? irritated? Me neither. I tend to float around all of these emotions and ‘feelings’ as the days go by. Right now I’m in a deep mood as I listen to ambient soundtrack music, but tell me a good fart joke and I’ll laugh and be out of it!
We’re all like this, albeit as individuals with different extremes, and different ‘nominal settings’. Then why is so much of our music one note? Why should I be always ‘THIS’ way, when that’s not who I am? I like a lot of different bands and artists who have different styles and traits, but I honestly can’t think of one where I go, ‘Yeah, that one there!’ Their is no musical genre or club I want to join. For me music is a means more than an end. I write when I feel something, and I try not to limit what ‘feelings’ I can cover.
That probably puts me in a club I don’t know about yet.haha
Somebody check Pitchfork!
I understand the necessity of it all. We’re bombarded with all of this stuff and the only way to organize it all is to be able to say ‘this covers THIS emotion’. Imagine Slayer making a ballad? Imagine Sade throwing down! Ridiculous you say? You don’t think Sade gets pissed? Ok, maybe the guys from Slayer, yeah maybe that’s for a reason. : )
I tend to just go for what a song makes me feel. To a degree, I don’t care what style. I don’t care if it’s a guitar or a synth or a violin. It depends on the day, and it depends what I’m focused on in the moment.
No, I’m not trying to make myself out to be some sort of revolutionary changing the face of music.
I mean, didn’t we make this album to be cohesive?
All of our songs certainly sound like us.
However, take three songs of ours, ‘Pitfall’, now listen to ‘Where We Go Next’, now listen to ‘Feel’. If any one of these was your first experience with our band you’d get a pretty different impression of who we are and what we do. Chasing Chaos? Now ‘Where the Start Begins!’
Truth is, we’re all these things. File us under those that are not easily compartmentalized, I guess. Who knows though, maybe I’m just in one of my ‘think about things too much’ moods and I’ll change my mind soon.
We’ll see how I ‘Feel’ about it tomorrow…
hmm wait, I still have to write that damn bio!
(irritably looks for Slayer’s ‘Reign in Blood’)
7/14 ESCAPISM: ‘Toupee Or Not Toupee?’
‘Mean Machines‘ was a surprise. An experiment gone wrong and yet so well. When Bill and I decided to make our collaboration a ‘band proper’, ‘Mean Machines‘ became the second song we recorded. We had to follow the majesty of ‘Where We Go Next’. Not easy to top a song that had so much slavish effort put into it. So I sat in my studio, exactly as I am now, and stared at the blank screen. I do a lot of staring at blank screens. Don’t get me wrong, I do fill my days with other things too! It’s just that staring at a blank screen is an activity which the modern musician cannot avoid. In the old days I suppose the equivalent would have been staring at blank studio walls – or watching paint dry in a rehearsal room. But now we have computer monitors to take some of the burden – to take the weight off our shoulders. Staring at a computer screen can feel more fulfilling. Ha ha!
I remember the day. Some guys were in the house changing my old boiler. I’m not referring to the girlfriend… I genuinely mean my old boiler (joke Dani xxx). And I was in my studio staring at the blank screen. Then I layed down the first beat. And then the first bass roar. In a couple of hours I pretty much had the song complete… in its most basic form. One of the men changing the boiler expressed a bit of interest and would chip in with words of advice! Ha ha! But like I say… I had the bare bones of the song completed very quickly. I’m actually quite proud of the music of ‘Mean Machines‘. It is quite heavy and persistent. I also really like some of the orchestral flourishes.
I sent the music to Bill with the title “Mean Machine”. Yes, I did indeed name it after watching a Burt Reynolds film, but I always assumed the name would end up being changed. Changed like an old boiler. But Bill took the spirit of the music along with the temporary title and sold the concept to the world. He owned that title. And so with the addition of an ‘s’ that is how it stayed and will always stay. The song is a grower. In fact the song has become an entity bigger than Bill or I could ever have imagined. In hindsight ‘Mean Machines‘ was actually the perfect song for us to work on after ‘Where We Go Next’. It was a blast and proved that we had something in us to be able to pull off a song really quickly. The song confirmed that the match of my music and Bill’s lyrics was not a one-off fluke. And most of all it made us determined to produce a whole album of work. Along the way we would often look back at ‘Mean Machines’ as being a defining moment and yet not a defining song. Perhaps as people listen to the album they will decide for themselves the significance of the song. Now… come on everyone… grow moustaches and stick your toupees on… we’re gonna have a party!!!
6/14 ESCAPISM: ‘You Can Fit a Lot into a Sacred Cow’
Have you ever wanted to laugh at a really inappropriate time? Somebody is talking. The room is hushed. The mood is deadly seriously. An airplane flies by with a sign attached to it that says,
‘It Would Be Highly Offensive and Inappropriate to Laugh Right Now.’
This makes you want to laugh even more. You suppress it, which makes it even worse. A sound jumps out of your mouth like a death row inmate who found a hole in the prison fence, and you try to stop it with your hand as fast as you can. Everyone’s looking at you now with their best, ‘How dare you?!!!’ look.
A woman faints.
A crying baby goes silent.
Then, you …just…let…go…
… and it feels soooo good.
All of a sudden, everybody starts laughing with you. Those same people who were indignant a second ago are roaring like baboons, and the more you laugh, the more they laugh. The more they laugh, the more you laugh.
Ok, well the guy or woman who had everyone’s attention is usually furious at this point which is suddenly very, very funny.
It is my opinion that the world needs more people to crack the hell up at the most inappropriate times. We live in a world full of pink elephants that everyone ignores. We need to laugh at those elephants! We need to laugh at the absurdity of it all!
It’s the presidential debate…
Some soul-less, moron pundit is asking the most general question you can possibly imagine like, ‘how do we fix the economy?’ After he asks the question, he reminds the car salesman…err I mean politician…that he has 30 seconds to answer this question…
The audience erupts into sustained and uncontrollable laughter…
Finally the laughter dies down. The pundit’s face is red and he finally volleys to the brand spokesman…again, sorry…i mean politician
The politician says a catch phrase like, ‘We are the people’s people!’ or something. You know, they’re always saying general crap like that. Words that seem to connote something good and yet they really don’t mean anything at all. Come to think of it, a politician talking is a lot like a McDonalds hamburger. It kind of seems like what it represents, but you just know that the ingredients are manufactured and not natural.
Someone in the audience yells, ‘We are the people’s people!!!!’ and then everyone starts cracking up again…
Hell, I think they should put a laugh track on these things. It would change our entire perspective on the debate. It would also be a truer view of what transpired. Whenever spin doctors come on cable tv shows you just hit the laugh track button every time they say anything. We could even get Charlie Sheen and the girl from Friends(what are their names?) to host CNN to fit in with the already sitcom-like vibe.
Yep, I am ranting, and that is partly what ‘Ready, Set… Explode!’ is about for me. It’s about reaching a point where you’ve just had enough and you just want the water to boil over already.
I’m picking on politics because it’s an easy target, but it could be any number of things. I’m saying that I feel like when watching 95 percent of anything ‘serious’ on TV I think the only natural response we should have is to just laugh and laugh. Maybe if we did, maybe if we laughed right away we wouldn’t get to the point where we have to face the consequences for all the farces we see on a day-to-day basis.
You laugh and then you politely ask them to please sit back down. You suggest coming back when they want to be serious.
Having different views or ideologies is not what I’m talking about. Intelligent, honest, and well thought out ideas aren’t that humorous. When you lose your home, it’s not funny. When you can’t pay your medical bills, it’s not funny. The Patriot Act? Well the name is kind of funny in a contrarian way, but you get my point.
All I’m saying is that, at this point, we need to question everything, and no sacred cows allowed! Remember that story about the Trojan Horse? Well lets just say you can fit a lot of things inside sacred cows. I want to live in a world where we’re not afraid to point out something like one of our civil rights hanging out of a cows ass. ; ) …no matter how ‘sacred’ it is.
What I’m asking is the next time they trot an elephant or a cow on-stage, I’m begging you, please!!!!
get ‘Ready, Set… Laugh!!!’…. ; )