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.
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!
So… the 14 posts are over. Concluded. The end is with us. Finally… and definitely.
Hmmm… what now? Here’s a snippet of a conversation Bill and I had on Skype. We are considering the idea of producing podcasts: episodic content delivered to you by means of our vocal cords and your ears rather than the written word. We figure you might be getting sick of the written word? // Cries of “Nooooo, NO!!! We love reading your richly rewarding articles!!!”. Anyway… as I was saying, this is just a test.
Let’s see how it rolls!
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.
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.
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: email@example.com 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 firstname.lastname@example.org . 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
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.
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’)
‘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!!!
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!!!’…. ; )
Sometimes you have to take stock and regroup. Step back from everything you are and everything you do – from everything you have become. You are defined by what you do. Not always by your actions… but by what you do. When you meet someone for the first time they will ask “So… what do you do then?”. And you will answer with your job title. And that then defines you in their eyes. At least for that moment in time. This becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. A cycle. Sometimes the assumptions are right, sometimes the assumptions are wrong. But they are our means of putting people into boxes. Putting people into jars.
Music is defined in the same way. When I listen to a new band I immediately associate them with similar artists and categorise them accordingly. When I heard Gene I thought Smiths. When I heard Editors I thought Joy Division. So it’s always a pleasure to hear a band that sounds fresh – where the links to the past aren’t immediately noticeable. The roots are always there… but they may be buried deeper than others. Fresh music… Black Sabbath, Blur, Oasis, Portishead, Flaming Lips, Jeff Buckley, The Chemical Brothers … the list is actually pretty long and you can substitute your own choices. Of course… this music all becomes jaded in the end. It’s actually difficult to remember how fresh Oasis once sounded for example. And the welding of dance and rock has become commonplace. We have probably reached an era in which it is more tricky than ever to sound genuinely innovative. Yet there are still breakthrough acts which prick the ears – through being the future, or being engagingly retro.
I’ve now lived through a few ‘eras’ of music. Metal, Grunge, Brit-pop, New Wave of New Wave, Emo, Nu-Rock, etc etc. An important factor for me has been to keep my musical ambitions pure. Okay, we can all be swayed by current fads… but I believe I’ve always stayed focussed on what I want to achieve. Individuality. And I’m not equating individuality with originality. Individuality can involve originality… but they are completely independent concepts. I’m talking about individuality of spirit. Knowing what you want to say and saying it. Not veering. Even when swaying… swinging back to what is important to you. For we all have something to say. Some don’t have anything particularly interesting or profound to say – and luckily they therefore don’t venture too far into the artistic world (although when they do they produce some god awful bubblegum blockbuster, or a nice coffee table album!). But those who do have something meaningful to say are a far more exciting prospect. And those who have something to say and the means to say it are the reason music lovers love music. That’s why we worship our Radioheads, Morrisseys, Buzzcocks, Beatles, Stones, Gorillaz, Cures... Again, the list is a long one. Individuality of spirit. The most difficult of concepts to follow through with for it is all too easy to jump on a bandwagon. To become a Northern Uproar or a Menswear.
To have complete individuality of spirit is however a double-edged sword. For every person who ‘gets’ you, there will be a handful who don’t. And that handful of people are often the most vocal. It is for that reason that some of my favourite bands, films and albums are often neglected by the masses. A lot of people prefer the glossy-Hollywood-remake-cream-cake to the authentic-slice-of-the-original pie. And in some ways this is for the best. It is great that some of the best music is not mainstream.
Life Will Be the Death of Me is probably my favourite song on ‘Escapism‘. Musically, it embodies my notions of individuality of spirit. I am on a journey and this song feels like a constant. A fixed point in time and space. A point on which all future work will be compared. Will I ever again produce a piece of music that so perfectly defines who I am now? Where I am now? No. But the journey is like a graph. A graph of plotted points. Fixed points. And I’m now living life until I can see that next waypoint.
“Hello… Um.. so, er… what do you do?”
“Well… I observe an individuality of spirit”
“Hmmm… sounds a bit pretentious to me!”
“Well… actually you might just be onto something there; But I’ll stand by it. And life will be the death of me.”
I sit here with a bowl of mint choc chip ice cream and stare at an empty screen. A screen I know I’m supposed to be filling with insight. With wonder. With mesmeric prose. And the ice cream is melting. But it is good ice cream… because it hasn’t crystallised – you know, when you let it melt and then you stick it back in the freezer. It comes out with ice saturated through it. Ice cream with ice. NO!!!! I want my ice cream with no ice! And that’s what I have. So I am relatively happy.
To write about a song called “The Calm and the Storm” should be so fitting at the moment. Bill is experiencing some of the sentiment of the song literally. And while he ponders why the storm always has a girl’s name… I sit here eating mint choc chip ice cream. Rum and raisin is probably my favourite flavour. But I can certainly learn to live with mint choc chip. Anyway, this relationship is not going to last. The bowl is emptying steadily. Well… sporadically… in between fits and starts of typing.
I sit here in my studio and recall the writing of “The Calm and the Storm”. The album was progressing beautifully – plenty of hit singles in the making. Things were in danger of becoming too easy. I felt compelled to throw a spanner in the works. I embarked on a song that couldn’t possibly, conceivably, ever be a single. When I toyed with the Les Paul I was trying to choke out notes that would cause the listener to furrow a brow rather than tap a foot. I was messing with time signatures and messing with the concept of what an Eleventh Hour Initiative song should be. And when I finally sat back in my chair and surveyed all that was before me I realised that I had accidentally recorded perhaps our defining moment. It was with a sense of trepidation that I sent Bill the music for “The Calm and the Storm”. I so wanted him to like it… but for so many reasons. I needed him to like it… because the song had become an important statement of intent. The song had become a symbol of how strong my music could be. How strong music could be. full stop – /period . . . Like an obelisk surrounded by apes. I had thrown the bone to Bill and I hoped the jump cut would work. And it did.
Bill understood where I had taken our music and reciprocated with some tremendous lyrics. Not only that, but he also added more to the music and made the epic more epic. We could seriously state that our music was cinematic. The song projects images into my head. Static, moving, flickering, full colour, black and white. The song is a true journey. The song is a pivotal moment for the album that has become “Escapism”. If we were brave before, we came out the other side victorious warriors.
I feel we need Bill’s input on this one. For he talks so eloquently when the subject of this particular song arises. And I think this song justifies a second talking head.
Oh.. and the ice cream has been eaten. Everything is good.
‘Non Submersible Units’
So we’re sitting here now, I have no idea what time it is where you are, but let’s pretend it’s 3 in the morning. We need to talk clearly with this post, and as I’ve said, there is no better time.
I want you to think about some of your favorite daydreams. Are you there yet? Now imagine yourself. Who do you see yourself as? I don’t mean where you’re at right now, I mean where you’re going. Who is that person? How do you see the world? Again, not as it is, but as you think it should be. What about all those mysteries out there? What are some of your theories about them? What do you believe?
Don’t worry, we have infinity to do this, remember?
It is my belief, feel free to agree or disagree, that in order to be truly fulfilled you need to take all of these things out into ‘the harsh light of the noon sun’.
As I said in my last post, some things will be utterly destroyed, and yet that same destructive power will give other things life.
‘Why do I need to throw all of them out there?’, you ask.
Well, ok, not all of them. Just the ones that are important to you. ; )
It gets a bit more complicated though. You see, if you’re throwing everything you deem worthy out into the sun, well some of these things are going to be part of the core of who you are. Some of these things are going to be what Stanley Kubrick would refer to as ‘non submersible units’. These are your anchors. Destroy these things, and your whole internal world comes crumbling down.
Why risk it, then? Why throw something so important into the unforgiving sun?!!!
Because as awful and hard as it is, it’s a bit easier when you choose to do it. If you don’t, at some point, life will do it for you.
Trust me, life always hits harder…
Sometimes, whether you did it willingly, whether you saw it coming, or whether you were blind-sided, one of your non submersible units gets obliterated by the sun.
Some people refer to this as the death of the self. If you’re Christian you may have heard it referred to as ‘being put on the cross’. Carl Jung or Joseph Campbell would call it the death/rebirth archetype. Poets? They call it ‘the dark night of the soul’. If you asked the guy next door, he’d probably just call it deep, dark depression.
If you’re wondering if you’ve ever experienced this, then you haven’t experienced it yet.
Your entire inner world is utterly destroyed. Nothing remains. I mean nothing.
There is no quick recovery from this if it happens to you. Usually, at first, you need to mourn what you’ve lost. You want to hold onto that dream so bad!!! You fight, you struggle, and then, finally, …it dies.
What needs to happen at this point is you essentially need to be rebuilt from the ground up. Unfortunately, Rome is never built in a day, …or so I’ve been told.
It’s been my experience that you don’t have any blessed clue how to do this, how to remake yourself. You don’t want to. You don’t want to do anything! Then some time passes and all that fury of emotion settles into sadness, then cynicism, and finally apathy. You usually get one direction then. Call it intuition, call it what you want, but it’s like a quiet and calm voice, not audible, but you just know.
It says, ‘go here’
You say, ‘go here?!!!’ ‘why?!!’ ‘What’s going to happen?.’ ‘is this going to help me?!!!’ ‘i want some answers!’
It says, ‘Ok.’
So after you fight it, doubt yourself some more, and then fight it some more…. you get tired, and finally
you go ‘here’.
‘Here’ is not necessarily a physical place. It’s more about starting again. Everyone has a different ‘here’.
Once you get ‘here’, that same feeling leads you to go to another ‘here’
You ask all the same questions, and the process repeats itself, until you stop asking so much and you just go. I mean, at this point, what better thing do you have to do?
It takes a long time, but at some point, things start to feel ‘new’ again. There’s no other way I can describe it. Then you find that after another great long time you look back and you realize that you are a really different person than you were. You’re a better person. You come to terms with why that particular dream had to die. Something new and very real tends to take its place. The experience itself just changes you.
There is no moment I can put my finger on and say, ‘that’s when it happened!, Resurrection!!!’. I guess it just happens at some non-descript time when days are blurring into days. Maybe part of it is that you’re no longer thinking about it, so you don’t notice exactly when it happens.
I’m sure some of you have no blessed clue what the hell I’m going on about. This is for those of you who do. Even if you don’t, their may come a time in your life where you’ll get what I mean. When that happens…trust me,
When I was younger I used to believe that everyone, deep down, saw the world exactly the way I did. I mean how could you not? Just look around!
I was also a talker. If I was a car salesman in the 1950s people might just refer to me as having ‘the gift of gab’. It was my theory that all I had to do was talk to a person enough and I could get down to the heart of the matter. I just had to peel away all those social layers and then deep down, we’d be the same.
I mostly made this mistake on girls. A pretty girl would walk into the room and I’d already be projecting all kinds of wondrous and mysterious things onto her personality. Sure, she may seem shallow, but deep down I could get to the real her! I would just hit that rock with words, like Henry Plainview in ‘There Will Be Blood’ and eventually I’d strike it rich!
Imagine my surprise to find out this wasn’t the case.
You set up the diving board, jump off full of excitement. you do your best trick, and you find the water is only 2 feet deep. You end up with a concussion, and a lot to talk about.
How dare she not see the world exactly as I do!
How dare she not love everything I love!
Depending on how stubborn you are, you may have had to jump off of many diving boards till you figured things out. You grow, you adapt, you learn to appreciate the different perspectives different people have on the world.
How often does something like this happen in a person’s life? How often do thoughts you have that seem so natural turn out to be utter, embarrassing nonsense in the light of reality?
In my recent post on ‘Try and Get Some Sleep’ I talked about the magic that is 3 o’clock in the morning. How many ideas do you have at 3 in the morning that just seem foolish once the next day rolls around?
A character comes to mind from David Lynch’s ‘Blue Velvet’. Her name was Dorothy and she was played by Isabella Rosellini. Throughout much of the film she is a classic femme fatale. Dorothy is beautiful, mysterious, dangerous, sensual, magical, etc. etc. A funny thing happens though, at one point in the film Dorothy ends up naked and beaten on the main character Jeffrey’s doorstep, in front of Jeffrey’s parents and girlfriend! In an instant, everything that was once sensual and mysterious about Dorothy suddenly becomes awkward and embarrassing in the light of day. It’s as if real life had stripped her, pardon the pun, of some sort of magical power and now we were viewing her as she really was.
How many ideas are like this? They are mysterious and powerful in the night of your mind and then they become instantaneously ridiculous in the light of day. Perhaps it is for this reason that many of us deem it wise to keep our inner most thoughts and dreams to ourselves.
However, reality isn’t just a harsh, unforgiving force. A funny thing happens sometimes. Sometimes an idea, a thought, or a creative work can spring out of your mind into reality. The sun eyes it up and gives it all it’s got. Then, instead of melting like the witch in The Wizard of Oz, the idea becomes purified. The sun gets rid of the dross maybe, but what’s underneath passes the test. It is deemed worthy and suddenly it exists as a real thing, clever thing that the sun is ; )
So maybe you’re sitting there tonight and you have this idea. Maybe it’s just a thought of who you’d like to be. Maybe it’s something new you’d like to try. Maybe it’s a song that you want to write, or a movie you’d like to make, or a business you’d like to start, and on and on. There is always the fear that the sun, being very strict, may mock this thing you want to bring into being. It may destroy it utterly. You may be embarrassed!!!(the crowd shrieks!) However, just maybe,
… it may be found worthy.
It may become something very, very real in your life.
Is it worth the risk?
That depends on how you feel about your life? Are you happy? Are you right where you need to be? Is there anything you truly wish to do, but are afraid to?
I say life is short, and I’ve been embarrassed enough to realize that the world doesn’t end when falling off of a limb. In fact, not too long from now, I have an ‘Escape Plan‘ that has a scheduled audition with the sun. Don’t worry about me, even if I fail, I’ll still have Isabella Rosellini
Well, you get my point!
When I think about Try and Get Some Sleep I think about the early morning hours. For as long as I can remember I’ve loved to stay up late. Since you’ve been nice enough to read this post I figure we can talk openly here.
I don’t stay up because I can’t sleep.
I don’t toss and turn in my bed.
Just between us, I stay up so late all of the time because I’ve discovered a secret. To put it simply, sometime in the morning, a little after 3 until just before 3:30am, …time ceases to exist.
Really, it’s true.
Time is like a stopwatch that is wound sometime after 3:30 in the morning. After it is wound it continues to gather speed and power until it reaches its pinnacle at 3:00pm. That is when people are at their fastest. That is when the world is at it’s loudest. That is when you walk outside and the sun is so bright it imposes itself on you, forcefully. The brightness, speed, and power of 3 in the afternoon can leave many good people bowing their heads in submission, dumbfounded, and squinting. Thoughts zip around your head like so many bees in a crowded hive, all determined to go somewhere, but not entirely sure of why, and why is it so important again? You can’t answer these types of questions at 3 o’clock in the afternoon because you have somewhere you need to be…and fast!!! People spout out a lot of nonsense around this time because the words come and go so quickly that they are forgotten before they’re even spoken out loud. 3 in the afternoon is the best time to quickly shout out all of your nonsensical, boring, meaningless, and surface value ideas…and……phewwwwwwwmmmmmm….see, they’re already gone! This is why TV is at it’s most vile at this time. Shows this bad need to be over fast, and as I said, there is no faster time than 3 o’clock in the afternoon.
Then, sometime after 3:30pm time starts to wind down again. You may not notice this at first, but at around 4pm you may have found that you can catch a stray thought here, a stray thought there. The rest of your mind is still supercharged, but it is weakening slowly. By 5pm you may find that you’re eating dinner and you have actually been able to catch enough of your thoughts to ruminate on what the hell just happened to you. However, it is still not quite there and that is why when people you love ask you how your day was at 5pm, you say short, succinct things like, ‘fine’. You see, your thoughts at 5pm are like a fish you have caught, but it’s still flopping around the boat too much to actually get a hold of enough to express out loud. You may find that the sun is really screwing with you now, aiming straight for the eyes, but it’s only because it knows that 3pm is over so it’s giving you all it’s got before the end. Don’t worry, it’s all bravado.
Another mistake people make is thinking that time stops at midnight. Surely the clock is winding down, but midnight just sounds better in a poetical sense. People like a good beginning and end, and you know, with the twelve being there at the top of the clock it tends to suit most peoples love for symmetry I guess. Plus, lets face it, most people are either in bed, drunk, or high by the time 3am rolls around so twelve is as close as they get to infinity while still clear headed.
However, if you happen to be sitting at, let’s say a computer, or thinking, or working on some creative work at 3 in the morning you’ll know what I’m talking about. Time slows, slows, slooowwwssss, and then……you find yourself outside yourself. It’s uncanny. You make all kinds of rational and wise decisions on things you need to change in your life. The world seems to become somehow malleable so that you just reach out and shape it into ‘something’ that only makes sense to you between 3am and 3:30 in the morning. You live your entire life in your head, then you create another world to live another life in, and then you smile and reminisce about those lives that you’ve made and you grin again, slowly taking long, satisfied sips of coffee. Finally, you realize that you are needed back inside of time because that is the natural order of things so you sigh, rub your eyes, and look at the clock, which will always be waiting for you at 3:30am. You then nod, and allow the minute to pass…
The next morning you may arrive at work and someone will ask you how you’re doing. You’ll want to tell them about the worlds you made and the experiences you had and how you found a way to cheat time and death. However it will be impossible because scientifically it is impossible to truly express infinity within finite time, especially at say, 9 o’clock in the morning. So you give up and you say, ‘fine’ and leave it at that.
They may then tell you that you look tired and that you should ‘Try and Get Some Sleep‘…
It’s been a while! Let’s start with some really good news! The album is finished! We’re sending it out and as soon as we hear back we can tell you when the release date will be! We plan on starting with i-tunes and amazon and then going from there with physical copies and one day, maybe …vinyl? (I hope!)
We started writing songs as a band back in June of 2010 with ‘Where We Go Next’ and we ended in June of 2011 with ‘From Shipwreck to Shore’. The final album will contain all 14 songs we’ve written as a group. That means no one has to worry about their favorite song not being on the album! Here’s the tracklisting:
1. Try and Get Some Sleep
3. Escape Plan
4. The Calm and the Storm
5. Life Will Be the Death of Me
6. Ready, Set…Explode!!!
7. Mean Machines
9. A Thousand Steps
10. Chasing Chaos
11. Where We Go Next
12. All These Secret Things
13. From Shipwreck to Shore
14. When the Start Begins*
*’When the Start Begins’ was formerly known as ‘Twelve’
We actually tried to take out songs, but we couldn’t. We like all of these songs too much to choose!
So Emrys has re-mastered all of these songs since you heard them last on soundcloud. Do you want to hear what they sound like now?
I decided to go ahead and make a youtube page for us today. On the link I just gave you, click ‘playlists’ on the top right and there you’ll find all of the songs on Escapism with some artwork, all listed in the order they’ll appear on the album. The sound quality will certainly be better when you buy the album, but trust me, even on youtube, you can hear the difference!
Right now I’m working with the very talented Nick Ummarino to make a music video for ‘Escape Plan’, which will be our first single. We’re also experimenting with how Emrys and I can play live, stripped down versions of our songs similar to some of the videos Emrys has on the password protected section of our site. It’s difficult when Emrys and I have literally never been in the same room together, but we’ll make it work!
This is just a taste of some of the things we have in store for you. Thank you for being patient with us! We’re trying very hard to make it all worth the wait!
In the meantime, while you’re waiting, why not listen to the final version of Escape Plan or maybe The Calm and the Storm? ; )
I am in the process of mastering our album. Mastering is basically the process of getting an album fit for public consumption – making sure the music sounds like an “album” rather than a “collection of songs”. I have currently got a pretty nearly finished version of the album in my car. I’ve already tested the album on the studio speakers and on top quality headphones. I’ve tested it through tv speakers. The car is the true testing ground for me. The place where I listen to most of my music. If it sounds good on my car stereo it’ll sound good anywhere! Anyway.. that’s where I’m at. Escapism is edging closer to completion.
If you want to read about mastering in more detail check out: http://confessionofthewholeschool.com/2011/06/20/mastering/
Otherwise… just wait for us to announce a release date!
It’s late again. And very hot. It has been like a tropical heat here. Like stepping off the plane in Cyprus or something. That sheer wall of heat! It’s late. I’m sitting here in my studio. Sweating. And so I begin to type… we could be here for some time! Ha ha!
I think I’ve been ‘producing’ music now for about 20 years. I mean ‘producing’ in the loosest sense. I, like many other musicians, started out with tape. First ‘tape to tape’ recordings on a double cassette player. There are some of you out there who will have absolutely no idea what I’m talking about. And I’m not about to explain myself. Let’s just say it was an extremely rudimentary form of getting more than one ‘layer’ of sound recorded in some form.
Then came the ‘4 -track’ recorder. I had a battered old Tascam. In fact I’m pretty sure I still have it somewhere. This was a machine that let you record 4 tracks (no shit Sherlock!) on a normal cassette tape. It did it if I remember rightly, by using both sides of the tape at the same time. This meant that if you played the cassette in a ‘normal’ player, 2 of the tracks would play backwards. This in itself, if manipulated correctly, could give magical results for certain songs. I trace my constant experimentalism back to those archaic days! And the technique, used by mistake, never did Led Zeppelin any harm!
In those “good ol’ days” the art of bedroom production was a tight-rope. You see you could never REALLY produce anything more than a demo of a song. It was always full of hiss, and the 4-track system meant that recording something like a full drum kit varied from “problematic” to “impossible”. Yet those ‘demo’ efforts held their own in some ways. You had your demo, and that demo then had to be ‘lived up to’. The next step for every musician at the time was the journey into “the studio”. And more often than not, after you’d spent all your hard earned pennies, you’d listen to the final product and say “Hmmm… Not as good as the demo is it?!?”. Ha ha!
Anyway… The Studio. That ever so magical place. The theatre of dreams! Or bloody nightmares! Ha ha! I remember recording one of my first studio sessions. We were recording a song that was supposed to be pretty heavy. Heavy and foreboding. It had been a live favourite. So we ventured into the studio to record this killer rock song. But… I decided on the day, (or was persuaded… I honestly can’t remember now!) that I had to sing this song with a real ‘gruff rock vocal’. Now… anyone who has heard me sing know’s that I’m not exactly a Death Metal singer! Ha ha! I’m more your Damon Albarn than your Max Cavalera.. but anyway, sing it gruff I did! With devastating results! I remember the band playing the finished recording to a fan at the time. His face dropped. He just looked so disappointed… “What have you done to it?” he asked. “You’ve just ruined your best song!!!”. Ha ha! We were gutted! And it was all my fault! (well… and the drums were shit, the guitar solo was shocking and everything else generally stank the place up!). But my point is… back then you had to be completely honed. Every member of the band HAD to know his shit inside out to save the day. For these were the times of recordings costing you “by the hour”. A concept lost today. For today is an era in which I can tinker to my heart’s content. Back then a recording studio could kick you in the teeth if you weren’t ready for it.
So, I learned from those initial mistakes. For a start I left the band! 😉 Found a better drummer. Learnt everything totally prior to recording. And I was a perfectionist. I spent hours on every single part. And remember, by this time I was playing all the instruments bar the drums. I would write everything down religiously. I would attend the studio completely prepared. Now, I’m not saying that I got things done in one take. I have never been a one take kinda guy! Understatement!!! But I was certainly prepared. And the final recordings, I think, still show that preparation. The album I’m talking about ended up being the only ‘album’ by my band/solo project Alexi in Winter. It was recorded at a time when I was very into acoustic music. And indie rock. And rock. I was diving deeper into orchestral accompaniment and epic, cinematic sounds. I was taking my first steps towards making music an ‘experience’. And I learned the production techniques every step of the way. The Alexi in Winter album was the last time anyone else produced my music. Since then it has been me all the way. I stand and I fall by what I do. I can blame no-one else. Success or failure is all down to me. The burden rests on my shoulders! Ha ha!
I’m probably wildly digressing here… but that was the caveat of my opening sentence pretty much. It’s late and it’s hot!
So I have a solid ten years of ‘professional-standard’ solo production under my belt now. I have produced a whole solo album. I have tried to remain on the cutting edge of music production. The idea of staying on the cutting edge is a minefield in itself. As I see it there are two ways to go. You can listen to every new cutting edge band and try to stay one step ahead… or you can listen to nothing and steer your own course. It’s probably not going to surprise you to learn that I steer my own course. During the Brit-pop era I was the guy who had every new single by every new band. I was the guy walking around wearing the “I listen to bands that don’t even exist yet” t-shirt. I WAS THAT GUY! So I can say the following knowing that I have been there and done it: I try to avoid current trends. I avoid bandwagons. I want to do my own thing. I want to try my own sounds, my own ideas. I don’t want to be influenced by the sound of the drums on the new ‘Siberian Apes’ record. Do you understand what I mean? It’s not that I think I’m too cool for school! It’s that I feel jaded by the passing bandwagons. Their cart wheels roll over my toes and break my spirit.
Anyway… ha ha! So, hmmm. Where was I? I built my own recording studio. This was an important step and has been the most creatively liberating thing I have probably ever done! I then got together with Bill last year and we decided to record an album. We worked first on a song called Where We Go Next. Now… I’m not here to talk about the content of the songs too much at the moment. I’m more interested in describing the sound I was trying to achieve. For you see, very early on I had to settle on a ‘sound’. I was producing music for the very first time that I had not provided the lead vocal for. I have pretty much sorted out what MY vocal sound is. I’ve had years to work on it. But all of a sudden I had to work out what to do with Bill’s singing. He has a style all of his own. Nothing like my vocal nuances. He has his own recording techniques and his particular way of singing. It could have been a problem. But I hit upon an idea. I would use my “basking in music’s past” and avoiding “music’s present” to produce a sound reminiscent of the ’60s, but still firmly rooted in today. For me, this concept is perfection. I hold aloft Pet Sounds, Beggars Banquet and Sgt Pepper as the pinnacle of great albums. My my, how cool would it be if I could bring that spirit into 2011? I remember writing to Bill and telling him that I’d decided I was going to give his vocals a kind of ‘Head‘-era Monkees treatment. Now, that could have frightened the poor sod off!!! But luckily he let me roll with it. So I went down the avenue of a dreamy, trebley, floaty vocal for the entire album. It is the constant. The music may veer wildly from pop rock to epic prog rock… but that vocal sound keys it all together. A strong glue!
Cool… I had the foundation of the ‘sound’ of the Eleventh Hour Initiative. This enabled me to write a collection of songs that I maintain are the most coherent and focussed of my career. I’m not going to talk about specific production techniques… coz they is a sekrit!!! (because they are a secret). But I thought it would be interesting to mention how the majority of the album was formed. I wrote most of the songs on the bass guitar. Now… to any non-musicians out there this may mean jack shit to you. But any musos will be nodding their heads that this is indeed a little out of the ordinary. I don’t have any particular explanation. It’s just the way I did it. And it’s another factor that I feel completely influences the musicality of the album. For this is a bass and drum album. Everything else is secondary. This album is all about the sound of the drums… and the interplay with the bass. This album is something a little different. You don’t even have to like it (although I have my fingers crossed that you will!), – but I believe you will get a lot out of simply listening to it. Bass, drums and Bill’s exciting vocals towering above the skyline.
Bill has spoken about the lyrical themes of Escapism. Well… in many ways the music echoes the themes. Songs such as the Calm and the Storm and Life Will Be the Death of Me embody escapism within their musical structure. Escapism has been an album where I have finally realised I don’t have to follow any rules. Rules can be good. Rules can be bad. But Escapism, at its best, unshackles itself from the straight-jacket of convention. Escapism is the continuation of the music I began with Alexi in Winter all those years ago. But I have raised the bar. A lot! I am waffling now. It is a hundred degrees in here!!! And late. Bedtime I think. Apologies for the rant. I’m not even finished. But for now… I bid you farewell! Emrys.
(cont. from part 1)
In all seriousness, as much as I make fun of Edward Bernays, he obviously knew what he was doing. His dream was to create a mentality in society where desires trump needs, or to put it another way, a society of escapism. He never let the facts get in the way of a good story, and if he couldn’t convince you that cold was hot, he’d convince you that the temperature wasn’t really that important anyway.
You don’t have to look very hard to see his fingerprints on the world we live in today. I’d give you examples, but you’re reading a blog that’s essentially a commercial for our album, so I think you get the idea. ; )
Whenever I’ve read about Bernays and public relations I’m always surprised by how much even the people who hate this man share his view points. Bernays believed that society as a whole was stupid, dangerous, and needed to be controlled. It’s surprising to read people who are against this way of thinking, yet still regard society in general as ‘dumb sheep’. I don’t agree with that viewpoint. I don’t think everybody’s an idiot. I find it hard to believe that people watch commercials and think ‘yes, I believe that’s true’ (or politicians, or tv shows, movies, etc..) I think what really happens is that we’re so surrounded by subterfuge that it can be extremely difficult to tell the difference between the truth and fantasy sometimes. As somebody that’s looking for fulfillment, it can feel like you’re surrounded by nothing but mirages sometimes. We live in a world where we seem to be much more interested in the men and women who play important historical figures on tv and movies, than the actual people they’re playing, let alone the ideas that those people represented.
So where does that leave us? …and what does all of this have to do with an indie rock record?
Around the time Emrys and I started writing this record I was feeling pretty defeated in general. In my own limited view, I saw the world as this huge machine, and when you don’t know where exactly you fit into that machine, it can be easy to feel like you’re getting grinded up by all the cogs. Somehow, I began to find solace writing the songs that would make up ‘Escapism’.
In the same way that someone like Edward Bernays could use metaphors to shape public perception, even if it was irrational, I found that I could use metaphors to shape the way I saw my own life.
Some people have therapists, I write songs.
The difference between me and someone like Bernays, is instead of trying to change my perception to make money or power, I tried using it to help myself find whatever it is I’ve been looking for all this time.
‘who knows where to go or what it is?’ (Escape Plan)
I don’t want to go through each song with you and pull it apart because that takes some of the fun out of it, but I’ll use ‘Escape Plan’ as an example of what I’m talking about.
I was working my second job, midnight shift. It was 2am, and let’s just say I didn’t want to be there. It was a job that I was over qualified for, but I needed to swallow my pride and work because I needed the money. The people there were nice, but I hated it. I felt ashamed, defeated, and depressed. I felt like I was 16 again, it was 2 in the morning and I was mopping the floor at a convenience store.
‘Waiting in this line I’ll try my best to help’
Whenever you have to work or be somewhere that you don’t want to be you tell yourself that you really don’t belong there. You think, ‘it’s only a matter of time’. Sometimes though, reality hits you with a right hook and you wonder if maybe that’s exactly where you belong.
Hopelessness – cue violins ; )
So I mopped the floor, and I scribbled lyrics onto a paper towel. I imagined I had some sort of secret plan of action to get me out of there.
‘We’ll make our Escape from Society. Kept under wraps/waiting patiently‘
In truth, I sort of did, but this was grander than that. What sort of plan would that be? How would I implement it?
As the song continued to take shape a funny thing happened.
I started to believe it.
I started planning.
I’m not saying I sold everything I had and quit my job, I’m saying I had this strange confidence come over me that helped me to believe I was going to get out. I was going to find what I was looking for. The song didn’t magically lift me out of my circumstances, but it helped give me the strength and perspective to try and move myself a little closer in that direction. It sure beat the cynicism and hopelessness I was feeling before! The daydream may have been overly idealistic, but the real things it was causing me to do weren’t.
So I’m a millionaire now, right?
Isn’t that how these things end?
Sorry, but no. I will say I don’t need to work that second job anymore.(woohoo!!! ..fireworks, confetti)
As the album progressed, it became more and more about helping me view my life through a different perspective. Not a perspective that pretended everything was ok, but one that helped me get to a place where it just might be. It’s helped me to shape my perceptions, instead of simply allowing them to be shaped, and I hope it can help you do something similar.
As I said in my first blog, if you like our songs because they sound good, or they make you feel good, then that makes me happy. That being said, though I write these songs to get my own head around things, I also have the hope that for those who dig a little deeper, it just may help others view their lives in a bit of a different way as well.
I learned from Edward Bernays that perception can be a strong force in shaping reality. Life and circumstance taught me that it just may be possible to be sincere and idealistic in a world that eats good intentions for breakfast, and still survive, possibly flourish.
There are many who are still searching for the wise man on top of the mountain, just like I used to. I’m sorry, I don’t have any answers to give you, but I do have a collection of songs that helped me find faith again. What that is worth, is up to you.
With all my ranting in these last few blogs you can probably understand why it’s important for me to be as honest as I can with our ‘promotion’ of this album. That being said, I’m considering making the tagline read
‘Escapism: Cause I Don’t Want to Mop NO MO’ haha
That’s the end of my blog for now. I hope my ramblings weren’t too bad to get through, and I appreciate you taking the time to read. I’ll certainly still be active on the site, but no more weekly blogs from me
(wohhooo!!! …fireworks, confetti)
Goodnight and Good Luck Internet People…
Hi, Emrys here. First things first. Should a “band website”tm have SO MUCH WRITING? So much to read?!? Well… my simple, honest response is a resounding “YES!”. Whilst I’m all for the art of being mysterious – the art of not giving anything away… I also see the benefit of opening yourself up to your audience. For every Jack Nicholson or Morrissey there must be a Lily Allen or a … hmmm… well… hopefully you understand what I mean? In fact, in this ‘Twitter’-era I guess we’ve got the most ‘openness’ that there has ever been. It’s not red snappers in hotel rooms anymore… it’s opinions and true thoughts straight in your face. By no means do you HAVE to read, but I really, really would have loved more of this from my favourite artists in my youth.
Anyway… I thought I’d take this opportunity to talk about an important issue. Why is the Eleventh Hour Initiative so particular about releasing “AN ALBUM”? It may seem a trivial question, but in this last decade where the importance of the album has been diminished so greatly, you have to ask why we are even bothering with the concept of an album? A collection of songs. In order. Starting at a starting point – of our choice, not yours. Ending at a final song. A final song that we tell you is the final song. The completion of a journey that we take you on.
I think there have been a few factors that have influenced the decline of ‘the album’ as a feature of modern music, but I personally lay the blame pretty squarely at the rise of the mp3 player and the victory of the download single. The youth of today (ha ha! How old do I sound sometimes?!?) are into soundbites. They are into snatches of music. Fragments of sound. Nothing to stretch the attention span. Music has become the ad breaks. Music has become the noise in between the rest of the noise. Shards of audio and shards of visual thrust in everyone’s faces. Hour after hour, day upon day. And that is not necessarily a bad thing. I think it is a different thing. I just have the nostalgia of turning off the lights, laying in bed (fully clothed, nothing sexual going on here!) and listening to the latest album bought with my pennies from an ACTUAL SHOP!!! Ha ha! No, seriously… I can to this day remember lying in my darkened bedroom listening to Grace by Jeff Buckley for the first time. Hearing Lilac Wine for that moment which you can never claw back. Shiver down the spine time. Whole collections of songs that someone has taken the time to put together. Okay, a lot of my ‘longing’ is because it was an era that made me who I am today. Those listens of Dummy by Portishead or the excitement of These Animal Men. The download-single-adoring “youth of today” are living through their own era. And the iPod is part of the zeitgeist. I’m not sure I’ve used the correct terminology there… but I’m also not sure I care!
So, why are Bill and I bothering to release an album? Why don’t we just try to chuck out a number 1 hit download single? Well, I think that answer can be dealt with by means of a series of questions (politician style!): Have you listened to Dark Side of the Moon? Have you listened to Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots or the Soft Bulletin? Have you listened to OK Computer? Back in Black? Have you listened to any great rock record? Have you enjoyed a classic album? If the answer to any of these questions is “yes”, then I believe you will enjoy our album. I’m not paying lip service here. I believe you will fall for our album. For we have dedicated ourselves to making this “collection of songs” the very best set of songs that we can possibly achieve. We are aspiring to place Escapism alongside the very best of the albums from history. I want the album to stand proudly alongside Pet Sounds or Revolver on your ‘shelf’. It’s not important which of the three is the ‘best’ 😉 , I just want you to know, with a simple listen, that we are as serious about music as those classic artists certainly were. I just want to assure you that our album will contain no filler. Our album will be a work of art. I acknowledge that it is possible to say everything you want to say in a single song. There are some great one hit wonders out there. But I am not a one hit wonder. Bill is not a one hit wonder. The Eleventh Hour Initiative is not a one-off line cast into a river. We are the full box of bait. We have the full works… those little float things and the things with the feathers and everything!
The Eleventh Hour Initiative is an opportunity to present music as art. I know I can sound monstrously pretentious at times ( 😉 )… but I feel it is vital to describe why we are about to release an album in the age of the single. Remember… things go full circle. The Beatles defined the album. Vinyl defined the length of the album. CDs redefined the album. Downloads destroyed the album. And I believe the album will rise again. The album will return with a vengeance and obliterate the ‘shuffle’ button on your mp3 player! I like it when I read that vinyl sales are on the increase. It makes me wish I hadn’t thrown my record player away all those years ago for the lure of the mighty, indestructible CD. Ha ha! Indestructible!!! Ha ha! Seriously… I sit here in my studio under a framed Them Crooked Vultures album. It’s a gatefold, double vinyl album. I long to actually play it. I think the time has come for me to buy another record player! And I think the world is almost ready for an Eleventh Hour Initiative album!!! What do you think?