Posts Tagged ‘ Bass ’

A wave that breaks.

Generation X was the label of my generation. We were/are the slackers, the cynics, the ones that had lost all trust in authority and just kinda shrugged at it all. Well at least that was the cliche. Who knows what we were or are for labels are handed out in an arbitrary fashion usually at the whim of journalists or sociologists. What is true is that the movement known as grunge brought the underground overground as it were. There were many bands involved but there were four that stood out for me: Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Soundgarden and Alice in Chains. Well we all know what happened to Kurt Cobain and Layne Staley of Alice in Chains died after. That left Eddie Vedder and Chris Cornell. Unfortunately Chris Cornell died in May. There is a deep sadness that the bands that changed so much lost their frontmen. Of all the four Soundgarden were my favourite and I had the pleasure of seeing them live in Dublin some years back. Sleep well Chris and thank you for the music.

A Wave That Breaks

The remnants of my youth
carried on the updraft of your voice.
It echoed through the rooms of my thoughts.
Images formed of fragments
the possibility of the now,
the slow trudge of an ending
and the beginning of newer age.
What gifts the seer brings
harnessing the whisper to create the scream
showing the believers the worth of their dreams
knowing the unknown
keeping us alive
measuring the distance
of rooms a thousand years wide.

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She Speaks

image…boop,boop.Metronomic time, ceaseless and unforgiving.Under her watch fingers freeze, throats tighten and pulses race. In the moment four fight from going under the sonic waves they have created. Outside there is the alley. The artery. Rain falls in giant globs running from Pearse Street to Lombard finally coming to rest at the side streets end.

Some months before and the half whistled shapeless melody is given form by the guitar player’s hands.Lucid dreams given substance. Consonants and vowels drift from the larynx and the word is made flesh. Bass flitters between the gaps, wild and old. This new ship is anchored by the drum. Happiness fills the space.How easy it can be to make worlds.

Joyce’s Liffey everflows to the sea. The eastlanders follow on to Westland. Time passes.The metronome is tamed. Beginnings give way to ends. Parents to our children (all eight of them and those we lost) we coo at them, play peek-a-boo with them. Afraid to let them go but let them go we must.

I think of them now and then. I wonder where they are and what they are doing? Our children. Out of nowhere She Speaks. I hear the lady clearly and remember our moments, frozen now in my mind. Silently, I thank her and all the minutes we shared. All the seconds. Bip, bip….

Little Known Irish Classics (Vol. II)

 

No discussion of Irish music would be definitive without mentioning Microdisney. Fronted by Cathel Coughlan the band were lyrical and representative of the ’80s indie led sound that, whilst the norm for our near neighbours still wasn’t really in vogue in Ireland. Record companies were scouring Ireland looking for the next U2. Microdisney weren’t that but we are none the worst for it! Helicopter of the Holy Ghost.

 

 

 

With influences from Echo and the Bunnymen and vibing off Joy Division and The Cult (to a lesser extent) Into Paradise continued building on the idea laid down by bands like The Blades, Microdisney etc. Growing up in the late eighties and hearing Irish bands that weren’t like U2 or playing acoustic showed me I could pick up an instrument and give it a go. Rains come down indeed.

 

Ciunas  were part of the punk scene that had re-emerged in Dublin (and various parts of the country) during the early nineties. For a small number of us bands like this are a reminder not just of that scene and time in our lives but also for the independent record company: FOAD. There were bands such as Brinskill Bomb-beat, The Blue Babies, Coitus and, of course, Paranoid Visions on the roster. The song ‘Life’ is a near perfect slice of hardcore and skank inducing ska. Yes, it dealt with some clichéd lyrical themes (which doesn’t take away from the lyrics itself) but it is propelled by a driven guitar and melodic bassline it very much proved that Punk was alive and kicking in the Ireland of my youth.

This will be the third time that I have mentioned the seminal Irish punk survivors Paranoid Visions in my list however, around 1993 the band disbanded but some of the members re-surfaced as Striknein DC. Circus is a little cracker and a bit like the previous band DC melded hardcore with ska and reggae. The movement was heavily influenced by UK bands such as Citizen Fish and AOS3 however, Irish bands weren’t merely aping the scene but were actively shaping it. I will allow myself a bit of nostalgia on this one as the band I was in the nineties (Mythical New Underground) supported the DC in the now defunct Newbridge venue: Cox’s. That night was a crazy one as skinheads started to run amok and I remember DC’s singer Deco exhorting the audience to ‘Fight the real fucking enemy’. What a night that was!

Back to the early nineties but away from the punk scene we find The Pale. They were one of those odd Irish acts that emerge every so often that sound nothing at all like what people think of as an Irish sound. The Pale had this Romany gypsy vibe but not in a commercial sense. Dogs with No Tail was not as big as their hit-single Butterfly but that is no bad thing. I love the mandolin infused tune and the delivery of the vocal. They were totally out of time with their surrounding but they produced a fantastic album that is proof, if ever it was needed, that Ireland can produce a lot more than the traditional music clichéd lens that we are often viewed through.

The sound and the fury.

The growth of the digital age has changed the face of music. Not a bold pronouncement by any means but rather a cold statement of fact. The means of production and consumption has altered and like any epoch there are good and bad aspects. One thing I’ve been pondering over the last few weeks is the production. Digital recording has allowed for a cleaner, more uniform sound. Ostensibly this should be a good thing however, it presents two problems namely uniformity and also it highlights the ‘bad’ sound quality of older recordings.

These recordings can range from the old Delta blues masters, jazz classics, big bands, show tunes, garage rock etc. Within the punk rock fraternity the rawness of the recording was part of the aesthetic. The DIY nature of the movement often necessitated working outside and against the mainstream. Underground bands from Minor Threat, Subhumans, Crass, Black Flag, Minutemen (the list is endless) represented a rawness of sound where the message and energy was king, the medium less so. Here is the song, take it or leave it. Some of my favourite tunes and albums are less than pristine and less then polished. Those bands were chipping away from the outside and their lack of aural finesse, often necessitated by lack of funds, became part of the whole.

Today bands are often too packaged for my liking. To well put together. One eye is on getting the audiences money. The experience of listening to music has become, in many ways, less pleasurable. The medium has become more important than the message. With the advent of grunge the underground went overground and in that process the underground disappeared. The digital revolution has, in a very real sense, removed the raw, unbridled sexual energy of music and in it’s wake left a pristine almost antiseptic landscape. Don’t get me wrong it isn’t all bad as digital quality recordings can be made in anyone’s bedroom and as the breakdown of the wall between artist and audience has occurred. However, call me an old romantic but I sometimes yearn for the Lo-Fi thrill of a cheap recording one that may not be nuanced but has a heart as big as a whale!

Yeats (again) and music.

Yeats once famously wrote the immortal line ‘too long a sacrifice can make a stone of the heart’ and it is a line I constantly turn to in times of trouble or doubt (indeed it is another of my posts). It is sage advice from the master and like the best of Yeats it is simple and straight to the point. Anyone that knows me, knows the importance of music in my life. I play music but I think it is more important than just playing, music is an aural experience and a feeling that can transcend strictures such as class, time and space. Back in the long, long ago before Wi-Fi crushed all sense, proportion and accountability out of our everyday life, listening, buying, owning, finding, playing and cherishing music was a commonplace pastime. It was a sociology all onto itself and the joy of meeting a fellow connoisseur was intoxicatingly exciting. It made one feel all shiny and new, just like a virgin, in fact like being touched for the very first time! Thinking of the consumption of music now I realise I am a Luddite in this regard, I like the times before the great serfdom when musicians got paid (yes we recorded onto tape but the quality was poop). Who would have thought that the Dane (you know the one) would be right? But today as music turgidly staggers into ever increasing oh so emotive twinges of a folk shite harmony crapfest and we exist in a world where bands are increasingly not allowed to grow and be paid, the old guy was right.

Anyway enough about the Dane let’s get back to the Paddy. Why Yeats? Well I made many sacrifices for music right from the get go. I was obsessed and obsessional, dysfunctional and disillusioned. So much so that I genuinely believed that playing music could pull me from the depths of grief brought on by losing my mother (yes her again). It didn’t, it couldn’t. I lied and pretended it did but you see the pattern was set way before that I compromised myself for music, in the vain hope it would cure all. It doesn’t, it can’t. You see for me it was the fucking sacrifice, I know I lost two relationships to music (one a teenage love, the other? Well let’s just say it was a shipwreck), on top of that I have lost friendships (funny thing is that adult males spending their time in a confined space together for oh, let’s say years causes a tad bit of tension including calling each other fuckers, bastards, etc etc) but most importantly I lost proportion and perspective.

Now, there are musicians reading this thinking ‘well once you’re jamming it’ll be all good man’ yes indeed, all good. However, music is played by humans and humans are political. Since the very first time one of our ancestors beat the life out of another ancestor our species has been ‘politically’ or in layman’s terms relational or to distill it further we all have moods ( moods are for cattle and lovemaking said a famous musician funnily enough). In prison no one is guilty and in music there is not one person with an ego. Freud would be fucked if he had musicians on the couch. Of course, musicians have egos, other musicians. (NB: I actually don’t have an ego but then I am great).

I am, of course, being deadly serious. Don’t sacrifice everything to end up with nothing but a heart of stone and for the love of God be the living stream and not the rock. Yes, music is brilliant but you know what? The older I get the more rounded I become, the more family matter, the more friends matter and the more I matter. Punk rock did change our lives D. Boon but punk is dead, it became another cheap product for the consumers head. You know what I love to do with my bass every now and then? Leave it in the corner and don’t touch it because when I go and live with normal people, ya know the ones with healthy relationships and shock! horror! balanced egos I can’t wait to get back to playing. ( I do actually love my bass btw not more than family and the love of my life and good friends but more than everyone else). All this was started by a friend when I was discussing Anvil (the movie) I said to her; ‘ Oh it was the triumph in the face of adversity and they were so great to stick to the dream’ and she replied ‘I don’t know they put their family through shit and seemed pretty selfish’. She was right (she is annoying like that). The next time you look at that film, just look at the faces of the family members and witness those without egos and the effect their selflessness has on those beneath them (I jest). Right, I’m off to listen to nothing but the sound of silence.

Live (or where I swear and philosophise at the end of another year)

imageThroughout my blog posts I have mentioned many facets of playing music from the bands I was in, the jams that I love and the recordings I have made. However, I have never mentioned the lifeblood of music: playing live! Now there is a reason for this namely I have played the guts of 300 plus gigs and that makes it hard to pick which ones to write about! After much thought I have decided to concentrate on three important gigs that have meant a lot to me and in doing so might give my readers an insight to the joys of harnessing all that energy and putting it into (at times) a cohesive performance.

Where to start? Well at the beginning is always good. Twenty years ago I had just turned seventeen and I was itching to play live as I had been practicing for nigh on three years. The band was Mythical New Underground, the sound was wibbly-wobbly reggae punk with a twinge of thrash metal. Where to play? A dank corner of a filthy pub? Somewhere in Dublin supporting the cognoscenti of the punk underground or maybe my debs in the Hazel Hotel Monasterevin? Of course the logical choice was the latter. Jesus I remember the anxiety most of all, just waiting to get up and finally play. Our guitar player, Carl, was hammered, our drummer, Mark, ended up with half an electronic kit and I couldn’t hear myself or our singer, Pog and we banged and bashed our way through a set that no one really knew. Our classmates danced though and that was great. I walked off full of the buzz of having lost my gig virginity, grinning from ear to ear and headed for the bar. I was met by a woman who said ‘Ye were shit’ but I just thought ‘Fuck you, I ain’t like everybody else I have just played a gig!’ Pure bliss (followed by pints and puke oh the glamour and no cash may I add).

Fast forward a few years, possibly 1999 or 2000, Newbridge, Co. Kildare, The Railway Bar. I can’t remember what the occasion was but I was singing that night ( I went through a brief phase as a singer…not to be repeated) but this should have been a gig consigned to the dark recesses of my memory and it would have been bar one incident. We finished the gig, we had belted through a folkish set and the reception was warm but one man turned to me and said, with a voice full of spite ‘Why didn’t you play something we knew?’ I should have said ‘Because I am not a fucking Jukebox’ but I didn’t. Now for those that have never been on stage here is the thing: it takes guts, it takes balls but it also takes energy and there are times you get off that stage and you are spent. That night I was and his words stuck. I returned home, knackered, penniless (no pay again) and deflated. The words played again and again and I thought ‘Why am I doing this? Why am I putting myself out there?’ I walked for about an hour and I was so down I thought about never playing live again but ultimately I came to the realisation that I was addicted to playing live and it wasn’t going to happen.

Dublin, 2014. Czech Inn, Temple Bar. No cash- free pint, She Speaks is the band. It has been a year since I have played a gig (I am excluding playing at school masses and grads) I need this. Energy flowing, adrenaline rushing. New band and an original set. Playing is a type of madness, half of the band are mad nervous and the other half are jumping out of their skin and ready to have the ego stroked. Then the first note comes and the four of us are surfing the moment. The shakes recede, the nerves dissipate and we all begin to let go. The flow takes over and for a little while the four become one. We bounce off each other. Rebecca, our singer does that little shuffle she does with her hands, Skip beats the drums, Wayne lets go on a guitar and my neck moves like a bobble headed toy that you find in a car. We start to smile, we start to let go and in that moment nothing can touch you. There is no sadness, no worry, no stress there is just the moment. When you first play gigs that moment can be scary-you don’t know what it is- but after a while you gain experience and you know what that moment is: Joy. Happy Christmas all and may you find that ever elusive joy that you seek.

She Speaks

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So, I lied somewhat in one of my posts. It was the one about recording and more specifically the moving on part. I ended on an optimistic note but in truth I had thought about giving up. I was wasted and spent. Music is beautiful but sometimes it cuts. All the time spent, all the hours of hope, all the nerves and all the times you lost when you should have won. I looked at my bass and thought I can’t even play this thing why am I codding myself? But God it had always been there and especially on those nights when I thought all was lost and that I would never smile again. I remembered the time not long after my mother had succumbed to cancer when my friend Mark made sure we got together to jam. It restored normality. How could I let that go? I very nearly did but the spark wouldn’t die no matter how I tried to dampen the fucker and that is why I lied in that post because that lie was the beginning of the long crawl back.

I get the feeling (and I could be wrong) that people who aren’t involved in music probably read the above and think: ‘Jesus stop being melodramatic’. However, music, as cheesy and clichéd as this sounds, is like a religion to me. Not in the sense that I worship it but in the sense that it gives me solace. I haven’t been in a long-term relationship in a good while so the longest relationships I have had have been in bands. You get the picture, it means a lot! With that I started to claw my way back and wanted to find the fun again and to be clear I had lost the joy, no one in my previous band had caused it, that responsibility lies with me. Now, music is fundamentally about people and the way in which people interact and I started to think about that. I wanted something different than what I had worked with previously and as luck would have it the band I was thinking about needed a bass player.

I would love to tell you that I made a great first impression with She Speaks and that I was a consummate professional. I would love to tell you that. I bowled into practice with a poxy guitar amp that could fit in your pocket and no one could hear me. But as I said music is about people and the ways in which the atmosphere changes when those people congregate and it was there in that first practice. I could feel it. At this juncture I could tell you how talented Rebecca (vocals), Wayne (guitar) and Skip (drums) are, and they are super talented, but what I really want to say is that we all click. The jams are fun and we have a laugh but there is a seriousness too. I love the songs, I can’t wait for everyone to hear them and I think they are really special. Playing together and pushing the air in the room is as good as it gets and what we do together has been great so far but it is just the beginning. We are mapping out the landscape as we go and I am learning anew but I am also relearning what I had lost, Jesus I even got a bass solo into one of the tunes! Rebecca, Sarah and Wayne: thank you, for a long time it felt like I was away…finally I feel like I have returned.