Hippy bifday to me…

I’m having a birthday.

One that ends in a “Zero”.

Wanting to do something small to mark the occasion.

Doing two things:

  1. Seeing Death Cab for Cutie on 1 August at the Opera House. 10 years ago, I celebrated my birthday by going to see DCFC at Home in Darling Harbour. Great show. Figured given the timing being not far away from my birthday again, that this show would be a fitting “revisit”. Given the nature of the latest album, being a bit more about “growing up”, also a little poignant. The last show Ang and I saw at the Opera House (heh: from “Home” to the “House”)—Elbow—was amazing. We discovered a little gem near Wynyard serving a tremendous selection of boutique beers on tap called Frankie’s Pizza. Seems like the perfect start to the evening. So kicking off there about 5ish. Dinner. Then the show.

  2. I live in Katoomba now. I love the place. I feel my roots starting to dig in up here. And it’s a long way from Circular Quay 😉 So, I’d really like to do something close to home to mark the occasion as well. I’m away on business on my actual birthday (in Darwin, attending/co-facilitating/participating in the Broadband for the Bush Forum), but figured I might just hole up at Station Bar, one of our favourite joints up this way—and perhaps unsurprisingly one that usually has a great selection of boutique beers on tap (noticing a theme here?). Date: Saturday 18 July. Time: 6pm+.

’twill be low key. But fun… If you’re reading this, there’s a good chance it’d be great to have you there 🙂

So, if you’re up for it let me know which/when/where in the comments so I can book tables and stuff…

Reconnecting with music

I’ve been trying to reconnect with the art of having fun making music.

Anyone that knows me well knows that making and performing music has been a big part of my life for, like, forever.

But since Fuzu called it a day, in part due to my sojourn into Sustainable Practice at uni, I’ve found it hard to reconnect with any particular musical venture.

I had the support of some great musician friends to record an EP last year, but that project feels like it’s stalled. Which is disappointing. If only because I feel like I’m dishonouring the effort and creativity of the folks involved. It don’t treat that lightly.

But, to be honest, I’d forgotten the tremendous amount of energy and headspace required to do justice to a project like that. My previous efforts were all group efforts—with a band, where each member contributed some forward momentum to the process. This project felt different, as it was to record something akin to a “solo” project. And a lot of hard work. To co-ordinate. To write. To rehearse. To arrange. To perform. To mix. To promote. To turn it into “something”. Something of note. Something to carry forward. Something that begins something else.

After many years doing the whole “band thing”, I recognise and acknowledge that if you want to make it in the business, you have to treat it like a business. And after many years of trying to do that, I am at a point where I think I’ve worked out I don’t actually want it to be a business.

I want to reconnect with the feeling that I get when inspiration strikes. A sense that you are a conduit for something more. Something outside yourself.

That sense of flow that you get where you lose an hour evolving and developing a riff. A verse. A lyrical idea. An arrangement.

That sense of camaraderie that emerges from being in a room with other musicians and you create something that feels bigger than yourself.

A synergy.

A spark that begets a spark that is transformed into something to share. And when another human connects with that, to honour that mutual sense of connection. Of a shared experience, emotion, sentiment, imagery.

For the longest time I’d start a song, or a project, and enjoy that creative process. I’d enjoy the opportunity to get in front of an audience (with a bit of marketing and relationship building with venues/bookers etc.). And to experience all that.

Times have changed.

My professional life requires a lot more headspace.

To even get a gig now requires a solid Facebook following. And a guaranteed audience.

I get that. I understand.

But I’ve come to realise that’s not what I connect with music around.

So… letting go of some of that, I decided I need to revisit the sorts of behaviours that got me started. And to let go of some of the baggage around the whole “making music” thing.

A new song doesn’t have to be a launching point for an EP or recording project.

A jam doesn’t have to be the launching point for a band.

A performance doesn’t have to be at a commercial venue.

So, I’ve been attending the Western Fringe songwriting sessions here in Katoomba. Stewart Peters and Snez have been organising these for some time (and until recently they were running at Parramatta at, the now defunct, Mars Hill Cafe).

Watching Stewart and Snez perform at those sessions was inspiring. It reminded me about the “why?” A passion for connecting with the creative spirit. To express oneself. To enjoy the process.

Since I’ve started attending the sessions, two songs have flowed. Not a lot (esp. compared to what I used to produce), but a start. And I’ve enjoyed reconnecting with the art. With that spirit. And having a small audience to share that with—not necessarily having to have it finished, polished, recorded, marketed, rehearsed, socialised via facebook et. al.

To just create. For the sake of it.

I was speaking to one of my besties the other day, and he was advocating the virtues of just woodshedding on your instrument. To find flow running scales, transcribing a favourite line, playing along with someone else’s work. And, importantly, not having to come up with something new.

There’s something very strongly appealing to me about that.

I remember many hours spent working out (and later transcribing) bass lines at home and at uni. ‘Shedding on scales and patterns from instructional videos from John Patitucci and other inspiring players. There was a joy. In the challenge. In the flow. In the developing of one’s own “voice” on the instrument, through understanding what you liked in others’. To find resonance with/in what others’ have got to say. And to pass that forward.

So I think I’ll be setting aside some time in the coming weeks to give it a go.

In the hope I can rekindle that connection to what is important to me about music.

To understand and process the world around me.

To express my emotions. To transform negative energy and experiences into something positive. (And to celebrate the positive stuff too.)

Annandale brick in the wall…

I’m a fan of live music. I am a musician and count on venues to remain viable as an outlet for my artistic expression. The Annandale is a long-running venue in Sydney’s inner-west. I’ve played there, and seen countless great gigs there. It would be a great shame to see it close, especially so to make way for residential apartments.

The Annandale recently launched a “buy a brick” campaign, where fans of the venue can contribute $20–250 to get their name on a plaque at the venue. This is to help reduce debt and upgrade facilities.

At face value, this seems like a great thing to contribute to — a way of supporting live music into the future. Especially important with venues like the Hopetoun having shutdown some months ago and there being very few venues around in the inner-city continuing to support live music.

But… I have a doubt. As the FasterLouder article (linked above) notes, the venue has been under the same management for 10 years. There is no indication anywhere in the article, nor the Annandale’s campaign page, is how the Rule brothers intend on actually turning around the fortunes of the hotel (e.g. get it out of debt and into a sustainable, viable ongoing concern).

I assume (though it’s not clear) that the “membership” system is one of renewing annual membership. It’s not clear how much money the scheme is intended to raise. There’s no indication as to the level of debt that needs to be cleared, or how much the upgrades are going to cost and thus how much the scheme will likely assist in achieving this goal. While I’m sure it was a last ditch effort to avoid foreclosure, selling the poker machines has devalued the venue and removed an important revenue stream — this seems like a very short-sighted and ultimately detrimental decision.

I want to support this initiative. But I want to know my money is going to actually create the desired outcome — a vibrant, ongoing, sustainable Annandale hotel. Unfortunately, based on the information provided to date it’s hard to say whether this would be a worthwhile thing to put my money into. Not because I don’t care, but because I don’t know if it would actually work/help.

This is the second crowdsourcing project that I’ve seen that has suffered from this problem. NewMatilda.com also put the call out to supporters to bankroll it for a year, with promises of “bold plans” for becoming an ongoing, sustainable journalistic enterprise. These bold plans never materialised (unless the odd sponsorship/prize draw are the extent). Promises of a new site design and mobile tools never seemed to come about. A year rolled by and NewMatilda were again asking for support. Without any sense that the organisation is self-sustaining on the basis of anything but an annual membership drive makes it a harder to support.

If you’re going to enlist the support of the “crowd”, you really need to communicate your plans and increase your transparency so that we can make an informed judgement. Be honest about what your plans are, and honest when you aren’t able to deliver on them.

I will be keeping an eye on the Annandale project — I do hope that more details come to light so that I can count myself among their supporter/membership base. But until then, my contribution will be limited to being an interested bystander…

Top 5 albums (in 2010)

I’m a couple of days late, but was just thinking about my fave albums of 2010 and thought it would be nice to document them here for future reference.  This “Top 5” list is of music that I acquired during 2010 (not necessarily released this year) and is in a loose order, though it’s hard to distinguish some of them.

Bon Iver — For Emma, Forever Ago: I’m very late to this particular album, but since picking it up earlier this year, this album has resonated with me in a very deep way.  Absolutely beautiful and spellbinding.  Some may find it a bit depressing, personally I find it quite calming and uplifting.

Fionn Regan — The End of History: I first heard this album at a friend’s party, and managed to pick it up dirt cheap (for $2!) at a record sale shortly after.  The rawness of the acoustic arrangements appeals to me much more than his most current album.  Some lovely turns of phrase and atmospherically charged moments.

Brian Borcherdt — Torches (Side 2004/05): I downloaded this album for free from Brian’s site based on the recommendation of a friend and was immediately taken by it.  Another mellow acoustic set (what is it with me and mellow acoustic male singers this year?) — simple arrangements, but a lovely mood.  I’m a much bigger fan of Side 2004/05 than the second album from the sessions, and I’ve since bought his previous album on iTunes with much the same feeling.

Land of Talk — Cloak and Cipher: Ang and I have become fans of this band since getting their previous album Some are Lakes a little while back, and this new album certainly didn’t disappoint.  A much more polished affair than Some are Lakes, but still retaining the essence and energy of what I suspect is a great live band.

The Mercury Program — A Data Learn the Language: I found this band after hearing them on the cafe speakers at Berkelouw Newtown.  I chased them up on iTunes and grabbed this album (released in 2002) and loved it.  Very reminiscent of Pivot (now PVT), though pre-dating Pivot’s debut, and Tortoise.  Another great atmospheric instrumental, guitar melody-driven album to add to the collection.

There were also two “notable mentions” that came up for me when compiling the list:

Arcade Fire — The Suburbs: I didn’t really get into this band with their previous albums, but I finally caved into the hype and picked this one up after seeing the wonderful Google Maps mashup “video” that accompanied The Wilderness Downtown.  I think that really set the tone as it grounded the songs in my own childhood growing up in a Queensland suburb.  There are a couple of misfires on the album, but the standout tracks like Ready to Start make up for them.

Massive Attack — Heligoland: it’s been a while since I felt Massive Attack hit the mark — this one nearly gets there, but not quite.  It still has some great tracks on it and I hope is a signal of a return to form — really looking forward to the next one.

Novation 25SL – first impressions

While in Hong Kong on my recent holiday (I hope to have some photos and thoughts up on Flickr soonish) I picked up a Novation 25SL mk II. I wanted something a bit smaller for live performance (the previous 49 note keyboard took up a lot of space on stage) that didn’t lack the various faders, controls and triggers of the M-Audio Axiom 49 that I’ve been using for some time.

Over the jump is my first impressions of the Novation, specifically as used with Ableton Live…

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Launching The Point

So in my recent busy-ness, I’ve neglected to post on what’s been happening in Fuzu land…

First single

We recently ran a competition asking folks to choose our first single from our new EP The Point – which they thankfully did 🙂

We’re kicking off with Fire Exit, which you can check out on
MySpace or download from the Fuzu website (does anyone know where the download link went from MySpace’s player? We’ve enabled downloading, but can’t seem to see the download option in the player anymore…)

Launch gig

Launch gig poster (details reproduced below)

We’re booked in to launch the EP at the Supper Club on 9 July.
The Rapids and Sean Carey, who also engineered the EP, will be joining us for the night.

We’re looking forward to officially launching the EP and showing off the limited edition packaging; each is hand screenprinted and numbered, and featuring fab artwork from We Buy Your Kids.

We’ll also be playing the tracks off the EP and debuting some new material. Should be a fun night 🙂

iTunes

The Point is now available on iTunes – which is always a buzz. We’d be stoked if you could leave a review as well. (And just a note that you can also get our previous EP Between The Lines there too…)

EP progress/budget

In a previous post I outlined the costs of recording an independent EP, and hinted that with Fuzu‘s second EP we were trying to significantly reduce our costs.

Some friends who read the post found it useful, and I’ve also participated in some further discussions on a related post over at new music strategies.

As we’ve just completed mixing and mastering (i.e. we’re close to finished the project) I thought it might be worthwhile looking at the costs so far…

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FBi Radio fundraiser on Thursday and Friday

Just a quick note to say that I’ll be joining a host of great musos this Thursday and Friday night at the Hopetoun Hotel, Surry Hills, to perform songs from Big Star for the nonzero records/FBi radio fundraiser show.

If you’re on Facebook, you can get more details on the event page.

On the Thursday night Fuzu (my band) is also playing a 40 minute set kicking off around 9:15pm. But if you can’t make that, we’re also playing a headline show the following Wednesday at the Hopetoun (Facebookers: details here).

Recording budgets

I have often seen a lot of debate about the merits of downloading music for promotion of a band and how downloads are changing the music landscape.

Generally I agree that the opportunities for bands are much greater in this day an age than they were previously. In fact, our first EP is released under a Creative Commons license because of this belief – anyone can share our music with their friends, remix it (as our friend Karoshi just has – can’t wait to share that with you!), and the like.

What I haven’t seen is a lot of discussion of how much it actually costs to record and produce music of a standard suitable for “releasing” (radio play etc.). I get a sense that there’s a bit of a misconception that, with the advent of cheaper computers and audio recording hardware and software, that artists are able to produce their music really cheaply, which isn’t actually the case.

The other suggestion I see a lot is that bands can release music for free and make money through other means (performance fees etc.). This I think is in some way related to the first misconception, but also is problematic in its own way.

What I want to do in this post is share my experience of producing music with my band, Fuzu, and having a look at what it costs to release an independent EP.

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