The Sound of My Own Voice.


Let me tell you why I don’t sing.

I don’t like my voice.

I don’t like the sound of my own voice.

I think that I’m alright on the guitar but I don’t like the sound of my own voice.

So I have decided to get a voice generator to generate a voice, a robot voice,
a voice that isn’t my voice,
a generic voice,
the voice of the machine,
the voice of the computer,
the machine-voice instead of the human voice,
does this robot voice sound better than my voice?

People use auto tune now so much.
They use those voice modulation devices that Cher used.

Why not just stop singing altogether and just cut out the middle man and get the computer voice to sing?

It is like The Matrix
We are too attached to machines and computers.

We are loosing our humanity behind glass screens.

(Unless we fight back)

Let’s take back what it means to be human from machines.
Let’s take back what it means to be human from machines.
Let’s take back what it means to be humans from machines.
Let’s take back what it means to be human.

humming inappropriate tunes?

A few weeks ago I found myself innocently humming the tune of ‘Two Little Boys’ by Rolf Harris. Then I remembered something. I remembered what we’ve come to know about Rolf Harris over the past few years and it seemed like a good reason to stop humming that song. It had taken on a sinister meaning and seemed inappropriate.
But is the song inappropriate now or is it alright for whistling around the house?

It’s a small incident that’s been nibbling away at me since.
Can the art people make, the songs people sing, the sermons ministers give be separated from their person they are or is it a stand along thing to be judged on it’s own merits?
I think that of course they can. Then other times I’m not so sure.

Here are some examples I’ve been thinking about.

For years people have been able to watch The Cosby Show and enjoy it as an innocent sitcom.But if the allegations against Bill Cosby that are flying around at the moment prove to be true does that change The Cosby Show? Does it mean that it’s no good now?
The same with the Woody Allen films or Michael Jackson songs. Incidentally I wonder why it’s OK for radio stations to play Michael Jackson songs but why it’s not OK to play a Gary Glitter track? What is the difference?

Some people don’t like Bono, they find him irritating for reasons such as tax arrangements and being a preachy rock star. Should we judge the latest U2 album (or any U2 album) with Bono’s personality in mind or is that irrelevant to the music? Lots of people seem to have reviewed Bono rather than the music.

One night I was listening to Lead Belly knowing that he was an American folk/blues music legend. When I started to read about his life story I found out that he had been in prison on numerous occasions. Once I found that it out it changed how I was listening to the music. I found I didn’t enjoy it as much.Should I allow the story of his life to colour what I hear in those 3mins?

On the other hand I’ve been known to crank up The Rolling Stones, they’ve some brilliant songs.
The knowledge that Bill Wyman in his late 40’s was dating a 13 yr old doesn’t seem to make me think less of The Rolling Stones. We probably don’t even know the half of what went on with some of those rock groups yet their excesses are seen as the stuff of rock legend. Jimmy Page apparently was infatuated with a 14yr old girl. Why is it rock n roll cool if a 70’s rock stars does it but hideous when a 70’s DJ?

Another example are some of the Psalms, the songs we sing and prayers we pray on Sunday morning written by King David. King David who was also a murderer.

If I was a ‘good man’ would that show in the work I create and make it good? Or does that not matter when it comes to creating music, art,writing could I just as easily write a good song if I was a murderer?

Should I be free to enjoy Rolf Harris singing ‘Tie Me Kangaroo Down Sport’ just much now as 10 yrs ago? (Not that it was ever a good song)

I’m not sure why it’s nibbling at me.

king david67

being pushy

‘Honey, I want the heart, I want the soul, I want control right now

You better listen to me baby
Talk about a dream, try to make it real
You wake up in the night with a fear so real
You spend your life waiting for a moment that just don’t come
Well don’t waste your time waiting’

Badlands, Bruce Springsteen

I am always torn about these lines in my favourite Springsteen song.

On one hand I can often see life passing me by.

The Damascus Road experience doesn’t come, the moment when things turn around or the idea that makes everything click into place doesn’t come or happen. Hoping that you will see the light and be a changed man proves to be elusive.

So I get something of the frustration Bruce describes in this song.

You talk about dreams, you try to make them real, you are awake at 2.35am with a fear so real. Bruce nails my frustration and struggle with the badlands.

Yet there is something in some of the words that I feel uncomfortable with.

It’s that sense in the song of forcing things, of  ‘pushin’ till its understood’ or  wanting ‘control right now’.
It’s the sense of having to seize the day and fight things, of not accepting things the way they are, of spitting in the face of the badlands.

In a world that pushes us around and treats us badly we’ve got to push back even harder and fight it.

It’s that sense of competing, fighting and pushin’ that I’m unsure about.
Is this not part of the problem with society, everyone fighting for his slice of the pie and his proper place?
In the lines about-

‘Poor man wanna be rich
Rich man wanna be king
And a king ain’t satisfied
Till he rules everything’

I’m not sure how much I should keep pushin’ with stuff, how pushy I should be.
So while loving the song for describing my frustrations with life I feel unsure about the way Bruce is going to deal with it.

notebooks and the dust of daily life

DSCN1755Last night I was just thinking about how much I enjoy  messing about with pens and a notebook.  Actually, I take that back. I don’t enjoy it lots of the time but have something deep inside that wants and needs to do it.

A while back I tried painting a few canvases but didn’t enjoy the experience much at all.

For me there was too much responsibility contained in that one white rectangle, too much pressure to say something or to fill it with a picture that might look just right on someones wall.

The thought of using paints  made me freeze and frustrated because of the infinite colours to choose from.  The cleaning of brushes annoyed me. Maybe the truth is that I don’t particularly want to paint or feel free when I tried to.

I didn’t like the feeling of responsibility  and mess whereas armed with my Staedtler Triplus Fineliners and notebook there are 30 colours to choose from, I can carry them to a coffee shop and just have to put a pen lid on.
I like the feel of them in my hand and the way they glide over paper, the way they don’t go dry if I loose a lid. They’re mobile, which is important to me. For me art isn’t something in a gallery or displayed  in museum, it is out in about the everyday so its good to have tools to capture the moments if they come. I’d generally rather have a look in any famous artists notes and ideas than his masterpieces.

Note books are intimate  as you have to touch it to read it rather than gaze up, hands off at an expensive painting on a wall. I can close the book over if I see someone being nosey and trying to look over to see what I’m up to. Notebooks suit me.

Thinking about it some more it is similar to my experience of recording music.
When I started off I enjoyed using a very basic 4-track cassette recorder. There was limited choice as there where only so many sounds you could record and layer on top of each other to make a song.

But I then one day I thought:-

‘Imagine what I could do with 16 tracks. So many options, so much freedom, I can make better music!’

So I splashed out on a 16 track Yamaha digital recorder and few condenser microphones to try and make some music.Then eventually the too many options and knobs to twirl and sliders to move, a thick instruction book to read and mic settings  to adjust and pop shield  to make from old tights and changing the reverb, add some chorus to the final mix and I was frustrated with making music.
The good intentions of  ‘much more freedom‘ killed the joy I had for recording music.

Musically it was a bit like trying to take things up from doodling in a sketch book to painting on canvas but I lost my enthusiasm for writing songs in the process and it hasn’t come back.

Speaking of sketching in books and doodling on 4-tracks.Maybe a there is a similar thing going on with blogging?

I know I blog a lot, it started way back before Facebook in the days of Myspace.

I like doing it as it helps me record ideas, track footsteps along the way. I like doing it in the same way as I like sketching in notebook, or messing about on 4-track.
Being a complete jackdaw for lifting  appropriate quotes I can see one from Pablo Picasso that I have never seen before but like:-

‘The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls’

I’m not sure if blogging, scribbling in notebooks, messing with the 4-track etc could be described as art.  I think everyone is an artist in some sense, then there are people who are artists in that they have spent many years training and working on what they do.  All I know about myself is that I feel I understand these quotes deep in my bones. Maybe we all do?

‘The artist is a receptacle for the emotions that come from all over the place: from the sky, from a scrap of paper, from a passing shape, from a spider’s web.’
Pablo Picasso

‘A guilty conscience needs to confess. A work of art is a confession.’
Albert Camus

‘Every production of an artist should be the expression of an adventure of his soul’
W. Somerset Maugham

Art, in itself, is an attempt to bring order out of chaos’
Stephen Sondheim

‘Art is the unceasing effort of competing with the beauty of flowers – and never succeeding’ 
Gian Carlo Menotti

‘That’s the motivation of an artist – to seek attention of some kind’
James Taylor

penguin box guitar

I think it was this time last year I was experimenting a bit with biscuit tin guitars and the like and this weekend I cobbled another version together from an old box of Penguin postcards. The frustration of having no room got to me and I rushed it but I’ve learned a lot of lessons for what to do the next time. I will go a bit slower, I’ll hopefully have a little more room and we’ll have an awesome little guitar.


In other news we are  getting ready to move to Galway. I’m  excited but even more worried and scared.
But that is a blog for another day..

cigar a155
cigar b156 cigar c157

walking in the dark

I’ve been feeling a bit rubbish the last couple of days, somewhere between feeling useless and not really cut out for normal living in today’s society. Maybe a bit frustrated as well? I don’t know, maybe we all feel like that from time to time.

Anyway, so last night I wasn’t in the best of form and had cracked open a box of stollen from LIDL and started munching through it and the next thing I knew I was walking into Belfast City centre up the Lisburn Road at 4.30am determined to make a music video for a song I had recorded last Christmas.

I just bunged all the photos I took in order (well except for the bits when I added them to the wrong places and can’t be bothered fixing), added the sound and saved. Total production cost, a coffee and early morning Fanta (it actually tastes OK before 7) and bus fare home.

the perfect space

In many ways this is tensest time of the week for me, that time just before church when I decide to go, or that I should go or sometimes force myself to go. Some weeks I just don’t go.

No amount of deoderizing will stop the cold sweat I will get from going to church, especially if H___ is leading. It is always that heavy sweat as well.

Why the sweat?

It’s the thought of the people, of the uncomfortable interactions with strangers and the more familiar, the thought of chats afterwards with thos who might say
‘So any joy on the job front?’ or ‘So are you off anywhere nice on holiday?’ etc. etc.

Perhaps it is because I feel extra exposed being married to one of the ministers, the person who has been leading the service and preaching the sermon, the person who is brought into the whole church equation.

Perhaps it is also because church halls are the least uncomfortable, inhospitable spaces  I be in each week. The spaces we worship in are all the wrong colours , the seating uncomfortable and too close for someone who likes his own space and feels claustrophobic.
The way I can’t sit beside my wife like most other people who go to church but have to watch her from afar.

My holy friends have become increasingly righteous is saying ‘Well that’s the beauty of the church community, you can’t choose your family members, you have to love those people who you would not naturally gravitate towards…’
but the tense, cotton cutting sweat has little to do with that.

Anyway, I should get ready. The Perfect Space by The Avett Brothers is what comes to mind.

‘I wanna have friends that I can trust,
that love me for the man I’ve become not the man I was.
I wanna have friends that will let me be
all alone when being alone is all that I need.

I wanna fit in to the perfect space,
feel natural and safe in a volatile place.
And I wanna grow old without the pain,
give my body back to the earth and not complain.

the crack was mighty…

I spent part of the day in the arms of my acoustic guitar, an old friend (closer to a lover) which I’ve neglected and ignored for so long, a friend that has patiently waited for me while I’ve been distracted and moved about, worried and harried and still my Simon and Patrick has waited leaning against the book shelves in the corner.
So we spent time together today, intimate time when I remembered the joy of just doodling on the fretboard with no agenda, no desire to write a song or to keep things moving forward.

I also noticed the scar which I had inflicted on my friend many years ago in Dublin. It was The International Bar, it was a Monday night down in the basement and I was somewhere between starting a three song set and finishing it. There was a pint of Guinness involved, a standing on the tiled floor and a moment when the guitar strap came of the end.
I remember now.
I was holding the pint of Guinness when the strap came off and couldn’t make a attempt to catch, Simon and Patrick fairly cracked and bounced against the floor, the bar when silent in mourning and I picked it up while attempting to look as if I didn’t really matter, but it did I guess.

Looking back now, I wouldn’t take that moment back. I’m glad it holds a battle scar from the basement of The International Bar in Dublin, good times! A time when I wasn’t afraid to sing my song and let my voice be heard in public, unlike now when I hide away like a hermit.
So from now on the crack will serve as a sign of getting out there again and letting my voice be heard in dingy little bar basements and not caring if anyone wants to hear or not or if it’s good or not, just being in the place.