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White Session

Posted on Friday, September 29th, 2006

me doing my stuff at la maison de la radio france

Last Thursday I was invited to record a White Session for France Inter, to be broadcast nationwide and on the internet sometime soon during the program hosted by Bernard Lenoir. It was the first time that I had done a radio session for national French radio since The Black Session recorded by Cocteau Twins ten or so years ago so I was quite enthusiastic to do it as they seemed to make a good job of the recording last time. The difference between a white and black session, I was led to understand, is that there is no live audience at the former and no second chance if I fuck up at the latter, so this greatly appealed to my sense of comfort. I arrived at the studio at la maison de la radio france in good time to record and apart from feeling a little lonely, a solitary figure with laptop and guitar in a studio designed to record an orchestra, all went quite smoothly and I was made to feel most welcome by the producer of the show, Michelle Soulier. I played a few pieces to get the sound balanced and then sort of rolled a few in a row that I knew quite well before stepping out of my comfort zone to improvise a few others. I really could not tell you if they sounded very good as the studio monitors were too big and sucked. It seems amazing to me that a studio designed for recording music for the radio did not have a set of smaller reference monitors to give some indication of what the music really sounded like, as opposed to the large ones, usually used to impress the A&R man or keep the drummer happy on playback. Consequently I did not really listen back to what I played, rather just took the approach that hey, this is live, this is a moment, now it has gone and just rather trusted the feeling I had as I was doing it. I did the following tracks.

Search Among The Flowers
Passer Une Nuit Blanche
Inda Liza

Now it has to be said that maybe I sucked, I have a CD of the session but am scared to listen to it just in case that I did. That’s the problem with live recording. A concert is one thing, you know, a few modern jazz notes here and there one can get a way within a concert for, as I said before, it’s a moment and after that it’s gone forever. Not with a live recording, which is probably one of the reasons that I’ve never done a live record. I don’t like live records much, with the exception of older records where people effectively played live in the studio, er, like what I just did. ( I should, of course stop this train of thought right here….) I can’t imagine Patsy Cline saying, ‘no, honey, it’s OK, we’ll just comp the vocals then put them through auto tune, I’m late and I have a flight to catch’ or something like that. No, what I mean is recordings of live concerts, but again I have exceptions, Keith Jarrett -The Koln Concert for example but then, and here is the salient point, he can play properly. Sadly he can’t control his moans and farts during his performance but then that control of onstage bodily functions is quite clearly what sets Keith and myself apart. You got to love him though, even if the accounts of him being a complete dick are true. So then, no, I guess I’m just unsure about the validity of a live recording of music that I’m involved in and have to use all my resources not to grimace just a little when some well intentioned individual hands me a cassette tape recording of a Cocteau Twins concert from the eighties in Potato Blight, AR or wherever, and expects me to be interested in listening to it. I think if I ever live to be a hundred years old I will never understand fans. I’m eternally grateful for their existence, for without them I’d be shovelling shit in Krapo KS, but I will never quite appreciate what goes on inside their minds. So, anyway, before I got sidetracked I was talking about that radio session and my conclusion is that it’s as close to a live recording as you will ever hear from me ..OK?

me with guitar, my personal artist with crayons…

A special thank to Christophe who took the photos.
I’ll post a message when I know the date and time of transmission…

Things I’ve Done This Summer

Posted on Friday, September 8th, 2006

The part that has nothing to do with music
Now what was I saying?. One minute I was diligently doing my weblog every couple of days and then I seem to have been somewhat distracted. I’ll tell you a little secret that I discovered this summer. It’s called the ‘real world’ and for those of you unfamiliar with the concept it involves doing stuff, well, outside. Very outside, like out of wi-fi range outside. Now that is very outside. So after returning from a little traveling around playing some shows I decided to dedicate a little time to some other pressing matters, namely getting a suntan, traveling without having to play guitar every night and trying to find my garden among the forest of weeds that seemed to have replaced it since the last time I went outside. I warn you now, this isn’t going to be a very interesting weblog so perhaps you should just look at the pictures or skip forward to the bit about the music. When my weblog starts to mention things like pottering about in the garden then it’s time to go back to reading that moby weblog or someone else ranting on about changing the planet. While I’m at it, if he does want to change the planet he can come and start with my fucking garden. Anyway, enough of the garden already.
So should I share my real world revelations with you or not?
As I’d just spent time in England playing shows in June I wasn’t exactly thrilled when my girls thought it would be a great idea to visit the UK for a holiday. The other reason for visiting the UK was to take my older daughter, Lucy Belle, off to college in England. So it was that her life was packed into many boxes which were then packed into our vehicle and that, as they say, was that. This separation is messing with my dangerously addled, middle aged state of mind. There’s a big hole where there used to be, well, someone that I used to bump into from time to time, when she left her bedroom to make a cup of tea. She has hopes to work in the field of animation seeing as she’s just discovered that changing her hair colour and sitting in your room all day on MSN messenger, hogging you’re dads bandwidth, doesn’t pay the rent. The funny thing is I’m having trouble getting her on MSN now….. I think she may have found the blocking feature.
Here are some other things I learned this summer. If you want to feel really fucked up without taking drugs try this.. First, become a middle aged man. Then go back and visit where you spent all of your holidays when you were a small child.. Woaaaah.. Big mistake. I shouldn’t have done that without a therapist. For some indefinable reason, perhaps curiosity, perhaps mid-life crisis, I decided to take my family around Scotland, not where I grew up, of course, I didn’t want them to get mugged, but the beautiful parts, of which there are many. I found myself a little choked up to visit places I’d visited as a small child and I had recollections of things long since forgotten, lots of memories involving my dad, who died before I was old enough to really know him. Strange as it may seem…or maybe not to anyone that knows me, I really hadn’t considered that I was now the same age as he was when he took me to these places and this freaked me out, but in a really positive way. Little has changed in Scotland once you get into the Highlands. Thankfully mountains take a while to move and while following winding roads around lochs and glens you feel safely out of the range of Starbucks.
I guess we spent about a week in Scotland, which was not enough, but very much appreciated. With a seemingly inexhaustible supply of diet Irn-Bru, were it not for the fact that it was so buggering cold, it’d make a nice place to live, er, not for me, mind you, but for people that like grey oppressive weather and sheep.
Londoners, for example….
After Scotland, London was big, smelly and expensive but it was quite lovely to be there, not only from the point of view of seeing friends, but to be somewhere alive and animated like London surely is, something which has become a novelty for me these days. Violette, my youngest, was born in London, but had never really been there and had constructed her vision of what it would be like by watching Mary Poppins therefore it was somewhat of a letdown that not everyone spoke like Dick Van Dyke. Another illusion shattered, like the time in May when she said to the Little Mermaid in Disneyland, “but Ariel, that’s not a tail, you’ve got legs in there”. Walkie talkies chattered and she was ushered away quickly by the Disney swat team, or whatever, and told to keep her voice down.
Other things to say about England.. Not much, I’ve a pretty love-hate relationship with it, you know, love leaving it, hate being there, that sort of a thing. But actually this time I enjoyed some of the simpler aspects: like people begging who were wearing nicer shoes than me; like seeing a whole section of the supermarket dedicated to pies, which surely explains a lot; like people being polite, something I’m less used to these days because I live in France; Like good service, well with the exception of Morrisons supermarket in Stratford Upon Avon, a town I ought to just avoid; like bookstores, not only with books in English, but open late and even on Sunday (refer to one of many previous bitching sessions about living in France).. And on the same subject.. Leakeys Bookshop in Inverness – a church full of books…No really, there were a great may things I enjoyed during my short stay in the UK but I couldn’t help being left with the impression that the country has become populated with even more fat, chavvy Sun readers that before.
So, my girls seemed depressed to get back to France, but I was delighted. Kissing the ground would have been going a little too far due to the ever present abundance of dogshit in this fucking country, but you know what I mean. It felt like I was home. Trouble is, now that I’m writing this the French are starting to irritate me again with a plethora of red fucking tape, stupid laws and a completely backward banking system. And customer service??? That concept is a is a bit of a stranger to these shores. (refer to another one of many previous bitching sessions about living in France).. That fuckwit Gerorge W Bush coined that most amusing Bushism, “The French don’t have a word for entrepeneur” and we all laughed at him when in actuality it was probably one of his, or more likely his only, astute observation. He’s still a fuckwit though.

The part about the music
OK for those of you who made it through that lot I’ll now attempt to fill you in with what should be happening in this next little bout of activity that I’m just commencing on. First up, I’ve started to mix the sessions recorded in San Francisco in May with Harold Budd. Done four pieces so far. Would have been five if it was not for writing this. All to say there is the same as I said before, it sounds lovely and it’s been a very refreshing experience listening back to some of the takes. When I listen it transports me back to the recording room and that’s definitely a good sign for me. All things point to this being a beautiful album.
I’ve been remixing a track for Alsace Lorraine called Tall Grass, more details of which I’ll post later, Recording more stuff for Apollo Heights and am expecting the return of Annie Barker from Los Angeles to continue with her recordings in a week or so. I’m doing another remix of a track for Ulrich Schnauss, who I saw performing at La Route Du Rock recently. At the same festival I was happy to see Why? perform…loved them..