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The last couple of weeks….

Posted on Friday, December 15th, 2006

….. have seen me busy in my studio, by far the warmest place to be as it is buggering cold outside. In no particular order I’ve been doing the following.

Mark Gardener
After a little chat after my performance in Oxford earlier this year with Mark Gardener, in which we both expressed an interest in doing something together we finally managed to make a little time in our schedules to make it really happen, something that in my experience never usually happens when you are talking to someone after a concert. So I was especially pleased when I picked him up at the airport and during the journey back to my place we talked about many common experiences in this cruel and unjust business that we both choose to spend our lives dabbling in. No, not the music business (which, of course, is cruel and unjust) but living in France where we have both spent about five years. Mark, however, had the good sense to move back to Oxford recently, but I choose to stay on here, as a public service, collecting little gems of French stupidity to post here from time to time. Sad to say, I must be getting naturalized as I’ve not found too many things to bitch about here recently, but I put that down to the fact that I’ve not been going out much rather than that the French attitude towards efficiency has improved. Anyway, we eventually got round to talking about music, there being a longstanding mutual appreciation. In fact our paths had crossed back in the days when I was in Cocteau Twins and he was in Ride but I guess we were probably too fucked up on drugs to have been able to make much sense to each other. However that was then and this is now. The drugs have gone and from time to time we make sense.
No, really. . .

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We only really had two days to work together so we decided just to write and complete one song, which we did beautifully, a little pop song called the places we go. I haven’t the faintest idea when, if ever it’ll come out but I would imagine that we’ll do some more together in the not too distant future as it was a pleasure both both on a musical level and a personal one.

School of Seven Bells
I was asked a little while ago to do a remix of a track My Cabal by the School of Seven Bells from New York who I previously hadn’t encountered. I like the track a lot but, surprise surprise, I like my remix even more.. Well, you know, I hope they like it even more as well… It’ll be available soon on Sonic Cathedral…

Mitsuo Tate
My friend Tate san came to visit from Tokyo and I was very happy to see him as it has been some time since he’s been able to share his, most individualistic, views on the world, you know, why the Japanese are better at everything and that kind of a thing. We messed around in my studio a little, just talking bollocks about sound equipment and, more amusingly, everyone else we know. It was fun. Then he got the screwdriver out and proceeded to start stripping down my effects pedals and photographing the insides, a new oddity indeed for Mitsuo, already known for several odd things including a fetish for teenage gymnasts, a love of the group Kiss and bizarre facial hair. I suspect that he’ll be taking the photos back to Japan and designing miniaturized versions of some classic effects pedals and will shortly be selling them back to me.
But for the most part we just ate and talked shit.

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we looked like this, excuse the odd angle, my five year old took the picture and she’s just little….

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and we ate this.

Alsace Lorraine
A couple of months ago I did a remix for Alsace Lorraine, the brainchild of one Paul Francke featuring the vocals of Argentinean singer and artist Isol previously from Entre Rios. I, er, sort of, butchered their pretty pop song, as is my way and turned it into a, sort of, ballad which was half the tempo of the original and, well I liked it. . . . (Stop me if you see a pattern emerging here). . I guess they must like it as well as they’re putting it on their album. Anyway this week has seen me putting the finishing touches to mastering the album, Dark One, which will be available on Darla Records sometime soon..

Colour Kane
Can’t forget about this as well, Colour Kane from Belgium entrusted me with mixing a track for them called Seaside Dreams. I’m hoping that they didn’t feel that I butchered it. Well you know, this time I don’t think I did, well not in a negative way. These artists, foolishly give me the freedom to interpret as I see fit and the end result always comes out slightly different to what they send me, hopefully not disappointing , but indeed evidence of me being a control freak with an ego the size of a small country, say, Belgium, for example.
Or maybe I’m being over sensitive.. :)

So you see, I’ve been busy. ok

Annie Barker

Posted on Thursday, December 7th, 2006

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Ah, it’s Thursday, and I’ve just emerged from a ten day session, and the sun is shining, something unusual for this time of year. I intend to bask myself in as much of it as I can as I’m not sure the next time it will show it’s face. Actually that’s not true. It may have been sunny for the last ten days but I wouldn’t have noticed as I’ve been pretty much focused only on one thing, the session I was working on. Now, Annie Barker is a singer from Hollywood, CA and the story of how we met and have ultimately made an album together is true to what I enjoy about musical relationships, in fact all relationships, namely a chance meeting, very different backgrounds and the absolute lack of a plan. On first listening I could sense that she had quite an extraordinary voice and seemed to be quite driven, two things which don’t always go hand in hand, a songwriting style and process radically different from my own and very importantly, confidence. So earlier this year I worked on a couple of tracks with her and was generally pleased with them and would have left it there if it were not for the fact that the songs seemed to get better as time went on. I think it’s fair to say that the first couple of songs we worked on together were the most difficult and after a point we seemed to find an energy which prevailed for the rest of the recordings. The songs just get better and better and now we have finished ten of them and it seems like a really rounded album, taking you on a journey around her mind, which seems to reach out and touch you and demand to be listened to. My role has been ‘producer’ although producer seems to mean a different thing for each session I do. Annie has written the songs . I’ve been playing guitar, bass, drums, whatever has been needed really. Annie has made two or three trips to France during this year to work with me and now we find ourselves with a finished album which I, for one, am really proud of. It’s, quite simply, pushed me a little outside my comfort zone into a more, I guess, mainstream or accessible area which I have less experience in although I think I’ve managed to retain all of my sonic characteristics without compromise. This is good news for me. I mean I wouldn’t want to stray too far outside my comfort zone, would I? That would be too much like hard work and although we have been working twelve hour days it’s not really seemed that way. The process of working with someone else is, as ever, an education, regardless of the fact that this is Annie’s first album. In fact I probably learned a lot because it’s her first album which is kinda refreshing as she probably hasn’t yet reached her comfort zone. Everyone has something to offer and it’s probably self serving of me, but I soak up other peoples input and allow it to influence me subconsciously, at least.
And you know what? That moment at the end of mixing when we’re listening back to the album is still one of the best feelings in the world, a strange mixture of accomplishment and knowledge that you will be able to sleep soon.
I’m not sure who will put this record out or when but I would hope that someone with taste and the ability to market it, help her find the audience will surely pick it up and support it, as it is worthy of way more exposure than some other independently produced albums. I’ve said before that I sometimes feel that I make marginal music listened to by marginal people. This is not marginal; this could be appreciated by a much wider audience if it is given the chance.

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Now it wouldn’t be normal for me to write this weblog without fucking with someone, so just so that you all don’t think that I’ve got all enthusiastic about life and people, or, you know, like, have a heart or even worse, turned into a big pussy, here are a couple of interesting points of background information should you ever bump into Annie Barker. .. She puts honey and soya milk in her coffee which is just really fucking weird and wrong. She doesn’t respond well to sentences which begin with, “Well you know, for a Californian you…” or “You Americans…” Also it’s probably best to keep her away from small children unless you want them to start saying things like “Totally” and “Awesome” all the time…