I wrote One Of Those Days in 1996 as part of the second tranche of songs for Grope. Up to that point, we’d largely been playing songs that I’d written before the band formed, so One Of Those Days and its siblings were more representative of the muse at the time.
It’s a very simple song – really just two sets of chords that are only slightly different – and, as with all my playing during the broken hands days, they’re barre chords without the barre. While this was a reality of the pain of playing, in a three-piece it really helped to fill out the spectrum, and I still use many open-drone strings to this day.
We actually only played One Of Those Days a couple of times before the band morphed into its next generation in 1997 and, at those gigs, it was listed on the set list as SHEEP, simply because we sang a lot of Ba-ba-baaa and had been joking about it at practice
[it also takes up less real estate on the set list!]
Of all the songs on Grope, Sheep is the one that wasn’t captured in my muscle memory – in fact, up until the session that triggered the project, I could never remember those droning chords, I had a vague recollection of the positions, but nothing more than that. When my Strat gave me them back, I felt huge relief, as I always had a sense of how much fun the song could be.
And it is.
Lyrically, this song is all about how freely others offer opinions, and in turn seek to control us, and that we make a choice to either bend to their will or walk our own path. When we make that compromise, it never really leaves our conscious mind, no matter how much we bury it.
Have you ever had one of those days
the smile seems nailed to your face
and everything aches
with the effort it takes
Have you ever had one of those times
you feel like you’re learning your lines
’cause time after time
you tell them you’re fine
At the time the song was written, I was very much consciously bending to meet others’ expectations. In recording the song now, I found myself finally free of that choice. And the more I thought about it, the more the word Sheep played on my mind.
So, the title shifted, and I added the little stab, “Don’t be a sheep!”, into the gang vocals. I also tweaked a lyric in the third verse:
They’re telling you what to say
They’re telling you what songs to play
And they’re telling you
not to sing them your own way
A little nod to where I still bump into unrequested opinions, and where I still offer a hearty f**k you!
Ultimately, Sheep is a song of personal choice and freedom, and my original cut featured a many-track gang vocal with me singing each line. I reached out to friends and was blessed with a many-track stem from Isabelle and Mark of Combine The Victorious, as well as several vocal lines from Anne Castellano and Tony Castellano of my lead guitar gig: Anne Castellano & The Smoke. Finally, if you listen closely, you can hear our daughters, Elise and Kyra, adding their voices con mucho gusto!
I’m really looking forward to working Sheep up for live performance, and egging the audience to join in the end. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy Sheep (One Of Those Days). And remember…
DON’T BE A SHEEP!
On Wednesday, I received the first order of Grope CDs
which, as anyone involved in any artistic pursuit knows, brings a very warm feeling. There’s something about the journey of ideas, via craft and work, to physical medium that is just special. Preparing for digital streaming and download isn’t the same. Same thing happens with my books; holding them, feeling them, smelling them
[yes, that’s part of that particular experience]
just brings that “It’s done, and I did this” feeling.
If you’ve been following along at home, you’ll know that Grope is a collection of original songs that I wrote and played live with my band, Grope
[see what I did there]
back in the mid-90s; they’d lain dormant until my Fender Stratocaster possessed me back in December 2013.
I tracked, mixed and mastered the record in my basement studio, completely in Logic Pro X. Recording was remarkably easy – I knew these songs, we practised and played them out often enough for them to be in muscle memory, and there wasn’t too much of a need to break new creative ground.
Partly, this was helped by my setting myself some guide rails by deciding that I wouldn’t add any instrumentation beyond the vocals-guitar-bass-drums set-up Grope played. That meant no keyboards, no brass, no strings. That left me with only two areas of variability: guitars
[electric only, we didn’t do any acoustic songs in Grope]
and vocals. On our 1996 demo EP, we used multi-track guitars to fatten rhythms, and Scott and I added vocal harmonies wherever it worked.
So, it’s no surprise that Grope is guitar heavy
[and in places with heavy guitar]
and vocally harmonious in places. With both, it was an interesting feeling to be in this body of experience, wisdom and learning, yet stepping back into the body I inhabited 2o+ years ago. Standing in the studio, now me playing then me’s parts, with now me’s capabilities and soul. The same, but different.
All of the solos on the record are my memory of what I played at the time
[thanks, I think, to their being very singable]
yet they felt so much easier to play now. That’s partly down to my hands working properly, though mainly down to the fact that I’ve been playing a long time since these songs were played out. There’s one new solo on the record, in Painkiller Morning, which really does draw upon where I’m at now, though it’s still of a piece with the other tracks
[they’re still my fingers and soul, after all]
One of the quirkiest things of recording the guitars is that my Strat – the genesis of the project – is only on a couple of tracks. Again, I’ve evolved as a player, and the tonalities of other guitars fitted where the record was heading. Don’t worry, I checked in with my Strat along the way; she’s not too upset.
When it comes to vocals, there’s no doubt that I’m a better singer now – in breathing, energy and focus – and I’ve learned a LOT about how to treat and mix my voice.
It was interesting to hear my accent come through on certain songs – more British than I sing now – and I’ve read Michael Stipe interviews where he’s described similar with himself, his childhood Texan accent emerging on certain songs. Once again, I can only put it down to the muscle memory of these melodies and lyrics.
The harmonies on Grope are fun – some of them are new for the recording – and, as ever, I used one of my favourite writing techniques: driving in my car singing along to rough mixes
[highly, highly recommended]
Getting others to help me build the gang vocals on Sheep (One Of Those Days) really brought something special to that track – it’s one of my favorites and makes me smile every time the gang joins in.
Overall, my Britpop time capsule makes me very happy. As a record, it hangs together, primarily because it was a body of work at the time, and is it’s own body of work now. I’ll be posting soon about the song-writing on the record – its own subject, for sure. For now though, I’ll let you listen and be the judge of whether a quick Grope can make you as happy I am!
[all that I ask is that, if you like what you hear, please consider buying a copy – digital or physical – music doesn’t come for free, and I truly want to keep making music!]
Love – Peace – Trust
Well, it’s been about a week since the soft-release of Grope and in the coming weeks, I’ll be writing much more about the process of recording these songs, the stories behind some of them, and the meaning I attach to the whole experience. Be ready – it’s a different sound than Sparse!
Physical CDs will be with me in a couple of weeks, but in the meantime, I’d love it if you take a listen here, or over at bandcamp, where you can buy digital version now, and pre-order physical CD if that’s your medium of choice!
Been a while since I posted, I know, but I’ve been busy on so many fronts that I just couldn’t provide updates. Never mind, I’m here right now!
I had the great pleasure of playing last night in my lead guitar gig with Anne Castellano & The Smoke. We were playing at Strange Brew in Norwich, CT – a first visit for the band, and my first time at the venue. We were providing support for Ohio act, The Saturday Giant, who’s in the middle of a 39 date tour.
A few reflections and thoughts on the night.
For the first time in 36 years of playing live, I had a tube fritz out on me, killing the clean channel of my amp – didn’t have a spare tube, but wouldn’t have been able to replace it anyway (not quickly at least). Played the whole set through the dirty channel and rejigged all my pedals to make things work – got compliments, so it seemed to hit the spot
[a relief, for sure]
As ever, music has the power to help me overcome whatever angst this compromised set-up was giving me, and we played a tight set
[a tip for any up and coming musician – practice way, way more than you gig – the gigs will be much better for it]
The Saturday Giant is a loop-based one-man band, creating his loops live; quite complex sonic architectures. I use loops to practice improvisation
[so much better than a metronome]
I’ve never incorporated them into my live shows, because I’m still a little too song-based
[verse, chorus, middle 8, solo, etc.]
and prefer to focus on playing/singing rather than tap-dancing on all the pedals to control multiple parts.
With that said, The Saturday Giant is very, VERY good at what he does – at times his sonics touch upon Sigur Ros, etc. though with more of a hip-hop beat going on underneath. And several of us agreed that his version of The Pixies Where Is My Mind was one of the better we’d heard. Definitely worth checking out if you get chance to see him.
This morning, Jane asked me how the night went, and I was telling her all of the above. As we were talking, I realized that I wasn’t complaining about the venue at all. Typically, there’s some aspect of the venue that creates angst/leaves a bad impression – be it mic stands that don’t stay up
[oh, that one really, really annoys me]
monitoring that sounds like cloth over the speakers, sound men
[not meaning to be gender specific, but I’ve yet to meet a sound woman]
not listening/reacting to what’s happening on stage, playing in spaces not designed for a solo performer let alone a band. Either that, or the audience
[or lack thereof]
not being supportive of the music. I have to say it, Strange Brew is a GREAT venue to play. Jason was friendly and collaborative in setting up sound, the audience were listening and with us in the performance. In another place
[and sadly, I fear, another time – that has passed us by]
Strange Brew would be filled to the rafters. On a Thursday evening in downtown Norwich CT, it still had a reasonable crowd when we played, though it thinned out a little for The Saturday Giant – a pity, people missed a great performance. Hats off to Strange Brew, though – I look forward to visiting again, as a player and listener.
So, another night of music, of togetherness, of humanity. Live music is a power for good in our lives, thank you for supporting it in whatever way you can.
Just got back from a long weekend, camping in New Hampshire. What a great time! Some thoughts and reflections on the experience.
We were camping just outside Lincoln-Woodstock in the White Mountains region, so the first day was spent visiting a couple of river gorges.
First off, my favorite place of the weekend: Lost River Gorge – a long descent to the bottom of the gorge, then back up via caves and remarkable geology. The girls had a great time going through the cave formations and, when the cave permitted someone of my width to get through, so did Dad!
A bite to eat and then on to Flume Gorge – a longer trek here, less fun for the kids but with many more significant geological formations – vertical canyon walls, rushing waterfalls, vertiginous drops. Here are a couple of pics from the gorge itself:
Also, I now officially know where the treasure is buried:
[highly, highly recommended]
and both kids proved themselves to be willing to face whatever fear they had and keep going:
That afternoon, we drove over to Mount Washington, the highest peak in the north-east of the US – an 8 mile drive up the Auto Road proved that I’m still able to pull up some adrenaline when I need to! Of course, the summit was swathed in clouds, but we can at least say we’ve been there! And, continuing a trend involving t-shirts and mountain tops, I made sure that my Spindrift Guitars t-shirt went with me :)
All in all, it was a lovely weekend, though I do have to say that the region as a whole appeared to like Bro-country a little too much for my tastes… Despite that, I look forward to returning in the coming years – at a little over 3 1/2 hours drive away, it’s more than earned some more of my time!
As always with camping, I look forward to my own bed tonight, appreciate the wonder of rock, wood, water, fire and air, and value the sense of having disconnected from the machine even if just for a few days.
Those following along at home will know that I’ve been fairly quiet of late
[aside from lots of posts linking songs and videos]
There’s a good reason of course: this artistic life doesn’t keep the roof over our heads, nor food on the table and, frankly, I needed to get some paying work. Which I did. But to do so, I took a very structured choice to put all
creative projects on hold. I couldn’t give myself fully to growing my business while also diving deep into the pool. Neither effort would be successful – and, while my soul needs creativity to be successful, a LOT more rides upon my ability to put food on the table. It was a weird time all right, and I can’t say I fully enjoyed the sensation of constraining my creative energies.
But it is what it is
[and I still played the guitar throughout!]
Business done, and can now turn my attention back to those projects that have been lingering:
- Grope – the record progress well, some vocals to retrack and mixing, but it’s sounding pretty much as I wanted it to.
- Vincent Tuckwood Band – I’ve recorded and performed my original music in a band setting as Monkey68 for a number of years. With the release of Sparse, and my solo work under my own name, beginning to get some traction, like my recent public access television appearance:
it doesn’t make sense to maintain two separate brands – so Monkey68 will be retained for more esoteric recording excursions, but the band will now be under my own name.
- RUFUS – this novel was about 30,000 words in when I put things on hold, I like what I have, and Rufus (and his journey) is pretty cool, though I admit I have some story arcs to refine before I can take it much further, not least of which is the presence of a very dangerous, yet passive suite of bad guys – they’re bad all right, it’s just that a lot of it’s under cover – I have to figure them out before I can go much further.
- ASYLUM – originally a short film project (that got to about 1/5 of its funding target via KickStarter), I always knew that Sol’s journey was more than the short film, and over the last few months, the expanded story has been tickling at me – too early to share specifics, but I have begun mapping out the book. Like ESCALATION, I believe it’s going to be a quick write. One thing I do know is the title of the novel, which won’t be Asylum, but I’m not sharing it just yet
[yes, I am a real tease]
It’s interesting to dive back into these pools, and their welcome embrace. Like many artists, I wish I could do so without the constraints of considering where the next buck is coming from, but I’ve managed
to balance things out. For a long time now, I’ve been putting faith into building a body of work that folk can dive into when they become interested. With 4 novels, a handful of screenplays, a poetry collection and one record out, that faith is beginning to feel justified now. With what’s coming it’ll feel even more justified.
Interesting times indeed!