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the dark blue matter / Blog

Recording At the Farm (Part 1)

Greetings from The Animal Fam! Pleased to be back there to work with Mat and Ville again. As part of the ‘long-time - no see’ introduction, I update them on what’s been going on with (ahem?) ‘the band’ or that there’s little doing there. Having tried out countless musicians over the last year or so, I’m still struggling to find players, with the right mix of, creative talent, dedication, experience and discipline, or as Ville puts it, ‘guys who have busted their chops’. So if anyone out there fancies themselves the next guitar hero; or is a bass player with the bluesy feel of Berry Oakley of the original Allman Brothers Band (have a listen to Stormy Monday from The Allmans Live at The Fillmore CD) please, please get in touch. Or if you are a drummer with creativity, energy, style and staying power… yeah, get in touch via the contact details on the website www.darkbluematter.com So while the band and live situation is kind of two steps forward and one step back, the songwriting continues to run like an express train from one stop of inspiration to the next, and I’m happy to say I’ve probably written enough songs for an album since I was at the Farm last year. So according to the system we’ve used before, I start by playing through three or four new songs with just piano/vocal, to find the one. Selection process over, we set to work building the track: Good Times Humbled. A song that I’m very pleased with in solo piano/vocal performance and low-key arrangement. The song is so new I haven’t played it live yet, (eg: at an ‘open-mic’ night) even though I normally like to see how a song feels live before recording it. I won’t go into detail about the way songs are recorded in these times, as opposed to the influential era when the songs we are all somehow inspired by (whether we like it, or know it, or not) were recorded - the 1960’s and 1970’s. In the pre-digital age when bands and studio players needed to be able to play the whole song, in time and on budget as it were, and I don’t just mean one instrumentalist at a time. They needed to play the track ‘live’ together as a band or unit. Just how superhuman some of this old-school playing was never ceases to amaze me. In fact this thought always comes to mind whenever I play/listen to Aretha Franklin’s: ‘Til You Come Back to Me. (Listen you… listen you) listen to this song, and you have to agree the playing is astonishing, beautiful feel, tight, polished and with so many different instrumentalist (bass, drums, piano, guitar, violins (strings), flutes, backing vocals and of course Aretha’s awesome lead vocal) all the more amazing that the musicians were all hovering around a few microphones, playing for keeps – straight to tape. Brilliant!

Recording At the Farm (Part 2)

By comparison, modern technology takes away all the risk and with it excitement of studio playing, which is why I so enjoy working with Mat and Ville. We always start with a ‘live’ take of the song, and work on the song as a unit. Building complexity rather than simply using ‘cut and paste’. With respect to the bass playing, Mat does what Mat does, feeling his way right to the heart and groove of the song, his free and easy approach to landing on the right drum and bass parts so quickly always make me smile. Solos are as spontaneous as they could be. My piano and vocal parts may have been clinically and slavishly rehearsed and refined over the 3 or 4 weeks since writing the song, but it was pure bliss jamming the Hammond outro. And Ville’s guitar parts including his solo, are powered by pure feel for the song and music! Until he walks in to do his bit, the guy has no idea of the song/structure/key/melody/ but always seems to nail it right. Amazing! It’s just as impressive as previous generations of musicians. It’s great to think that I can walk in to The Biscuit Factory on a Thursday morning with the plan/blueprint, or to-scale architect drawing, present it to Mat and Ville, for them to take on the construction work, and hand over the keys to my own impressive edifice, tenant-ready on Friday afternoon. Day one ends with the basic recording work done, including all lead and backing vocals. And as usual we leave the mixing/mastering to the next day. I arrive the next morning to find Mat at work on the mixing, and comment that it’s such a subjective process. What sounds fantastic to one person can be a laughable mess to another! Mat’s reply is worth recording:’ There is no such thing as a bad mix – only an interesting mix’ he smiles tolerantly, which brings me to my next point. As a songwriter, it’s my job to come up with a musically interesting way to convey a message. However the role of impartial creative input can’t be understated. It’s the same as a writer needing an editor, or the screenplay a director someone who can be trusted to make sure the story unfolds in the best possible way. This of course is where Mat’s recording and production experience becomes gold-plated. It takes both knowledge and experience to take a semi-constructed building and fit it out in the right way, everything should be accessible, in the right place, and be balanced. And I’m pleased to say this is where the collaborative process works best. I say very little. What you hear on the mastered recording is basically his will. Oh yeah, I remember asking for the guitar solo and the Hammond organ jamming at the end to be a little higher in the mix, my penchant or weakness is to hear everything louder than everything else (a la Deep Purple!) But I think we struck the right balance, what do you think? Good Times Humbled: Is a song about life’s ambiguity. Sometimes it’s good, sometimes not. I wrote the song in August 2012, after a conversation with a friend about the comedian Bill Hicks. He was a hugely influential character in the sub-culture of the 1980’s, an American who stood up against what America was doing for the free world, he had a wonderful explanation for the job of comedians: When the public and it’s opinion are all going one way (to hell in a hand cart) a comedian is the guy at the back who puts his hand up and says: Hang on a minute? He was a true free spirit. The lyric: ‘Just a ride’ from the chorus echoes the closing message from his stage show.

The Olympic dream

Personal thoughts on the Olympics:

What makes the Olympics special? It a culmination of years of work, dedication and sacrifice, the event horizon where the line is drawn between a dream and reality.

What is so special about the Games? Let's take the case of football, the only other high profile sport that can be reasonably compared to the Olympic Games. Football tournaments are basically won by the players and their coach or manager. They do it mainly for themselves, and their own selfish glory... oh yes and for their club, it's fans and supporters. On the whole it's a parochial achievement. Add to that, the fact that in this day and age the strong mercenary element that exists in the game; footballers no longer work and train just for the love of their sport, they do it primarily to be able to sell their arms (or shooting foot) to whichever billionaire woke up that morning with the bright idea of owning a football club.

Olympic athletes also in some sense act selfishly (selfishly getting up to train at 4-5am come rain, shine, snow, or glorious dewy morning) quite possibly still at it while football athletes are still partying and drinking in a nightclub with mirrored walls and deep blue carpet. Olympic athletes on the other hand have no billionaire club owner waiting in the wings to make their every dream come true, to being paid telephone number salaries. They achieve their dreams through self-reliance and a selfish dedication to their cause. This is why they are deservedly much more adored and admired

Of course at some level we all of us wish we had the motivation and discipline to do what they do; to reach the dizzy heights of human performance, but the reality is we don't. But watching those who do have the strength and the courage to devote themselves so totally, is something in which we can all share.

What is so special about winning at the Games? And why does an Olympic Medal mean more than simply Gold/Silver/Bronze?

That special moment in which an Olympian wins a medal (shade or colour is not important) marks the pinnacle of a sporting achievement, the moment summarises years of work, effort, dedication, and sacrifice, and no doubt failures and success... So they win a medal. But in that moment we also feel we've also won (something). Whether or not we are aware of it, we somehow all share and carry the weight of the Olympic ideal, it's part of what it is to live, breathe and be human. So when we watch an athlete's medal winning performance, we feel uplifted; because in a very real sense we all win. It's the embodiment of John Donne's words in his famous For whom the Bell Tolls Meditation where he says: 'any man's death diminishes me'. The other side to this coin is: any man's (or woman's) noble achievement is also mine.

Taken to it's logical conclusion even the athletes who are not in the medal placings, or who feel let down or out of touch of the medal positions are also in a very real sense winners.

Jerome

LIVE Show - Bull and Gate

It was a real pleasure to play our first gig of 2012 at the Bull and Gate, Kentish Town Road yesterday evening (7/4/2012). Arrived at the pub at 6pm thinking we'd stepped into, a parallel universe inhabited by people with long hair, and tattoos, wearing leather and assorted anarchist paraphanalia, Turned out this surprisingly good-humoured, lager-fuelled gathering were there for a metal 'Fest' taking place next door, at the rather more famous – HMV Forum Kentish Town - the Bull and Gate merely acting as the warm up watering hole. We made our way to the venue at the back of the pub, and waited to sound check with the 2 other bands on the bill, On Air and White Heath, more on which later. Sound check was routine, played through our favourite warm-up song (Another World) and just because we like to play - the ballad - Next to You. Then waited... for about an hour... and a half... anyway here's the song list from the gig: (Song from) Another World Roll Your Own Drunken-hearted Boy (blues) Bad Afternoon - solo piano/vocals Next to You Falling for Reason Key to the Highway The songs comprised a mix of songs available to hear at www.darkbluematter.com: Another World, Bad Afternoon, new material Roll Your Own, Next to You, and Falling for Reason, and blues gems, Drunken-Hearted Boy and Freddie King's Key to the Highway. We filmed the gig and hope to put the best bits on the website or youtube soon... Appreciate the support of everyone who came along especially our drummer's crew Monika, Corey, and Andy, and of course the guys in the other bands: On Air (facebook.com/onairofficial) and White Heat (www.glasshouse.whiteheathmusic.com) for your genuine and warm support. Special thanks to the guys at Symptomatic (Matt/Gavin) for putting on a great night! And was up to us to make it sound tight but we needed (sound engineer) Arron to made it all sound right, thanks mate for a great job. Look forward to doing it all again soon. Cheers Jerome www.darkbluematter.com

Where it starts.. the intro....

This is indeed where it all starts! Welcome to The Dark Blue Matter blog, I'm Jerome the keyboard player, singer songwriter, promoter, and doer of everything else less glamorous for the band. Thanks for finding your way here, to the first ever blog entry... Like everyone else in this business, we have plans for the year, but what it all comes down to, after we've done with the talk, is getting out there and doing the WORK! But first some background... I formed 'the dark blue matter' a little over a year ago, as a kind of kick-back to the days when music was inspirational, exciting, and meaningful. And above all where artists wrote and performed songs whIch expressed their ideas and honest feelings on anything and everything. Be it the dizzying heights of human achievment to it's ailing, failing weakness and downfall. It was not so long ago that music brought to us rather more than pontificating, never-played-a-note TV shysters spoon-feeding us their vision of... the next big nothing. When exactly did we exchange talent for celebrity? OK that's the rant done with... back to the business. We're currently rehearsing a winning hand of original songs, with a smattering of classic blues covers) to get out and play. In the coming weeks we will be showcasing the songs at venues all over London. Please check out (Song From) Another World on this site and visit our web site: www.darkbluematter.com where you can support the cause by signing up on mailing list. Please feel free to email me (address is on the website) In fact it would be great to hear from you anyhow, anywhere. Incidentally while stocks last, we're giving away a free mp3 download of (Song From) Another World to anyone: signing up on the web site, ' liking' what we're doing on facebook, or becoming a ReverbNation fan. Just include your email address in a short message and I'll get that across to you. Also everyone who has expressed some fanship before our next recording (this Spring), will receive a free mp3 of the track. Happy listening... Jerome www.darkbluematter.com