It’s now one year since the day I decided to have a go at connecting with (for me) a totally new instrument.
Back in 2016 I made a very conscious decision to spend less time on the road. I had clocked up 2000 odd shows over the last decade and as happy that I was to have enjoyed that journey; I was reaching a strange place in the process.
Mainly I was starting to feel as though I was loosing sight of the Joy in creating music and as my attempts at new material became further intricate, I was unsure as to how much faith one should have in it.
In short – I needed to step back.
So shortly after settling into a life less transient I decided to invest in something new.
One of the wisest purchases I have ever made I immediately took to playing the keys in a way that reminded me of my 1st connection to the Guitar. I was terrible at playing it, but the process was of pure discovery. I would find myself sat for hours noodling over simple ideas and feeling like it was the freshest thing I had created in a while.
Suddenly the loops, layers, textures, effects and intricacies seemed irrelevant.
When I reflect upon it I wonder why it took me so long. I soppose being on the road so much had a lot to do with it. But for years now my greatest love for music of just one musician and his/her instrument has been that of piano players.
I would gush to people about my love for Thelonious Monk, Toshiko Akiyoshi, Bill Evans to name a few. And the music of groups like Radiohead had moved forward leaps and bounds once they started to ditch the guitars and embrace the keys.
As much as I’ve probably laboured the point now it really was a wonderful awakening for me. But what I didn’t expect was that before the year was out, I would be performing this way.
I was offered a last min show in December 2016. It was to be only a short set. I took it knowing I had decided to commit myself into a piano set. And so that’s what I did.
I was lucky enough to be able to perform a private concert the day before my 1st public outing on at the Impact Theatre in West London. This went ok although I did tend to rush everything.
The next night saw me debut publicly not only new songs but the new instrument:
I had learnt from my experience the day before and kept everything slow and manageable.
Early into 2017 I also played one singular unannounced performance in Watford:
Again there was a steep learning curve to the occasion.
I shared the billing with a fully pro piano player and sheepishly did my best.
Either way although my playing is still as basic as can be.
It’s helped my writing and enthusiasm no end.
So for now the new material is often stemming from the Piano. How much of that remains a part of the live set up remains to be seen.
9 Tracks which were self produced and recorded throughout 2008 – 2012.
1. Clean Code
2. Normal Scheme of Things
3. One Schizophrenic
5. Organic (Like the Plague)
6. Time Lost Tradition / Bright Scenic Reprise
7. Eternally Grateful / The Penny Drop
9. Your Guitar (Tsukinohi)
The second disc is a live collaboration (unique to this format) recorded in Japan between Stuart and one of his favourite musicians Haco. The concert was recorded in Kobe at the live music venue ‘Varit’ on 30th September 2010. The concert was on the whole completely free and improvised however a part of one of Haco’s songs ‘Less than Lovers, More than Friends’ is performed. The concert lasted just under 35 mins and is separated across the two sides of the LP.
To come to Japan and have the chance of performing with Haco was like a surreal dream coming true. For me personally it really affirmed my role as a musician and to have the complete concert put to vinyl represented how special the experience was.
Also recorded as a part of this album was my first cover version to be released. A track originally written and performed by Mogura Ka Maigo (The Lost Mole). I fell in love with the melody of the piece (Tsukinohi) when I saw Mogura Ka Maigo live in Tokyo. I wanted to recreate my own version of the song to work with lyrics I had in mind.
Also aside from this being the first album to involve a cover version it is also the first album to involve a sample.
I built a song around a sample from the song ‘Closed Captioned’ written by the Washington D.C. Post Hardcore band ‘Fugazi’. I emailed the band sometime back and they were decent enough to give me a response clearing me to sample the track granted that they hear it first. After I sent them a copy of my tune ‘One Schizophrenic’ I was lucky enough to get the go ahead and I believe it to be one of the more immediate tracks on what is otherwise a more obscure and challenging listens.
A special mention must go out to Rachel Steadman who worked into the piece a wonderful wall of string parts that I believe really add a special intensity to the music.
I must also give special shout outs to Nick Hall Lazzerini for the mixing and John Mercer for the mastering.
I had not worked with neither John nor Nick since the recording of my 1st album ‘Autonomous Debut’ in 2006.
It was a pleasure to have them both involved in the project. As ‘Autonomous Debut’ was also self produced this felt like the ideal bringing together of minds reuniting to finish an album.
13 Tracks which focus very much upon the Singer/Songwriter side of music.
1. Ace Cloned
2. Slow Start
5. She is your Microscope
6. Bold Bright
7. That Cough You Gave Me
8. Contact Approved
10. Modern Life
11. Success Aint What They Teach / Bright Scenic Reprise
12. Navigate (Feat Craig Harris)
13. All Suspense
The album has been released on ‘Tape Cassette’ and also includes material on side B that cannot be found anywhere else. This includes a performance by Stuart of the song ‘Recordeddirecttothiscassette’ which
has been recorded through a boom box cassette recorder to each of the individual 44 tapes in order to make each cassette unique. The song has been recorded 44 times in 44 different locations with various
musicians in attendance for each performance.
The Album is a Result of many various recording sessions on and off the road between 2006 and 2012. Concluded by Craig Harris in 2012. Bringing these songs to Craig was a nerve racking experience for me as I knew the material was in varying states of completion. I knew I would need help to salvage the album and to get it finished; and so when Craig suggested a collaboration that would lead to the song ‘Navigate’. I realised that there was a good connection and level of respect between us both that could work well in the future.
10 Tracks which focus very much upon the Band ensemble side of music.
1. Lac Encode
2. Squeaky Doors
3. Default: Escape
4. World Is Plenty
6. You Know What You Are
8. When You Go Home
9. Note That Says / Bright Scenic Reprise
10. 1-2-Seppuku (Feat. NolenNiu-de-Ossi)
Included in this are 4 additional tracks which are available uniquely to this format and will not be available as a part of the download release. These include demo’s from the sessions and a live track taken from the bands first ever live show back in 2008.
As mentioned before this album draws upon the solid collaboration with the band of musicians.
These players have been so supportive of my music over the last 4 years and sharing a stage with them live is something I relish whenever the opportunity is there.
The members of the band are:
I first met Dave when we both became members of the band ‘PhoenixDown’. Despite sharing opposite ends of the stage it was clear a musical connection was there to be built upon. He guested on my first album ‘Autonomous Debut’ prior to there being a band and has contributed consistently fantastic musicianship on every album since then. Truth be told I cannot imagine these songs without Dave’s unique take on the situation. A truly lyrical player.
Leon and myself have worked together since 1998. His musical intellect and depth of detail has proved essential towards the development of the songs. His professionalism in the studio and consistent playing has worked to ensure these songs on the ‘Forth’ album have taken shape well. He is in demand as a session player and is progressively minded.
I started working with Riad in 2007 between album 1 and 2. I true gent and a natural on almost any instrument. This new collection of songs has seen Riad contribute as a writer as well as a player.
Riad can also be found as a member of many other projects. The essential backbone to the band unit.
Vicky’s involvement in my music came from randomly over hearing her playing whilst jamming with Dave back in 2008. Through the walls of her house we were astounded is she practiced freely from the floor above. A quick ring on the doorbell and the rest is history. On this new album ‘Forth’ Vicky excels herself. a truly great talent who finds her way through the most complex of arrangements. Some of her big band recording have left me purely baffled. Yet for her it seems completely natural. She possesses a very progressive approach to music and has embarked upon a very psychedelic approach in recent times.
12 Tracks which focus very much upon the electronic side of music.
1. Laced Once
2. Bright Scenic
3. A Watchful Eye
4. Stored in the Bottom Drawer
5. Alaskan Sky
6. Still MIA
7. Suburban Sway (Feat Harlequin Knights)
8. This College Year (Feat Zero Call)
9. As Stubborn as a Sandfly
10. Could This Be Sadness?
11. Dumb Mathematics (Feat Shamanic Technology)
Also included as a part of this unique release is an additional reworking of the tune ‘You Know The Score’ A song originally released in 2008 on Stuart’s ‘Distance from here’ Album. This song has been completely re-recorded for this release.
Also included is 4 sets of 10 photos taken by wonderfully gifted photographers Stuart met over the last 6 years of touring.
And finally there is also an additional 4 albums of secret material which can only be found on these 44 copies.
So the new songs are pretty much finished from the perspective of recording and I’m now into the mixing phase of things.
Here’s a shout to all of the wonderful musicians who have devoted time energy and talent to making these songs whole.
The meeting of Vicky came from a random overhearing of her playing through the walls during a random recording session. Her playing was clearly so good and so lyrical that I knocked on her door and asked her to contribute to what was at the time my 2nd record. Since then she has gone from strength to strength not only as a player but also with the use of effects and even getting involved vocally at the live shows
She also plays in a host of other groups and you can learn more about her here: http://www.vickyflint.co.uk/
Dave has been working with me since day 1. We met when I was a member of the group PhoenixDown and Dave joined. He has a remarkable way of fitting into a composition no matter how busy or sparse it sounds and during the recording of Album 3 ‘Good Times With Evil’ Dave excelled playing faultlessly and everything in one take. Recording this new batch of songs has seen him take his technique to a whole new level.
Riad would always take the modest route of describing himself as a “Jack of all trades and a master of none”. Frankly this is not true. The guy is a master of all trades and makes me feel like a jack of the very few trades I possess. I have taken to calling him the king of the low end because he always rocks all shows with his Double Bass skills and on this coming record, songs that he has created himself have become intertwined in the process. Not surprising really when the guys CV shows collaborations with Ninja Tune artists like Woob and Max and Harvey. Here’s to hearing more Abji Masterpieces in good time.
14 bloody years I’ve been sharing a stage with this man. It’s been a pleasure to see this man evolve from an Indie kid to a prog mastermind. No time signature to weird and no weirdness too unsexy. Leon joining the live fray just as work begun on album 3 ‘Good Times With Evil’ was the perfect shift to take the music forward. The combination of players made for the perfect gelling of simple and tasteful and complex and indulgent. Recording Album 4 pretty much started with Leon nailing 18 drum tracks in 1 session. A prolific start to set the tone.
One half of NolenNiu-de-Ossi Yasushi is a master of both Guitar and Shamisen. I had the pleasure of collaboration with these guys at the 2010 Kansai Music Conference. Since then we have shared many billings together and with technology being what it is I was able to ask for a collaboration with them whilst I’m back in the UK and they are in Japan. The results have had me so excited as it feels like the flavour of Japan is finally influencing my music as much as it has influenced my life.
The other half of NolenNiu-de-Ossi Toruko plays and sings with such character you can`t help but smile and relish the music when you see her live. Toruko has contributed some amazing accordion which references back to an ancient Japanese classical style Gagaku (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gagaku ).
I feel lucky that back in 05 when I begun work on my debut record, I was fortunate enough to be able call upon Roger who is a family friend to contribute some Tenor Sax and Clarinet to the record. He has been playing with Jazz big band ‘The Blue Notes’ for over 25 years amount other projects. He has since played on all 3 of my records and his involvement in the 4th has been a joy. It seems no matter what material is presented. He manages to contribute significant and interesting parts. Yet no matter what he plays he is convinced he is out of his depth. How wrong can one person be?
I met Eric whilst touring in Japan back in 09. He was in the Japanese capital performing as a member of the musical/physical theatre show ‘The Blue Man Group’. Eric has been drumming for years, he has toured with and shared the studio with Gary Newman and members of Wilco and American Music Club to name a few. I was lucky enough to share a stage with Eric a handful of times during tours. His style is unique and original as he dabbles with modern effects and plays on pre-war vintage drum sets. He is currently collaborating with Callum`s Whisky Tales who have released a wonderful debut record. I was intrigued to hear he plays an instrument called the Omnichord. I knew the sound of it from records by bands such as ‘The Phoenix Foundation’. But eric’s contribution to my new material has been exceptional.
Chris Hollis is not only a skilled an accomplished multi talented musician and writer. But he also a great producer who has worked with me on my 2nd and 3rd albums. Musically he has contributed on multiple tracks and has helped hone some of the material in refreshing and unexpected directions.
He is also a member of multiple bands and more information about his sound services can be found here: http://chrishollis.co.uk/
Ollie is another man due production credits amongst the new material. I came to know Ollie some years back but it was only since touring the UK and touring through Ollie’s hometown of Brighton that has given us the chance to work together musically. Working with him has been a pleasure as his openness to random sounds and ideas has resulted in productive and prolific sessions which I feel create and hone material that neither of us would create as individuals.
Ollie also plays bass for Indie/Electro band ‘Holland’ who are well worth a browse and can be heard here: http://www.facebook.com/thisisholland
When I first went full time with music I took to playing many open mic nights. I was lucky enough to hear Joel playing in St Albans as a part of a duo with another very accomplished musician called ‘Clive Batkin’. I purchased their album and to this day it remains one of the most listened to long players on my iTunes. To have Joel involved is my new recordings is a wonderful full circle for me from the days of folk clubs and open mic nights back in 2005/6.
Joel has recently relocated to Cornwall and is regularly working the live circuit in the South West of England. His website is http://www.hahastudios.co.uk/ and I strongly recommend anyone who is interested should pick up a copy of his Album with Clive Batkin uniquely called ‘G Force Trousers’ . Acoustic Instrumental lushness.
Chris Hare is a musical wizard creating ambient and ethereal masterpieces under the guise of Shamanic Technology who signed to Herb Records. Now regularly touring it has been a pleasure to be able to record 2 songs with Chris (1 of which was released as the secret track on my second album ‘The Distance From Here’ called ‘Misfit Theatre’).
To hear Shamanic Technology please click hear: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Shamanic-Technology/159179610769750
I have shared a stage with Julia numerous times since 2000 when she joined My Pet Junkie also with Leon Camfield mentioned earlier in the Article. To hear Leon, Julia and myself blasting out some prog rock please check out this video.
Julia has been a supportive and wonderful presence for my music and I’m deeply grateful for her musical input once again on my new songs.
I met Francesco when touring out in Italy and connected with him immediately as we shared massive enthusiasm for music and also Zombies. Francesco is also a member of band the Daggers and electro Duo Zerocall with whom I have had a great time collaborating.
To hear more of Zero call please check them out here: http://www.facebook.com/zerocallband
Andrea is the other half of the band Zerocall and is also one 6th of the group The Daggers. He is also an intensely motivated musician and very passionate about analog Synth. A true joy to meet him touring in Italy and also to see him touring hear in the UK.
James Harrison has been a musical Compadre from as long back as 1996. Finally after years of sharing stages with various bands it’s a pleasure to finally collaborate with him on the song ‘All Suspense’. James is a multi-instrumentalist who can swim in any musical deep end. He can also remember the numerical sequence to the number Pi to a ridiculous degree. Also don’t ever try and beat him at chess. You will only lose…..and cry.
James or Jim or Harry or Ebo Harrison also plays in many projects including the wonderful Phoenixdown.
Thank goodness for the wonderful talents of Rachel. I truly and instinctively skilled player who has carved a living as a classical musician for years. She has worked wonders on all 3 of my previous records and her contribution to new material has been simply exceptional. What has also been wonderful has been to see how over time she has relaxed further into the approach of improvisation and off script spontaneity when approaching new material which has produced phenomenal results.
Rachel is also a member of the band Piefinger who have just released a new album. You can hear them here:
Ollie originally was living in the small Devonshire town of ‘Totnes’ when I met him touring through back in 2006. We stayed mates and when he relocated to Brighton I had the fortune of having him into play guitar on a track. He is now playing with a band called ‘Kings Mews’ and they can be heard here:
Craig has been an active musician on the hertfordshire scene for many years now playing in a number of bands aswell as solo, He is also regularly involved in theatre productions contributing from a musical angle. A collaboration came about for a song called ‘Navigate’ and led to craig contributing to a whole host of tunes. The man has an in-depth knowledge of music in almost every genre and possibly, just quite possibly out geeks me.
To hear more of Craigs music check out his sound cloud page here: http://soundcloud.com/craigharrismusic
Owen has been Bass player for ‘The October Game’ since their formation some years back. He is also an accomplished solo performer and more recently has been picked up for some world touring action as a member of Darren Hayes (Savage Garden) live touring band. Working with Owen is something we’ve both been trying to fit into our schedules for many years now and having finally got him involved I’m truly pleased with what he has brought to the table.
Marcus Harley originally hails from the Northwest of England. However I met him on the Island of Jersey when I was touring there last year. He joined me as an impromptu guest where he free styled a rap over one of my tunes. From there we took to sharing the stage on a regular basis and even embarked on a 12 date tour playing 12 venues in just one day. The connection was clearly there but it wasn’t until Marcus recently came to London to record some of his solo material that I was able to get him in the studio to contribute vocals to what was an instrumental track called ‘Suburban Sway’.
Joe is another one of those deeply talented and hugely supportive musicians that every music scene needs. We had shared many gig billings over the years but it wasn’t until we bumped into each other amongst the carnage of a ‘Lightning Bolt’ Mosh pit; that I think we realised quite how much we musically had in common. This lead to collaborations with myself guesting as guitarist in his band ‘The Otters/The Astronauts’ aswell as other projects ‘Midnight Moth’ and ‘The Helldrake Collective’. Joe’s inclusion amongst my solo work is truly overdue and it’s finally a pleasure to have him involved.
To hear Joe’s band The Astronauts please click here: http://www.facebook.com/TheAstronautsBand
You’ve been there since day one man. DAY FUCKING ONE!!!!!!. That’s what I would be saying to Nick during a poignant scene in a hollywood epic. However it is all true. I picked up guitar and struggled at the first hurdle. Then Nick picked up guitar and excelled at it. It was only from learning what he was playing that helped me evolve what I was doing. So it’s a pleasure to once again be working with him some 16 years down the line.
Nick is also a musician in many other bands including the aforementioned Phoenixdown.
During recording with Nick he mentioned that his wife Amy played the Flute and immediately I had a couple of songs in mind that could benefit from a spot of flute action. Amy stepped up and has delivered wonderful parts that compliment the songs. Amy is also a very active musician and teacher and aswell as playing in a multitude of bands she (with Nick) runs the Dan Tien performing arts school.
Check their page out here: http://thedantien.co.uk/
Dennis is another one of those creative multitalented types that knows how to push things forward. I was astounded when I first heard him playing as a member of ‘the Otters’. The kind of drummer who nails every part with the kind of intensity rarely heard. His own projects take on a more electronic feel and his musical reputation has taken him to far off lands to perform and record.
One of his many projects can be heard here: http://soundcloud.com/thermalbear
OK so a bit of cheat here because Haco’s involvement is not strictly on the record, more so with the bonus material that will come with some physical copies of the record.
Her music has been a massive inspiration to me for many years now, and back in 2010 I was lucky enough to share a stage with her amidst a tour of Japan. We collaborated and improvised and I relished the experience greatly. When I listened to the recording back many months later I was overjoyed with the results and after seeking approval from Haco it will see release in the near future.
In the meantime she has released another record herself called ‘Forever and Ever’.
I strongly recommend it!
More info about her can be found here: http://www.hacohaco.net/haco/home.html
Well what with today being the 4/4. I think it seems fitting that I give you a first speak peek of where I'm at with my 4th album.
This song is very much a work in progress and features Leon Camfield and Dave Smale.
I hope you enjoy.