Wednesday, 24 December 2008
Christmas is almost here... I always love Christmas Eve, I like the excitement and everyone rushing around... a dear friend of mine gave me this stocking the other night, with my name on it! So sweet! So I'm very excited to open it tomorrow morning!
Get those presents wrapped!!!
HAPPY HOLIDAYS!!! xxxxx
Lots of love,
Monday, 22 December 2008
We've begun our Christmas break as of today... it's been a mad few weeks - go go go go go!!! So we're now taking a short time off to rest up and re-energise out batteries in time for Jan, which is when we finish all the vocals and mixing! The new songs are sounding AMAZING and I know you are going to love it. I was listening to all the work we've done this far on my tube journey and it's very exciting... :)
As a little farewell until January, we made this little video clip for you at lunch today! I will try my best to update the blog over the coming week too, but otherwise we are officially back in the studio early January! Thank you for listening in 2008, it was another wicked year for Temposhark and I can't wait to share this new music with you!!!
Wishing you all a wonderful Christmas and holiday season... and all the best for 2009. It's going to be an exciting year for all of us!!! Love to you all,
Thursday, 18 December 2008
Anyhow... to prove there's been lots going on in Temposhark-land, check out this video clip from ITN music news in the UK, that I filmed with Mark the other day in London! Hopefully this will make up for our not blogging of late...
Also we want to send a very HAPPY HOLIDAY wish to all of you.... may all your dreams and hopes come true in 2009....
Love loads, Rob.xx
Tuesday, 9 December 2008
Sorry there's been no updates, I've been singing most days which meant we were unable to film because Sean is focused on recording my voice, while I sing... but I hope we'll get some vocal footage soon... ;)
To catch up on where we're at watch this video which I made earlier for you:
Tuesday, 25 November 2008
Soph plays violin solos on two tracks on our new Temposhark album as well as singing some backing vocals with me and Sean! All sounding GREAT!
Check out this video to hear a sneak preview of her violin parts and also to discover the name of one of our new album tracks, as leaked by Ms. Solomon mid-interview, ha!:
In other album news - I have begun singing vocals for all the album tracks... going well so far... more news soon!!!
Sunday, 16 November 2008
You may wonder why no blog updates. Well I'm currently in bed with a stinking cold, so I'm fighting it off in order to begin singing next week. I blame it on the underground, I think traveling daily on London tubes right now is like inviting all germs to come and stay, with big open arms like 'Come on cold, come hang out with me!'.
Anyway, it's not all bad. Check out this painting which was emailed to the blog on Friday by a very talented Temposhark fan in China. Yes China! So a big thank you to Sicibom! Your painting has really lifted my spirits, and it's really cool to know that you're listening to my music all the way on the other side of the world. :) Life is good.
Have a good Sunday everyone, and with a little luck, Sean and I will be back to work tomorrow. R.xx
Wednesday, 12 November 2008
Yesterday we were working on the first single for the album, it's a really catchy, fun song - I'm really happy with the new sonic additions.
And today Mark's been here at the studio to play bass on that track, and also another slower one. Hadn't seen Mark for a while as he's been in Israel touring. Good Mark!
Oh and I've somehow managed to get my cold back having just recovered last week, argh! But as I start singing on Monday for most of the album tracks, I'm doing my best to recover quickly. All in all, I'm feeling particularly cranky today.
Anyway, check out this video we just filmed, sorry if it's a bit darker than usual but it is quite late now and the lights were dim:
Saturday, 8 November 2008
Friday, 7 November 2008
Here's one final clip from Cookham, this is me yesterday morning with the coolest cat in the universe, Newbie. Oh and listen out for a sneak preview of one of our new album tracks at the end of this clip:
In response to a number of emails about the previous blog dated November 5th titled "Music Can Be Such A Revelation", yes you are all correct... the fish in the studio screen-saver are in fact Clown Fish, not Gold Fish nor Angel Fish as Sean so smugly corrected me during the video clip! Ha! Just like Finding Nemo!
Thursday, 6 November 2008
Er... OK, so I'm actually in the Cookham studio garden, with two chickens, but I'm not that far off as the chickens are from space. Durr.
This is the proof - filmed for you earlier this morning:
Wednesday, 5 November 2008
This is Mathis warming up before recording his drum parts for the title song from our new album... Good Mathis!!! :)
Check it out:
And our Cookham progress update so far: we've now recorded drums for 3 whole tracks! Woohoo! Two more songs to complete tomorrow, then all done for Mr Richet's magic drum kit.
I'll write tomorrow, hopefully with a fascinating video clip of me on the moon, well almost... you'll see!
We're lucky to be working with a great mixer and producer called Tufty and it's been so much fun so far! He has a great spirit, and always have a very joke to tell us. Mathis has been playing like the demon that he is! The first two tracks are completed now, so three more to do over the next two remaining days... woohoo! The real drums are SO incredible on these songs, they've giving the tracks a breath of new life. Really lifting them up. Sean and I are getting very over excited. I'm filming lots today, so look out for a video coming up next!
I'm also particularly happy for the USA today. Great news that Obama won the election. I stayed up as long as I could last night, finally went to bed at 3.30am UK time just after he had won Ohio... it was clear by then that he would be the 44th president. Congratulations to all our friends in the USA for this historic change. The future is bright.
Sunday, 2 November 2008
Today we headed over to our west London rehearsal rooms to rehearse 5 of the new songs which Mathis will be drumming on this coming Tues, Wed and Thurs in Berkshire. Sean ran through each track with Mathis working out what's needed and how we want it to sound. I got more and more excited as it went on, hearing these 5 songs loud in the rehearsal room, and with Mr Richet on live drums, was so exciting... I can really feel the album coming to life! Woohoo!
We'll be back at Sean's studio tomorrow preparing the 5 backing tracks for the live drum recordings... :)
Saturday, 1 November 2008
November has arrived and we're happy.
Track 4 is coming along REALLY well now, I'm thrilled with it. Sean has been hard at work on the production for the track. Not only is it probably the most epic track we've done on this album, but it also feels a bit like a Bond track, I could imagine 007 catching an evil villain to this one! Maybe one day! Ha ha... I always think it's good to have BIG dreams...
Here's a little clip of Sean adding some guitar this morning onto the last section of this new song for you to enjoy:
I spent the whole of Tuesday writing words to another song for the album. It was half written, I'd started it a while back in the middle of the night. It's a very personal, deeply emotional song, so it was quite tough on the emotions to pick up from where I'd left it all those months ago - but it feels good to know that it's now completed. We're thinking it could end up as the closing track on the album. We'll see.
By the way, when the album is released, some of you may spot that the lyrics to Track 4 were inspired by art... this is partly because on Wednesday and Thursday, I was in Edinburgh with Tracey Emin and some friends, which was the most amazing trip I think I've ever had (and the main reason why I'd not updated this blog sooner).
Edinburgh is an incredible place, I feel really connected with it now, and am looking forward to future Scottish trips to get to know Scotland better. Not only are the local people really cool, AND THEY SMILE A LOT in comparison to us Londoners, but the actual spirit of the place itself - the architecture, their galleries, and their food (especially the fresh fish) is second to none. We did some gigs in Glasgow a few years ago and I have a soft spot for Glasgow too, which is a very different kind of place, grittier, perhaps cooler in a way, with a very unique spirit.
Luckily for me, I saw Tracey's show two more times during this Edinburgh visit, which once again lifted my soul to new heights. It closes on November 9th, so if you've got time this week GO SEE IT! Click here for more information. And if you can't make the trip to Scotland, it will be travelling next to Malaga in Spain and then on to Bern in Switzerland so if you happen to live near those cities I know you'll enjoy the exhibition. Otherwise, I recommend you buy the accompanying book as it's a great insight into 20 years of Tracey's art.
Tomorrow (Sunday) we're rehearsing in west London with Mathis as 3 days next week we're heading to a recording studio in Berkshire where we're going to record Mathis' live drums for 5 songs from this new album. VERY excited! More updates soon...
Sunday, 26 October 2008
Saturday, 25 October 2008
So it's an unexpected direction, which should add something different to the album as a whole. We've been playing with some different lyrical approaches too, trying to make this less about a direct relationship and broader, looking at life from a larger scale I guess.
We had some good news on Thursday - South by Southwest music festival have invited us to play in Texas in March 2009. Our video to 'Blame' is also going to be screened the week before too at the SXSW Film Festival, so that's great too.
I love SXSW and can't wait to return to Austin, it's got a very different atmosphere to other parts of the USA that we've been to when touring, I think maybe because it's a lot smaller than some of the cities like New York, Chicago or LA for example. We played at SXSW once before in 2007 and it was incredible. I'll always remember coming out on stage and the room was packed, with lots of people at the front singing the words to songs like 'Blame' and 'Not That Big' and I was really shocked. At that point, our first album hadn't even been released. It just proves the power the Internet has in sharing new music super fast.
I imagine some of you reading this might make music yourselves? If yes, then head over to Acid Planet now and download the parts to our song 'Joy'. We've decided to open a remix competition which starts today. I'm excited to hear what you come up with!
In other news - it's my birthday in the morning! I'll be 28!! Wow!! And I just found out that the clocks are changing so I get a whole EXTRA HOUR to celebrate... :) I'm having the day off out of the studio and will be celebrating with friends from late afternoon, I can't wait to catch up with everyone.
Thursday, 23 October 2008
hence only being able to see the back of his head.
Where does that leave us, you ask yourself? Far from idle, I answer. We went for lunch, then had a think about writing something new, and came up with something that might just plug the gap. It's only an hour old as I type, but it feels like it's really got something special about it. So, our plan tomorrow is to get it properly knocked into shape so we can decide its future!
What I said the other day about not being precious can be as true for a whole song as it can be for single part. On the way to this album, we wrote an awful lot of songs. Not all of them can be right at the top of the A list, and you have to be brutal when you choose what's going to make it to the final album. We can normally tell quite quickly if an idea is just not strong enough, and cut it loose accordingly. Alternatively, you might labour over a song for a few days only to find that the whole is less than the sum of the parts. And if it's not right, you either have to fix it or let it go!
So, we're a song down, but better to focus on the great moments. Let's see how the newest new song sounds first thing tomorrow...
Monday, 20 October 2008
Problem was, the music wasn't right. At all. So, what to do? Well, I did what I normally do - improvised. I started throwing a few musical ideas at the song to get it heading down a different road. First off, the bassline changed from a buzzing synth to a cut-up piano. Then some scratchy strings. Suddenly, something clicked. A touch of percussion and some careful layering of drum sounds led to a groove akin to a rowdy marching band. So, how about some brass? In it went - fantastic. And we were away!
I've learned over the years not to be precious about what I do - no matter how great a part might sound, if it's not working in context, you either have to ditch the part or change the context. The latter approach is what we've taken on song 3, as all the parts that I put in at the writing stage are still there, but performed in a very different way.
The only bugbear was the words. We had quite a few strong ideas from our various improvisations. We needed a solid direction, so we brainstormed and figured out what it could be. Great - a concept. But where to start? I was stumped. But then, Rob showed me a very interesting picture of a certain celebrity wearing singular shoes. Hmm.. could there be an idea in that? There was indeed, and, once again, we were off and running.
We did agonize over the words rather, but it was worth it - conceptually, the song makes perfect sense now, as well as having plenty of swagger and attitude. Listening back after Rob had sung the new words in, we knew we had something really special. Amazing how these things creep up on you.
So, song 3 is almost done. Vocals tomorrow, then song 4 (which I've actually already started).
Sunday, 19 October 2008
Hope you enjoy the cheerleading. Yes, cheerleading. Who knew. ;)
Warning: the above video contains one rude word (maybe two rude words in fact).
Saturday, 18 October 2008
Song 3 is proving more and more and more fun... it's turning into a right ol' kick-ass march of a song with a wonky brass band to boot.
Me likes. A lot!
Finger snaps currently appear to be the key to success. Although whether these ones actually make it onto the track remains to be seen!!! Were they just a moment of late night madness??? All will be clear by morning, I'm sure... :)
Thursday, 16 October 2008
To make up for it, we've made you this video. After you've watched it, I will explain why I've not been blogging. All will resume as of today, so fear not! :)
So what have I been up to? Well, in London this week it's Frieze, a massive art fair which sends the art world into overdrive. This all kicked off on Sunday for me at Tracey Emin's afternoon lunch in east London to celebrate her new Traveling Chess Set. I got to meet Jerry Hall there for the first time who, for the record, RULES!!! And we got to share our lunch with many other amazing people such as Kate Moss, The Kills, Tim Noble & Sue Webster and Kenny Goss...
Then sadly I spent Monday in bed as I had a terrible cold and was determined not to be ill for the rest of this week.
On Tuesday, I returned to Sean's studio and we worked on our new song, which is Song 2, and the mix was completed. The song sounds huge, it's a big hearted slow track but for some reason doesn't feel slow. We were using the word ballad a bit to describe it, but that's a word which seems to confuse people. Either people love that word or they can't stand it. Whatever. It's a ballad as far as we're concerned but not produced to sound like a ballad. Confused? Good.
So that was very exciting. After that we started Song 3... but for some reason we didn't post a blog that day as we finished very late and forgot! I also went out on Tuesday night to the White Cube party in central London with my dear friend Rachel Kneebone and we ate lots of amazing food and I even got to dance beside Lily Allen!
I spent the whole of Wednesday at the Frieze Art Fair in Regent's Park which was incredible, if tiring. I love to see all the different artists work under one roof. It gives an amazing overview of what's going on in the world right now, as there are artists from almost every country in the globe! I discovered two great new artists there yesterday, which is a bonus! I invited my mates Stella Vine, Annie Kevans, Eva Vermandel and Shona to come with me, and we loved every second. In the evening I went to another dinner, this time for USA gallery Lehmann Maupin, at Aspinalls just off Park Lane. Super glamorous, I felt like I was in a James Bond movie, there was even a casino there!
This morning, Thursday, we had a visit from a friend of ours who listened to some of our new music. It was great to be able to play him the songs and hear his encouraging words. It's good to play songs to people as you're going along, so we don't feel like we're in some cave far from the sun! I also enjoyed hearing them played, having had a day out of the studio, as I was almost hearing them with new ears. And the best bit was that I loved what I heard! Phew... ;)
We continued work on Song 3 for the rest of today, as you've probably just seen in the above video. And actually, Sean is now very happy with himself for his keyboard tricks have worked their magic already.
So, all in all, it's been a mind blowing week. And there's more tonight at the ICA. Woohoo!
Friday, 10 October 2008
Last night I saw Emiliana sing live which was so so so so so incredible. I was still smiling this morning when I woke up! Her show was in a tiny church in Denmark Street, central London, called St Giles' Church. She sang all the songs from her past two albums 'Me And Armini' and 'Fisherman's Woman'. I strongly recommend you buying both of these as YOU NEED THEM IN YOUR LIFE!
The gig was so refreshing and each song she sang gave me a big kick in the stomach - it reminded me why I love making music so much, and why I started writing songs in the first place. Life is good! :)
Sean McGhee writes the blog: Getting nervous today, knowing it's now a week since we wrote Song 2 and it isn't quite finished. It's nearly there, though! I spent a lot of today just getting the drums right, and making sure the song sounds consistent all the way through, which is harder than it sounds, especially when you're working piece by piece on a computer. I sometimes envy bands who just set up and go, working it out as a team, but then, I make those records too, and it's rarely that simple.
One of our concepts for this album is to make it brasher and more upfront than "The Invisible Line". Proud as I am of that record, I knew I didn't want to make it again, so I'm trying to approach everything in a faster, less precious way this time around. A quick listen to something like "Blame" on the first album will reveal a lot of detail - and it's brilliant, of course - but it was slow, detailed work, with every section revealing a new sound or texture. I still do that now, of course, but now I want to not use 6 noises when 1 or 2 will do.
I think my experience of drilling the band in the rehearsal room has made me think about this - there is so much happening in songs like "Crime" or "Battleships" that it's hard to make it communicate live without stripping it back. For this album I'm using my best time management skills by putting less in to start with! And so far, so good...
Tomorrow, we take a look at song 3. It needs some help before we can make it shine...right now, it's got a great, great chorus melody but the music going on around it isn't right. We know what it needs, though, so we'll get in there and get it sorted. I'll mix song 2 on Sunday.
Also, here's a clue to the title of song 2 - it features the letter "O". You heard it here first...
Thursday, 9 October 2008
...oh and some very dodgy camera work! Yes, OK, I admit it. I do probably have the worst camera-skills ever! But this really is how I see the world. :)
Wednesday, 8 October 2008
One of the tracks on our last album, Not That Big, actually has the very same accordion playing in the background... and it fits perfectly in this new song too!
I filmed this earlier while Sean was recording in some chords:
As you've just heard in the video, Sean LOVES Doctor Who! It's true! He even occasionally puts on an episode when we're eating our lunch. Who knew the recording process could be this exciting... recording music takes me to such magical places, even when we're not recording!!!
Don't get me wrong, I like Doctor Who too - I remember watching it growing up, in fact I think everyone in the UK with a TV must have watched it growing up. But Sean like.... er.... ....LOVES it BIG TIME!!!
YAY FOR DOCTOR WHO!!!!
So there you go... more soon!
Tuesday, 7 October 2008
This morning Mr McGhee started to produce the brand new song we've written, and he focused in particularly on the drum track to get it perfect - as it's the kind of track that is pretty much led by the drum track and the way it relates to the big string lines which are already sounding incredible.
Anyway, the highlight of my day was when I noticed Sean's baby keyboard sitting in the corner of the room. Sean has been using this little keyboard for most of his life, as he's had for the past 15 years or so, since he was a teenager and he still uses it on a lot of his productions!
Monday, 6 October 2008
I spent a while referencing tracks, trying to get some ideas going, and then started three different ideas - sadly, two of them were rubbish, so they got ditched pretty quickly. The third one was going pretty well, until Rob pointed out some pretty obvious problems with it (i.e. some of it was a bit monotonous), so I went back to the drawing board and retooled it a bit. Finally, we got it sounding interesting, and Rob picked up the mic to sing.
Well, like I said, it was one of those days. So, we packed up and moved on sharpish! Rob has taken the idea away as an mp3 so he can think it over, but we've decided that unless he has a 4am lighting strike of inspiration, we'll put it to one side for the moment.
So, what will we do instead? Well, next order of business is to start producing the new song we wrote at the end of last week. It's a thing of slowly unfolding melancholy grandeur, and we're both delighted with it. The direction it's going to take is already quite clear - we put quite a bit of music in as we were writing it - and I'm looking forward to getting it finished. There's nothing worse than something you've written being only half-done, so here's to getting it done and dusted!
Sunday, 5 October 2008
I picked up Mark at 6.45am and we drove down to Greenwich where our stage awaited. We performed for a whole hour, as thousands of runners ran by! We were filmed by Channel 4, so keep an eye out for the documentary later this month.
Even though it was raining quite a bit, we had a real laugh - I will always remember doing our soundcheck at 8.30am and watching loads of people peering out of their front doors looking VERY confused as to what was going on - it's the first time we've woken up a whole street with our music!
Mark filmed this video clip before our soundcheck. I'd just discovered this random luminous yellow sign and our sound man selected the PERFECT song to play whilst testing the speaker system! Check out the AMAZING passersby who decide they wanted a photo, gotta love them!!! If you've seen any of our previous Podcasts, then some of you may remember I've danced to this song once or twice before:
Sean and I finished writing and recording vocals for the new song on Friday and Saturday, and it's already sounding powerful at this early stage. I played it to the lads this morning before we went on stage, it's definitely the emotional heart of the new album...
Back to Canonical tomorrow for more recording...
Thursday, 2 October 2008
But on looking at the resulting A-list, we felt there were 2 types of songs missing - one killer slow track, with anthemic heart-breaking chorus, and a harsher rockier track, you know the kind of one where I get MEGA FURIOUS... ha ha... so we decided to take a day to write the former. AND WE DID IT! Out of nowhere, we now have written that missing anthemic slow track...
We also decided which songs were going to have real live drums recorded for, as played by the ever-fantastic Mathis Richet, and which ones will have real bass, but for this album not played by Sean himself, it will be performed by the rather marvellous Mark Ferguson. Plus we've invited Sophie Solomon, the legend that she is, to perform some proper-violin-solos for us on a few songs, the quality of which only she is capable!
How unexpected! We wrote a new song! A whole song! Well, almost whole...So.... we have the plan. The masterplan in fact. And it's shaping up very well, even if I do say so myself.... Muhahahaaaahh!!!
And it's days like today that make me happiest; whenever you get to write a brilliant song that takes you completely by surprise, it makes everything seem INCREDIBLE and like I am the luckiest man alive.
I'm off now to cook some dinner, and then I want to try and write lyrics for the second verse of our new triumphant track! Night night
p.s. Sean isn't blogging with us tonight as he's having a night off to party with his mates in London town! See you bright and early tomorrow morning Sean! BRIGHT AND EARLY!!! :)
Wednesday, 1 October 2008
Today was another busy one... and *drum roll* - Song 1 is now complete and sounding HOT! I'm very happy - it was just a case of adding some special touches today, a little fine tuning...
I had to leave studio at 4.30pm to go to a band rehearsal on the other side of London for our gig on Sunday for the marathon event. I played Song 1 in my iPhone on the tube journey and then again in my car a few times on way back from rehearsal and it sounded great so we're definitely there!
I'm very happy it's passed BOTH the iPhone and the car test, as Sean will explain in a minute... this is the KEY to greatness!! :)
Plus, Sean has just emailed me the final edit as an MP3, which kick started the following reaction - me dancing like a mad freak around my flat, as my iPhone blasts out Song 1 on its mini speaker system! It works, it really works!!! :)
I Wanna Dance With Somebody!!!
Band rehearsal tonight was great - hadn't seen the lads for a little while so was cool to catch up... at first it felt a tiny bit mad to suddenly be singing all the songs off our first album, as my head is now so into the future and the new album, but it was good as it reminded me where I was and where I am now... the new music is definitely a step forward, and I'm feeling energized by the new developments musically... and I can't wait to get going with Song 2 tomorrow morning!
Mathis on drums.
Sean McGhee writes the blog: "I like tall speakers, I like small speakers". Thus spake Cliff Richard in the inestimably wonderful "Wired For Sound", and how right he was. People listen to music everywhere and on anything nowadays - hi-fi, lo-fi, no-fi - so it's important that to ensure our songs will work well on pretty much any speaker. Genelec speakers are my monitors of choice and they deliver a good sonic picture overall.
But mixing on one set of speakers isn't enough. Piling into a car to check out a mix is a well-worn trick, and we did that plenty of times on "The Invisible Line" - the trick is to try and get the bass so deep that the car starts spontaneously bouncing up and down like in a hip-hop video. But now we've got to deal with laptops, iPods... even phones. How can we ensure maximum listening pleasure for all?
McGhee's magic mobile!
In the old days (i.e. the 1990s), the speaker of choice for this job was an unassuming square brown box called an Auratone. More commonly referred to as Horrortone, they were designed to emulate a crappy AM radio speaker, so you'd have one to listen to the mix in mono. They were nasty, but if your mix sounded great on one of those, you knew you'd nailed it.
So, the phone is just the modern equivalent. Happily, Song 1 is now sounding rocking on phones, computers, cars and headphones. Now, I wonder what it would sound like on heavy rotation...? :)
Song 2 tomorrow. Very excited!
Last night when I got home from recording, I found a letter had arrived from my dear friend Rachel Kneebone (who incidentally is one of the MOST AMAZING artists you will ever come across in your life!!).
Well, well, well... Rachel has once again achieved total greatness by posting me what is very probably THE BEST LETTER I'VE EVER RECEIVED IN MY ENTIRE LIFE!!!
CHECK IT OUT: A WHOLE BAG OF FRUIT SALADS!!!
Anyway, you get the general idea. It's fair to say there is a jubilant atmosphere in the studio this morning as I am REVELING IN THE TOTAL GREATNESS THAT IS: FRUIT SALADS!!!!
The only downside (not for me) is that Sean is a vegetarian so cannot eat Fruit Salads, well he can but not THESE Fruit Salads as they're not vegetarian friendly... Sorry Sean - life can be hard sometimes.
Reminder to self: SHARE these sweets out with your friends Rob!!!! Unfortunately, these sweets DO NOT have the same nutritional value of an actual Fruit Salad! :)
More from us later! Real work on the album is being done. Promise.
Tuesday, 30 September 2008
We've recorded lots of hand clapping today which was very amusing, I kept wanting to go 'Woo Yeah!' like a 90s dance record, but something tells me that wouldn't quite work... oh please??? Sean??? Picture it, me going WOOO YEAHAH, WOOO YEAHAAAHH!!!
Actually, Sean just told me that some of my Woo Yeahs actually MADE IT INTO THE TRACK!!!!! OMG!!!!!! OMG!!! OMG!!!!! I AM THE WOO YEAH LEGEND!!!! :)
Sean Mcghee writes the blog: There's nothing more pop than handclaps. It's true. Everything Motown, "We Will Rock You", "Joy" by Temposhark...yes, all the best pop combos end at least one session with bruised hands (I've done this, and more than once.)
But, I hear you ask, what's the secret to good handclaps? Well, it's easy - flamming. Or, in layman's terms, making sure that the people clapping are all slightly out of time with each other. There's nothing worse than getting a bunch of really rhythmic people to stand in front of the mic and asking them to clap - you'll get something so boringly regimented that it'll be unusable. No, what you need is the people who can either fake being a bit rubbish, or those who are genuninely not that great at clapping in time. One of us is the former, and the other the latter, although I couldn't possibly say which one is which. Well, I could, but Rob would slap me, and who can blame him? Bet he'd miss, though.
Anyway, my advice is to put down some flamtastic takes of clap "action" and pop perfection is but a moment away. Here's us glamourously handclapping, earlier :
My favourite claps on any record are probably the ones on Radiohead's "We Suck Young Blood" - a fantastic song, and made even more entertaining by the funereal tempo and death-march handclaps. Radiohead aren't exactly competing with Girls Aloud, mind you.
So, Song 1 approaches a conclusion. I feel like I could spin some great advertising speak now, as it's at least 50% more funky and 100% more satisfying than it was yesterday. We have, however, identified a problem vocal, so we'll be starting tomorrow with some more singing. But we're this close to greatness now...and then it's time for Song 2!
Monday, 29 September 2008
Sean's been adding in lots of new production today, it's all started to really come to life. It's a lot beefier than the previous demo version, much clearer... In short, I love it sooooo much... and show this by repeatedly doing silly dance moves every time something in the track excites me!
This is hard, as it means that every tiny detail you add has to be exactly right or the whole thing tumbles to the ground. Fortunately, my groove muse has been hanging out with Timbaland and 80s Prince today, so I've managed to add some cool parts into the track without disrupting its relentless flow. Often I'm trying to add something that's almost invisible - it should make you want to move your body (to the rhythm of love) but without screaming out, "LISTEN TO ME" or, heaven forfend, getting in the way of the vocal! (.....which = a very happy Rob!)
I always work with a "scorched earth" approach; I can tinker around with an idea for a short while, but if I'm not happy it goes in the bin. Partly this is because I don't like flogging a dead horse, but mostly it's because I'm very easily bored. I do feel that making record should be fun (at least some of the time!) because if we don't enjoy it, neither do you. I should be bouncing up and down at the computer or shaking my hips at the keyboard if we're getting it right - and if I'm not, the part goes into the bin and I try something else. Rest assured that you will be spared footage of my dancing... for now...
We think that we should have Song 1 nailed by the end of tomorrow. Fingers crossed...
Sunday, 28 September 2008
One approach is for me to come up with a groove idea for Rob. I might spend an hour or two working on an idea for Rob to sing over; anything goes, as long as it's inspiring. Sometimes we'll get the beginnings of a song from his piano jam sessions - one song we've written for the new record started as a long, improvised set of ideas Rob performed at the piano. He brought it to me and I sifted through it until we found a part we liked. We took took this idea as a jumping-off point and wrote a whole new song around it.
As soon as he's ready to sing an idea, I'm ready for him - the handheld mic and his headphones will be set up ready before he arrives, and with just a couple of clicks in Logic, we're off. Often, his first pass through will be full of goodness, and it's a question of finding the great ideas and refining them. You're always looking for the moment when the track stops being a jumble of ideas and starts being a real song - and it regularly happens without you realising.
There's a lot of passing the microphone back and forth; we'll both throw ideas into the pot. We want the song to be the best it can be, so we're critical and picky about what goes in and what stays out. Often I'll start doing the backing vocal arrangement whilst we're still writing so I can flesh the sound out at an early stage. Lyrically, we take ideas from anywhere - a piece of gibberish buried in a melody idea might suggest an angle, or a story; sometimes Rob has some lyrical ideas he plays with as he sings melody ideas. Once the melody is set, we'll work on the words. Sometimes this takes minutes, and sometimes days. Song 1 was quite a simple one lyrically - the (proper) title came very early on while Rob was improvising, and it was simple enough to extrapolate a lyrical angle from there. A couple of hours work, and we were done.
Of course, once the song is sung for real, things might change - what seemed like a clever piece of alliteration or a flowery way of saying something simple might go straight out the window if it doesn't feel right when it's sung. Rob keeps the worst of my lyrical excesses at bay - if I try to be too clever, he's brilliant at getting a simpler, more direct way of saying the same thing. It works both ways - he knows I'll pull him up sharp on a bad line! I never let a duff lyric go unchecked, so there's often a lot of tapping on the keyboard and frustrated grunting until I'm sure it's the best it can be. And I never ever ever ever ever use rhyming dictionaries. My songs are free of any toast / ghost / most nonsense.
You can't write a great song every day, though. and plenty of songs go into the bin on the way to the final album. A couple of weeks back we had a run of songs which would have been perfect for the end credits of a crap 80s teen movie - we managed to escape them.. But the time, the sweat, the swearing, the desperation and the endless Madonna impressions are always worth it - nothing beats that feeling of nailing a good song.
I'm going home now to watch the movie Atonement on DVD to wind down... hope it's good.
Saturday, 27 September 2008
Tonight I've been playing the keyboard in my flat. This is where a lot of the Temposhark song ideas come from... when I write alone this is how I do it - really simple, me and a piano. I prefer real pianos but this keyboard is perfect for my London flat as it's not as noisy, I can just put on headphones and disappear... I love it.
Some songs from my last album, like Not That Big, Winter's Coming and It's Better To Have Loved, were written in the middle of the night on this keyboard... at 4am when I'd wake up from my sleep and suddenly need to write! This time round, I've written LOADS of song sketches, verses and choruses, and then taken these to Sean's studio and we've co-written completed songs out of those initial sketches.
It's proved a really fun way to work, but I also really love writing directly over Sean's backing tracks, where he creates a music track - drums, synths or other sounds - which I will then sing over, it's instant, whatever comes into my head. It's good to have different starting points for songs, as these different methods provide different kinds of songs, keeping it interesting.
I get inspired by so many different things. There's never one set way that I'll write a song. Sometimes it's something someone will have said to me, that can give me a song title or a strong lyric... at other times, I'll read a book or be reading about an artist I love, and a phrase will spark off a whole thought process.
I used to stress a lot if I was finding it hard to write a new song, if I felt like a creative block had hit, but I've learnt over the years (I've been writing songs since I was 13) that you just have to relax, and not to beat yourself up too much! The moment I chill out is always when something really great happens...
Sean and I both keep a lyric book too - where we'll jot down lyric ideas, as and when they come to us. As a songwriter, well for us anyway, this is something that becomes part of your everyday life. If I forget to take my book out with me, I usually end up making notes (or even singing into the recorder/answer phone) on my mobile phone - last week I got to grips with the Note Pad on my new iPhone, just in time before I forgot an idea!
I think it's important to write songs as much as I can... I like being productive... and in fact I'm at my most happy when being creative. I may not even realise that it's happening, but if I go for a few weeks without writing, I get into a bad mood! So it's something I need, something I can't live without.
Bottles by Julie Verhoeven.
These awesome bottles were made by my dear friend, the artist and illustrator Julie Verhoeven, and sit right next to my piano and often provide inspiration as they remind me of Julie's world... she's magical and inspiring. I love her! I took these off a table she had decorated at Maureen Paley Gallery's dinner last year at Claridges - it was a very posh night, and when I was leaving I asked Maureen if it was OK to take some souveniers, and she said YES!! :)
I went to the INCREDIBLE National Gallery in Trafalgar Square, filled with Saturday tourists, I really enjoyed the Love exhibition currently showing. It has one of Tracey's embroidered works in it, and a wicked work by Grayson Perry, a small ceramic sculpture of a rabbit. The whole show was great, and the best bit is it's free to get in, so if you live in London, visit it before Sunday 5th Oct when it close (next Sunday).
I then walked through a sunny Green Park, by Buckingham Palace... I'd never actually walked there before and enjoyed seeing the ponds, really pretty. I arrived after about 40 mins at Tate Britain and saw the new Francis Bacon exhibition. GO SEE IT! Really fascinating. The only thing that annoyed me was that all the paintings were in big frames, behind glass, and I would've enjoyed it much more if they'd been out of the frames... but what a LEGEND!
Funnily enough, Metronomy (who remixed our Temposhark song Not That Big), was doing a live gig at Tate Britain while I was there today, so that was cool too! It reminded me of when we did our own live gig there a while back, nice memories! I'll try and set something up for when our next album comes out, as I love playing in unusual venues!
Anyways, after window shopping for a while, and walking LOTS more, I popped into White Cube and the Royal Academy in Green Park, then I came home and started writing...
Right well that's enough for now, I'll be back at Sean's tomorrow so speak then...