Sunday, 26 October 2008

"Today Is A Birthday"

It's my birthday today... woohoo! Thanks for all the kind messages on MySpace and Facebook! xxx

Saturday, 25 October 2008

"They Would Not Listen; They Did Not Know How"

We've been writing a brand new song over the past few days. Today we're finishing the lyrics and on the train here this morning I really enjoyed listening to the demo on my phone. It sounding very different to the other songs, and I don't think we've really done a song like this before. It's got a laid back big bass groove, it reminds me of summer.

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, tr
ying to make this less about a direct relationship and broader, looking at life from a larger scale I guess.

Lights Of My Life!
(no instruments were harmed during in the taking of this photo)

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!

I'm 28 tomorrow. Yeehaah!

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

"Destroy All That Is Keeping You Back"

Sean McGhee writes the blog: It's been non-stop here at Canonical, although from our not-quite-as-daily-as-we-promised reports, you may think otherwise. Far from it! We've had a couple of tough days with Song 4, which was proving to be hard to get just right. And, so it will remain, because we've decided it's just not right for this record, so off it goes! We gave it a good chance, but in the end Rob felt there were stronger songs on the record that were similarly themed but better expressed. Strangely, it felt like a weight had been lifted - sometimes, you have to be cruel to be kind.

Sean was working very hard when this photo was taken,
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

"Feel Good, Shake It, Shake It, Shake It, Feel Good"

Sean McGhee writes the blog: Ah, song 3, how we love you.

Seriously, it's hard not to feel very smug but we've pulled a real blinder with this one. It wasn't a song with an easy start - it began as a deliberate ploy on my part to push Rob in a certain direction to get something a bit faster happening. It worked, too - he came up with a really strong chorus very quickly, and the rest fell into place with the minimum of fuss.

Shh Shake it, Shake it, Got to Shake It, Shake It Like A Polaroid Picture!

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

"1 2 3 4, Tell Me That You Love Me More"

So we continue... and I'm even happier with today's results.

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

"G-L-A-M-O-R-O-U-S, yeah G-L-A-M-O-R-O-U-S"

Another day and another glamorous video clip from us.

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


We know. We've not updated the blog since the 10th October. We apologise.

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

"Let Me See You Stripped Down To The Bone"

As you'll hear in a minute from Sean, Song 2 is almost complete! It's got all the parts now, I might just re-sing a few bits in it next week.

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

"Get The Bow Going, Let It Scream To Me"

Today at Temposhark album HQ, it's all about the love of strings:

...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

"I Think It's Amazing"

Sean played his accordion on our new track today!!! It was all very exciting because accordions = greatness. :)

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!!!


So there you go... more soon!


Tuesday, 7 October 2008

"My Heart Is Beating Like A Jungle Drum"

Today was all about drums... oh, and a keyboard, which I'll tell you about in a minute.

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.

The demo we had from the end of last week had a kind of 80s synth-y-style drum kit and we didn't want it to sound exactly like that, so this meant blending the electronic drums with something a lot more real, and a little grittier...

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!

Sean and his teenage keyboard. Ah the memories. Ah.

Anyway, I burst into laughter when I saw it, because I suddenly noticed that stuck above the left-hand speaker is a button badge of Nick Rhodes from Duran Duran. This also made me extra excited because I met Nick a few weeks ago and was really, no, REALLY cool! So to find out Sean was inspired by Duran Duran when he was growing up seemed very appropriate! I remember listening to them when I was 5 years old and loving it like crazy. Along with Wham! Ha ha... nice memories.

Nick Rhodes is the man. End of.

I also had another 80s legend on my mind today. Boy George. As I chatted on the phone with my dear friend Zee Asha today who, as well as being a megastar in Chicago in the West End, has also sung with George a number of times, in both his musical Taboo and on tour with his band Culture Club. Zee is amazing, and has the most incredible spirit, she's so encouraging and has this incredible positivity which rubs off on me, and makes me feel renewed... I saw George's documentary the other night when I got home from the studio and I really enjoyed it, hearing him discuss his music and his passion for David Bowie. All good.

More tomorrow...

Monday, 6 October 2008

"One Of Those Days"

Sean McGhee writes the blog: It's been one of those days today. Yes, *those* days. It started so well; we knew we wanted to write a new song today, and we knew what sort of thing it was going to be, but somehow it just never happened quite like we hoped it would.

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've Got The Power"

This morning, my alarm went off at 5.30am to get me out of bed in time for our sound check for our live gig at Sony Ericsson's 'Run To The Beat' marathon.

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

"Out Of Nowhere It Appeared"

Change of plan today! Sean and I started the day off by spending an hour discussing all the songs we had so far, deciding a definite shortlist for the album out of all the many new songs we've got, and ended up choosing 12 or 13 which we're calling the A-List!

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

"Play It On Your Speakerphone"

October is here... which means it's my birthday VERY soon!! Not that I'm trying to throw you all a hint or anything!!!???!!!

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.

Mark Ferguson, at tonight's rehearsal.

Luke Juby and his keys.

And my rehearsal mic, tonight.


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.

Wow, it's a speaker! An actual speaker!

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 o
f 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?

With all this in mind, visitors to Canonical this morning would have been treated to the sight of me bouncing around the studio whilst listening to a rough mix of Song 1 on my mobile phone. It seems ludicrous that I want my fantastically funky, layered mixes to work just as well on a crappy little phone, but I have to be realistic about how people will listen to the record when it's done.

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!

"Sticky And Sweet"

I have no choice but to interrupt the seriousness of our recording blog to bring you a NEWS FLASH!!!


This is serious!

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!!!

Fact Of The Week: this is very possibly THE best letter Rob has ever been sent!

YES!!!! YES!!!!! RACH SENT ME FRUIT SALADS JUST LIKE WHEN I WAS A KID!!!! I AM LIKE A 5-YEAR-OLD VERSION OF MYSELF RIGHT NOW - NO JOKE!!!!! (I was going to say "I kid you not!" but thought that would be taking this whole thing a bit too far!!!)


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.