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4th July 2017

So - as the Ostinato - LIVE show is coming up soon…

I am deep into the preparations for what I hope will be an intimate, atmospheric, immersive experience in this very special performance space at The Pound, Corsham.

The show will be an interpretation of my album Ostinato that was released a couple of years ago. This collection of musical soundscapes were the realisation of musical and sonic ideas that had been developing in my head for many years.

I first had simple minimal musical ideas in my formative years, and some of my first influences were from Terry Riley, and a few years later Philip Glass. I loved the nature of these mesmerising hypnotic creations.

But as my course in life led me from being a musician to becoming a sound engineer and music producer, I became fascinated with the nature of sound itself.

During my many years working alongside so many great and influential musicians and producers I was always storing ideas in my head.

As my career grew I began to travel a lot for my work. I spent a lot of time in transit, airports, planes, trains, stations, taxis, and staying in hotels. One had to develop a meditative state to deal with periods of waiting and travelling - patience.

In 1990 I was involved in a musical recording project for the BBC, One World One Voice, that took me around the world to record musical contributions from many artists. We had to do quite a lot of background and preparation work while in transit, which was becoming increasingly possible with portable devices and headphones. I became very aware of the environments I was experiencing at this time.

A few years later I was travelling on the Eurostar from London to Paris. I happened to listen to a couple of my music demo ideas on headphones during this trip, and I noticed the interaction between what was going on in my headphones and what was happening outside.

Shortly after I acquired a pair of in-ear binaural microphones that allowed me to capture realistic recordings of environments. They look like earbuds, but actually capture a very natural sound.

So on one particular working trip to Paris I recorded many experiences: train stations, street noise, traffic, the sound in museums, cathedrals and the Paris Metro.

While I was doing this, I started to hear the musical interpretations in my head.

And much of this was the inspiration for Ostinato.

At this stage I finally felt that I had the experience, techniques and technology that would help me realise what was spinning around my brain.

So - Ostinato is not so much a literal representation of all of this, but a way of expressing the feelings that I was experiencing on my very special journey through life.

Ostinato - LIVE sees me combining everything I have learnt - its a kind of blend between being a musician/performer, mixer, DJ/VJ, installation artist….. I don’t know what to call myself! I just love what I do….

SWTx

 

2nd January 2017

Thoughts for the New Year

It is so interesting - I am just musing on some of the things that have been a huge inspiration and influence in my life.

A couple of events had an effect on me while I was still at school, which was the closeted experience of being at a private boys only boarding school in the late sixties.

I went on a date with a young woman I had met at a school social event to see the Stanley Kubrick film ‘2001 A Space Odyssey’ - I’m not sure she appreciated it at all, but I was entranced! Around the same time, along with a bunch of like minded misfits, I had discovered the music of Walter Carlos - 'The Well Tempered Synthesiser' and 'Switched On Bach'.

While still at school I also went to see the Lindsay Anderson film ‘If….’ It really resonated with me as it seemed to draw on my experiences being at a boys boarding school, but also spoke volumes about social change and revolution in the current time. Also an eccentric atmospheric soundtrack.

Soon after I left school (unexpectedly, I was becoming aware of how I did not fit in with the expectations of such a traditional and formal situation, so I walked out) I found myself on the street in the West End of London with an old friend, and we spotted a new movie about which we had no prior knowledge. We walked in off the street and found ourselves watching ‘A Clockwork Orange’.

From the opening titles, along with the unique music score, I was completely stunned. I could not believe what I was seeing and hearing.

This all had a huge effect on me. The work of two great film directors, with their own unique visions, and also the way they used music soundtracks in such innovative ways.

And also the truly brilliant performances from Malcolm McDowell.

These films spoke to me in so many ways. But so did the music. I heard classical music in new ways. I also was completely captivated with the work of Walter/Wendy Carlos as an interpreter of classical works, as well as her original scoring.

I cannot count the number of times I have watched these films. I was obviously at a very impressionable age, but each time I witness them it is like my mind is reset, and it reminds me of my dreams and ambitions as a young man. Truly inspirational.

I have been blessed to carry on with my own life working predominantly in the music world. I have been so lucky to have been involved with such musical visionaries as Peter Gabriel, Rupert Hine and Kate Bush. Their works transport me into worlds way beyond the usual confines of the simple song or music formats and the predictable expectations.

It all opens up my imagination and continues to inspire me with my own personal musical creativity.

It is coming up to a half century of these experiences and inspirations. I am just motivated more than ever to keep moving forward.

 

7th August 2016

So - it’s not all about the old days. Things have never been better! I am NOT stuck in the past (mainly because the future is still so enticing!!)

But there have been some interesting insights into my origins in the business that I occasionally feel like sharing. If only to show how much I still care about what I do.

Nostalgia is one thing - it’s OK in small measures. But memories and experiences - these are something else.

The seventies were quite a rough time to get involved with the music recording business. On the one hand, amazing creativity was everywhere and some brilliant and classic records being made. All kinds of innovation as well. But the pressure was enormous.

Within a few short months of being my employed at Trident Studios I had worked with Marc Bolan and T Rex as an assistant engineer, Tommy Bolin for my first project as a full mix engineer, and shortly after as a mix engineer for French superstar Claude Francois.

To have been close to these people in the studio so soon before they died (for various reasons), along with the stress of working around the clock as a house engineer, the effect this had on our personal lives made me want to quit.

I felt like I was jinxed. As staff engineers we were paid a pittance for the ridiculous long hours we were required to put in, but somewhere in there it felt like this was a golden opportunity that should not be wasted.

My employers took a meeting with me and convinced me to keep going. In the long run, I am so glad I did, although it was not the easiest of times, and I did eventually burn out and had to leave Trident.

Things really changed after I quit being a house engineer and became freelance. Not straight way, it took a few years and a complicated journey, but in the end I found the right people and formed amazing creative relationships that exist to this day.

So - one of my first sessions had been to mix an album for Claude Francois. Here he covered ‘Mandy’ by Barry Manilow with his own French version of the lyrics. Claude was a massive star in France, but was also famous for having written the lyrics for ‘Comme d’Habitude’ - which was the original lyric for the song that Paul Anka re-wrote as ‘My Way’ for Frank Sinatra.

Claude Fancois - 'Mandy'

I had just discovered a new piece of gear that allowed me to make a snare drum sound ridiculously deep and fat - which I used on this mix..... I think it was called a frequency shifter....

The sessions were kind of strange, and not long afterwards Claude died in somewhat suspicious circumstances.

But - I’m pleased I stuck around - it is now forty years later, but I still get a complete buzz from working with sound and collaborating with artists. Somehow a handful of sessions stay with you forever.

SWT