Archive for November, 2010

And so ends the Amerikana era….

Wednesday, November 24th, 2010

The ‘Toadlickers’ music video came out, made a lot of noise,  reached #18 in the YouTube ‘most viewed’ chart, got a lot more views, then rapidly vanished from the chart altogether! I think this was a YouTube admin move because of its ‘explicit’ content (puppets having sex; and an offensive word meaning ‘born out of wedlock.’) C’mon YouTube, cut me some slack. Even the Pope is lightening up these days!

This reminds me a little of the year I got to #2 in the Guatemalan singles chart… and the following week there was a military coup and the chart was not published.

Shotgun pop music. Most appropriate for ‘Toadlickers’, I think. And so ends the Amerikana era… except for one small detail: I never released the 17 Hills ‘dissection’ vlogs. So here they are, parts 1-3! And, if you can sit still right till the very end, there’s some exciting and definitive news about the Oceanea EP.

Part 1 looks at how we recorded the 17 Hills backing track, and overdubbed fretless bass and pedal steel.
Part 2 focuses on the day I spent with Mark Knopfler doing the guitar parts, and how to give direction to a demigod.
Part 3 talks about Ethel, Natalie MacMaster, and how I came up with the song in the first place.

Hope you enjoy these!

Here come the Toadlickers

Sunday, November 21st, 2010

I just released my first music video of the 21st century! The Toadlickers is now live on YouTube. I’m expecting millions of new fans (is that a good thing? many of them probably found the video because they were searching for ‘naughty barnyard animals’) and I expect I’ll have to duck a barrage of rotten vegetables from the Puritans. But though it’s a little edgy, it’s not fun at anyone else’s expense, and no puppets were harmed in the making of the video.

I’m very grateful to all the volunteers who showed up at Maverick in the Summer and helped us out. Paul D directed and edited the clip, and did a terrific job on a rock-bottom budget.Paul and Barbara Ann of the Maverick Festival for slipping us in to the back barn, where we got the clip in the can before anyone was able to call Health and Safety. To the top UK Parkour crew Urban Freeflow for fabulous stunts. Also to the amazing Mike Quinn, long-time friend and fan who’s one of the top puppeteers in the business. To Darren Goldsmith, who made a neat ‘behind the scenes’ video that you can also see on YouTube. And to Sophie St Villier and Millie Dollar our lovely lingerie-clad cowgirls, and to my band for their patience and good humour.

This kicks off an exciting week for me. Mid-week I’ll be releasing the final vlog of the ‘Amerikana’ era, dissecting 17 Hills, and that wraps up Part 1 of the album. Next week I’ll be putting out the Oceanea EP which — believe me — is a whole new ballgame. And next weekend I’m going into Real World Studios to record a couple of backing tracks for new songs that will be included in the Urbanoia section of the album.

It’s been busy as heck around here but life couldn’t be better. I’m surrounded by a wonderfully supportive family, a team with exceptional showbiz chops, and the most tasteful, discerning, and loyal audience I could possibly ask for. Hooray!

‘Oceanea’ EP update

Wednesday, November 3rd, 2010

My new EP is currently being mastered by Simon Heyworth, in Devon. For those ‘in the know’ he’s not expecting to re-EQ it much, just looking at the peakiness. When there are occasional spikes in volume level–eg a high piano note that jumps out on ‘Oceanea’–it means the overall level has to come down, so it all ends up quieter. Not a problem quality-wise, but if folks put it in their playlist alongside other modern recordings, or when it’s played on the radio, it will sound very quiet and perhaps less impressive. So you deal with that using ‘limiting’ to reduce the peaks — either with a machine or by hand-tweaking the waveforms — so the overall levels can come up again. When machines or software plugins take this to the extreme you get the ‘sugar cube’ look of waveforms that have all the peaks taken out, so their density is increased to the point that everything ‘feels’ much louder and in-your-face; but when you do that, you sacrifice dynamics, and the music often ends up lifeless. (Don’t worry, we won’t go there!)

Whereas the last EP was mixed in a pro studio LA with Bill Bottrell engineering, this one I did all myself right here on the Nutmeg of Consolation. I don’t have a lot of gear, but the songs stand up by themselves without lots of effects, and the atmosphere felt more intimate. I’ve been blessed with lots of sun and wind this month so there was plenty of power on offer from the turbine and solar panels to do an entirely renewable energy-powered mix. My priority for the Nutmeg’s antique timber wheelhouse was not ‘reference quality’ sound, or isolation from the outside world, so don’t be surprised to hear a little North Sea ambience creeping into the mix.

I shot a beautiful cover with photographer Catherine Lindsay-Davies, and the graphic design being completed by Paul Sizer — yes the same chap that won the t-shirt design competition earlier this year, who went on to design the ‘Amerikana’ artwork. Once again the whole package will be downloadable in a format where if you choose to you can burn your own physical copy and print out the cover booklet.

I’m happy to say it looks like the EP will be out THIS MONTH! Look out for a release date announcement in the next couple of weeks. For registered Flat Earth Society members only, of course.

And how is the music? Well, personally I think this EP is the best work I’ve ever done. And I’d say that even if I was objective!