Tuesday, September 25, 2007

pretty noises

What I posted earlier was in fact incorrect, this is the best thing ever.


pretty noises

I like this

Antoine Dufour (guitar) and Tommy Gauthier (violin). It sounds like music from the future to me, proper futuremusic - none of this bleepysound, just new ideas, techniques and arrangements with traditional instruments.

This one is good also

As is Antoine Dufour's solo work.

Anyway. I need to go and think of something to do with myself today.


In other news I've managed to stub my toe four times today (little toe on my left foot twice, and the first time was very hard) I think this must be some sort of karmic retribution for something.

Monday, September 24, 2007


Unusually for me, something actually happened this weekend. Well, someone happened, but Sarah tends to be an event in herself, worthy of mention - like a visit from the pope. only more fun. and with less homophobia.

We went off for a rambling journey around London on Sunday, which was an uncharacteristically beautiful day. It started strangely: my London pride (not the ale) was somewhat dented by the fact that Sarah, who is from a land far, far away, seemed to know her way around the touristy parts of London much better than I do. We went to Trafalgar Square, which I've stood around in plenty of times*, but never really actually looked at in any detail - I've certainly never looked up at the column properly or taken photos of the lions. From there we went to St James' Park (which I've been in before, but only when drunk) which was a lovely place - it had pelicans, which at first glance I mistook for bizarre hallucinations of swans, an army of cyclists, and Buckingham Palace - which I've never actually seen before, and, to be honest, don't feel any the richer for having seen - it's pretty urgley.

After some tasty lunchings and lounging around in the park sunshine for a while we moved on to somewhere else, and the balance finally tipped so that I knew more about where we were going than the person from the other side of the Atlantic.

We went up to Camden where, to my shock, no-one offered us drugs (I'm not being snobby, it's just that I used to go up there a lot, and never walked more than about 200 metres without being offered something.) we shambled around looking at the emokids, goths and hipsters shaking their bony asses and spending this months allowance on various ironic, almost-witty or 'random' T-Shirts and sweating like pigs in their ankle length leather jackets. There was cool stuff left right and centre but seeing as neither of us had any money it was kinda like dry humping retailwise.

At that point the period of me being the one knowing where we were going ended again as we walked down regents canal from Camden Lock, which was lovely; all the weeping willows sinking into the water, the funny shimmering reflections on the walls and under the bridges and the little jetties at the end of people's gardens. I was walking along, possibly giving the impression that I knew where I was going, but in fact I was just following the prettyness. Luckily, the walk down the canal led down to Regent's park, where we sat around in the sunshine and observed (from a safe distance) some sort of traumatising mass aerobics event where middle-aged saggy women in pink t-shirts were enthusiastically shouted at by the gayest man in the history of aerobics instructors (and lets face it, it's a pretty gay history.)

From there we tubed it back to Greenwich, loafed about in the park & riverside, and drank tasty beer until it was bus home snoozetime.

It was a good day.


*usually whilst waiting for the N21 at some ungodly hour of the night on the way back from somewhere fun

recruitment consultants

I've been trawling through pages and pages of job listings today - specifically looking for positions that require graduates, because I think I'll have better luck with those than with many other jobs - and I've noticed something rather unsettling.

There appear to be more advertised positions in the recruitment/human resources/head-hunting sector than all the other sectors put together.

Which I can only assume means that London is heading for some sort of 'shoe event horizon'*. A point will come when there are five recruitment agencies for every company that needs staff to do actual work and the economy will collapse in on itself in a horrific pileup of middlemen and consultants.

until then... hmm, they pay well.


*see Adams, Douglas. The Restaurant at the End of the Universe Chapter 10 for a full illustration of this principle.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The Guitar is Finished

I'm going to leave the poor thing alone now, just play it until it grows old and confused and has to be retired, never more will it see me bearing down on it with a soldering iron in hand.

The action wasn't as low as I like (as low as I can possibly get it) and tweaking the truss rod, whilst improving the situation, hadn't got it perfect. I didn't want to admit defeat so I brought in some of my more invasive methods of treatment.

I used a knife sharpening stone to level out the frets, you can see from the different amounts of metal dust around each fret caused by scraping the flat stone over them that they weren't of equal height. Generally a sharpening stone is all that is needed - only really, really badly missaligned frets require the use of metalworking files.

This gets the frets level but leaves them scratched and rough, with a big flat part on the top of many of them, which can mess up the intonation a bit. So I masked up the fretboard thusly:

Then wrapped my thumb in light sandpaper and started to use the fleshysquishy bit of my thumb to re-profile the frets. I do this by rubbing my thumb along the length of the fret, smoothing the frets back to their normal shape - taking care to stop sanding before the height of the top of the fret drops below the height of the flat part put there by the sharpening stone.

After the neck was all unmasked and the fretboard oiled (to prevent the wood from getting all dried out by the masking tape) I put the guitar back together and put the new strings on. The action is crazylow now - like so

At the same time as doing the work on the neck I was elaborating on the designs on the guitar's body and headstock - I coated the designs on the body with a layer of clear varnish to prevent them getting worn off by playing. The body now looks like this:

and the headstock like this

Anyway. I'm going to wander off out for a walk now.


oh, and I removed the profile information bit because I'd prefer it if this wasn't there for all prospective employers to see on google when you type in my name. I'm not going to stop writing, nor will it make any real difference to my listing on google, but at least this way it's not blindingly obvious.

Saturday, September 15, 2007


This is a piece entitled "Dissolution of Sound" from the series of works created as part of the Artist's work with the Unknowable Contexts Collective. Whilst characterised primarily by its conceptual naïveté, this work contains many of the hallmarks which earned its creator both acclaim and controversy in his later career - such as the bold use of anglo-patriachal textual motifs, which playfully explore the relationship between logic and contingency, and the use of subtly erotic abstraction. The paint is actually rancid Llama milk mixed, by the artist, with PVA glue - creating both an exciting artistic medium and a stinging critique of the failure of liberation theolgy in Argentina. The upward dripping paint evokes the upheaval in psychosexual politcal discourse which greeted the election of Ken Livingstone as Mayor of London in 2000.

The asking price is £7,500 - although with increasing interest in his work the value of the piece will undoubtedly increase with time. A good investment for any art collector with an interest in crochet.


It's actually a piece of cardboard I used to dry my paint roller on whilst decorating the living room. I think I could still get a monkey for it though, if I find a suffiently gullible mark.


I was bored the other day, and I had a permanent marker, so my guitar looks a little odd. I think I really should leave the poor thing alone now, let it die with dignity rather than molesting it something rotten.


Thursday, September 13, 2007

Radioactive Unsexiness

I'm not sure about the rest of the world but in britain at the moment there is a huge inflation in quackery - an army of 'nutritionists', homeopaths, and other insubstantial witch doctory. It has to be said though, bad though the quacks are these days, they used to be much worse - I refer you to this bottle of delicious radithor! A life improving radioactive tonic sold in the late twenties and early thirties which contained about enough radium to kill you after a few bottles of the stuff. It was discontinued after a wealthy industrialist called Eben Byers drank enough to kill a small town, and well, sort of dissolved.

I also discovered that today is the 20th aniversary of the Goiânia Accident in which a large proportion of a city had to be decontaminated after some tramps rummaging around in an abandoned hospital found some pretty glowing metal and sold it to a local scrap dealer. Which led me off to the interesting category in Wikipedia of "List of Civilian Radiation Accidents" which contains many similar instances to the Goiânia Accident in other poor countries around the world in addition to a couple of soviet union ones which show such a bizarre recklessness they are almost funny. Like this incident for example

"December 2000 – Three woodcutters in the nation of Georgia spent the night beside several "warm" canisters they found deep in the woods and were subsequently hospitalized with severe radiation burns. The canisters were found to contain concentrated 90Sr. The disposal team consisted of 25 men who were restricted to 40 seconds' worth of exposure each while transferring the canisters to lead-lined drums. The canisters are believed to have been intended for use as generators for remote lighthouses and navigational beacons, part of a Soviet plan dating back to 1983."

who on earth thought that that was a good idea, and how on earth did they get them out there without killing themselves? I'm assuming it wasn't a very professional disposal operation.

Then of course there are the Radium Girls whose story just makes me angry.


Wednesday, September 12, 2007


Up until about a week ago I had been wearing the same shoes for about a year and a half; which may not be that long for some people but it's a long time for me - I'm heavy, I walk everywhere, and I've never owned more than three pairs of shoes at any one time. Generally, my shoes crumble and wear through after around 8 months. Not that the last pair of trainers I had were much more resiliant than their predeccessors, it was just that I had no money to replace them this time. By the time they were finally retired they had a powerful funk - the sole of the left shoe was worn through at the heel and the front, the sole of the right shoe was almost completely detached from the upper, and the insole had fallen out of the gaping hole in the back - leaving me standing on the sort of rubber waffle on the inside of the sole.

I managed to find a cool pair of shoes for fifteen quid, so the crumbling relics were retired. Someone, who shall remain nameless (I'll just refer to her as mother), was so scared that I'd keep wearing those shoes out in public that she threw away all of my old shoes, even the ones that weren't in that bad a state.

Which was fine. I never really had any occasion to wear them... until today.

I've been redecorating the living room, which means getting splattered with paint and standing on top of a ladder for long periods of time. I didn't want to get my new shoes all painty but standing on a ladder barefoot really hurts if you do it for more than a few moments.

So I devised a new form of footwear - one which combines the disposability of flip-flops with the ruggedness of gaffa tape.

They were safe to wear on a ladder but not hugely comfortable and greatgreasyjesus! they hurt when you take them off.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Bender Crapocaster

Well, I was wrong with both my guesses last night - "agathis or basswood" ... really, I should have remembered what I was dealing with - this aint no good value korean made fender copy: this is the people's republic's finest plywood beast of a guitar.

Which of course makes me love it all the more - i mean look at it, it is now a guitar with no illusions, it is the shittiest piece of crap you ever will see and now, thanks to me, it can be proud of it.

look at those lovely laminates

and I think it sounds quite nice as well.


Sunday, September 09, 2007

I've got blisters on me fingers

I think I'll borrow a power sander off a relative before I think about doing the rest of it - that or get some really coarse bastard sandpaper. I think it looks quite good though. No idea what wood it is - something cheap I guess, but I don't know what, probably agathis or basswood.

Friday, September 07, 2007


Cat, Strat, Kerouac and cable


Thursday, September 06, 2007

Instrument Ethics

The following is mostly written about guitars and basses, mandolins and banjos, but could be applied, to some extent, to every instrument… Except for the Bassoon - I don’t see the appeal of an instrument that looks like a shisha and sounds like a farting drainpipe.


The reason I repair guitars, even when I’m not getting paid or particularly interested in the work is because I believe that guitars are made for playing. Guitars that aren’t being played aren’t guitars, they are guitar shaped objects – things that adorn a wall or fill a case – they aren’t complete anymore. It’s like the distinction between a living, breathing person and a cooling cadaver – they are made of the same parts and are for all intents and purposes the same thing, but the latter lacks the spark that defines the former.

Many people have guitars that live in cupboards or attics because they’ve got nicer guitars or consider their guitars to be unplayable, I don’t approve. I know it is a heretical suggestion, and many a guitar nerd would dispute this, but I don’t believe there is such a thing as an unplayable guitar. I have yet to encounter a guitar that wasn’t, with a certain amount of work, playable. I’m not saying that people aren't justified in replacing the guitars with something better, nor am I saying that I can make any heap of shite Encore play like a Fender or a Gibson. I can, however, make them playable enough, playable enough that playing them isn’t a case of man versus machine, which is enough for someone to learn to play on it.

If a guitar is actually completely beyond repair or so profoundly shite that nothing can be done (it happens, generally only with acoustics, they are more difficult) then I strip down the guitar for any useful parts, screws, pickups, wire, pots, jacks and switches, hardware of all kinds. It doesn’t matter if it isn’t very high quality, the key thing is that if you stockpile parts you can repair guitars for no cost, you never have to ask yourself if it is worth your money to do it, and so even the lowliest of axes can be brought back to life and passed on.

Some people have vast collections of guitars, largely unplayed, they may have reasons, they might sometimes want a certain sound that can only be obtained from a certain guitar other than their primary one – but I think that when someone buys a guitar they should ask themselves the same question people ask themselves when they buy a dog – they may want one, they may think they look cool, but they need to consider whether or not they can give the guitar the attention and care it needs. I have no problem with people owning more than one guitar, as long as they aren't part of a collection of instruments owned for vanity and not neccessity. I have two basses, a fretted and a fretless, I play them about equally – I did have another fretted (which had been replaced by the new one) I knew that I wasn’t going to play it much anymore, so I passed it on to someone who would – I have two guitars, an acoustic and an electric, I don’t play my acoustic much so I let my little sister play it.

It is these principles that I cite when asked why my guitars and basses are so strangely modified and upgraded, why they are so covered in switches & knobs and filled with peculiar electronics. I modify my guitars because I don’t want to have a heap of unloved, unplayed guitars around just so that I have access to the sounds I want. With modern amp modelling preamps and a decent amount skill you can make pretty much any sound you want with a well tweaked guitar and that saves wood*, money and storage space


*Don't get me started on 'environmentally aware' musicians playing something like 'live earth' holding an instrument made from mahogany or bubinga.


"Writing about music is like dancing about architecture"

--Elvis Costello, in an interview by Timothy White entitled "A Man out of Time Beats the Clock." Musician magazine No. 60 (October 1983), p. 52.

The citation is from here
It is otherwise attributed to just about every comedian, architect and musician that has ever stringed a sentence together.

I think it sums up what I have been trying to say for the last few years.


Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Mr Ben Digs

At the moment.

Minus The Bear - Crazy funky, electronicky guitary weirdness-- and what's not to like about about a band who give songs names like "Pantsuit...Uggghh" or "Monkey!!! Knife!!! Fight!!!" or "Lemurs, Man. Lemurs"

The Hold Steady - No nonsense party rock, singer who writes amazing lyrics and sounds like van morrison, which is odd considering he is from minneapolis*

Basquiat Strings - er... a Jazzfreaky Penguin Cafe Orchestra? Tosca Tango Orchestra minus the tango? Hard to describe, damn good though

Loney, Dear - Swedish songwriter, catchy tunes, sings in a soft falsetto most of the time, pleasing sounds.

Go forth and listen, hypothetical readers!


*I mean that it's odd that he sounds like van morrison not that he can write good lyrics

Monday, September 03, 2007


Summer is a strange thing; I think it must be something to do with the fact that for the entirety of my life so far summer is associated with doing nothing, enjoying oneself, running around and getting drunk (that’s a fairly recent addition) but I find it very hard to motivate myself to do anything that I don’t particularly want to do during the summer. I am some sort of seasonal hedonist, during the autumn, winter and spring I am capable of self control, discretion and determination but in the summer I eat drink and am merry. This, I rather suspect, is the reason why I spent the whole summer finding the whole ‘getting a job’ thing distasteful in the extreme and why, now, as the summer is coming to an end I’m feeling a real need to get a job and sort myself out.

I could also be argued that this is because I’ve got a bigger belly than I had at the start of the summer, because my bass amp is broken and I don’t have the money to replace it, but I’m feeling like I’ve done enough relaxing now.


I’ve been reading reviews of albums on pitchfork media today. I find them fascinating because, if nothing else, they seem to be the established template that all the godawful music reviewers in campus newspapers across the globe try to copy. They always write some kind of introductory paragraph which serves a few different purposes, firstly it sets the tone for the review, secondly it establishes a voice for the reviewer* and thirdly it allows the reviewer to make himself sound all clever, imbuing the review with a sort of gravitas which it doesn’t really deserve. They aren’t all bad, some of the writers are quite good, the problem with the others is that they are all presumably mimicking the idiosyncratic style of a small group of writers, a style which they don’t have the ability to carry off.

A couple of times I’ve tried to write music reviews, little pieces about albums I’m listening to and like or dislike, but I can’t ever grasp the style that most reviewers, pretentious or otherwise, aim for. I am unable to get past my own opinions and tastes when assessing music; I find it impossible to give some sort of assessment of the quality of a piece of music because I don’t really have any universal criteria with which I can put it into words. I know that many of my reasons for disliking music are unreasonable and unusual but I have no other methods of assessment. When writing a review of a piece of music I invariably feel like a man trying to transcribe a piece of music in words, trying to express changes in specific pitch and duration without any objective standard to use – writing something like ‘it is now getting higher than the last bit, but not as high as the bit that came before that’ isn’t going to help anyone play the piece of music. By the same token I think that that saying that you find a piece of songwriting to be ‘somewhat derivative’ will not provide any useful cues to someone who wishes to discover its quality for themselves.

Despite all this, however, I think that there is such a thing as good music and bad music - different people like different things, but there is a dim and vague universal standard of quality which would probably manifest if you polled people over whether an album is bad or good. The best reviewers seem to be able to tap into this. It makes me wonder if perhaps the closest thing we have to objective perception in this society is a sort of strange composite of a multitude of subjective ones – I mean one person sees something then that doesn’t count for much, he could be nuts, wrong or stupid, if more than one person sees it then it is considered more likely to have been so. I suppose the logic is that two unconnected people are unlikely to be crazy in the same way and so what their perceptions agree on must be truth.

Hmm. I should shut up now. I have no idea what I’m writing; I’m an English graduate veering dangerously into musical and philosophical territory, which is somewhere I don’t understand in the slightest.


*which is very important if you are a creative writing student with gonzo pretentions