Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Previous Albums 2006 - 2010

In 2006, I wrote and recorded my first full album for the London FILM4 FrightFest, and each year since then (up until 2010 inclusive) I have supplied the festival with it's own (mostly instrumental) annual soundtrack CD.

The festival runs for 5 days, so I always tried to keep the material was as wide-open as possible, whilst still exploring the darker themes.
There would usually be some feature tunes, and connective themes to glue everything together.
These albums were all written, performed and recorded at home - just to keep the neighbors happy.

Here is a selection of tracks from each of the albums, which is followed by a few words on each CD.

Use your mouse to scroll up and down over the MP3 player to see each of the tracks.

OSCURO (2006)

This was the first CD I'd ever written, and I still think that the material is (musically) the most accomplished so far from any of the other CDs - perhaps because it was the first time I'd tried to do anything like this.
The compositions have a nice dreamy, ethereal quality to them, and although it was a total experiment, - it just 'worked'.
If I was to re-edit this album - I would still probably remove a couple of tracks for timing and vibe reasons.
Artwork is courtesy of FrightFest, and was created by the one and only Graham Humphries


Much darker material throughout this CD overall, and it's my least favorite of all of the FrightFest scores, - however some of the material led me to my first movie score, and onto other projects.
It's just all too dark, and I over-analysed everything for months - and it just did not flow, perhaps due to the fact that I was very unhappy at that time.
The production wasn't very good, it's really over-compressed and half of the compositions had an unfinished vibe to them, - which was a shame because the other half really worked nicely.
I had obviously been watching Event Horizon at the time, because two of the track titles are based on dialogue from the film.
The lovely vocal performance is courtesy of a friend of mine, called Emma Brown.
Artwork is courtesy of FrightFest, and was again created by the one and only Graham Humphries.


A much happier writing process on this CD, and the whole thing took just about 3 weeks from start to finish.
After the doom and gloom process of Oblivion, I decided to just write, and not stop until it was finished.
Whatever came out, was how the album was going to sound - hence the name.
I had plenty of fun with these tunes, and it was a real breath of fresh air to write some music without any constraints.
I didn't want to make the same mistakes I'd made on Oblivion.


Just the same as ExPERIMENTAL, I had a blast writing this CD.
I used the same writing ethos from last year's CD, and included a few homages to some movie sub-genres.

I also kind-of opened the sound up on this one a little bit more, so there were more feature tracks.
Complex sequencing has always been one of my favorite guilty pleasures, and I think I really let the sequencer genie out of the bottle on this CD, and just enjoyed some good old fashioned cinematic electronica.
The overall vibe was right back to the first CD, Oscuro - which made me very happy.
I put a little video together for one of the tracks, called 'Wrecks' which hopefully you can see at the bottom of the blog.


Again - I had LOTS more fun with this one, and it has everything but the kitchen sink.
I put in some very late nights here, but enjoyed every second of the writing process.

Lots of musical bugs, devils, ghosts and other fun stuff on here.
Emma Brown re-appears on this CD for another lush vocal performance on Ghosts Of The Sea Lanes, and the ethereal spoken-word vocals are from TV voice-over artist Lucy Thorpe, who was a great sport and a total trooper - delivering my cooky dialogue in fine style.

Monday, 27 August 2012

My Guitar Building Blog!

A couple of years ago, I visited Bailey Guitars in Scotland - and over the course of seven days, I custom-built my very own guitar.

Instead of including photographs of every stage, I've just uploaded a batch at the end of the blog in case anybody is interested.

The body is book-matched mahogany, the neck is a single piece of mahogany with a beautiful snakewood fingerboard - and it plays better than my Les Paul.
It is custom cut-away in the back to fit my body, so it's a uniquely personal thing.

The circuitry is all custom wired, with 2 x volume / 2 x tone pots - very much like a Les Paul, except that on this guitar, the tone pots are push-pull for a bit more versatility and sonic control.

The pick-ups are Bare Knuckle Mules, and play very smoothly indeed.

Bailey HQ is owned and operated by two awesome awesome individuals, Mark & Carol.
Mark Bailey originally honed his guitar making skills at PRS, and these days offers courses where you go along to their workshop in Ayreshire, Scotland and custom build a guitar from start to finish from bare elements, entirely down to your own design and specifications

I could write about the build process for hours, but I'm sure it would probably bore most people to tears, so I'll just put down some basic information about key creative parts.

There is no guitar 'kit' to speak of. 
The whole thing starts by selecting your various woods for the body components - and they are selected from dried sections of raw, unfinished wood.

Surprisingly enough, the first thing I had to do was to cut the fingerboard into shape, and cut in the fret slots for later on down the line.

The neck was ripped from a single rectangular section of mahogany - rather like a big table leg.
We band-sawed the basic shape of a neck & headstock, and then ripped the excess wood out for hours, until the approximate size and dimensions were achieved.

A truss-rod cavity is routed into the front of the neck, and after the truss-rod was fitted, a fillet is then glued in place over the cavity.

After that, the fingerboard is glued and fixed into place, so we're left with something that starts to look like a guitar neck.

After that, the more detailed work starts, when fret-wire is cut to size, and individually fitted to each fret slot.
The fingerboard inlays are mother-of-pearl, and I wanted very subtle fret markers, so I used 2-mm dots for 3rd, 5th frets etc - with hidden side-dots for navigation.

Next was the body, which was made by joining two pieces of book-matched mahogany, which was later ripped into the basic shape I wanted.
Cavities are routed into the surface for circuitry, pick-ups etc.
On top of the body is fitted / glued a maple 'cap' or top, which is then carved by hand with chisels, spoke-shave, rasp and other tools until you get the desired carve depth and shape across the surface of the guitar.

The pick-ups and circuitry are later wired in, and you can get creative with your sonic control.

If you want some weird phase wiring on your pick-ups, - or if you want sexy custom ideas like Piezo pickups dropped in, then now is the time.

I opted for push-pull tones, and my usual kill switch (which my Les Paul doesn't have - because I can't bring myself to drill holes into that!)
The kill switch always comes in very handy for convenience and effect.

The guitar was simply stained bright bottle green near the end of the build, and right away I knew it was the right colour against the various woods.
It's a few years old now, and plays better than ever.

The green stained finish looks aged, which is exactly what I wanted, although I think it could do with a slightly fresher finish now, so maybe next year, I'll revisit Mark and Carol, and strip / re-colour the guitar to it's original vibrant green, - as well as repair a few little battle scars it has picked up over the last few years.

All in all - a truly amazing way for any guitarist to spend a week, and you go home with a totally one-off guitar made exactly to your specifications - and made by your very own hands.

Incidentally, I couldn't even touch the guitar for at least two weeks afterwards, because my fingers were absolutely destroyed from 7 days of cuts, slices, rips, slips & general finger / hand injuries.
A truly unique experience and well worth every second.