In the studio with Ahad today, day two. We started at 11AM on a new song to sing on a rainy morning with the calendar on the studio wall showing August when in fact today is the 1st October. I remember that my Dad had a calendar on his desk at his office but not like anything you would recognise these days. It looked like a wooden box about 6 inches tall with rolling barrels that changed the day, the date and the month that were on pieces of cloth that rolled on the barrels inside the box. It’s something you just don’t see anymore, maybe in an antique store. I saw the calendar on the wall today and realised how something physical, something in our eye line, something so relevant to our time has become irrelevant and is so insignificant that we don’t even notice that it’s two months out of date – or care. It’s just not how we calculate time anymore. We are in this room every day and this lovely calendar with its spectacular views of Cornwall fails to grab our attention as if we are in a discarded warehouse where life has long ceased to exist but this fragile reminder of bygone era somehow survives.
But we are most definitely taking notice of anything that is happening on a screen – we are obsessed with them. In the studio, Dare, Ahad and I all have phones that bleep or ring throughout the day. The recording process has Dare looking at two computer screens all day, the sampler has a screen, the effects modules have screens, we are using my computer to put the words of the songs up on a screen. When we make music these days we are using our eyes all the time, looking at screens. It didn’t use to be that way. We used to just use our ears. Sure we’d look at VU meters and effects devices in a studio did have parameters on screens when I first entered a studio but before digital readouts, it was only VUs. The screens wear you out, anything digital wears you out, your eyes and ears assaulted by a cold and clinical machine.
This is the argument for analogue. Have you ever been walking somewhere and there’s a bike coming towards you and the rider has a light on his helmet and a light on his bike? It used to be a battery-operated light or a coil, now it’s an LED. It dazzles you in a different way than old-fashioned light did, you have to look away. Christmas has been destroyed by LEDs. The lights on Christmas trees no longer have a warm glow. Fairy lights are now all bright harsh eye-killing, blinding LEDs. This is probably how people felt when the electric lightbulb was invented. Before this everyone lived with the cosy warm glow of candles and suddenly that cosy room was flooded with electric light, the mood of the world was changed.
Technology is an amazing thing, the comforts it gives us are undeniable. From the toilet to the mega TV screen. But can you imagine the feeling lost by retiring your horse for a 2 MPH machine with wheels? (A horseless carriage as they were called.) I’m sure you’ve heard the story that when cars were first invented they had to have someone walking in front of them waving a red flag. Makes sense, don’t want to scare the horses. But then in London in the 19th century, they had huge problems with manure, they couldn’t clean it up fast enough and that brought flies and disease, especially in the poorer areas. So you wanna talk about pollution?
At 1 o’clock today I took an hour out from the studio and went for a swim. When I came out it was pouring with rain but as I got nearer the studio it stopped as if it was only raining over the leisure centre. On the way down there was a seagull splattered in the middle of the road. It was big but still so young that it hadn’t got its adult feathers yet. You could see the blood, a light red, seeping out of the crushed body. When I look back on it I really should have at least moved the bird to the kerb because cars were just going to continue running over it crushing the bones and the flesh together until it was a stain impregnated into the road. Imagine how horrified we would be if it was one of us and how our horror is put on pause when it’s an animal.
Music today was instrumental – again. French today inspired me to listen to Jean-Luc Ponty, or was it Olivia? She is a fan of this virtuoso French violinist. She has seen him live twice. I have lots of his albums and randomly picked Open Strings as the first one to listen to. It was released in 1972 and also included Belgian Jazz guitarist Philip Catherine whose CV is extremely long. It’s some kind of Jazz and you can hear why Frank Zappa wanted him in his band from this performance.
The first album I ever had by him was Enigmatic Ocean, released in 1977 and featuring Allan Holdsworth on guitar. I have never wanted to play music like this, I don’t even understand it but I’ve always liked listening to it, perhaps because it is a total mystery to me, knowing how it’s done can make it less appealing which is probably why you hear me listening to less music by artists that you might think I may be more associated with stylistically.