About 30 years ago I decided that rather than dreaming of being a musician I was going to start working towards being one. I had just been introduced to 60’s US Psych whilst working a few days in Relay Records, Bristol back in 1990. My mentor and guide back then, though he will have no idea, was Simon Price, soon to release his first single as a member of The Heads. I was listening to a lot of Loop, MBV, Spacemen 3 and the Telescopes at the time.
Simon introduced me to some psych classics; The Psychedelic Sounds of…..the 13th Floor Elevators was the first, then The Seeds, Love, WCPAEB, MC5. My mind was blown – that was it, I was gonna write psychedelic music and be in a band.
I shared a house in Bristol at the time with an up and coming band so one of the rooms was always set up as a rehearsal space. I would take my guitar in there and practice psych riffs and sounds heavily laden with delay, reverb, fuzz….
After becoming quite unwell I moved back from Bristol to live with my parents. I bought myself a TASCAM Porta-05 (I still have it and need to unbox it to see if it still works after all these years) and locked myself in my bedroom most evenings putting songs together and capturing them on tape.
Over a period of about 5 years I wrote somewhere in the region of 60 songs – some pretty decent, some OK and some……..well, I was experimenting. Every sound is a sound – yes? Friends and family encouraged me to take things further and send my recordings off to some small independent labels but the idea of opening myself to any form of publicity or criticism frightened me to death.
So I did absolutely nothing. Music making fell by the wayside.
Leap forward 30 years and whilst music has always been my constant companion I realised I had begun to ‘hear’ more as I listened. Music had become a far more, predominantly, active pleasure once more, not so much a passive process it sometimes was (for many health related reasons). There had been too many occasions where I had let music happen to me rather than me being a part of what I was listening to and that had slowly been changing over time.
I had also noticed a steady trend in a change to the music that was really speaking to me – my primary focus had moved away from guitar-led bands to sound itself; more experimental, drone, noise, repetition – fragments of which would remind me of the more space/psych rock I had been listening to all those years ago: Loop, Spacemen 3 etc., then other fragments in which I could hear the hypnotic sounds and pulse of Can and the electronic genius of Kraftwerk. Then there was noise – beautiful noise.
But not just those – as well as the elements of those kosmische sounds, and the drones, and ambient soundscapes there were tones and textures of 80s synth-pop. I could also hear the sounds and beats that took me back to my days of all-night raves in fields in the countryside where I grew up. Best of all were the sounds of the world around us – sounds that to some of us may seem mundane yet they provide the soundtrack to each and every day of our lives. Brilliant.
This all made me realise that I had been fixated for too long on believing I was a certain musical ‘type’, labelling myself a psych-head for want of a better container into which to put myself. This subtle shift had been brewing for some time but, around the end of 2018, I think, I took myself to one side, sat myself down and talked things through until I finally said: ‘Simon, psych was your baby but it doesn’t define you and what you can listen to. You need to let her go a little, open your arms and ears wide and embrace the other sounds you’ve experienced, enjoyed but all too often neglected. Admit it, you really like experimental music and the synth sounds of your childhood and you realise that it is OK to say that. It doesn’t make you weird telling people you like to listen to the sounds of a sub-station, or a recording of a storm but saying so will set you free’.
So I did, I let psych go and set myself free. Psych and I are still good friends and we talk a lot and you can find a transcript of a recent conversation on Mixcloud just here -> An Occasion Diversion #3: Psych 1.0. We chatted again more recently and I’ll post the outcome of that conversation on Mixcloud next week.
Well, I was so enthused with my new freedom I tucked into Bandcamp, went down rabbit holes of recommendations and free dl codes on Twitter and found a network of the most friendly, knowledgable, enthusiastic and supportive musicians, promoters, mini-zines and labels. There was hand-made, lovingly-created, limited run, amazing music, artwork, zines, blogs – and some of the packaging! The whole thing was, and is, brilliant.
I felt that same excitement here as I did when I was first intoduced to US Psych back in 1990. That buzz of knowing you have a long and fascinating journey and listening experience ahead of you with no restrictions on what you think you ‘should’ be listening to. Listen, give it a go; some you won’t like but that is fine, some you will love and each and every listen opens another door through which to explore. What a journey!
To cut a long story long, and get back to the purpose of this post, I got the music-making bug again and started to make sounds in 2019. This time though they were not sounds that I thought people wanted to hear, but sounds I wanted to hear and play.
After a few months I went ever further from my comfort zone, threw all caution to the wind, and put a digital E.P. on Bandcamp. If people don’t dig it then no big deal – it would be fantastic if it connected with some of you but ultimately I had written this for me. Not for profit or the need to please a specific audience, for me. I did it for that pleasure of creating something and for the first time I was the intended audience. Some of you even bought that E.P. for which I can’t thank you enough.
There are three of my digital E.P.s on Bandcamp now. Not only that, I have a couple of physical releases in the pipeline that are slowly coming into fruition – my dream of over 30 years is morphing into a reality and it feels amazing.
Thanks for reading – if you would like to hear what I’ve been up to please do jump in. If you like it then wonderful, that makes me very happy. If not, I thank you for listening anyway; I hope to continue learning and evolving as an artist and maybe you’ll come and seek me out again.
Peace : Respect : Compassion