Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Tate Modern

On a plane to London today, the girl in the seat in front of me is earnestly reading 1st Corinthians from the New Testament on a Kindle and slowly sipping a tepid mineral water. I'm sitting behind drinking gin and tonic and reading Finnegan's Wake also via a fully charged Kindle. I've no idea what if anything it means but at the time it meant something. Later in the day we visited the Tate Modern (brief impressions above), it's a bit like Spain, it'll be fine when they finish it all.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

I'm up all night to drink Buckie

Tepee Village
Typical audience

Angry old man

Nile:the source.

Wickerman 2013: Here's my very rough chord-centric reviews of the acts and bands I bothered to see, because many were missed and fewer were chosen.

Admiral Fallow - heard them from a distance, tuneful and honest enough in a Celtic way. They seem to be familiar with a few more fingerings than just the basic chords.

KT Tunstall - she works her chords, her harmonies and her loop station settings and timings perfectly. Impressive but still looking for that elusive killer song and a clear way back home. Not on the horizon at the moment unfortunately.

Nile Rodgers and Chic - this guy knows all the chords and plays them all around the 5th fret. A joyful masterclass in funk guitar playing and 30 years of pop history. It's pity he comes across edgy and insecure but he has the tightest band on the planet and a million dollar back catalogue you could dance all night to. Looked a bit confused when the audience sang "I'm up all night to drink Buckie", welcome to Scotland Nile.

Primal Scream - they have about three chords to their name, none of them sevenths either. Noisy, exciting and debauched, dated samples and nothing new to say and their depth of material and musical skill as a band is woefully MIA.

Cherub - nice young guys from Nashville who use a voice box/Telecaster in a high energy combination. They didn't really play any chords but had more samples than an Avon lady on a Friday night in Corstorphine. Likely to sink without trace I'm afraid.

Roddy Hart - knows all the clever shifting songwriter's chords but has a dull persona and band that looked like bored bearded Glasgow lawyers on their day off. If this is Scottish songwriting at it's best then god help us. N.B. I fell asleep and got sun burned through most of his set so I'm hardly in a position to say much more.

Bellowhead - appreciated from a distance. Better than the awful Mumfords (?) but still folky with a capital F. Imaginative chord use was there but hard to distinguish amongst the Tepees, strings and accordions.

Dexys - they have everything, songs, sex, genius and tragedy; so naturally they blow it and succumb to long periods of shaky and abrupt "Kevinwaffle". Yes there are some  clever chords in the mock-Irish mix  but they are all badly translated. Bit of a disappointment really but a sinking legend none the less.

The Enemy - guitar power trio (another Telecaster!) with masses of distortion and aplomb. Not much played on the higher register though and not strong on harmony. Chunkiest  riffs of the weekend however.

Amy MacDonald - the odd choice headliner was once again appreciated from afar because the rain had started and we were all too tired to stay milling about and just wanted to get back to the Tepee for the great wicker burn off. I suppose that says it all really. Chords? There were some I'm sure.

Anyway I had a really good time, as for the music? It's all a bunch of random notes and chords really.

Some bands playing in a sheep field

Got to love these guys, a 2 hour wait for a shower and then...no water, then some overnight rain.

Wickerman 2013 was a sunny, mostly dry, drunk and good humoured music event with no major traffic problems. I seemed to eat a lot and form on the hoof opinions about music and life and the great outdoors. I'll write more and possibly more sensibly once I've had some sleep.

Thursday, July 25, 2013


Probably the final cat / laptop photo of the day.

Abstractly pragmatic

George Osborne says we need to do more, Ed Balls says we need to do more. They seem to agree on that but finely detailed instructions don't follow on from their glib statements however. It's all vague, high minded and strategic rather than practical. All across the country I imagine the puzzled, squinting, drinking masses are thinking “What does that mean?” or more likely "WTF?" Doing more is tough when you're not sure what it is you're actually doing most of the time, living a normal unscripted life as we do. Today for example everything was warm, thundery and wet with those reluctant summer rains. Leaves and grass damp and dewy branches drip and a heavy stillness wraps everything in it's sticky suggestiveness and natural oozing calm. Insects and birds compete, hiding and feeding, avoiding the trembling human threat. All the imagined detail in nature shouts out “Look at me!” as it stretches and grows in the humid breeding ground of the great UK outdoors. Then as the sun breaks through and the earth warms with some lazy appreciation of who knows what that dawns on me and I reflect on doing more to build up this conflicted country in some abstractly pragmatic way...but nothing comes. Maybe it's because politicians think that if they just say so it'll be believed and happen because they really know what they're talking about. Like God does.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013


there are holes in the sky where the rain comes in
but they're ever so small that's why the rain is thin


Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Matrix glitch

Modern apples disappoint: You bite into that pink and juicy looking lunchtime apple and it's brown inside. What is going on? Just like that moment in E M Forster's "The Machine Stops" when the foodstuff's fail as the conveyor belt slows, so maybe the process is stopping. That big grey apple growing machine is gearing down like a hazy Matrix glitch and from now on all our fresh lunches will be ruined and we'll mistrust fruit and avoid it by moving onto what we know are more processed but reliable, highly packaged and salted, poisonous snacks that come in green packages with pictures of leaves on them. Our scaly grey fingers and pale tongues will hardly tell the difference. It's only a theory.

HBC on the BBC: Helena was in good raving loony, mad bitch form last night on BBC4 as unlikable, addicted superstar Liz Taylor. I think it's all in the eyes and some basic drama school moves. This starry vehicle was hyped up to highlight the funding cuts that BBC drama must suffer and all the critics and papers dutifully bought the line  and allowed some serious point scoring and "what might have been" type rhetoric. There will be no more of this high quality, high production value stuff now the cash has all dried up Mr Cameron. All you'll get will be cheap clip shows, so-called comedy slots and "classic" re-runs from the classic archives i.e. any old classic rubbish. Anyway I liked the ever dotty HBC and I approve of the veiled if clumsy protest, the BBC needs to get back up/in there somehow if it's going to touch Sky Atlantic.

Pixar rule the universe: Want to read about a crazy conspiracy theory that suggests that all of Pixar's movies are part of a long running sequence that tells the history of the universe, past to present and into the future? Try this then.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Socks and sandals and sin

The sentinel CCTV lion on the look out for passing sock offences/offenders. Many walk the Fife Coastal Path in ignorance and odd socks.
I'm sure it was either our Lord Jesus, Mohammed, Charles Darwin or Groucho Marx who first committed the fashion crime of the black sock and open sandal combination, could've been any one the way they are portrayed in popular culture and paranoid religion. I lazily fell into that trap tonight and in so doing felt a strange burning sensation deep in my soul, it must be a sin or the realisation of it I suppose or just a guilty heat spot. The socks were odd ones too, I'm sure that didn't help and they were 12 hours into a sweaty day's worth of wear. My excuse is that I was applying copious amounts of teak oil to anything within brushing distance; partscaster guitars, garden furniture and myself, it's been that kind of of blue cheese, clammy in every sticky department evening so far. I even teak oiled a cat as she hopped across the boards. Then there was the bike fixing, the sorting  and the laundry, those eternal chores that soak into your being and normalise till they are as comfortable as dishwashing with Radio 6 on or even drifting into the occasional light weight and allowable sin.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Shutter Island

Actually it's Preston Island but it's spooky like that other place, a man made non-island that sticks out into the Forth and then sticks back in again. It has barbed wire, ruins, sparrows by the million and a crude landscape that could be best described as complete brownfield or a possible Dr Who or Mad Max film location. As it was out came the good weather and out came the cross over bike and I cycled for hours - there and back again and some random circuits around the island. I came home with a sore bottom and tired legs and then for the next few hours proceeded to get drunk, happy and talkative. I think that was all sometime on Friday and numerous other things have taken place since. I'm quite enjoying the summer of 2013.

A cat sneaks up on the new whirly thing.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Some vague illusion...

(Note non-Fender jack socket, scratch plate and configuration, let us do you a deal).
...of success.

I'm loving the warm weather. My brain and as a result my consciousness and functional competences are fried. Things are happening all around, people are getting excited about issues and life and death and that sort of thing. Somewhere a poor mouse is being chased and folks are working hard to ride their bicycles up very steep hills, it's all ok but meaningless. I'm just watering plants and strumming away.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Karma and buttons

Sometimes, quite rightly I suppose, I forget that we’re in the music business or at least that we have a toe in the shallow end of the music business’s guitar shaped and champagne filled swimming pool. It all came back to me today when I saw that Thom Yorke was pulling his music from Spotify (OK he's not perfect either). His reasons being that the financial returns are so small (about .01c a play) that new artists or new ventures can’t possibly make enough cash to keep producing music. It’s not a sustainable model when as Thom says “you get paid  fuck all" so I can’t fault his desire to protest.  I’ve always known we were being screwed to some extent and resented the paltry and meaningless payouts that streaming brings to us minions - but as has been said many times, what else can a poor boy do? Our own impossible songs’ music (over a hundred meaty tracks) languishes on numerous popular sites, many of which offer streaming but we know we stand to make something short of a fistful of peanuts. If all our recent streaming plays (currently over a hundred thousand in 3 years) were translated into downloads we’d have made roughly £70,000 or about £24,000 a year. That would’ve been nice. If sales were for actual CDs or full albums it’d be a lot more – there would be some low scoring tracks on each CD for padding to help the numbers, that’s how it goes. So that’s without bothering to play gigs, do promotions or anything remotely businesslike.

Other streaming deniers  ZZTop, Bob Fripp, Led Zep, Anstruther’s own Fence Collective and the erstwhile Thom are all  quite right, there’s no money to be made at our bargain basement end of the  iTunes, Spotify, Rhapsody, Xbox, Jamendo, Napster or whoever’s rainbow. The dilemma for the unprofessional or small time music maker centres around deciding what you want for your precious music. What might entice listeners to listen to an unmarketed, obscure, anonymous musical soup served up to bloated diners in a wanabee infected universe of millions of other floating soup bowls? Free stuff or a cheap subscription certainly does the job with the punters, I should know I still use entry level Spotify from time to time. We see the trends, they listen to a song maybe six or seven times, get the lyrical kick and move on, no final download and we are happy to have the .04c six months later. In another culture that might well be robbery.

So you’re virtually giving it away to the streamers but you at least have some nebulous audience with whom you’ve absently engaged – an audience that may like the music but don’t really want to pay for it and who don’t have to connect the hard economics of modern life with the blips and half listens on their chosen subscribed to streaming services. Now as writers and players and singers all we can have is a small sense of priceless satisfaction and a monthly reminder in piddling sales stats not to give up the day job and that somewhere on the planet, in a bedroom, café or street corner our music is providing a temporary backdrop to another private life moment or tiny human drama. Paradoxically despite what all the streaming avoiders may say (something’s always killing music etc.), new music keeps getting made, discovered, consumed, digested and trolled out as back catalogue material that will never go away as it pings and sizzles in hot server rooms before reluctantly venturing out across somebody’s cloud based data system and into their badly designed poundshop headphones. We won’t stop, that’s thanks to the OCD and junkie nature inherent in how you make a slab of sweet original music. So is it all about appreciating what it is you actually have, however abstract it may be, rather than thinking about what you don’t have?

Karma and buttons maybe; but then you look up and see what other people can gain just because they had a better idea and have adopted a key position in a cluttered up distribution chain that allows them to lord it over the low-life creatives who blindly  and regularly prime their money pump. The older you get the more there is to complain about. Modern life is rubbish.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Tales of the Wooden Fish #2

 Not a lot of movement from the Wooden Fish today. A casual observer may have thought that they were congregating or carrying out some other slo-mo fish manoeuvre. Not really much more I can say about this timber based, ocean themed, driftwood sourced, bleached and laid out stray art installation. It is what is, it does what is does. Celebrating the temporary world of the lonely Wooden Fish. Oops tea's ready.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Tales of the Wooden Fish

The first in an occasional series:

I'm not completely sure but I like to believe that after some social interaction, debate, sharing and reconciliation they all lived happily ever after in mild and clear EEC controlled waters.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Heat, insects etc.

A hot day eventually. Today I tried cycling in the opposite direction from the other day, so that was mostly West to East. I still was battered by many confused insects headed in at me this way (and mostly while going up a slow hill) and finally and absent mindedly managed to swallow one. I didn't much care for that and so I spat a lot. Maybe six times. The insect however must have gone straight down and that was that. I tried to cheer myself up by thinking about the wayside flowers and then by inventing a rather clever automated method for putting large amounts of coal into the firebox of a speeding steam train. I imagined that the adoption of my system resulted in a record breaking run, it was a good daydream. Then I wondered how the crews of speeding steam trains coped with flying insects coming at them. Then my chain came off and my fingers became oily when I put it back on. With that I forgot about the insects, records, trains and inventions and just puffed my way up the final long hill. Then an insect hit me in the eye and seemed to immediately turn into a soggy raisin (or perhaps sultana) in my blinded eye socket. Bravely I cycled along with one hand whilst scrunching my insect infected eye with the other. I was wobbling a bit at this point but failed to fall. Then my eye cleared up and the insect was gone but I've no idea where. About then I reached my final destination and considered cycling techniques that might prevent further insect related injury. Cycling with the mouth and eyes shut tight seemed the best option, though that may well lead to further problems and complications if I ever do try it.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Insects and genius

Today would have been Tesla's birthday. I wonder if the great man knew why it is that when you ride your bicycle on a hot and sunny day insects, despite all their keen flying skills can't seem to get out of the way and collide with your face and head as if attacking you just because you are there. I suppose the thing is, who is in who's way anyway? Probably me.

Sunday, July 07, 2013

There was something missing

Sometimes words are not enough...I presume Wee Eck gets it next.

Hobs of Ceramica

Good Lad Andy: (During match) A late burst of near nationalism almost occurred in me today thanks to the fantastic efforts of Andy Murray at Wimbledon. Well Wimble-done son! Less welcome of course are the shameless freeloading glory hunters and politicians lined up like some Slitherin grease balls at a Quiddich encounter  - as seen above. We know their names, well almost,  and come the revolution...

Hobs of Ceramica: (Pre match) No it's not the latest album by rock gods Muse, just a gentle reminder to myself that when cleaning such surfaces the correct materials must be used. The same can also be said about guitar neck and fretboard cleaning materials.

Banana Fritter: (Post match) I clearly asked the very busy girl in the Chinese takeaway for a portion of fried rice (what else goes with Fife's own version of S&S chicken?). What I received was two sweet banana fritters in syrup, not really rice at all or even a good substitute. File under unfortunate kitchen mix ups and post- Murray Mayhem culinary disappointment coupled with mass hysteria in the Scottish Celtic-Chinese heartland.

Saturday, July 06, 2013

If dogs run free

For a short while today we were dog people. Down on the beach, on the mudflats and by the old pier our guest's dogs ran and played on that rarest of things in a Scottish July; a sunny afternoon. The cats lay low for the afternoon and remained as bright eyes in the grass. Firstly we kept the work ethic alive by...working and doing a little shopping. Then it was prep time and then Pimms,  Cava, prawns and bread and the buzzing of insects and the throb of a distant unfamiliar sun. We dodged the BBC and tennis and non verbal opinions and scooted out towards the sand and seaweed. The beach changes by the second, tides and pools swirling and losing themselves. Dirty weed, rotten wood and plastic rubbish, then the golden punctuations of fine sand and shiny stones, dog ready sticks and footprints, beautiful articles of warm landscape detail, hazy horizons and the imagined barking of seals and puppies. Looking back at how far you've come. Up on the lane wild roses, mint and brambles made fragile paths of scent and prickles. I sucked on grass lengths and tried to look lazy but intense enough to grasp and measure the tides and the church spires and chemical chimneys of the other side. I naturally failed (or failed naturally) but picked the best driftwood from a bad batch and prepared the well exercised bleaching process. By that time we were ready for a cuppa tea (once I'd respectfully moved the dead crow). Then the dogs ran home.

Thursday, July 04, 2013


First of all I'll admit that it doesn't look particularly atomic, not on any level but I am assured that it is - atomic. Fender Atomic to be precise and a foundational part of the latest Moonbeam Partscaster. I may be be setting myself up for a major shredding disappointment or a dose of the low tone blues. The truth is I seldom use any meaningful volume so it's all either academic, arthritic or just absurdly aspirational. We shall see. Buyers beware.

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Private sky

Not the actual sky in the text, a different sky altogether. A reverse sky (with added watery details).
One day I just sat down and thought about myself. I don’t know why I just decided, you may be familiar with that feeling and that action. The first thing I thought about (left to myself) was that my head was empty, really empty. Empty like  a blue sky is when there are  no clouds and there were no clouds sure enough. Pleasant to look at and quite nice to sit under but empty and sort of endless and rolling. So I looked around inside myself hoping maybe to see something else in the blue. Some shape or colour that would pierce and change it, some cloud, vapour trail or random object, there in the private sky inside my head. I looked around for a while but nothing materialised. Well nothing much that is.

At times it was hard to say what was going on. Sometimes my levels of concentration seem to drop a bit and I lose track of things. But that episode ended and I slowly became aware that in my sky a small bird was circling, just there at the edges. A  bit indistinct perhaps but clearly a bird with feathers and a beak and so on. I willed it to become sharper and less fuzzy and it did. There it was, really there.  I wondered why it was flying about loose and apparently free inside my head in my sky and then I wondered why I thought any of that was odd. Where else would I expect to see a bird. It was reasonable and logical if, based on it being inside my head it was all unreasonable and illogical.

Then I thought, well, these are just my thoughts. They are not bounded by rules or conventions (well not much) so a bird, any bird circling in a sky inside of my head is perfectly ok. So that’s the way it is and that bird is still there, circling inside my head today.

When I next get some spare time I’ll have a look around and see if there are any bright birds in there or perhaps there will be something else, more interesting and unexpected. Clouds this time? But I would be curious to know what the bird feeds on, how it got there, stuff like that. Perhaps I left a window open, perhaps I was careless (that’s a common enough weakness) or it came in via a crack or physical defect – you pick them up unnoticed the older you get, that’s what I’ve been told. It could be I made the whole thing up or that maybe, once upon a time there was just an egg somewhere…

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Mystery cheese

Needs some minor repairs but still not bad for a tenner.
In the aftermath of a weekend spent in gay abandon with party fare and families I've encountered a household surplus of cheese and ham rolls. It forced me to consider for how long a person might survive on a diet of cheese and ham rolls but firstly taking the view that the ham is a constant, the rolls are a constant but the cheese is very much a variable. Add to this the raw spinach (non-variable) and the pickle and seasoning (very much variables). So after some head scratching and red wine I concluded that the answer to the question (how long can a person etc. etc?) was INDEFINITELY. There you have it.

The variable cheese factor is set of course because of the many (infinite?) various cheese types and families available. Ham (which has some variation) is mostly just that - boiled ham. I then realised that much of the cheese I was eating was in fact "mystery cheese". This is because at some point in it's recent history it has become detached from it's wrapping media and now is in anonymous cling film. This adds a spiced up mystery factor to the cheese and applied to the formulaic roll (and once the pickle is added) - you get a whole lot of variation - indefinitely.

These are the white blueprints.

Monday, July 01, 2013

"Where's your shame?

It always looked fine in my mind's eye...
You've left us up to our necks in it. Time may change me, but I cant trace time." So all really need now is to design the hippy dippy Moonbeam logo and pyrographically but not pornographically start assaulting these here guitar headstocks with it. Easy Peasy.

...and then reality set in once again.