Tuesday, November 29, 2005
Monday, November 28, 2005
I should get a digital camera of mine own. I get so sick of waiting for other people to update their Flickr accounts.
Especially when my ugly mug never makes the grade. :-(
I'm still waiting to get photos from AMP, so in the meanwhile you will have to make do with Cosey's photo of our lovely Producer Extraordinaire, Terry McGaughey from his Milimeter MySpace.
Recording - Day 2
Up bright and early, tanked up on coffee, I slipped the rough mixes into my CD player, and was happily surprised at how my sleep-freshened ears perked up at the sounds. A somewhat more leisurely journey up to Borough, fielding calls from bandmates who were poorly or only just climbing out of bed. I told Terry the night before "if you want to start at about 2, then tell them all to get here about 1pm" and I was right. Even though I stopped at Sainsburys to pick up supplies (more chocolate, soup, ginger tea, honey and lemons to keep our throats in good shape, and last minute impulse purchases of mince pies and beetroot crisps, both of which turned out to be incredibly popular) I was still early and had to rouse Terry out of bed.
One by one, the Shimuras trekked up the stairs, looking fabulously glamourous for the recording session. (We found out that David was a professional photographer and designer so we pleaded with him to take photos of us.) Marianna had a new fur stole, Miss AMP had her mink, and Anna turned up complete with feather boa. (Oh god, I hope PETA never get on to us.)
We had to take it in turns to record, as there was only one mic and one stand, so we built up the harmonies in layers. I'd do a guide vocal first, with everyone lying on the bed and giggling in the background. (Some of this backchat may even make it to the final mix.) Then we'd do them in order of pitch - Marianna on contralto and Anna on Alto, swapping leads, then my second soprano harmony, then Miss AMP gliding and glissando over the top.
The rest of us sat in the living room, listening to music, reading the paper, waiting for our turn like the waiting room for the dentist - but much more fun. I got halfway through The Lost Rivers Of London, and even managed to fact check a couple of errors about the tributaries of the Fleet. That's the nice thing about recording in a house - a better quality of reading material than the usual recording studio fare. (Except for Kurt Ralske's Victorian pr0n collection, but that is the exception to the rule.)
Then we all came in the studio and lay in the bed and listened to the playbacks. Rough mixes, in need of a bit of judicious editing (I trust Terry on that count), but we could tell they were going to be good. I'm so excited to hear the final results!
And then we all got glammed up and David took photos of us. Such a change from the i-D photoshoot last week! I actually enjoyed myself - or rather, enjoyed Anna's clowning around, pretending to be our ChinBra. The contact sheet (wow, digital photography has come a long way!) looked fantastic. David managed to make us look both sexy and fun. Hurrah! One stop shopping for all our demo needs! What lovely people! What a great weekend! Too bad I'm so exhausted now...
Watch our MySpace for the final results when they are finished.
Recording - Day 1
OK, so I was really nervous as I made my way up to Borough for the first proper Shimuras recording session. It's been years since I've recorded in someone else's studio, and the last time (When J3$$3 absconded with my masters, just as I was trying to sign a record deal) really was the last straw which made me get my own studio.
Not to mention that I'm quite shy and nervous of meeting new people, even at the best of occasions, and the rest of the band had bailed on the backing music part of the recording process. (No doubt put off my descriptions of music nerds arguing about whether cymbals should go "ting" or "tang".) But within ten minutes of meeting Terry, I was completely at ease. We just started talking about music, and were soon deep in discussion of how much we loved Dreampop and hated Ladyfest.
He and his boyfriend, David, live in this gorgeous warehouse loft apartment with 360 degree views of South London and a recording studio built into the spare bedroom. We drank loads of coffee and bounced around discussing our various gear fetishes (casiotone keyboards and Vox guitars littering the floor). I played him some demos and he was amazingly encouraging. It's just so great to work with someone who not just *gets it* but also gets enthusiastic about music. Being In The Studio is work, it's art and it's serious, but at the same time, it's getting excited and jumping up and down and dancing about and making funny noises. If your music doesn't make the person who writes and records it do that, how is it going to make anyone else?
There were lots of technical snafus - I kept having to reburn CDs because I'd downloaded the wrong AIF files, while Terry sat with the manual on his lap trying to figure out his new mixing desk, and both of us swearing copiously at machines. Finally we figured it out, and got everything working. I got out my guitar (cue much "ooh, aah, Jazzmaster" cooing) and we laid down the backing tracks.
I like working with Terry - he understands my terminology. I don't understand all the technical "give it more mid-range" stuff, but prefer to say things like "make the drums more... squishy! Make the drones more like cut glass stabbing you in the ears!" Though we were both very, very professional, even cutting out bits of tape to stick along the mixing desk to remind us where all the instruments were. (Even if I occasionally gave them silly names like "slurp" or "bakewell tart". It's all about food for me.) Put on more guitars than was probably wise, but ooh, how can you resist when you get the MBV swoops going on the tremolo arm?
The only problem is, we kept running out of tracks. Honestly - how did I ever make do with a 4-track (and Terry an 8-track) for so long? We were getting to the point where we had filled up all 16 tracks, and still had to find space for the vocals. Cue lots of last-minute mixing stereo to mono and mixing string quartets all to one channel. By the end of 10 hours, I'd completely lost focus and was lying on the floor clutching my ears, but still, Terry mixed on, even the professional, and even burned me rough mixes to take home and listen to.
Thursday, November 24, 2005
::oops, my bad!!!::
Aparently there's an embargo on that photo for copyright reasons. Sorry, but you'll all have to wait until February to see it again. Sorry!
OK, after looking at the polaroid proof, I've concluded that I should never smile in a band photo again. The rest of the band, however, look freakin' fabulous.
Oh yes, also we have finally made up our mind on which three songs to record for our demo, this weekend:
-I Capture The Castle
Comments, complaints, omissions on a postcard to the regular address, please...
OK, it's the kind of once-in-a-lifetime thing that now I've done it, I can boast to my friends, I can tell my kids about it, and then I NEVER have to do it again.
Turn up to a quite scary looking alleyway in Dalston, and have to ring around to find someone to let us in, but eventually we get in to the warehouse, and it's a beautiful studio loft space. Everyone's milling around, a bit shy, until all the girls get changed. (As Anna said, it's hard to be shy with someone once you've seen their tits.) And then we're comparing shoes and prom dresses and Bishi is trying to get people to stick the feathers on her amazing outfit.
Photographer bloke (we'll just call him Dieter due to his Germanic accent, after the dude off "Sprockets") comes over and introduces himself. As it turns out, we all think that we're gathered there for an illustration photo for some 250 word puffpiece about Brainlove Records. But no! This is a full on fashion spread which may run up to six pages! Blimey! This requires fortification, so we send manager extraodinaire Emsk off to get some pink wine and cigarettes.
Dieter arranges us all in this tableau, with the ladies sitting on the floor in the ballgowns and the rest of us perching on tables and chairs (clearly trying to break up the careful schooldance gender segregation we seem to have got ourselves into). He takes a polaroid, and does a few warm-up shots to try to "relax" us but honestly, how can you relax when you have Dieter shouting "EVERYONE!!! LOOK AT THE CAMERA!!! Smile! Giff me some ATTITUDE!!! Lean to the left! Lean to the right! DON'T LEAN AGAINST THE POST!!! PUT DOWN THE WINEGLASS!!!"
I'll be honest. I hate having my picture taken - it's up there with going to the dentist, as far as I'm concerned. Now, I *love* the idea of being in i-D Magazine. Me - fat, ugly, middle aged - in an Edgy Style Magazine. Oh, the hilarity. But the reality of it all is that it's both boring and nerve-wracking. Now I understand why Kate Moss takes to many drugs. Holding the same position for 20 minutes at a time. Smiling on demand even when you feel patently uncomfortable. You freeze in the studio but boil under the lights. But yes, it is, also, unbearably glamourous and bohemiam. Oh, yes, I hang out in studio lofts hobnobbing with artists and musicians all the time.
After the group shot (which looked disconsertingly like a school photo - albeit an Art School Photo) we all hung around, waiting to be called over for our individual sessions. (No band photos, which was a real shame.) The lovely Bishi and gorgeous Piney Gir were real pros, and looked amazing, and had loads of photos done of them. I just felt awkward and uncomfortable - Deiter warned me "I'm going to go right up close" but I wasn't expecting him to be THAT close. I haven't had a man that up in my face since, well, the last time I was *intimate* with someone, so I just glared at him. How's that for attitude? (Emsk said I looked terrified. I was. How could I not be, with this big black THING in your face?)
We also had to fill out these silly questionnaire forms - I guess to get quotes to go with our pictures. None of the Shimuras wanted to give our real ages ("A *lady* never tells") but we had fun with the "ideal man" question. I took "What couldn't you live without?" far too literally, apparently, and put "Mathematics, physics". Where are you from? What do you do? How are you supposed to answer things like that? I mean, I'm at this photo shoot because I compose electronic symphonies for Shimura Curves, but what I *do* is complicated mathematical stuff for banks. Where am I *from*? I lived on 3 continents by the time I was 10, what should I reply? St.Reatham's Parish, clearly. These things just confuse me. I'm not an easy person to boil down to soundbites.
Lots of hugging and endless goodbyes and "let us know when you're playing again" (I've become an instant fan of Bishi, in case you can't tell) which really was the best bit of the whole thing - meeting the other bands. And then it was off to rehearsal, with loads of yummy pizza and 39p custard donuts and brownies and several bottles of mulled wine. Yum.
Monday, November 21, 2005
Lex Was Right
I finally heard the original of "Don't Cha" in a rubbish bar off Leicester Square. And Lex Pretend was right, it's a completely different song from the abominable Pussycat Dolls cover.
How can the meaning of a song be so completely and utterly changed - even perverted to its complete opposite - without changing a single word?
The Tori Alamaze version is beautiful, amazing, filled with unrequited love and lust and longing. It sounds like a woman on the outside, wrestling with her conscience, tormented by her feelings.
While the Pussycat Dolls just sounds like a gang of frightening pneumatic plastic uber-barbie-dolls from the Village of the Damned, crowing about their physical and sexual prowess and superiority.
Tori Alamaze is a pleading and soulful Dolly Parton, while the PCD are robot Jolenes, who would take your man, just because they can. Sorry, Lex, I will never doubt you again.
(Production's better on Tori's version, too.)
Thursday, November 17, 2005
Amo Amas Amat
You are 'Latin'. Even among obsolete skills, the
tongue of the ancient Romans is a real
anachronism. With its profusion of different
cases and conjugations, Latin is more than a
language; it is a whole different way of
thinking about things.
You are very classy, meaning that you value the
classics. You value old things, good things
which have stood the test of time. You value
things which have been proven worthy and
valuable, even if no one else these days sees
them that way. Your life is touched by a
certain 'pietas', or piety; perhaps you are
even a Stoic. Nonetheless, you have a certain
fascination with the grotesque and the profane.
Also, the modern world rejects you like a bad
transplant. Your problem is that Latin has
been obsolete for a long time.
What obsolete skill are you?
brought to you by Quizilla
Ita vero! Amo Latin!
Go Down On You, Shall I?
Ha ha, yes! I actually made Miss AMP blush like a little schoolgirl.
It was the lyrics to Sticky and Brown that did it. The irony of the song is, that it really actually is about chocolate. But it's one of those double/triple entendre that seems to bring out everyone's particular vice when they hear it. One friend I showed the lyrics to said "Ohmigod, that's about heroin!" Miss AMP was reduced to a gibbering Mary Whitehouse because she thought it was about rimming. The irony being, I haven't taken drugs in a decade, I haven't had sex in so long I can't even remember what a perinneum even looks like, and my worst vice is Green and Blacks.
One of my favourite bands of all time is the Jesus and Mary Chain. I loved the way they took the innocent childlike candy references of the Archies and Bubblegum and turned them into filthy paens to sex, drugs, and god knows what worse. So I thought I'd do some of that, hooked up to a big bootie bassline.
Rehearsal was great. We mulled some wine and started arranging the new songs. Noyfriend is coming along great, I Capture The Castle has become insanely catchy with Sugababes freestyle harmonies and The Way now has new lyrics about pwning boys at videogames and other techie stuff.
Oh, and Marianna and I came up with the most decadent culinary concept of all time - mulled wine chocolate cake. Now *that* is a vice worth writing songs about.
Tuesday, November 15, 2005
Monday, November 14, 2005
Do you think Boris Johnson would do a cameo in the video for That Song What We Released. I think he's hottt. I don't know if anyone else in the band does, though.
I Nearly Forgot
...in the continuing saga of former crushes, by some weird twist of fate, the support band for AiH was Absentee, Dan Clark's new outfit. It was really strange watching them, watching him. I felt like a vessel that passion had once flowed through, but felt empty. God, I once made such a fool of myself over him. I thought the earth and sun and heavens revolved around him. Now I feel nothing, except the absence of feeling. After the goldcrush. Heh.
They weren't what I expected at all. Actually, they were kind of dull and over-polished, like all the interesting bits had been sanded out. He only played his wonderful, spasmotic, ostrich-guitar leads on a couple of songs, which made me sad, as that was what I liked best about the Channel Six. He still has a sexy voice. And has finally overcome his asslessness with a pair of braces.
Life sure is weird, but what else have I to know?
Addendum: I need a new crush. Seriously. To stop me from going all gooshy over sweater models in the Guardian. But oh my lord, was he pretty or what?
I still feel unwell, both physically and mentally, but perhaps not as much as I did last week. Finally got to sleep, despite the racking cough, and rested.
Went to see Architecture in Helsinki last night with a friend, a last minute replacement sort of thing because his date was ill. And I came to the realisation that I'm not sick of music, I'm just sick of *talking* about music. About ten minutes into the usual rant about "manufactured music" that I've heard so many times from indie boys high on No Logo (which all sounds to me like just another justification for priviledging the music made by and for white, heterosexual, middle class, college educated males over music made by or for women, especially working class women, people of other races, gay disco, etc. etc.) I just said "I'm sorry, I don't want to be having this conversation" and changed the subject.
I don't listen to marketing, I listen to tunes and arrangements and performances. I don't make assumptions about the intentions of artists and/or record companies, (especially by people who have in all likelihood never actually *been* to an actual recording session, major label or otherwise).
What difference does it make, how the music was made or marketed, if you like it? Stop making excuses or justifications for something that is just a matter of taste. (I don't really care why "Hipsters" wear "trucker hats" either, or indeed whether these mythical Hipsters even exist.)
Is bubblegum the MacDonalds of music? I don't know that that the metaphor really stands up. Corporations don't write and record songs; artists do. I think bubblegum pop is more like a Chinese takeaway. Who cares if it's authentic, or if it's What The Cantonese Eat At Home. Sometimes it's an MSG-sodden mess, sometimes it's a sublime combination of fresh vegetables. Sometimes it's junk, sometimes it's a healthy meal. It depends on the skill of the cook, and your willingness to try it without preconceptions.
And I'm going to stop the food metaphor because I'm making myself hungry.
Friday, November 11, 2005
Let Somebody Down
I'm a big fat stresspig lately. I came home last night at about 9.30 after a long day of workaholism and getting into stupid fights on the interweb and just burst into tears.
I'm stressing out, I'm letting everyone down, most of all myself. I volunteered to help out Dare and ACB with their solo albums, and just haven't had the time because work is so busy, and work being so busy means I've still not shaken the lurgy, which only makes me less focused and spinning my wheels and not really getting anything done at work and I'm getting drawn into fights and flamewars because I can't seem to just ignore crap. And it goes around in a big circle of awfulness until I'm crying and I can't stop and I can't sleep.
I don't even know what I'm crying about, I just feel so stressed out and wound up. Part of this is chemical, it's the down part of my cycle and that makes everything seem much worse than it is. Part of this is the hellish stress of buying a house and everything that goes wrong and feeling like you're trapped in this form-filling Kafkaesque hell of beaurocracy and Financial Institutions's random decisions. (My mortgage offer finally came through after a week of stress and indecision but somehow that doesn't make me any more comfortable, it just makes me wonder that the next jump I have to hoop through.)
And part of it is just feeling like I don't have an ounce of control over much of my life. I don't have a home right now, I don't even feel like I have a lair to crawl back to. And getting a new house... it's such a huge, overwhelming decision and now The Fear, The Fear is kicking in, like, is this really what *I* want to do, and not just another thing that my mum is pushing me into? 20 years of paying a mortgage... well, locked into 3 years before I can even sell the place. 3 years mortgage, 3 years of full time job, locked into being a responsible grownup for the rest of my life. I'm terrified.
...but when it's finally all happened, and I've finally moved in, then it will be MY HOUSE, my own bloody space, control of my own bloody life back.
So try to focus on that, and keep your eyes on the prize, and stop taking out your stress on assholes on the interweb, because there will always be assholes on the interweb. It doesn't make you feel better - even if it does give you a focus for the stress - it just winds you up and makes you feel worse.
Tuesday, November 08, 2005
Brown and Sticky
So I used my sick day yesterday to sit in bed and compose, struck by the sudden fear that I'd signed up for NaSoAlMo and hadn't done a lick of work on it yet. Wrote one new song which sounds a bit... Montreal and dusted off some old lyrics and a drum loop for a song called Brown and Sticky. Wrote a new bassline which is PURE FILTH and away we go. It's heavily inspired by the Jesus and Mary Chain and the Archies, in that bubblegum double entendre way that it sounds like it could be about drugs or kinky sex when, really, it *is* actually about chocolate.
So it was fitting that I got to rehearsal last night (somewhat abbreviated due to AMP's cat disaster) to find that Marianna had made the most AMAZING CHOCOLATE TART!!! M has hidden depths, it seems - not only is she a rich contralto, but she is an amazing cook. Courgette pie and chocolate hazlenut tart. Luxury indeed. I managed two huge slices before going into hypoglycaemic shock. The darkest, most chocolately dark chocolate heavily laced with BOOZE... sorry, I'm starting to drool again, just thinking about it. I shall dedicate Brown and Sticky with its pure filth bass to Marianna's tart.
Friday, November 04, 2005
When you're a band...
You wear matching outfits!
I think it's a fantastic sign of band synergy/aesthetic alignment that we're starting to dress similarly without planning it. It's one thing to kind of sit down and *plan* on a look or an aesthetic, but even better when it develops of its own accord. So here are the Shimura ladies sitting around a cafe in Paris, discussing the finer points of writing.
Well, not really. We're sitting around AMP's living room, singing lovely 4-part harmonies over several bottles of wine. All of us had had horrid transport nightmares but after some lovely pizzas, a glass of red wine and some joyous singing, we are all laughing and having a wonderful time.
I finally managed to get Reason installed on AMP's computer, even though she doesn't have enough memory to run Stronger with its full string quartet solo at the end. And the harmonies are really starting to gel now. Marianna on Contralto, Anna on Alto, myself (I am going to have to change my name to Marie, it is reckonned) on Second Soprano and AnneMarie on Treble Soprano and descant. There was even a special guest appearance from Frances, teaching AMP the harmonies on Mother.
Tuesday, November 01, 2005
I appear to have bought A HOUSE!!!
OK, only half a house, technically a flat. And I haven't bought it yet, I have only had my offer accepted and it could all still all fall through and go horribly wrong or I could get gazzumped. Suddenly I've gone from being a happy go lucky boho to having suddenly aquired a Financial Advisor and a Solicitor and a Bank Manager and an Estate Agent and all these grown up things.
When really I just want to run around like a little girl jumping up and down going LOOKIT MY HOUSE!!! LOOKIT THOSE GIANT WINDOWS LIKE AN ART GALLERY OR THE BOW OF A SAILING SHIP!!! and planning what colour to paint it, of course.
And I will NEVER. EVER. EVER. have to wake up and find a housemate in the shower or in the kitchen. AGAIN.