Sometimes a change of scenery is the best inspiration. I never get tired of living in London, but there are occasions when you feel like you’ve seen and heard it all. All it takes to lose that cynical mindset is a short train journey up what I call the “Get Carter” line out of King’s Cross. Head north, past that amazing new windfarm near Arlesey; through Peterborough and the RTV-31 on your left just before you reach the station; past RAF Alconbury’s Cold War ghosts, over the Trent at Newark to the old Powerhouse of England. Pasts, presents and futures blend into a different reality, all soundtracked by whatever is on my ipod at the time.
Since my parents moved from Watford to North Nottinghamshire in 2012, I’ve had more occasions than ever before to travel up that railway line. In the garden of the house they’ve moved into there’s a small outbuilding. A shed by any other name. They very generously allow me to store in it some of my belongings that are too big for my home in London. This inevitably includes various pieces of recording equipment and musical instruments. There is a theorem about music making today that states “wherever a laptop and a kettle can be plugged in, there you can make records”. As this shed has both mains electricity and a cold water tap, it has everything necessary for use as a makeshift studio. Last year I spent a very happy week exploring the quirks and qualities of shed-based recording, and found it was a very viable option. The songs I wrote and recorded there form part of the catalogue of material that’s going to be on an album by -well, I can’t say at the moment but it’s nearly ready and it’s sounding excellent.
A couple of weeks ago I had occasion to spend a few nights at my parents’ home, and spent some of the time fooling around in the shed. I had a lot of fun playing my junkshop drum kit and tinny cymbals, a battered Squier Stratocaster through an old practice amp, an ancient Yamaha organ, an Indonesian acoustic six-string, a lovely but fantastically heavy Waterstone bass guitar and a noisy miscellany of percussion.
Sharing shed space with my bits and bobs is a selection of my father’s redundant tape recording equipment from the days when he was one of the leading lights of the Watford & District Talking Newspaper. A collection of reel-to-reel machines by makers such as Uher, Vortexion, Revox and Ferrograph and a small but useful selection of quirky old microphones from Shure, Adastra, Beyer, Radio Shack and AKG form part of this treasure trove of audio-geek joy. There is also a pile of boxes containing unmarked and un-cared for reels of old tape. I spent an evening fortified with red wine coaxing some of this machinery back to life and exploring the boxes of tape reels, discovering that I still knew how to make tape loops and create echo effects the way my dad had shown me nearly 40 years ago.
With the change of scenery and surrounded by myriad sources of inspiration, songs seemed to write themselves- an unusual situation for me. Before I knew where I was I’d recorded a dozen new ideas. When I returned to London at the end of a most enjoyable few days, I had a listen to what I’d recorded and thought I’d polish up the most promising ideas into another Bandcamp release. So here it is, the “Bassetlaw” mini-album.
It’s the eve of Record Store Day. Up and down the land, physical format enthusiasts like myself are girding themselves for the now annual scramble to acquire the latest big-ticket Exclusive Record Store Day releases by their favourite artists. While I’m broadly in favour of Record Store Day (although can we please call it Record SHOP Day in the UK), I really don’t like the way that most of the “Exclusives” end up on eBay a couple of days later for vastly inflated prices that benefit neither the shop, the artist nor the label. At least with this Bandcamp release, there’s no danger of that happening!
What would be lovely is if the major labels who now seem to call all the RSD shots staggered their “Exclusive” release schedule throughout the year. Limited edition physical releases could then be made available every week or so to the few remaining independent record retailers. That way, every Saturday could potentially be Record Store (SHOP!) Day. You know, like it used to be.
A better brain than mine discusses this very subject at length in The Quietus.
To show your support for record shops, you should order what’s left of my physical stock from your nearest independent record retailer as a matter of course. If you don’t live near one, you can always order for delivery. Norman Records for example carries quite a lot of my stock. If all else fails, order direct from Acid Jazz or through their eBay shop.
In other record news Streetsoul will apparently be selling vinyl copies of my Lisa Stansfied remix from Tuesday.
Maybe see you at Paper Dress tomorrow night or at Chocolate in Watford on Easter Sunday for some Northern Soul.