Thursday, December 24, 2015

Songwriting Log

So have seized some time off over Christmas after one heck of a year! Had hoped to get to 20 songs in the catalogue before the end of the year, but looks like I'll get to 18 (got 16, and two on the go.)

It's Christmas Eve, so....

Can't have alcohol without having songwriting, so that's what I've been doing this Eve!

Friday, December 11, 2015

Merry Christmas!

When I say "Merry Christmas" I am not asking you to have the same philosophical / religious / spiritual approach that I have to life (and it's very non-traditional anyway!), nor am I asking you to say it back, nor am I asking you to betray your own personal beliefs - I am simply wishing you light, love and happiness, peace and contentment! So - Merry Christmas!

Have pretty much settled in after my unexpectedly short-notice move, below is the corner of my world where all my creativity takes place, from music to 3D and video. You'll note the shelving that all the machines sit upon - this is because a mere week after the move, there was a minor catastrophe with main sewer lines backing up and pools of water forming right under them!

That sort of "newly moved in getting used to the new place" chaos has still kept a crimp in any new writing or recording, though I did jot down the starts to a couple of new songs. I had a target of 20 songs written and recorded in rough n ready form before the end of the year, and another 3 or 4 will see me there! Still plan to hit that, as will have some time over Christmas to take a pause from work and just lose myself in music.

Now that's what I call a merry Christmas! May yours be filled with all the things you love, too.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

The sun will rise

Whew... life has been exhausting and hard for the last few months, which is why no new music. Major upheavals that were beyond anything I could ever have foreseen, such that it all seems like some bizarre unreal dream.

One facet of that has been a move at short notice, so am just settling in and setting up and getting used to a new normal. There are challenges ahead - with new rent to pay, and changes to my financial situation, there is much uncertainty. But on other scores, more stability. In the end, I will accept that uncertainty as it is at least primarily under my control!

After months of barely touching an instrument, today was the day I played and wrote some for the first time in ages! In part, getting things ready so there is a "routine" to be able to follow to get to the point of getting songs done on... well not paper, but digital storage!

Whatever adversity you yourself may be facing (if any, and I hope there is none!) do remember that the sun will rise once more, bringing colour and warmth back to life - persevere, and have faith!

All the best,

Sunday, October 25, 2015


Still on hiatus! Life has been consumed one way or another by work, which is no bad thing as even songwriters have to eat!

3D and video editing (self-employed) is my "day job" and I did invest in more computers for rendering, but work has grown faster than the network, and that still sees this computer tied up in renders more often than not - and of course, this is where I do my writing and recording.

So just the other day, I invested in what must be about the cheapest laptop ever, the HP Stream. Tiny solid state hard drive, tiny memory, but nippy enough processor wise (all my other laptops were ageing, and so were slow, with a battery life measurable in minutes rather than hours.)

I upgraded it to Windows 10, installed Cubase 8 Pro stripped down (no big sample libraries and the like), found an old USB hub, and presto, I can record even when the main PC is tied up!

Had to track down some light and simple drum software, and ended up going with Divine Drums.

With that and the Cubase drum editor, I can lay down some very simple beats in order to write to.

For the guitar, just using the inbuilt amp sims that come with Cubase. None of this is about getting finished quality tracks, just so I can write, get structures laid out, chord progressions found, guitar soloes practiced, bass parts figured out, etc.

Since it is Cubase, with a quick move of the licensing dongle thingy, I can just move the exact same project from machine to machine, and pick up where I left off. And old 500 Gb external hard drive will do the trick there. An ideal set up!

Well, almost ideal except for moving my Audiobox USB back and forth between two computers - not the end of the world, but a little inconvenient, especially when I want the main computer to ding when renders are done, or work if a Skype call comes in!

To resolve that, have purchased and am awaiting delivery of the Lexicon Alpha, so that the HP Stream has its own dedicated audio interface.

Now if the mood takes, I can set to writing and recording with just the move of a dongle.

And all of that (well, except the purchase of Cubase itself) for less than the cost of a 4 track tape recorder back in the day! Any of these images will take you to the relevant product page, if you want to know more or get one yourself.

Now the only issue that remains to be solved is having the brain power left over at the end of the day to get creative - and technology isn't going to help there heh!

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Sad Songs

There's a thing about the songs I write - many are sad, or at least bittersweet, tinged with a touch of melancholy.

Yet I fully believe in being a positive person, so these are not a "celebration" of sadness. So why write them?

So there is the answer. We will all experience sadness at some point, probably many times. I am a positive person, and trying to be more positive all the time, but I have had my run-ins with sorrow, and I do mean big, terrible, will I even make it to tomorrow what is the point of going on sorrow.

And in those times, music can help. Music can be the thing that makes you feel less lonely in those darkest hours. A happy song may just grate at those times, salt in the wound, but a sad song is a hug from the songwriter to let you know, soul-to-soul, that they've been there too.

This means that my reason for writing sad songs is a positive one - it is to help people feel better, to help them get by, and to do so in a way that is not patronizing (and so often the words we say in regular conversation just sound that way; songs let us say those things in a way that avoids that.)

So I have given it some thought - I want to be making the world a better place, not a worse one. I have no desire to be a doomsayer, a rain-on-the-parader (I made that one up.) But in the end I have followed my heart - music and songs have helped me in those bleak hours, and I hope mine can do the same for others now in return.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

No magnets, no music

Interesting thought - without magnets, we wouldn't be surrounded by music.

My Fender Strat, my Audio Technica headphones and mic, the old platter hard drives there on the ground, my Fender Cybertwin amp, and who knows what else in this picture, would simply not work without magnets.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Cubase update

Updated to  Cubase 8 from 7.5, since it's not much and there was a special offer. The main appeal - better floating windows for my dual monitors!

Got it last night, and got all the VSTs pointed at - I think.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

All Adobe Creative Cloud apps updated to 2015! Haven't checked what new features are in there, but have noted that After Effects with Video Copilot's Optical Flares loads a damn sight faster!

Sometimes I love doing everything myself, from writing the music, to recording every instrument, to making the imagery and videos that go with it.

Other times, it makes me wish for a team of folks to handle the other stuff so I could get on with writing the music itself - such is life!

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Clay Walker, self appointed guardian of country music

I am an odd kind of fellow. For one, my rock music side of things is a bit rock, a bit blue, a bit country, a bit folk, a bit celtic, and probably more besides.

As if that wasn't eclectic enough, I also have a love for instrumental and electronic music, which I also create under the name Faol Glas.

This is because I love music, in many of its forms. It stirs me, moves me, and each genre and style does so in a different way. That means I both want to listen to all those styles, but also that I want to create them too.

So, imagine my disgust on reading this:

Here is someone telling other artists that they shouldn't produce country music. I wonder who appointed him overseer? If an aging rocker (or young hip hop artist, or middle aged pop signer, or anyone else) wants to make country music, then they can damn well make it.

If it's no good, well then nobody will buy it - and that is where Clay Walker's power over what other artists choose to make begins and ends, with deciding whether or not to purchase it.

But what, you ask, if it is merely an attempt to cash in and make money? Well first some of the folks cited in that article probably have no need to make money, and second, even if that is their motivation, they are still entitled to it. Don't tell me the country music marketing machine and some "bona fide" country artists aren't just as shallow in their motivation, pursuing the dollar sign into twanging guitar and getting the words"truck" and "beer" into as many lines as possible.

If someone wants to make money, that's all fine and good, whatever their background.

Thing is, it's a mighty long fall from the back of a high horse.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Farewell BB King

BB King passed away today, very sad. I'd post a link to an epic, seminal performance by him, but that was pretty much all of them so choose any you like. Heart and soul were expressed through his music, but you could also see it in him as a person too - something about him just seemed so bright, warm and light.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Too Many Verses - plus noise reduction talk

Finished up "Too Many Verses" in rough n ready form, have a listen and download if you like:

A bit of irony when you listen to the lyrics, as it has been waiting about 7 weeks to finish, but I've had too much work! As ever, it's not really meant for me to sing, but for someone else who likes the song (let me know if that's you!) Personally I think a bit of The Dogs D'Amour crept into the sound of this one!

The other part of this blog is about a new addition to the stable of stuff, in this case new noise reduction tools.

Sure, the songs are meant to be drafts, but that's no reason to have lots of hums, buzzes, clicks and more hiding on there to distract someone from the song itself.

The bass is the worst for this, it likes to pick up a lot of buzz from the monitors and PC, though the electric guitar can get the same way and fed through the amp simulators with distortion, they can be noisy in the silences.

The vocals are a problem as well, the PC is a bit of a beast (it does video editing and 3D work too) and so has a fair collection of fans, so it is far from silent, and I don't have a vocal booth of any form.

I have been using ReaFir for that, which was free and pretty good but had one problem - as soon as I added it to any track in Cubase, I got latency - hit a note on the guitar and it was heard a teeny fraction of a second late, but that is enough to throw off the playing!

And sometimes that noise is a pain while playing, distracting, so that was a problem - and although I could get good results from ReaFir, I sometimes got artifacts - enter Acon Digital!

Having looked around at the big expensive noise reduction plugins, I just couldn't justify that kind of price. The Acon Digital Restoration suite was only $99 though, and a test of the demo showed it did not have the latency problems (and if there was some, simply disabling the plugin but leaving it in the chain would resolve it) and it didn't create the same issues with artifacts.

"Too Many Verses" was one of the noisiest tracks I've created, with two electric solo sounds, the electric rhythm, the vocals, and the bass all having their addition to it, so that prompted me to take the plunge. Very glad I did, very impressed with it - easy to use, and good results, and I have many uses for it in some of the video editing work I do too!

Go try it for yourself here!