Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Video from the Union Chapel show!

Thanks to whoever filmed it!


Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

My busy seventeenth of April! First London show of the year...

Union Chapel

Finally coming to London! I'll be playing the Union Chapel for an afternoon show at about 2pm. That is, it starts at 2pm. I think I'm gonna be on at three or something, but it'll be worth coming for the other bands. Free entry! The show has been put on by my good friend of many years, Howard Mills, mastermind behind Humble Soul records (one of my favourite independent Manchester labels) and an honest man- a rare breed. The venue is beautiful, and there will be a real piano there that I'll probably do a few songs on. The other acts are The Miserable Rich and Cortina Deluxe. There's some more information on it here. Excited to be playing down South again!

Night & Day

I'll also be playing a charity show in Manchester that night at about 10pm. Its a benefit show for the Michael J Fox foundation. The current line-up is Christopher Eatough, Stations, me and 52 Teenagers. The event details are here. Apparently there will be a real Delorean parked outside, so if you don't come for the music, come for the Delorean and the cause.

Neal Casal

Also, unbelievably, I'll be supporting the mighty Neal Casal at the Ruby Lounge on May the 30th. Neal is one of my favourite guitarists ever and it'll be a real honour to play a show with him. He also just published an amazing book of photographs documenting his time as a guitarist for the Cardinals. Event details for that show are here.

Keep well,


Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Gabriel Minnikin

Gabriel Minnikin's new record in progress is a project that I've been really excited about ever since he started recording it last year, and I've been meaning to mention it in the blog for quite a while now. I guess that part of the reason that I haven't so far is that I feel that it deserves far more time, attention and focus than a subheading amidst a load of other news and mentions of bands I know and dig.

When I started playing shows and immersing myself in the Manchester music scene I was still pretty young and I carried a lot of pretty idealistic notions, a central one being that the music industry is meritocratic and the good will always out. For a long time it really seemed to be the case, too. I was lucky to have seen so many great bands receive the recognition that they really deserved. For a while. Nine Black Alps, The Longcut, Cherry Ghost and Liam Frost (let's not mention Fear Of Music) all received considerable record deals and the path seemed to be set for them all to become the 'next big thing'. They all made great records, they were all dropped and the number of people who know about all the afore-mentioned bands is still shockingly disproportional to how good they are. It doesn't change anything to do with the quality of the music, but it does go to show how much affects awareness of good music besides quality or purity of intention. There's a whole load of bullshit too: bureaucracy, timing, fashion, money, press, etc, etc. No surprise that the music industry is as chaotic, complex and seemingly random as anything else that human beings are involved in. It can't always be helped.

Which brings me to Gabriel Minnikin. I first met Gabe a long time ago when I bought a violin bow for my guitar in Johnny Roadhouse while he was working there. Several years later, after fear of music broke up, I asked him if he wanted to play some of the songs I'd written with me. That's how I found out about his music.

Gabriel started out playing in a band called The Guthries, who formed in his native Nova Scotia. The line-up also included his sister Ruth Minnikin and Dale Murray (who both continue to make music under various guises and are still totally amazing). They made a couple of records and broke up. Gabriel has made two albums on his own (well 'on his own'): 'Hard feelings' and 'Wandering Midnight', as well as working with many different artists as a multi instrumentalist. He is also the keyboardist for the awesome Gladeyes, who are one of my favourite bands in Manchester at the minute and are currently finishing their first album. Gabe has since become a close friend, but his music has also been a source of inspiration to me and his attitude to music has had a profound effect on the way I think about being a musician.

Gabe's first two records are pretty incredible. He's a well studied, instinctive songwriter with a great sense of melody and form and a self-possessed, humble, calm attitude towards music. The instrumentation is lush and heavily layered without seeming cluttered or messy. Ruth's vocal additions add something really special to his very low, characterful range. I'm also a really big advocate of his lyric writing, which can be simple and direct, but is more often phantasmagorical, nonsensical and dreamlike in a way that never seems pretentious or contrived.

The album he's currently working on is his most ambitious so far, and it totally shocks me that its production has seemed to slip entirely under the radar. Somehow, he's managed to make an entirely DIY record with virtually no money that includes something like 100 musicians on it. A full orchestra, a thirty-odd piece choir, a band, brass, timpani drums, tubular bells... I make a brief appearance on one of my favourite songs of his and Ruth frequents a large portion of the tracks to beautiful effect as always. Sam Lench of Samson and Delilah has contributed as producer and Engineer alongside Gabriel and his talent's really shone through and made it happen.

I think that there are a few very rough, messy mixes on his Myspace, but it's really going to come together in the mixing, when everything is given its place. I'm always surprised that when I mention this project to people, no one is really aware of it. I think this is partly down to Gabriel's preference for doing things in a very insular way. He doesn't exactly scream it from the rooftops, but I think that he deserves a lot more recognition than he gets and I know that it bothers him (he has a pretty good song about it).

I know it could seem dubious to post a blog singing the praises of a good friend of mine, but I'm convinced I'd be trying to spread the word about this record whether I knew him personally or not. I honestly and sincerely believe in what he does and the lack of buzz surrounding him is a constant source of disbelief and bummed out feelings for me. I may have accepted that sometimes great artists don't get the recognition they deserve, but I haven't stopped believing that great artists deserve recognition and the most I can do is express my enthusiasm things I really love.


Saturday, 3 April 2010

A general update...

Well, it seems I've fallen short of my plans again and I've failed to put any more demos online for several weeks or post anything here at all. And it had been going so well, too... I have nothing new to post in the way of new tracks, but its been a rollicky couple of weeks and I just haven't had the stability to actually sit down and finish anything, either in my songwriting or my recording, so if anyone was getting used to my commitment to posting new tracks on here for the whole, like, two weeks it lasted, I apologise. I have two new songs that feel like I'm about ready to wrap up and I'll post them here soon.


There have been a few exciting things happening, however, and they're definitely worth a mention.

Firstly (and i think its ok to say something about this now) my good friend of many years Daniel Parrott has offered to help me get some things off the ground I couldn't seem to on my own. Most importantly this means I'll be recording an actual E.P with a release and everything in the very near future. The preliminary plan is to do a limited 1000 copies in physical form and a full digital release, which I'll sell mainly at shows and on tours. It will be without band for this one. Very stripped down! Kathryn Edwards has said she'll lend some of her beautiful voice to a few tracks. We also have the means to do the whole thing on reel to reel tape, which is
pretty exciting to me as a vintage gear fetishist.

Sebastian Matthes

Off the back of that, I'll also be doing a photoshoot with Sebastian Matthes (amazing live Wu Lyf shot pictured left), a really fabulous and talented photographer who has been working the manchester scene for quite a while. You may have seen his work on the Delphic poster that was in HMV for a while with the Anthony Burgess (or was it Tony Wilson?) quote. Anyhow, It'll be a delight to work with him, and as well as indulging my vanity, which is always welcome, it will be accompanied by a general online revamp of the myspace page, etc, to give the illusion of professionalism, which is ultimately what being professional is all about. All youthfully arrogant statements aside, however, I'm looking forward to having a nice page for people to visit and I'm happy to be working with an artist that I really admire and respect.

Also, a quick reminder: this Thursday (the eighth of April), I'll be supporting the Paris Riots at my favourite venue in Manchester, the Deaf Institute, so come if you're around. Dauntingly, I will be playing a solo set between two pretty full-on rock bands, which should be interesting. And look, there's my name on the poster! Finally made it, ma.