Drum kit musings

I have a digital/electric drum kit sitting next to me. It’s in a sorry state with cables unplugged, the drum chair at the other end of the room and not a drum stick in sight. In an office filled with music memorabilia, colourful pictures and record collections, the drum kit is a sort of physical reminder of a part of my life that is dead, wasted, shrivelled, kaput.

I no longer play live music. I no longer play the drums. I used to fucking love playing in bands, and now i don’t. So the next question is – Why??!

The easy answer is: if I knew why, then I wouldn’t be in this predicament! But I am in this shrivelled, pathetic predicament and so i must explore the genesis. A couple of points…..to make my point….pointedly:

Most recently – Having four kids in 5 years leaves little time for hobbies or passion projects. Even the most juicy passion will shrivel like a dead carrot under this pressure for time and attention……..However, I stopped playing the drums well before I had children. The last band I regularly played in was about…..14 years ago!!!! Therefore my kids are off the hook…dammit. What else do I have?

Traveling. I moved around a lot in the last 14 years. From Kenya to Australia to Johannesburg – back to Australia and now Cape Town for the last 6 years. This is a huge one – the most successful bands i have played in have involved friendships more than anything else. Friends getting together with music as the common interest and focal point. It feels like i haven’t been anywhere long enough to form the appropriate friendships. This is another way of saying I am bloody lazy socially. I have little excuse. I need to start somewhere. I can do this with work, with fitness, and with my household relationships – so I must do the same with friendships and music.

As with anything important – success comes from developing streaks. Pitching up time after time to play some music is the best way to play some music.

Sounds ridiculous but it’s not.

In a small way I think I also need to get an acoustic drum kit again. This electronic Kit was a gift from my wife and if i am honest I never quite took to it. I need to make some more noise.

Happy Wednesday all.

Discovery

As a boy, I used to have music played for me by my parents. Taste makers and influencers, my folks showed me variety and quality of music for which I am grateful. My dad worked for music companies so our collection of LPs and CDs was huge at home.

Then came adolescence and the urge to fit in and stand out in equal measure. I embraced playing drums, Aerosmith and metal music. My fellow band members at school were the biggest influencers at this stage. We shared CDs and listened to obscure radio stations.

The internet. At school in the late 90s our guitarist was very good with computers and the web. He must have been one of the earliest adopters of Napster. I used to watch him downloading catalogues with a mix of awe and disgust. This wasnt the way it was supposed to happen, was it? Little did I know.

Around about this time I also became hooked on music magazines like Q and Kerrang! As I headed off to university, These told me what to listen to along with Rolling Stone magazine.

Lately of course my discovery of music relies on an algorithm from Apple or Spotify. Sometimes this is a magical process. Serendipitous discovery of a favourite new tune. A sweet moment of bliss from an Apple music Radio station.

I am trying to influence the discovery algorithm actively, channeling the recommendations into my own playlist. I do miss sharing CDs sometimes.

Garden

Summer and the trees in my garden are over-growing like some sort of large fungus. As I write this, I have a big broccoli of a tree ready to collapse on my fence outside my window. An over hanging feeling. Branches and green vines of ivy tangle themselves over all the fences, walls and gutters. Over everything that is man made. In the brutal war of life, the trees are winning this battle no doubt.

Left to it’s own devices this garden will surely swallow me, strangle my family and smother my dogs. There is little room to swing a cat among the trees now. There is less and less light hitting my face because of the fertile, tangled greenery.

A service then, to push back the brutal nature. A team of men, perhaps, with keen tools to cut and hack and mow the wild forest until there is some sort of order created and restored. A quick, strong, efficient service that does what it says it will do. They could arrive in a pickup and leave not a trace of rubbish behind. They could take all the branches and remnants of murderous bush with them when they leave.

Limits on Spotify

There used to be a 10,000 song limit for liking songs on Spotify. As of May this year this is no longer the case.

This is good news for my chimpwithcans playlist project. It means I can influence the Spotify algorithm and like all the songs from this book: link

Then I can pick the favorite recommendations i receive in my discover weekly playlist.

The things I do for a good playlist. Oh, speaking of which, if you want to hear it, then follow this link.

Happy Wednesday chimps.

Songs on a Monday

Every week I add a few new songs to my playlist on Spotify (See the link to the playlist here: link).

Choosing the songs is the end of a rather convoluted process:

  • On Spotify, I ‘Like’ all songs and albums (I’m about half way through) included in the following book: link
  • I listen to the resulting recommendations from Spotify in my ‘Discover Weekly’ playlist.
  • I Pick a few standout songs and add them to my chimpwithcans playlist (link here).

The results are broad in their musical genre. It has turned into a pretty chilled playlist and I really enjoy pressing shuffle now. It has so many songs I never would have heard. Importantly I feel like I have had a say in training and filtering the Spotify algorithm to spit out something interesting.

This week, my Discover Weekly gave me the following standout tracks:

  • Fela Kuti – “Trouble Sleep Yanga Wake Am”. Below is a great review of the song:

Released as part of a quartet of albums from the most productive year of Fela’s career, “Trouble Sleep Yanga Wake Am” has all the hallmarks of a classic Fela single, a languid, self determined instrumental warm up that goes on for several minutes, putting the listener in the right frame of mind, and setting up a tonal theme for the rest of the performance, a choral style, call and response chorus in conjunction with Fela’s omnipresent band, and long winding verse that defy the laws of composition and march at a tempo that only Fela decides. But what really distinguishes this song from the rest of the master’s oeuvre, is the masterful storytelling that Fela employs. Fela had always understood that at the core of his sway over his fans was his ability to empathize with their terribly oppressed lives, and the skill with which he consumed their stories, ruminated on them and regurgitated them back, defiance milled into the broth.

“Trouble Sleep Yanga Wake Am” is brimming with defiance, delivered subtly as an exchange, reflected through a lens of righteous justice. Fela sings of the oppressed, and personifies the oppression of Nigerian people. He asks through a direct chorus and series of vignettes, that the suffering of oppressed be respected and that if it is not, then the oppressed is justified in their decision to revolt, to take arms against the persons who mock their suffering and remain unempathetic to their oppression. He substitutes the government for smaller, more relatable avatars of power, like the landlord who wields the power to deny shelter, or the policeman who can take away a man’s freedom, or even closer. Never to look away from intrigue when the opportunity presents itself, Fela subverts his own theme in the third vignette about a husband, citing that sometimes it is our own avarice and pride, not an external agitator that puts us in trouble.

https://thenativemag.com/music/shuffle-trouble-sleep-yanga-wake-fela-succinct/
  • Sidney Bechet – “Blue Horizon”. Holy moly please listen to this man play a clarinet! I remember when I was about 11years old my Mum tried to get me to play an instrument and I tried clarinet. I had zero idea it could sound like this. My efforts sounded more like a strangled ibis making an escape from the torture chamber…..But this man…..The control, the wary tension of the small group surrounding him. The sharp tone, a vigorous vibrato. This is an absolute master and I had NEVER heard of him until today. More fool me. Have a listen, just beautiful.

That’s it for this week. Happy Monday chimps!

Do I only like Songs in my voice?

I shared some songs with my sister on Spotify. There was a chilled Japanese pop song song and an Irish folk song. Her feedback was interesting. She said both these songs sounded like I was singing, if I was from Japan or Ireland.

This got me thinking – are we more likely to like a song if it is within our range, has similar tone to our own, or generally sounds like us?

I don’t think this is necessarily true, although I do think it makes us more likely or fun to sing along to a song if it is within our range.

Conceptualising myself as a Japanese pop star is fun. It feels like the premise for a computer game – you can transfer your voice from one human to the other, bouncing across the world into different situations, languages and accents. Sort of like you can take control of any avatar in Watchdog – Legions – but focused on the voice. Maybe you could transfer yourself into great speeches of the past, or great album recording sessions. It’s a ridiculous premise but an interesting one. 🙂

That’s day two of streaming to Twitch. Perhaps a habit is forming?

Happy Thursday, chimps.

Twitch – Streaming my writing

I am starting something new. Streaming on Twitch has traditionally been used for video games (as far as I am aware). I have learned today that there are many other users on Twitch – streaming all sorts of different activities.

Musicians, illustrators, artists, sculptors, all showing their practice to the world in real time. It’s a crazy thought. Why not join?

I have security concerns…how much can everyone see REALLY? But I am also interested and curious about the transparency and accountability something like this could bring.

This blog post will be my first stream. You can find me on Twitch with the username chimpwithcans. I hope there will be many more streams to come – to the point that I start a scheduled time slot to follow or write with me if you so wish. There is a lot to work out still! Maybe I will even talk to the camera some time, or play a video game 🙂

I want to get going again on the writing and this might help.

Happy Wednesday chimps.

Monday and Heroes

I was looking into video games last night and I read something on addiction to gaming. When asked why people get addicted, the therapist was saying that it is often because of the chance to play the Hero. If you are not feeling in control of your own life, then the game can become a convenient substitute.

I know that Heroes are often what keep me interested in life. We watch sports, follow politics, religions, form family bonds with the idea that a Hero will rise up and save the day, or show us the way.

Stories, novels and movies have all had heroes. Imagine a film with no hero? Video games are extremely engaging because you can actually become the Hero with your avatar for a while. There is also a set of well laid out rules in a video game, showing the way to glory.

Real life is far more messy of course. We have to be the heroes of our own stories. As trite as it may sound, I think it is true. Who else will do the hard stuff and show you the way when things get tricky? It’s up to each individual to be their own hero.

I once heard it put another way in relation to health – we are all the CEO of our own health. Nobody else is going to look after it on our behalf. We are the heroes.

This idea fascinates me and I think at my weakest moments I am forgetting my heroic self and relying too much on someone else (usually my incredible wife) to bear the load of my life.

Here’s to heroes and here’s to Monday’s. Have a good week, chimps!

Monster weekends

We have had a monster of a weekend. About the most monster weekend possible without drugs or alcohol.

Intentional monsters were created (Halloween) and non-intentional monsters too (ever seen a three year old still awake at 9pm after eating a bucket of sweets?).

We ran the full gamut, outdoors, indoors, public, private, home, away, work, play. Monster weekend.

I’m looking forward to Monday so that I can recover.

It’s a frickin’ beautiful life though, isn’t it?!

Happy Sunday, chimps.