31 turds to polish

Jamuary is over. I made it through. I finished 31 jams in one month. It was fun, it was a learning experience, and it was some kind of practice in disciplin.

Was it time well spent. Who knows. It was fun, and it kept me motivated to make something everyday. A part of me thinks maybe all I ended up with was 31 turds that will be difficult to polish. It’s not all wrong, it’s not all true either. There are seeds inside that pile of manure. Even if you force creative work, it’s probably impossible not to make a spark go off here and there.

Jamuary allowed me a safe platform to ship unfinished, raw work. The first drafts of ideas. I started each night with next to nothing and over an hour I built up some kind of mess and left it in a disorderly state. Usually I started with something. Hit upon something quite interesting and then added ingredients til the dish suddenly got disgusting – and then I shipped it without trying to save it.

As the saying goes, art is never finished only abandoned.

Moving on to February I believe I will take a shot at FAWM. February Album Writing Month. I’ve got a lot of melodies lying around so my focus will be lyrics. Hopefully I can write one a day.

Against the odds

Maybe every achievement is. Because the stars never align, the moment is rarely right. We just have to make do with what we get. We make it in spite of potential excuses. And sometimes we don’t and nothing gets made.

I’m now three weeks into Jamuary. It’s an interesting kind of challenge and I try to figure out what the learnings are. My approach has been to give myself this month as a kind of lab. A chance to study and learn how different equipment can work together – freed from the responsibility of making a song great. I just make something.

The sketches I make I abandon and ship as soon as I have a chance. I never labour over details or try to get something right. To see that I can come up with something reasonably sounding in just about one hour is some kind of affirmation. I’ve made some discoveries along the way and maybe some messy songs could actually be saved and turned into something decent.

At the same time a part of me can’t help to whisper that I’m wasting time making 30 daft sketches instead of trying to make one or two good songs. That voice is correct too. On the other hand … I made my choice to ride this through this year. So I will. However I will see if I can steer the last ten jams stylistically more towards what I envision making as I start producing my album. Maybe the description 70s folksoul psychedelia with modern electronica thrown in – won’t be too far from the truth?

Jamuary halftime

You’re not suppose to change horses midstream, they say. I suppose my father did when he broke his engagement while the wedding cake was in the oven – something didn’t feel right. Lucky for me, as some month later he met my mother.

I’m now 15 jams into Jamuary. There have been a few surprising highlights, a few sinkers and in general, a lot of messy generic sketches. But as I went in knowing, the value is not in each one but in the whole experience. The learning that comes from doing it again and again.

I do experience some kind of fatigue, or rather frustration. I’m showing up each day, but I’m showing up unprepared. It’s like I never get around to planning what goes next. Which, as an insight, probably is some kind of learning too.

Last year, or if it was 2021, I gave up on my jams after about a week. This time I’ll try to ride this old pony to the other bank. It “hurts” to ship inferior work, on the other hand there is still a chance for me to sit down and think for half an hour what more I want to get out of Jamuary – and then go do it!

The playlist is the same as last post – it just keeps filling up. For now, my favourites are days 6, 7, 8 & 14. Which sort of explains why I’m feeling frustrated. I had a pretty good streak at the end of first week. And now I’ve reached the doldrums. I’ll try to get my direction back

Preparation for new album: Jamuary – week 1

In recent years Jamuary has become a thing among the Internet music communities. It’s a commitment to start the new year with 31 days of shipping a jam – no matter how bad. Just get something recorded and uploaded for others to hear. This turns out to be an important exercise in letting go, shipping before it is finished and fight back any urge of perfectionism or embarrassment.

In my resolution of making an album in 2023 I see a chance to use Jamuary as partly brainstorming session, partly a lab for trying out ideas and instrument combinations.

The album I envision making will hopefully rhyme sonically with the folk-soul of Terry Callier, Bill Withers and Michael Kiwanuka. Overall, I’m particularly interested in the early 70s psychedelic soul sounds with Charles Stepney-produced bands like Rotary Connection. If you listen it isn’t difficult to hear the connection between Shuggie Otis and Brazilian artist Marcos Valle.

I did put together a playlist to show my direction.

Fifty songs that clarify my direction. Basically, those are the sounds that inspire me and that I’d like to do my version of..

Jamuary – week 1

Anyway, the first week of Jamuary is almost done. The jams of the first seven days have been messy, but also good learning experiences. Some experiments turn out better than others. I spent no more than one or two hours work total for any track, almost all instruments are first takes. And all vocal melodies are more or less improvisations “on first breath.” (Drums are played by the plugin Addictive drums.) The playlist will grow as we go along, here it is so far:

Thank you 2022!

You went by as fast as any year. 2022 was the year we welcomed Otis to the family. A soulful little dog who has already changed our lives. Personally, 2022 was the year when I took part in two 100-day creative workshops arranged by the B-corp Akimbo founded by Seth Godin. Very stimulating, but also a well-needed kick in the butt. Time waits for no one.

The silly selfie was taken at the Lion steps in Gothenburg City Centre. It’s almost the same backdrop as the album cover for “Zola & the tulip tree” by the Original Harmony Ridge Creek Dippers, Mark Olson’s and Victoria Williams’s band during the late 90s, early oughties. I realize their photo was taken at a bridge further down.

Anyway, what you see is a guy about to turn 50 in 2023. We could say age is nothing but a number, but so are milestones. Therefore, I’ve decided to make this year a milestone and to write, record and release a full length-album during the year. It won’t be the definitive, ultimate album. Rather, I hope to see it as a start of something. From now on I’m somebody who makes albums, who finishes them and ships them.

That’s a promise. That’s my New Year’s Resolution – and I’m wildly excited about doing the work.

Weather unheard of

It’s November. Around here in Sweden it’s just as dark as November always has been. But the temperature is all wrong. We’re supposed to have the weather vary from zero to plus 10 (Celsius) this time of year, but now it just stays at 12-13. You could take an evening run in shorts and t-shirt without being some radical show-off.

Climate change is real, and still we’re lucky the season is mild, letting Europe save energy while Putin’s war rages in Ukraine. Prices go up. People still fly. Unashamed? Right-wing extremists get elected. Truth can’t be agreed upon. Scientists aren’t trusted.

Soon the world will be flat again. It’s a crazy time, going to work, doing homework with kids, trying to make music. And what for? Is it time to become an activist? What do you sing about in times like these? I’ve written a few songs of comfort, but it seems what is needed is action. And kindness of course.

Recent inspiration:
Fred Again: I listened to him talking to Jamie Lidell on the podcast HOWA (Hanging out with audiophiles. I also watched a filmed interview by Zane Lowe on Youtube. (I suppose I have also listened to him interviewed on the Tape Notes podcast as well.) Well, apparently I can’t get enough of Fred. There’s a cool boiler room set as well.

There’s a lot to love and be inspired by. The charm, warmth and generosity. The ability to spot human vulnerability in microscopic moments and make it into beautiful art. The idea of using next to zero gear – just a laptop, iphone and headphones – producing everywhere, letting the sonic atmosphere of every place (street corner /London Southbank) seep into the music. Sample manipulation instead of playing instruments. Rocking a Maschine live.

There are a lot of things to be inspired by, without even trying to sound like him. Just his attitude and outlook. It seems this November could use some of his positivity.

(Oh, and I have a little showcase-gig at a party coming up in two weeks. Better start rehearsing. I’m beyond rusty)

Two new songs released!

Finishing songs and shipping them seems to be the hardest thing. So I’m learning by doing. The other day I uploaded the songs Sun Letters and Blue Waves through DistroKid to the streaming services. I feel more embarrassed than proud releasing, but it feels good that they’re done and I can move on to making other songs.

Summing up summer.

Maybe it actually was Covid? This blog came to a grinding halt right before Midsummer as I turned sick. I got better, but the energy wasn’t there. The cough stayed on and it took me quite a few weeks before I felt “normal”.

As a result my ambitious plans of daily music during my vacation didn’t quite work out. I just never found the time. But I did keep playing with my Op-1 and now have a collection of half-finished tracks that could become a small EP of Holiday house. I better not jinx it.

Summer wasn’t a bummer, but maybe I’ve been spoilt with great weather the last two years. It didn’t really live up to yesteryear’s.

Now, I’m excited to be back in town, to get back into routines and get some creative work done. I’m also excited about the Way out west music festival that starts tomorrow. I’ll kick it all off with Bonny Light Horseman. Overall though I feel underprepared and underresearched, or just old. I don’t know half the bands and I haven’t had the chance/time to look them up.

The reason for this is Otis, a soon 9-week old poodle puppy that arrived to the family last Sunday. I think he might influence the content on this blog going forward.

Sick leave.

You don’t miss your water until the well runs dry. I haven’t been sick for a long time, so catching a cold was probably needed to get me grounded and appreciative of how great life is when you’re feeling well.

I’m not that miserable, and nobody needs to pity me, but it’s awfully slow being home from work and too tired to use the “spare time”. All I could think of was binge-watching tutorials on music production.

A cold is a blessing compared to what people my age come down with these days. Today I spoke to my oldest friend and found that he might have a nasty chronic lung disease, and that’s if he’s lucky.

It’s a tired metaphor to think of life as a lottery, I feel tired and sick writing it. Nevertheless, it’s humbling. And even though we’ll never know until we know, we might be bigger winners than we once thought.

Every song needs a gremlin?

Time flies out the window when the foundation is shaken. Good habits lost. Bad habits forming fast. Summer starting, kids out of school and there is very little time for keeping focus. And when family members are sad, you get sad too. (Nothing serious). Very little music gets made, very little anything gets made in fact. I bake bread. It’s a comforting thing.

I was thinking about tools. My first little synth was the Arturia Microbrute. They got the name right. It’s small and it’s pretty brutal. It’s not a synth for making soft, sweet sounds – like plucked harp or mellow marimba. It’s good for mayhem, raising hell and piercing eardrums. It’s also a very good synth for learners figuring out how a synth works (lots of knobs!).

In my collection of instruments it’s become an ugly duckling of sorts. My taste for sounds in general is probably quite mellow. I favour clean guitars over distorted ones, I prefer Fender Rhodes and old muffled upright pianos over crispy grand pianos. But just combining warm, mellow muffled instrument sounds might not make for a very interesting mix.

There’s a need for sounds with more edge and bite too. A saxophone is something else than a flugel horn. And this might be how I need to view my Microbrute. It offers a different flavour, a different hue than my other instruments.

I listened to yet another Tape Notes podcast episode, this time with Flume. And I realized I’m a wimp when it comes to sounds. I seem to have very tender ears.

I’m not sure I’m the professor Higgins to turn Microbrute into a fair lady, but maybe I can accept it as a black swan. (Or a gremlin. it’s definitely no mogwai).