So, Rob and I are officially back, and what better way to return than to bring back the series of blogs I enjoy writing the most - Musical Heroes.
I’ve always said that I’m not looking to write a wikipedia entry, but instead, let you know how a particular artist has impacted on me and that’s where I’ll start with today’s ‘episode’.
My first memory of Oasis was at the height of “the battle of Britpop”. For those of you who don’t know what that was, it was a series of chart battles between Oasis and Blur that overspilled into a bitter rivalry which marked Blur’s peak and arguably Oasis’s too. Both bands were popular across the country, but the battle had everything, a north/south element, middle class vs. working class and of course two different styles of britpop. This must’ve all culminated around 1995, so you’ll realise that at 8 or 9 years old, I was part of the scene or going to gigs. I was however, watching TV and listening to the radio and by that point both bands and their music were all over the media.
Being so young, I have a better recollection of the songs from their second album – What’s The Story Morning Glory – in particular Don’t Look Back in Anger. I still remember a vivid dream I had about a girl I thought was nice looking called Sally – how did Oasis know?! These could be pointless ramblings, and perhaps they are, but I wanted to point out just how big Oasis were in popular culture and personally how strongly they permiated my childhood. I won’t go into the time a few years later when I sung All Around The World continuously, much to the annoyance of everyone I knew!
But as a songwriter, how have they influenced me? Well, maybe it is just for our generation, but as far as I’m concerned Oasis are the definition of “Song Writing 101″. The way they write seems quite simple, almost formulaic, but as an up and coming songwriter they were the biggest influence on how I wrote – when you’re learning the guitar, and want to write your own songs, you can do a LOT worse than learning oasis hits. Rob and I will on occasion refer to our fabled “first gig”, held the same night as Live 8. Today’s reference – Don’t Look Back in Anger was one of the songs we played that night.
But do you know what really fascinates me about Oasis? The story of how they formed. Liam and the original members of the Oasis (minus Noel) were known as The Rain, but were more like a shower. Noel comes along in 1991 (allegedly with Definitely Maybe already written), joins the band, and within three or four years they are the biggest band in the UK. Wow. By that schedule, Rob and I are due to get there by 2012 – perfectly in time for the Olympics coming to London. We’ll get working on that theme song now then, shall we?!]]>
Let me go off topic for a few of your minutes and tell you about something I did recently.
This past Friday, I walked to work for charity – the only snag being the fact that my house is 24 miles from Central London where I work. I set out at just before 6am in the morning as the sun rose above Harlow and walked through a mixture of lush countryside, forest and finally the streets of London to reach Westminster in almost exactly 8 hours.
Last Friday was Sport Relief Day in the UK – if you can call it that – a day on which our sport stars and comedians raised money on television, showing their stunning feats of endurance. Against Eddie Izzard’s 43 marathons in 51 days, walking 24 miles pales into insignificance, but none the less I joined in.
The reason I joined in was two fold. First of all, Sport Relief – and it’s sister charity Comic Relief – fund projects in the UK and the world’s poorest countries. Almost selfishly this means you can see how they help those in need on your doorstep as well as those living abroad. Clearly I have been rather rubbish at explaining what they do, so if you do want to find out more, you can go here.
The second reason I joined in was because of the challenge. I had a “I wonder if…” moment about walking to work and from that point I was pretty much locked in to doing it – it’s a trait that’s gotten me into quite a few scrapes, not least on Friday night and all of Saturday when my legs stopped working and started hurting! It was totally worth it though.
Along the way, I took some pictures and recorded some footage, so I compiled it and made a video, and of course, it features our music!
Coming just 10 days after Studio Day 7, this one really crept up on us, but we really got a lot done!
Coming off the previous two sessions where Dave and Matt had come in and done their thing collaborating with us, it was a real shock to our collective system getting in the booth all day long and not just sitting there in awe at the work of one of our collaborators.
It was Rob who took the brunt of the work in the morning. ”Lead vocals need to be there before backing vocals go down,” I groggily pointed out first thing in the morning. And as we both warmed up, we were able to put down vocal tracks for all of our songs apart from Vedere.
I’m particularly fond of Rob’s main vocal on I Wanna Know. We did several takes, and were going to stick with quiet a safe take, but on his last try, when Rob sang the first Chorus , I knew we had to go with it. I might elaborate what I’m most proud of in a separate blog, but my crowning achievement of the day took about 10 seconds to do, and wasn’t particularly difficult. If you listen to the outro of The Island Without a Name, when Rob starts singing “And I’ll be singing alone…”, there’s a tiny harmonic “woah”. See if you can spot it. I think it makes the song sound even better.
Subtle things like that were brought out a little as over the last couple of hours we were able to improve the mixing of the tracks. This meant that we brought all of your comments and our thoughts about what we already had, what needed to be more prevalent and what needed to appear more in the background, and adjusted the volumes accordingly. That sort of thing is actually more tiring because it requires intense concentration, and by the time 6pm rolled around, we were more than ready to head home.
But what came out of it was a set of tracks that are a lot closer to their final versions. Keep your comments coming – this is really a vital time for your views to be heard, because we are due to return to the studio soon to perform the final mixing and at that point the tracks will be finished.
So get commenting! Get over to the song pages, tweet us at http://twitter.com/robandkal, hit us up at our facebook fan group or even drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org – it doesn’t matter how you do it. What matters is, your voice is heard.]]>
Here’s one that Kal came up with the other day. Very bare bones and it is nothing more than an idea at the moment but what do you think?
This ones been floating around for a while but hasn’t really been developped yet. What do you think?
The first time I heard of Kanye West was in 2004, during a Skype call to a friend who lived in America. When It All Falls Down from West’s debut album as ‘the star’, was playing in the background. “Who is this, I inquired?”, to be told it was West and did I want to hear the rest of the album because he would be big my side of the pond soon enough. College Dropout debuted in the UK a few months later and the rest as they say is history – but that would ignore what had led up to that point.
As a confessed fan of Hip Hop, I’d heard Kanye West’s work long before I knew his name or had heard his voice. He was Jay Z’s ‘go to guy’ for the best beats from 2001 onwards and his album The Blueprint, that West dominated, sampling the Jackson 5′s I Want You Back on Izzo (H.O.V.A), as well as contributing another four tracks, is generally regarded as one of Jay’s best records.
It wasn’t until 2004 that we heard his first Single from College Dropout, Through The Wire, but up to that point alone, West had worked with some of the best in the business at the time. He had always expressed a desire to rap, only to be knocked back because executives felt his middle class background was unmarketable. Ironically, the main reason I am writing about Kanye West is because of his crossover appeal. Most of my friends would tell you they don’t like Hip Hop, and all that is associated with it, but they “don’t mind a bit of Kanye West”, which is about as close to a compliment as Kanye’s going to get from people who went to school in Hertfordshire!
He has brought Hip Hop, and what is essentially repackaged Mo Town to people who wouldn’t hear of it if you even insinuated that they enjoyed either genre. Not a bad achievement for someone who spent years ‘quietly’ producing for what are now his contemporaries.
People will tell you that Kanye West is arrogant, and that his headline grabbing outburst on stage last year during Taylor Swift’s MTV award acceptance speech was prime example. And maybe he is, I don’t know him personally so I won’t be able to argue with you. To me however, everything he does seems calculated. I for one didn’t know who Taylor Swift was prior to this incident, and I’m sure Kanye West, having not dropped a Hip Hop album since 2007 may have been disappearing from the radar of those more familiar with Taylor.
Say what you will, this may be the unacceptable side of his genius, but Kanye West pays serious attention to every aspect of his art. I’ve been to see him live twice, the second time I was treated to what Kanye wanted to be the best live show ever – rather than what critics were already dubbing the best live tour in Hip Hop history.
Hip Hop, despite being the largest selling genre in the US, may not be seen as the mainstream, but Kanye West’s achievements in his field are unrivaled – there is no other person on this planet who Raps and Produces, with both speaking for themselves. For those of you unaware of the merit of this, it would be like being the best singer and dancer out there, and who’s done that?
Besides a certain Michael Jackson, I mean!]]>
I tell bad jokes in the morning
I am a dichotomy
I value respect
I think too much
I over analyse
I don’t save files properly
I need telling more than once
I might appear arrogant
I might say might to soften the blow
I ruin the moment through inaction
I want someone who knows better
I am self absorbed
I need to slow down
I can’t remember
I want to grow up
I am sorry
I said too much
If it’s bold, it means I’ve added it since I posted this. Sometimes I have ideas just before I drop off to sleep :)]]>
Well, it’s taken us about 3 weeks to get these uploaded for various reasons but finally we are pleased to be able to post you the photos from our shoot with Marcus Maschwitz.
In case you missed it at the time we posted a video of the shoot here and blogged about it here.
We are really pleased with the photos and hope you are too. A special thanks to Marcus Maschwitz! You can visit his site here: London Band Photography.
I was speaking to a friend who I had not seen for a while. She’d been on the site, as most of my friends have been coerced to, but as I hadn’t seen her, I hadn’t introduced it to her like I would most people I know. For me, this is a nightmare, because it leaves me unable to ‘help them shape their view’ shall I say! What happened though was really useful, because it got me thinking.
Anita said, “OK, so you’ve got these song ideas and you develop those, but how did you get to that stage?” And she’s right of course, because we haven’t covered that have we? So from now on I’m going to endeavour to describe it to you. What happens first?
Anita actually mentioned lyrics when she asked me about how I came up with songs. What did I think up first – lyrics or the music? Good question. The answer is, I don’t know. Both come to me at different times, and when I come up with one it doesn’t come neatly packaged with the other.
Let’s take lyrics, hey, I’ve titled this lyrics already so I’m kinda duty bound. Lyrics can come at any time. Generally something really really good or really really bad happens and when I have some time to myself (generally when I’m travelling), I get my phone out and write a text about it. Save, drafts, come back to it later. I don’t try and make it rhyme – if that happens, it comes later. I just write whatever comes to me to get it out and ‘bottle it up’ in words. A lot of the time it’s more for healing than for anything I’ll actually use, but I find that trying to force words onto a page, sitting a piano, and making them rhyme always sounds emotionless.
Maybe I haven’t been to Brit school and don’t understand, but for me, lyrics are about what you feel at a particular time, not what you can brainstorm! With that said, my lyrics aren’t particularly abundant on the songs we have so far. In fact, they only appear in one chorus – I Wanna Know.
I wanna know if she knows,
I wanna know if she cares,
I wanna know if she’s playing,
I wanna know if she’s there.
I first came up with these lyrics over a year ago. I wrote them because I’d recently met someone and I couldn’t figure them out. They seemed to have a certain way about them, that I didn’t particularly like. The question was, did they know that they were doing it? And if they did, did they care? Obviously it annoyed me at the time. I can still feel that, everytime Rob or I sing those lines. It’s almost like having a picture, documenting a particular feeling I had.
Testimant to this, I feel, is the fact that in recording 1 and even in recording 2 of I Wanna Know, when Rob sings these lyrics in the chorus, it changes the feel of the song completely. From a verse that is a little eerie and fairly contained, emerges a much more aggressive feeling. Someone shouting for answers, which is exactly what I felt at the time.
On what I think is definitely a related note, and to definitely muddy the waters of what comes first, the music or the lyrics, I had already worked out the tune for the chorus along with the chords before Rob and I started to work together on it. If I’d written those lyrics down, showed them to Rob and he’d thought, I know I’ll put them in a song, here, they might have lost their original meaning in the swapping of ideas. But with me writing the music and already singing the chorus, the original feeling stayed intact.
I tell you what! I’ve got a few ideas for lyrics on the go at the moment. Let me get back to you with them very soon and we can see where they go and it will really demonstrate the whole process I’ve tried to describe above. Stay tuned, Lyrics II coming soon!]]>
In the same way that Eric Clapton had an influence on my guitar solos, Jerry “Jerry Wonder” Duplessis has had a massive influence on the way I play the bass.
You may or may not know that I only really picked up a bass for the first time about two years ago. Before then, like most people, I’d overlooked the importance of that part of a band, and deemed players of the instrument as “people who weren’t cool enough to play guitar”! How wrong was I? (rhetorical)
Born in Haiti, in fairly modest surroundings, Jerry Wonder has gone on to work with the biggest names in the music industry. Any list that includes Michael Jackson and Mick Jagger, is an impressive one. However, his first break came with his cousin’s band. His cousin, if you didn’t know, is Wyclef Jean and the band was the Fugees. Like them or hate them, my opinion is that the Fugees were everything that was right about hip hop, and never needed to play into the hand of those who say hip hop is based on constant violent and misogynistic references.
The Fugees’ biggest album, and one of the best in their genre, came in 1996. The Score shot them to international consciousness and launched the musical careers of both Wyclef and Lauryn Hill as multi-million record selling solo artists. Even if you haven’t really heard of the Fugees, you should at least know two or three of the singles from that album. Ready or Not and Killing Me Softly were the most famous, and you might also recognize the near acoustic rendition of No Woman No Cry, led by Wyclef Jean – all classics tunes in my eyes.
Some will level a particular criticism at all three of the songs that I have named. They are either covers or in the case of Ready or Not, which samples Enya’s Boadicea. Again, these echo criticism levelled at hip hop in general, and some people say, that this is why the genre cannot be taken seriously. I’d agree with you if the whole thing was just a DJ playing an old record, but this is where Jerry Wonder comes in.
For me, his two main strengths are exactly the attributes that a top bassist should have. He creates a rhythm with the bass that often changes the whole feel of a song (or cover version), and he is also able to intertwine his bass part with lead guitar or keys, in a way that means that he is using the bass to its fullest extent – as a rhythm instrument and almost as a lead instrument at the same time.
Most of the time, as I said before, we take the bass part of a song for granted. And maybe this is the bassist in me speaking, but a lot of the time, if you took their part away, you’d feel something vital was missing. Perhaps one of the reasons I really enjoy live performances from bands is because you can hear the bass line against what you are accustomed to. It gives the song an added sharpness.
I don’t usually link away from robandkal.com, so feel privileged. Check out this video, Jerry is coming in and out of the shot on the right hand side, but even if he’s not always visable, he’s definitely audible and he’s doing all of the things that I mention!
Maybe the new bassline in Can’t Help Me Now isn’t a coincidence, eh?]]>