Life is love

June 30th, 2012

Sitting in Scottish parkland
Early sun breaks through
Coffee soothes Sailor Jerry’s handiwork

Realise thought time spreads out
In front like a daunting desert
Missing wife and child

Enjoying long absent friends
Old connections re-linked
Neil Young and Ride send me forward

Getting music heard – running an indie record label in 2010

February 23rd, 2010

Why would anyone waste their time trying to release a record in the digitally-downloaded world of 2010? Why spend weeks and months preparing for the release of a album no one but your mates will probably hear? As the answers are still unclear, let’s attempt to find out…
Back in the summer of 2008, a man in his second childhood spent many months – perhaps years – to creating a beautiful collection of songs using nothing more than a couple of wonderful female vocalists and Pro Tools on his Mac.  After a triumphant day out culminating in seeing Neil Young live for the fifth time, two different, youngish men sat in the ensuing traffic jam trying to leave the festival for five hours.  What to do?  Smoke a joint?  Okay.  Listen to this new collection of songs on repeat for the duration of the delay?  Okay.  At about 1.30am it all made sense: this album was made by someone at the same level of “stoned-ness” as they were now, the bliss, the euphoria, those vocals, that repetitive beats, the bass loping along underneath…”we should create a record label and release this album!”

In October 2008, The Sables first album South Southern Angel was released on Honey Be Records.  With a Single of the Week on Mark Radcliffe & Stuart Maconie’s Radio 2 evening show under its belt, and the potential of being an Album of the Week off the back of the single, we bought 1,200 physical copies of the album…well, it’d be terrible to miss out on selling as many as we could because we only made 250 copies, wouldn’t it?  In the last 18 months I must’ve walked past 1,000 copies of that CD on my way to the bathroom at least once per copy.

So you live and learn.  You don’t buy hundreds (definitely not thousands) of physical copies of an album, not at the back end of the first decade of the 21st Century, the Digital Decade…which brings us to April 2009.  On return from a 3 month sojourn round the global village, Honey Be were given three new tracks by one of our favourite songwriters.  When I first saw The Marlins play in 2003, I realised that some bands play at making music.  And that’s okay, it’s a hobby, no problem.  Some bands are – or should be – destined for bigger things because of their songwriting, their “chops”, their presence on stage.  The Marlins were such a band.  Matt Marr wrote many of the songs.  Then in 2006 he recorded an album – Beach In The Fallin’ Rain now retrospectively released on Honey Be (limited to 250 physical copies!).  In 2008 a self-titled EP was released by himself and now Matt’s second full-length collection of songs, Currency of Souls, is available as a free download for a month from February 23rd.

Matt Marr's Currency of SoulsAs well as being able to hear the whole album on Drift Europe‘s music player, you can listen to and download the entire album for free from both Matt’s own website – – and his dedicated Bandcamp site.  In addition, you can currently listen to tracks from the album on Soundclick, Soundcloud, Virb, thesixtyone,, MySpace and Reverbnation.  The next stage is sending out 3 track promos to radio stations and then the full album to magazine reviewers.  This blanket coverage combined with free limited giveaways of music are the way the industry is going.  Since Radiohead made In Rainbows available at a price the music lover decided, the music industry has had to change its ways.  Of course, many people still enjoy the process of holding a physical copy of the album in their hands – that’s why a limited number of the CD will be available from the album’s official release on April 6th.  But equally, the internet and its digital services make voracious collectors of music wherever and whenever its made available – I noticed this morning that I’ve downloaded 57 free tunes from various sources this month alone!  Good stuff from established artists too – Massive Attack, Gorillaz, Broken Social Scene…this is the future, come and benefit from it today!

Matt Marr’s Currency of Souls is freely downloadable between 23rd February and 22nd March.  In return for your email address, you can be the proud owner of ten songs handcrafted and put “out there” for the world to hear.  If you like it, please spread the word on MySpace, Facebook, Twitter or even, wait for it, by speaking directly to another human being!  Matt Marr and Honey Be Records will be forever in your debt.

This post is also published at Drift Surfing online magazine.

Glastonbury 2009 memories

July 1st, 2009

Back a day now from the behemoth that is the Glastonbury Festival and the images and sounds increase in quantity and clarity as time passes in the midsummer heat. Not seeing Neil Young‘s entire set is still niggling away, but Animal Collective at The Park stage plus a snippet of Q-Tip couldn’t be missed. And anyway, Cinnamon Girl and Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere were enough of a treat for anyone, no?

The sheer number of people – too many? – are the first thing noticed after arriving at 5pm on Wednesday, already stepping over guy ropes and assorted detritus en route to a spot above the John Peel Stage. Add some torrential rain and Glasto’s traditional mixture of mud and madness were reassuringly in place.

Animal Collective @ The Park Stage, Glastonbury 2009

Animal Collective @ The Park Stage, Glastonbury 2009

So highlights? Well, Fucked Up, with Pink Eye storming through the crowd, singing from the mixing desk and spending only the first song on stage were a rousing opener on Friday afternoon. Check them out, why don’t you? The aforementioned Animal Collective and their properly atmospheric set. Metric with Emily Haines performing a storming set, a front woman among front women, writing and performing “music for people to dream to” on the strangely barren-feeling Other Stage. Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Bat For Lashes on that same stage on Sunday afternoon, under oppressive skies – both incredibly captivating and massively talented performers. Bon Iver nearly causing tears again – damn your beautiful voice and songs! – Blur bringing a real (nostalgic) tear to many an eye, including Damon…plus some newies – Wave Machines on the John Peel stage and oldies: Billy Nasty cranking it out on the bangin’ G Stage…oh yes, Crosby, Stills & Nash and Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds too…mmm, eclectic.

But aside from all that, the Healing Fields with massages, tea, general replenishment of the body and soul. Green Futures highlighting a myriad of ways to improve everybody’s time on this planet without effing it up for the next lot. Avalon for Eliza Carthy joy on Saturday evening as the sun set over the appreciative and vocal crowd. Trash City for Sunday night weirdness, joined by Shangri-La’s total excess policy until the sun rises, the rain pours and the randoms are randomised – a different world that everyone should visit at least once.

Bearded casualty in Green Futures, Glastonbury 2009

Bearded casualty in Green Futures, Glastonbury 2009

Sitting here unable to sleep at 1.49am on Wednesday morning, remembering vague glasses-swap-High-5 contests, early casualties asking “Where are the knots?” on Wednesday afternoon and many, many beautiful friends and could-be friends, it seems unbelievable that 5 nights were spent in a number of fields in the county of my youth, a madly messy weekend – but they were, thanks to all for a 100% positive experience, which is probably all the Eavis’s want anyway? Long live Glastonbury, although maybe cutting the capacity wouldn’t hurt too much…I’m 37, you know.

Neil Young – Living With War (Album Review)

June 21st, 2006

It allegedly took Neil Young nine days to record (and write most of) this collection of songs. It’s taken me about a month to review it – partly because I’ve been feeling “tired and emotional” but mostly because I REALLY didn’t want to give Neil a bad review – and yes, all devoted Neil Young fans refer to “him” as “Neil”. Sad, eh?

If I was choosing a Neil Young album to recommend to someone who’s never heard him before, it wouldn’t be this one. Neil sounds angry – ornery even – but also like he can’t really be arsed to come up with any new tunes or ground-breaking ideas. Given the subject material – we’re all living with war, kids – you might well expect the brow-beating, right-on attitude and the sounds he wrenches out of his trusty guitar “Old Black” are certainly in keeping with the mood.

The big themes Young deals with here are obvious enough and very topical – the “war on terror” and the environment. “After the Garden” opens the album with the standard four chords, rock steady back line and some truly enlightening lyrics which I haven’t written down – listen to it, it’s good: “After the Goldrush” for the iPod generation.

Listening on through similar tracks “Shock & Awe” and “Let’s Impeach The President” – well, you get the picture and you may not have even listened to it – I began to wonder who’s opinion Neil is reflecting. His own? “The kids”? Didn’t the Dixie Chicks and quite a few others oppose the war three years ago, before it began? Is Neil trying to jump on a bandwagon that left town a while ago? He claims in a recent interview to have written about these issues because he feels no one else has – I don’t know about that, but I can see that he is reflecting a growing mood in the US where some Americans are beginning to wonder if the decisions that were made for them were the right ones.

To do this, Neil employs an interesting juxtaposition of clunking, dirty guitars and a 100-strong choir throughout a number of the tracks. It really does sound impressive…but be warned, Neil does not always allow us to enjoy these two musical treats, sometimes he sings. Or shouts. Or caterwauls. Whatever, it ain’t pretty, but at least it’s mercifully short – a couple of shouted choruses. It’s all a distant memory by the final track, a beautiful rendition of “America, the Beautiful” by the aforementioned choir. I think without irony.

And that’s my conclusion really, I’m not sure if Neil is so American these days that satirical comment is beyond him or whether he’s still got a bit of Canuck left in him that dares George W to prove him wrong – and care. I can say this is an interesting album; I really like the randomness, the variation of sounds – massed vocals, horns, bludgeoning guitars. The rawness works most of the time; it’s definitely worth giving it a chance but I don’t think it’ll be seen as a classic offering from ole Shakey.