Thursday, 8 April 2021

A Life in Music: Tom Hyland, currently band- and festival-free, is keeping busy



Tom just doesn't stop. Ever.


Some years ago – the thick end of a decade - I first came across Tom Hyland, who was then strutting his guitar stuff with an early version of a now long gone but much-loved band, the Alternative Dubstep Orchestra.

This podcast was recorded as Tom was setting up not one but several projects, from collaborations to solo work, with the help of a very well-subscribed Kickstarter appeal. With the help of tech, people have been working with Tom both in person - socially distanced, or course - and remotely. There are links to some of Tom's co-conspirators a little further down. 

I've followed Tom since, first talking with him on the Radio To Go blog about the risky steps of going fully pro with Electric Swing Circus, as he dove head-first into ElectroSwing. From the band came his Birmingham-based festival, Swingamajig, and a host of collaborations. 

And then lockdown hit us, There's a twist to this series of Lives in Music. We're all stuck in lockdown, and so I am asking each guest about how it affects them. Tom has been hugely pro-active and has taken steps forward, from setting up that  Crowdfunder to cover costs, to collaborations recorded in a fabled Moseley Birmingham venue which currently can't host music events. Some very interesting approaches seem to be emerging, as you'll hear.

A chat with Tom always throws up lots of references. To follow these. best to double-check the companion Radio To go blogpost, which you can find here



Links

What's Electro Swing when it's at home? Exhaustive answers here
Punch The Sky website
Electric Swing Circus website with the latest plans
Swingamajig website (to be updated for when the festival can resume, but worth a look to get the flavour)
Tom's successful and now finished Kickstarter page

The Podcast

 

 A footnote: the intro and outro flourishes I'm using in this series of Lives in Music podcast come from Vo Fletcher who is featured in this series, along with Loz Kingsley, here. I asked him for a bit of live impro, and this was the result.  

The Lives in Music Podcast series has been running for about two years now. These are interviews with local musicians, looking at how music has shaped them throughout their lives. Series 3 also looks hard at how lockdown has had an impact. There are some lovely stories. To see all the artists, here's a link to every episode.

The Radio To Go blog

This blog has been going since 2007. I started it to focus mainly on radio stories, as the industry went through convulsive changes. Those changes aren't over yet, not by a long chalk. I then expanded the range of topics to cover local music, another subject close to my heart. I think it was a Destroyers gig that pulled me in that direction. I've banged out several hundred posts since then, and of course deleted quite a few. But if you're interested in thoughts on the local scene and/or radio futures, by all means visit the full topic index on the Radio To Go blog.
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Thursday, 1 April 2021

A Life In Music: Kris Halpin. Massive obstacles, irrepressible creativity

A flat-out refusal to give up and stop, no matter what the obstacles.


Welcome to another edition of Lives in Music. I've been talking on the associated Lives in Music podcast with Kris Halpin, who also trades as Dyskinetic. And the Winter of 82. You can jump to the podcast here, or scroll down to the embedded player lower down in this post. 

You might be wondering what those things are on his hands? Well, they're MiMu Gloves: gyroscopically-controlled midi control units that allow users to make music by gesture alone. 

Kris is known for his work with the MiMu gloves, which were created by Imogen Heap. They are extraordinary things. The initial concept was to allow performers to dispense with musical instruments on stage and to then create a new way of performing. Dramatic? Yes? Impactful? Certainly. 

Creativity. Disability.

But there's another factor that informs Kris and his work, and that is disability. It led Kris to his involvement with the gloves, as he sensibly pointed out how useful they could be to Drake Music, who work with Imogen Heap on enabling musicians with disabilities. 

They promptly took him on as an artistic associate to help with their research, specifically with the gloves. 

In this podcast, Kris deals with his disability – a very serious disability, which absolutely won't go away - with jaw-dropping openness, and I am hugely grateful. 

But there's an awful lot more. Kris has a very clear eye on his situation, and it turned out to be a jaw-dropping conversation. Here's Kris at Abbey Road.


Links

Kris Halpin's website and Bandcamp page
MiMu Gloves  
Drake Music    
Imogen Heap  

The latest single - March 2021


The podcast



The Lives in Music Podcast  
These are interviews with local musicians, looking at how music has shaped 
them throughout their lives. Series 3 also looks hard at how lockdown has had 
an impact. There are some lovely stories. 

To see who's in the list of artists, here's a link to see every episode.

One further footnote: the intro and outro guitar flourishes I'm using in this series of Lives in Music podcast come from Vo Fletcher, who is also featured, with Loz Lozwold (aka Kingsley), in a podcast in this series. I asked Vo for a bit of live impro, and this was the result.  

The Radio To Go blog

This blog has been going since 2007. I started it to focus mainly on radio stories, as the industry went through convulsive changes. Those changes aren't over yet, not by a long chalk. I then expanded the range of topics to cover local music, another subject close to my heart. I think it was a Destroyers gig that pulled me in that direction. I've banged out several hundred posts since then, and of course deleted quite a few. But if you're interested in thoughts on the local scene and/or radio futures, by all means visit the full topic index on the Radio To Go blog.
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Friday, 26 March 2021

A Life In Music: Sid Peacock and Ruth Angell - two music worlds collide

Well, lockdown screwed things up for us all... but there are ways around it.

This third series of Lives in Music Podcast doesn't just concentrate on peoples' music journeys.

It also has a consistent thread running through everyone's lives: Covid 19, the resultant 
lockdown, and the effect it's had on people's activities. 

That said, this has been a springboard to a range of different takes on lockdown creativity. The podcast is out now. You can listen to it here, or scroll down the post - it's embedded below.  

Lockdown grief

I recorded this talk for podcast some eleven months ago, just as Sid Peacock's Surge in Spring festival at Cannon Hill, the Midlands Arts Centre, was cancelled as lockdown came down on all our music activities.

Much later, I settled down to edit our chat. Sid and Ruth Angell, who make a formidable 
musical team, about what might still be relevant, or even taking place. And it turns out there is a lot. That's because they are, truth be told, absolutely monster musicians, who spend a huge amount of time working across different music genres.

But what shoots though this episode is the to and fro between the two of them: two very different musicians, with very different personalities, and even more different backgrounds, and how they collaborate. It also opens up a fascinating perspective on how some of the musicians in our town work together: it's a veritable list of great players. Over and above that, there is the sweet story of how two contrasting and brilliant people met, hung out, and fell in love. 

Two different backgrounds; new music worlds

Peaceful, settled Derbyshire; stressed and troubled Northern Ireland. Different backgrounds, different cultures. Music thrives and continues to emerge from both places. But the conditions that allow music to flourish are dependent on whether you are actually allowed to create. Sid has a lot to say on this issue. 

Music pulled these two together, physically at the Birmingham Conservatoire, and much more powerfully and independent from the Conservatoire, creatively. Both Sid and Ruth are contributors to each other's work. The trick is trying to define the range of music they work across  - because they cover so much ground.

There's a sample of new work from Ruth at the end of the podcast, and here's an example of what Sid can get up to with his Surge orchestra, from 2019:




Links
Sid's Surge Orchestra 
Sid and Ruths' band Peacock Angell 

The Podcast: Sid and Ruth on Lives in Music   



The Lives in Music Podcast series   

I've been doing these for about two years now. These are interviews with local 
musicians and music enablers, looking at how music has shaped them throughout 
their lives. Series 3 also looks hard at how lockdown has had an impact. 

There are some lovely stories. To see who's in the list of artists, here's a link to 
review every episode.
One further footnote: the intro and outro guitar flourishes I'm using in this series of Lives in Music podcast come from Vo Fletcher, who is also featured, with Loz Lozwold (aka Kingsley), in a podcast in this series. I asked Vo for a bit of live impro, and this was the result.  

The Radio To Go blog

This blog has been going since 2007. I started it to focus mainly on radio stories, as the industry went through convulsive changes. Those changes aren't over yet, not by a long chalk. I then expanded the range of topics to cover local music, another subject close to my heart. I think it was a Destroyers gig that pulled me in that direction. I've banged out several hundred posts since then, and of course deleted quite a few. But if you're interested in thoughts on the local scene and/or radio futures, by all means visit the full topic index on the Radio To Go blog.
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Thursday, 18 March 2021

A Life In Music: Ross Grant. Around The World In 80 Plays, and lots, lots more

Taking global collaboration to a new level

Ross Grant is a busy man. A very busy man. I'm going to touch on some of this activities in this post, and you can hear more from the man himself at his Lives in Music Episode, released this week. Or just stay here, and you'll find him towards the end of this blog post.  

Let me start with his fantastic current project, Around The World In 80 Plays. There's a link to the YouTube channel below.   

It's a simple idea, but it's also, naturally, a huge amount of work. It also calls for a massive address book, which Ross certainly has. Most of us will have seen those multi-screen YouTube videos where musicians collaborate together at distance. This was a central feature of the Lives in Music episode with Richard March, who played on and produced most of the Tonight Matthew videos that gave a lot of people much joy last year in lockdown. 

But that series ran to 11 videos in the end. Ross is putting together 80 such collaborations. Musicians worldwide have joined in with him, from brilliant local and European folk players to Ugandan and Malian traditional players and more. The guest player takes central stage, and Ross chimes in with multiple tracks of backing, on fiddle, guitar and lord knows what else. 

A contacts list to end all contacts lists

To do this sort of thing, you need contacts, and Ross has them. His address book has grown, first through his life-long involvement with the Bromyard Folk Festival, and also through activities like working with Sistema England, which has taken its inspiration from the spectacular original El Sistema in Venezuela, as have hundreds of music organisations worldwide. Given this work, mainly in the Classical field, it's not surprising his address book has grown.  

But that's not the only area where Ross has people to call on. As a boy, Ross benefited from his dad's folk contacts (he was good mates with Ian Campbell), and of course work with the long-established Bromyard Folk Festival, where Ross is now a director.


Planning a major Folk Festival in Lockdown

This year, after a barren lockdown-flattened 2020, the Bromyard Folk Festival returns. It's not necessarily going to be easy, as despite the September 2021 date of 9-12 September, there's still going to be the need for Social Distancing. Quite the challenge. The previous weekend, Moseley Folk in Birmingham will have the same dilemna. At time of writing, Ross's group 
Inlay will play at Moseley on Sunday.

There's more, lots more. But I suggest you give the podcast episode a spin. It was a terrific conversation, and a delight to put together.

Links

Around The World In 80 plays on YouTube
Around the World in 80 Plays Tip Jar - show your appreciation!
Music Group: Ross plays in Inlay 
Going since 1968, the Bromyard Folk Festival
Classical Music project 
Sistema England

Ross Grant on Lives in Music 

 

The Lives in Music Podcast series   

I've been doing these for about two years now. These are interviews with local 
musicians and music enablers, looking at how music has shaped them throughout 
their lives. Series 3 also looks hard at how lockdown has had an impact. 

There are some lovely stories. To see who's in the list of artists, here's a link to 
review every episode.
One further footnote: the intro and outro guitar flourishes I'm using in this series of Lives in Music podcast come from Vo Fletcher, who is also featured, with Loz Lozwold (aka Kingsley), in a podcast in this series. I asked Vo for a bit of live impro, and this was the result.  

The Radio To Go blog

This blog has been going since 2007. I started it to focus mainly on radio stories, as the industry went through convulsive changes. Those changes aren't over yet, not by a long chalk. I then expanded the range of topics to cover local music, another subject close to my heart. I think it was a Destroyers gig that pulled me in that direction. I've banged out several hundred posts since then, and of course deleted quite a few. But if you're interested in thoughts on the local scene and/or radio futures, by all means visit the full topic index on the Radio To Go blog.
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Friday, 12 March 2021

A Life in Music Renny Jackson: from Birmingham to Sevilla

Spanish-British fusion: a long distance conversation

I assembled and edited most of the Lives in Music podcast episode that accompanies this post on the fifth anniversary of the death of a mutual friend, the great Paul Murphy, who both introduced me to Renny Jackson, and encouraged us both, as he did with everybody he worked with, in our different projects. 

One of the things Paul had me do on his Thursday Song Writers Café nights was to interview each artist about their own creative process.

How do songs arrive?

I asked that question of maybe a hundred or more of Paul's guests. I got a different answer each time. Everyone, it turned out, had a different approach. Renny was thoughtful, open and honest.

So it was that I talked at length with Renny, who originally came from Birmingham, before he delivered a charming and articulate set on his brief return to the city. 

To listen to the Lives in Music podcast episode, go here, or simply scroll down to the bottom of this post. 

Lockdown

There's a twist to this series of Lives in Music podcasts. We're all stuck in lockdown, and so I am asking each guest about how it affects them. Now, as you'll hear, Renny is now based in Sevilla in Spain, where the oranges come from. And they have hassles too, just like us. In fact, not quite as bad as us, but enough to put a stick in the wheel of new live projects. The two influences come together in Renny's music.



A 1500 mile conversation

Obviously, we recorded our conversation remotely. This is a step on from Zoom - radio-oriented  software, for a start - but it felt absolutely right chatting, in a very personal way, with someone who now lives fifteen hundred miles away. Tech may have messed us all up in its different ways, but little things like software that lets you straddle boundaries certainly help.

Renny's take on the lockdown in Spain is an interesting variation on what problems face musicians in the UK. We'll also hear the impact Spain has had on this Brit.


Links

Renny's facebook page
The River Roots single on YouTube
Renny Jackson on Spotify


Renny's Lives in Music episode  



The Lives in Music Podcast series   

I've been doing this for about two years now. These are interviews with local 
musicians, looking at how music has shaped them throughout their lives. Series 3 
also looks hard at how lockdown has had an impact. There are some lovely stories. 

To see who's in the list of artists, here's a link to see every episode.
One further footnote: the intro and outro flourishes I'm using in this series of Lives in Music come from Vo Fletcher, who is also featured in this series, along with Loz Lozwold. I asked Vo for a bit of live impro, and this was the result.

The Radio To Go blog

This blog has been going since 2007. I started it to focus mainly on radio stories, as the industry went through convulsive changes. Those changes aren't over yet, not by a long chalk. I then expanded the range of topics to cover local music, another subject close to my heart. I think it was a Destroyers gig that pulled me in that direction. I've banged out several hundred posts since then, and of course deleted quite a few. But if you're interested in thoughts on the local scene and/or radio futures, by all means visit the full topic index on the Radio To Go blog.
________________________________________________________________________


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Friday, 5 March 2021

A Life in Music: Loz Kingsley and Vo Fletcher. Guitar and Mandolin. And how.


Definitely a string thing

In this edition of Lives in Music, I'm talking with Loz Kingsley and Vo Fletcher, Mandolin and Guitar players of great skill and experience. I met this pair, I think, back in 1974, when they were doing a session at the old BRMB Radio. They were no slouches then, and they've only got better since. To listen to the podcast episode, go here, or simply scroll down to the bottom of this post

Vo plays with a bewildering number of talented people all over the midlands and beyond, and he gets together with Loz, who only returned to live work with the much-missed Rhino and The Ranters, for regular and highly enjoyable sessions in some of the nicest boozers in the region. And of course, having spent nearly a year in lockdown, that's something I have missed enormously. There is some compensation with Vo running (as do many others) a live session on Facebook every Tuesday at 6pm.


They have, as you might expect, mighty track records, which you'll hear about. There's also some super live guitar and mandolin work to be enjoyed in this episode, along with a taster from Loz's new album,
Vintage Mandolin.

Links

The Tuxedo Bay Facebook page
All you ever need to know about Jellikins
Rick Sanders and Vo Fletcher page on Costa Del Folk
Vo's weekly Wine O'Clock live sessions: Tuesdays 6pm on Facebook 


Albums
Loz's album Vintage Mandolin can be had by emailing 
loz1954@me.com 
Vo's new album is at 
vofletcher.com 


Vo and Loz's episode of Lives in Music


 

The Lives in Music Podcast series   
I've been doing this for about two years now. These are interviews with local 
musicians, looking at how music has shaped them throughout their lives. Series 3 
also looks hard at how lockdown has had an impact. There are some lovely stories. 

To see who's in the list of artists, here's a link to see every episode.
One further footnote: the intro and outro flourishes I'm using in this series of Lives in Music podcast come from Vo himself. I asked him for a bit of live impro, and this was the result.  

The Radio To Go blog

This blog has been going since 2007. I started it to focus mainly on radio stories, as the industry went through a series of convulsive changes. Those changes aren't over yet, not by a long chalk. Over the years I expanded the range of topics to cover local music, another subject close to my heart. I think it was a Destroyers gig that pulled me in that direction. I've banged out several hundred posts in that time, and of course deleted quite a few. But if you're interested in thoughts on the local scene and/or radio futures, by all means visit the full topic index on the Radio To Go blog

Photo credit for Vo Fletcher: Colston Halls
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Friday, 26 February 2021

A Life in Music: Richard March

One way to extend a career built on Pop. Did it really Eat Itself?

Photo Credit: Nick Sayers
This is a companion blog post to my Lives in Music Podcast with the excellent Richard March. You can find it here, or scroll down to the bottom of this post, or follow this link for the entire Lives in Music list.

Richard has been in a huge array of bands and projects in his 30 years or so as a working musician. I first met Rich when he was in the much loved Rhino and The Ranters; but he cut his teeth with 80s legends Pop Will Eat Itself and then Bentley Rhythm Ace, and now he's a member of Swampmeat Family Band, and, oh yes, let's not forget the Boom Operators. with other projects bubbling away nicely. Some of those projects come up in this podcast.

Five years ago, I wrote a Radio To Go blog post about 
Richard's walking bass saga. His standup double bass 
was stolen from outside his house, along with a lot of PA kit. The bass was returned intact – it was found in the street, unlike the 
stolen kit. In short order a fundraiser was launched to help Rich 
replace everything. 
It hit its target very promptly, which let Rich replace at least his PA kit, with the 
remaining £400 going to Nordhoff Robbins, the music charity. These guys could 
not be better - as it says on their site, they use music to 'enrich the lives of people 
with life-limiting illness, disabilities of feelings of isolation'. 

Coping with our Covid nightmare lockdown. Ugh...
This podcast post covers very different ground, the likes of which we could not 
have imagined in 2016. Most of this series of Lives in Music was recorded remotely,
in lockdown. If you listen hard, you can tell who has, by far, the poshest 
microphone. 

I'm particularly interested in how creativity can flourish in lockdown, and we touch on all sorts of ways that performers can hit their audiences. We cover some of the ways – largely on YouTube. At the bottom of this post, I've I listed quite a few examples that you can go see and enjoy.

The Tonight Matthew colabs

I used two excerpts in the podcast, taken from the collaborative videos in the 
Tonight Matthew series, where Richard and pals covered Sex and Drugs and Rock 
and Roll, and Life During Wartime. To check out the full personnel, search these 
titles on YouTube. The series has raised some £5000 for Help Musicians – another 
great cause. Why not look in and bung them a few quid?


Videos 
First off, here's links to the Tonight Matthew series, with Rich on guitar or bass 
on all of them:

Good Morning Britain
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WO8trboFpo4
Mr Blue Sky
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NZcKnRRrghQ Life During Wartime https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bA4Te8xEWfg Sex and Drugs and Rock and Roll https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RM6C2CunuRc Blue Monday https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1PgHG2g315k Echo Beach https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y0SxQQ1kIO0 Another Girl Another Planet https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BuztPWamE-k Love Cats https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wkt3fGDg6-4 Our Lips Are Sealed https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y034nUVqfLc Another Girl Another Planet https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RA06fj76yDo For What It's Worth https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Y-1xGIvfsA
Then there's others. More than I can list. But anyway, here's some suggestions Suzi Dian doing Bill Withers' Lean on Me solo
and with some friends
The life-affirming Bolero from Juilliard students and alumni

Peter Gabriel and friends worldwide reprising Biko

Jimi Somerville and Rick Astley Wishing You Well, also for Help Musicians
The great Vo Fletcher does weekly live shows on his Facebook Page
I'll stop there. I know there's a lot more, and I apologise if I've missed anyone out. 
But if you have any recommendations, drop me a line in the comments section :-)

This week's episode

The Lives in Music Podcast series   
I've been doing this for about two years now. These are interviews with local 
musicians, looking at how music has shaped them throughout their lives. Series 3 
also looks hard at how lockdown has had an impact. There are some lovely stories. 

To see who's in the series of artists, here's a link to see every episode.

One further footnote: the intro and outro flourishes I'm using in this series of Lives in Music podcast come from Vo himself. I asked him for a bit of live impro, and this was the result.  

The Radio To Go blog

This blog has been going since 2007. I started it to focus mainly on radio stories, as the industry went through a series of convulsive changes. Those changes aren't over yet, not by a long chalk. Over the years I expanded the range of topics to cover local music, another subject close to my heart. I think it was a Destroyers gig that pulled me in that direction. I've banged out several hundred posts in that time, and of course deleted quite a few. But if you're interested in thoughts on the local scene and/or radio futures, by all means visit the full topic index on the Radio To Go blog.

________________________________________________________________________

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Wednesday, 20 January 2021

New ways out of lockdown. You can't keep good musos down

I'm prepping Lives in Music Podcast Series 3. It's different now.

I must start with an apology. I've been quiet on the podcast front. There's a number or reasons for this, obvious and not so obvious.

Our gig scene has been squashed flat.

Firstly: we've lost our live music scene. This breaks my heart. One of my great pleasures is to settle in for a night of stonking live music, joining friends and like-minded souls in a warm and welcoming space, with a pint or something stronger to hand. And then the show starts, and I'm carried away by great musicianship. It can be, rarely, in an enormodome. But I prefer smaller venues, where you can relate to the artist. I especially prefer the smallest venues, where it all starts. I've been in pub rooms with a few dozen kindred souls, and I've had  unforgettable nights. I miss that so much.

So it's been difficult to document those golden live moments, when... there haven’t been any. I’ve had a lot less to write about. I've also had to scrap some very pertinent interviews with venue owners. I'll hopefully revisit these when we can get out and about again.


Face to face chats? Forget it.

Secondly, lockdown or no lockdown, I'm under strict instructions to respect those six feet spaces, and in any case to cut contact down to an absolute minimum. It's, I'm afraid, a health issue, and it's definitely got in the way of producing podcasts.

For me, the essence of getting a great interview is to share space, to have eye contact, to have an intimate connection. I've been used to travelling across town, hooking up a mic to my subject, and diving into a long conversation, which finds its way into the finished podcast episode. That is no more, for the time being.

Live performances online? I'm grateful, but it's not the same.

I follow a lot of people online. I check out their streamed live shows. I'm glad to see them, and I hope that their work generates some revenue. But typing a helpful message of support into Facebook is the only way we can react. The artists can't hear our denatured applause. The compromise of streaming a gig with a live audience – if that can be managed – is the best we have right now.


Those multi-artist remote compilations. Love them.

An alternative, and one that I very much enjoy, is the very produced multi-artist compilation. These work, sometimes to great effect, but it's a different confection. The artists must work to a basic track for timing purposes, so the result is, inevitably, produced. In an upcoming series 3 podcast, I go though this in some detail. But there have been some extraordinary work coming our way, which would not otherwise have surfaced at all. 


A way forward. Soon come: Lives in Music Series 3.

Now I've surfed back to the working world – long story - I've settled on a new way of working. It's a compromise, but it lets me get back to doing podcasts with musicians, which I love to do. I'm using software which lets me invite my subject to chat to me remotely though their computer. Think Zoom, but with better bandwidth and no time lag. It's the same kind of software that's in use at Radio – you can tell it's that kind of software, because, every so often, the remote link goes down, embarrassingly.


So now I'm back in business. I'm recording lots of chats, and then diving headlong into post-production. I hope very much to start releasing the new series by the end of February.

It's good to be working on this series, especially as I want to focus as much as I can on how musicians have broken through this new set of wholly unfair barriers. Let's see how everyone is doing!

The Lives in Music Podcast
I've been doing this for about fifteen months now. These are interviews with local 
musicians, covering how music has shaped them throughout their lives. Series 3 
also looks hard at how lockdown has had an impact. There are some lovely stories. 

To review the list of artists, here's a link. 

See more radio and broadcasting posts on Radio To Go

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Sunday, 6 December 2020

Two questions: Lockdown creativity, and when do bands turn into their own tribute acts?

Covid-19 and creativity

For most of the lifetime of this blog, I've managed to post pretty regularly. Sometimes weekly, maybe more like a monthly average over the years. But I've had to be quiet of late. Like the local music scene, I've been squashed flat. Let me explain... 

This blog is, mainly, about local music and musicians, with occasional diversions into radio. And it's been very difficult to write about the local music scene when it's been trashed by lockdown. I don't see a recovery coming our way for at least another six months. But, oh boy, will it ever be bloody marvellous when it comes back, in all its glory.


Distractions and dysfunction

There are personal as well as practical reasons for my inactivity. At the start of lockdown, I plunged head-first into a massively complex and demanding database project for the excellent Radio Classic in Tampere, Finland. Sadly, I didn't go over there – all flights were cancelled during lockdown. That took me through to mid-summer, as I watched our local scene suffer. Along the way, I had to scrap three fine Podcast interviews I had collected with promoters and venue managers, who suddenly had no venues or gigs to work on.

By the time I surfaced from the Finland work, you could forget about gigs. Podcast interviews were out, too, especially for me - I'm one of those rather vulnerable at-risk types. Then, things got scary. I had some serious health issues - not Covid, by the way - as summer shaded into autumn. Thankfully, most of them are in hand now, and I'm feeling more like a human being again.

Mojo partially back at last, I am tiptoeing back to music. I've followed a ton of live streams, some of which have been absolutely inspirational. I've also enjoyed those multi-muso collaborations – check out the 'Tonight Matthew...' series. Here's one. Or how about this sensational compilation of former and current students from the Juilliard School in New York?


Fresh air and a working brain... at last!

But it's only been very recently that I've felt clear-headed enough to take some recent albums and work my way through them. One of them isn't exactly that recent either. I was in Banbury in early March, just before lockdown, to catch up with Dave Pegg of Fairport Convention – the podcast is here. Dave kindly gave me a copy of the band's latest album, Shuffle and Go – it's their 29th album. Not bad going for a band that's been going since 1967. I finally listened this morning. Gloriously, Fairport are still fresh, experimenting, trying new things, and generally enjoying themselves. They have a loyal fanbase; fans gather each year at Cropredy, the band’s festival (obviously not this year), where, of course, the band will reprise old material.


Who are you making music for?

And that is an interesting conflict. Diehard Fairport fans will clamour for the old material, songs like 'Meet On The Ledge', and some of the vintage Jigs and Reels. But I’m not sure how much the current Fairport still enjoy doing material that their predecessors have been doing for forty or fifty years, even if some members (Peggy, Simon Nicol) have been there for pretty much the whole time. It helps to pay the bills; people love the hits. But do the band still love the very old material, especially given that along with the regulars, there's also lots of new blood?


Turning into your own tribute act

Look at it this way: when do longstanding acts turn into their own tribute bands? In Fairport's case, probably never on record, but you might well see them pay tribute to their illustrious past at Cropredy. I would suggest that The Stones and what's left of Status Quo, Queen and AC/DC are already there. The example set by Robert Plant over the years, most recently with his admirable Saving Grace project, tells me that Led Zeppelin will never go there, no matter how much money is waved at them.

Or consider the brilliant Bruce Hornsby. Does he have to play ‘The Way It Is’ at each gig? Well, his audience may well want him to, but he’s going way beyond all that. He's never stopped experimenting, and gloriously, he is not alone.


Nostalgia pays

Another side of the coin, however, is the revival of 80s and 90s acts, who are being rediscovered by their original and newer audiences. Locally, Pop Will Eat Itself, Bentley Rhythm Ace, Ocean Colour Scene, and The Wonder Stuff, among others, benefited from this trend before lockdown, and will surely return when all this is over. I'm willing to bet that, unlike the Stones and their ilk, none of these bands did more than make a fair living in their heyday; many of them probably not even that. And now that Spotify has ripped the possibility of long-term earnings away, this route is a decent way to go.

I also think that this issue shows up the brutal contrast between local scenes, as perky and vibrant as they may be, and the big business end of music. All Spotify and the other streamers want now is to build numbers any way they can. That very much favours the long-standing veterans, as well as the flashiest of newcomers. The long-standing veterans generate the numbers from their back catalogue; the newbies from their notoriety. I'm willing to bet that despite her party people negative publicity, Rita Ora's streaming numbers are up. But right now, the local scene can, as usual, hardly get a shout out, and that, too, filters back into streaming figures.


When this is over, I'll find you and hug you

What a mess. I can't wait for all this to be over. I dream of sitting in a boozer, pint in front of me, surrounded by friends, taking in something fine, sparky and inventive. How about you?


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