Monday, 23 January 2017

"An ironic, self-reflexive subversion of multimedia brand interaction!" you shouted as you danced.

I'm the intrigued man, peeling back the curtain and standing at the window not only to look at you out there in the street, but also to better show you what it's like living in here. I'm opening the curtains wide both to wonder what the hell you're doing out there in the frost and mist and also to show you the stains on the walls from when Seryn threw that chocolate pudding at Ed, and Ed got scared.

Yes, the lightbulb is smashed, but we have ten boxes of matchsticks left. I stick them in my ears and nose and light them at night to keep a constant glow – replacing them as they burn out. It's like spinning plates. I'd smell my burning nose hair if I could, but when I inhale the wood goes up and jams into my brain.

But that light gets us through the time after the sun disappears around the side of the house.

...until the natural light comes back again, and you stand outside in your coat and fur-lined boots, peering into our ground floor den, trying to make out the shadows behind the tattered curtains and see how five men can live in such a space for so damn long. All you see are bodies draped and immobile like Greek sculptures, and plates and bowls built up to look like rock with the slow, sedimentary deposits of cheap baked beans and sauces and chips and a multi-coloured slew of dried on condiments.

The whole of the house, inside and out, is covered in molluscs and snails and slugs and woodlice and ants and grass grows everywhere, even indoors, like new life in old men's ears.

When Trewin says I can sleep I sometimes dream that I open the curtain and you are stood there as every morning - but this time with a small, blue and white box in an outstretched hand.

I yelp, and the band gather around the window like cats, pressing our faces up against the glass and each squirming for the best view.

You have brought a lightbulb for our room.

Ed lets you in, and Seryn stands on James's shoulders to screw the lightbulb in.

Ed clears the plates away.

You sit down and we talk to you and make you a cup of tea. It's a dark morning, so we're happy of the lightbulb. It's also cold, and we all drink tea with the steam rising up and occasionally hold the hot cups against our faces.

The woodlice go away, and the room starts to breath with the colour of comfort.

Trewin asks if you'd like to hear some of the new bits and pieces of music.

You say yes, and he starts to play it, and we all start to dance in the room that is now so warm, and clean, and bright, and dry.

We have the greatest time, and when I look at you I see you are so happy you came by.

But then more often than not I am awoken by my head smashing against the corner of a desk. I had slipped into careless sleep for a mere microsecond. A match burns its way to my ear lobe as Trewin chastises me for my nodding off. We have been choosing a method of audio compression for seventeen hours now. I huddle into my unwashed blanket and light another match and put it into my nose so everyone can live.

Why please can't someone please just go to the shop and buy a lightbulb?



Tim

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

Like paying your council tax in the middle of a marathon.

We only said so little over the festive period because we couldn't find the microphone.

I still have floor on me.

We are not bounding into this year fresh. We are stumbling over the line, bow-legged, with relief maps on our faces from fifteen-year-old carpet. We slept much on our bellies as the sun rose. We used crushed tin and glass as pillows and went to buy bacon and mushrooms without our trousers on, wondering why the earringed women would scream so loud when we so obviously had a headache and were not ready for the onslaught of the sane.

Today our mouths smell like bin water and our bones are bending to weeks of these same jumpers and trousers. If we go outside, we risk being picked up by the wind and flung over a hedge.

We won't admit this to ourselves, though. We are fresh, aren't we? We are raring to go! What a break that was! A little break, slap bang in the middle of all momentum, and now we have the pleasure of starting that momentum, from scratch, all over again! Push, boys! Push! If we can't get the engine going, we'll at least hurt ourselves beyond repair, giving us ever more reason to stay in bed and polish our ornaments.

What are you dreaming of for the next year? You should dream, if you're not. Maybe you're finishing a course or something, and you're dreaming of getting top marks? Very good. What a nice dream. Maybe you're dreaming of going traveling, and have been looking at booking something over the last few days? Another nice dream.

Go do it all, you crazy kids.

Maybe you're just dreaming of something in your life getting better?

Keep going, then!

Just don't worry about it, if you dare do that.

What are we dreaming of?

Well, James is missing. We've already got contracts for various things coming out of our ears, and a package all tied up now, I think, for something else. As usual I've been more the card-writer than the florist, so we'll see how all that turns out.

So I guess we're dreaming that we can keep making people happy.

Isn't that nice?

I bet you didn't expect that from me.

So nice and heartfelt.

You can trust us.

Just keep dreaming.


Tim

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Blasted fingers.

Yeah? So what?

So I damaged my tendons in both arms back in August, and am still in pain/can barely play an instrument/type on a keyboard? So I spend all day now watching cold war documentaries and Star Trek TNG? I don't even like Star Trek, but after twelve weeks or so of forced inactivity I've run out of things to watch. But...but...so what? This potential future was at my very birth as a metaphysical midwife . I spent my teens and early twenties as a long-haired progressive rock fan - did anyone seriously not forsee my ending up slapped across an abused bedsheet watching science fiction all day?

What do the band say?

Well I had to skip a gig back in September. OH OH OH says reversing Santa - and that has just made me realise how long it's actually been since I last said hello to you. So I skipped the gig in Brighton at the beginning of September because I was in a phase where I couldn't actually feed myself. My least painful memory of this time is of my “nurse” cutting up a chocolate eclair with a knife and fork, and putting it inside me. At the time, I had little crab-like claws that I could barely use and would make me yelp if I tried to move them. 

Following neatly from that experience, we had to prepare for the postponed Volition launch show at the ICA in London later the same month. I was slowly recovering, but it wasn't a completely easy time for anyone, as you can imagine. It was like Rocky, but instead of starting off as an underground boxer and getting stronger and punching meat and running to the top of a flight of stairs and celebrating, it was more about hardly being able to use a door handle to get out of the house and go to rehearsals where the montage would climax with me flinching at the press of a plastic synthesiser key and saying “I don't know, guys...” and then them going “Oh shit”, and instead of any sense of victory or overcoming there was just defeat and horror and denial and me having to pour tea out of a cup because it was too heavy to lift to my lips.

So round the back of the stage (AKA backshow area Xtreme to those in the business) before the ICA gig I was undergoing urgent self-adminstered treatment of various cooling ointments, massage, and deliciously distilled and necessary anaesthetics. Call it holistic. 

The gig, then, turned into something of a giant exhalation of stress and tension following so much uncertainty. We were there, we had set up a new spider's web of experimental gear (which worked!), a lot of you turned up to see us, and I had managed to make it there to play the songs. I was still on a knife-edge as to whether I'd get a pang of pain or loss of control at any moment, but it seemed that despite the effect of nerves I'd got the dosage just right. We got a lot of great feedback from that gig, and I have to say it felt similar onstage. And offstage afterwards, too. Some gigs are just like that. Despite the stresses – in fact, likely because of them – it was one of my favourite shows that we've played. There's something almost intoxicating about that combination of relief, success, and intoxicants...

And lucky old “New James”, the new member of our sect. It was maybe his third gig with us, or something.

So it's the usual Phoria, for me, of blast-off-extreme-Phoria-time followed by intense rest and rehabilitation. 

Again I had to resist almost all activity before we took a trip up to Scotland for some dates up there. What a great place that is. The air, the love, the cities, the mountains...they all helped with the day-to-day frustration of barely being able to do what I turned up to do. I wasn't convinced that the trip was good for my arms, but hey...that's music. Pot Noodles and Travelodges.

And then it was three weeks in Europe. All time prior, I was barely been able to use my phone – definitely not able to type on a keyboard like I am doing today – and in between stretches and rehabilitation exercises my time was spent slumped against a wall dispassionately watching crap with no option to even read as I couldn't hold a book for too long...and then all of a sudden through the stagnant muck of so much forced inactivity I'm off to Europe for three weeks of gigs and intense party time. 

I don't think I could have survived the down time without the promise that I would be throwing away all healing in a fit of madness doubtless borne of some untouched psychological need for acceptance to which I and my follow swaggerers have surrendered our entire lives.

There's no doubt that this tour was one of the most stupid and therefore best times to be in Phoria. We had our new sound engineer, Ollie, to keep us updated on the technical aspects of every location we hit (I mean every technical aspect of every location. ...we received regular updates from him on the 4G connection speeds along various sections of the autobahn) and we were also carrying a new stage set up that we sometimes had to get ready in ten minutes flat. All this while one man light (of course I couldn't load gear!) with next to no clue where we were going each day or how we would get there. Ed pretended to know, but he didn't really.  It was just the six of us, rumbling around in our little van like blind mice. Lucklily, we hit great crowds and great crew and great hosts and great everything. Berlin - you were as brilliant as ever expected, Nuremburg – you were an experience out of the blue, Munich – you were delicious, and playing with Bat for Lashes in Copenhagen and Poliça in the cool city of Stockholm was exciting and great and all this stuff that's a little too much even now. I thought I needed time to digest it and then it would all come out in a way that made sense but it still doesn't. Time is a different object when the van is your home for nine hours a day, and what you're doing for love and a little money is infused with having to cope with the fact that that's the very thing you should not be doing right now.  

Thanks to everyone who came to and tolerated any of the shows and anyone who came and said hello. It always means the world to us. And thanks to old friends in every city who said hello, too, and thanks to all the interviewers and autograph hunters and new friends that we can't wait to see again, to sleep in your basement for free, or to ravage your incomprehensibly continental kitchen for coffee before we leave in the morning. 

My hands are starting to wane.

So, three and a bit months of a frustrating arm injury that has stopped me from doing the only things I do, punctuated by massive endeavours of gigness that demand all kinds of soul-and-body-based resources. I've had to deal with it, they've had to deal with me, and now here we are many, many weeks later, back from the tour, and I'm listening to Kenneth Brannagh talk about Afghanistan and the integrity of its Northern border in the 1970s with a completely incorrectly placed new hope.

What have we learned, then, from the past few months?

A few things.

I realised that I'm glad of the break my body insisted upon me. I've kept my door closed for much of the recent past, but it's taken this spell of pain and frustration to realise that flogging myself for ten hours a day seven days week for three years or so may not have been in its entirety the best route to self-improvement and/or creative fulfillment. Sure, you have to learn, but my body has hit me back just hard as I hit it with relentless day-long practice schedules and various abuses in my bizarre and potentially pointless quest for otherness. I have a feeling my tank was empty, and, in conking out, my body told me what I needed to hear.

And the band has learned a few things too, as a collective. And I think I know how that is going to manifest itself. The studio is getting a new round of improvements. I can't imagine what for. 

That's it for now. Hope it made sense – I'm out of practice.

Have fun, but take regular breaks.


Tim

Friday, 22 July 2016

...and what could be more entertaining than that!?

Will the collective memory of the internet lead to cultural stasis?

That's the interesting and brand new, exciting question I've been re-asking myself.

I was going to write, like many others have, about Latitude festival (where we played and stayed last week), but - unlike other people who have written about it - I don't even know if there's anything to write about.

It is thought that fiction allows you to empathise better with people and situations (see: Alien). It could be seen almost as a kind of exposure therapy to help us contextualise future experience. This is usually something said of written fiction, but I prefer the example of when the band went to Slovenia and while the vast, cool mountains of that country filled all of us with a deep sense of joy and peace, I couldn't escape the voice in the back of my head that said “Yeah, but I've seen it all before in Skyrim.” (For the uncultured swine: Skyrim is a video game.) The only difference is that in Skyrim, people talk to me.

So the reviews that I've read of the festival mostly consist of a dispassionate list of acts, and submissions for an apparent competition to see who can least creatively describe tents and trees and people in a field. And I wonder if that's because where in decades past there would be a new review every year, nowadays every review or story from every year remains available online, so there's nothing really left to say, or, more importantly, for the reader to know. If 2016 was basically as good as 2014, you have to write something the same, but different, and only different for the sake of having a review of the 2016 version of the event.

But is it possible that we have been so exposed to this kind of permanently available media (Photo no: 3429485325485439464348543574584345. Caption read: “Look! Young people at Glastonbury covered in mud!”) that the glut of available descriptions of the event and subsequent 'exposure therapy' has desensitised us to some degree to the actual experience?

("Ha! Look! Someone diving into the mud pool!" "There are twenty videos on the Guardian 2013 archived live-feed of the best festival-mud-dives 2010-2012. They're much better if not exactly the same." "OK. I'm off to watch Paul McCartney again." etc.)

There are categories and formats that dictate whether or not the content (reviews, media, etc.) - and the thoughts and perceptions contained within - can be recognised as such. It appears to me that what matters in a (hypothetically) desenstitised world is not what the highlights of the festival were, but only that there were highlights. The answer to “What were the highlights?” no longer necessitates the name of an act or event, but more “What were the highlights, you ask!? The highlights were good!” because the elements of a review (and to some extent our own personal expectations of our experience) have been so categorised that it matters only that the criteria for a review or experience were fulfilled, rather than a more abstract sense of what elements made this experience different/of and/or better/worse/tinsel than/from the rest/others./

So are we in danger of entering a period of cultural stasis brought about by the permanence of electronic memory inadequately servicing a desensitised audience who respond to contextual format (commonly labelled content) over actual experiential and/or narratively justified content?

On another topic, we've been practising hard through the heat and the haze, ready for Blue Dot festival this weekend. It's a festival not only about music, but about space and science and stuff, which we like, so that should be interesting even though I could just look up and the sky and be all like “I've seen it all before.”

We're also booking dates and that, for touring and stuff. Even though we've done that already.

We're also booking dates and that, for touring and stuff. Even though we've done that already.

You've already read that bit.

(We're also rescheduling the launch gig. Sorry about all that. Trewin is much better than he was. It was a bad few days. We will make it up to you.)

So it's Friday. The goose is getting fatter and I've got to find some stories to tell.

Grin at someone this weekend. It doesn't matter who.

And grin. Don't smile. Grin. If you smile, I'll know. It's not the same. Give them a knowing grin.

I'm telling you, it's not the same.

And I will know.


Tim


PS. I promise you something fun from Blue Dot. I promise. Perhaps a treatise on common wheel-arch design and the modern people carrier. Or a drawing of me rubbing a tank.

Thursday, 2 June 2016

I don't know if we're going to party, or fall down in a heap on the floor.

Is it excitement?

Is that what this is?

It's a curious combination.

What do you feel?

Where do you think our lives are, right now?

On the release of Display and Bloodworks, there was apprehension – how will it be received? What will it mean for us? etc. - but here, with Volition, there's none of that. No doubt at all. Any sense of anything left undone (narf) has fallen away. Maybe that's all that had to happen, but I know I didn't anticipate feeling like this.

As you may have heard, Jeb's not playing with us anymore. Doubtless that's part of the rare-pet-shop of feelings that surround tomorrow's release. He'll still be around (meaning he'll poke his head out of his bedroom door when he hears the kettle boiling) but he's changing his focus, for now. Is everyone happy? Something like that. Is everyone sad? Something like that. Suddenly, Volition makes sense.

So now two of the most bizarre years of everyone's lives are coming to a close. What is there to say that doesn't put us at some removed point? What is there about our alienation in this that can allow us to connect?

That peculiar heightened state of pure joy, perhaps, tinged at every edge with sadness at the end of things.

And isn't that what we're all about?

Roll on tomorrow, with its mountains of words and heaps of playlists and airplay.

Roll on the next few weeks, with gigs and interviews and movement and all that stuff. And all their surprises.

They've just called me to practice. Literally, at this moment. See; everything keeps going.

So I'd better go.

Have fun, listen to the album tomorrow, and remember what my girlfriend often tells me: nothing is as big as it seems from your own point of view.

Tim

Thursday, 28 April 2016

Pick it up.

We've been away.

The album got done, so we packed up and shipped out. Our faces had become to each other like the lost keys you keep scanning over, but never actually see and recognise. We saw more of each other's noses in that time than we did of walls. I don't even consider the guys as people any more - they're now just cardboard cut outs with loudspeakers attached, repeating the same stuff over and over again about reversing the car to get off their leg.

So we span in our various directions, for a while. Sure, we had a party or two, but all work stuff has been getting done over Skype and messenger services and things. It's been that kind of time. All briefs and contracts and mock-ups and things like that. You know, the gleeful stuff.

We've all been away on our respective desert islands, biking around the countryside, sitting in front of screens editing videos or other music or personal projects; scrubbing tiles in an underground kitchen somewhere - slinking our psyches into the shredder of life to try and take some of the thatness away. 

Consider our last few weeks a weekend with the kids at a leisure park, where only once or twice has it been necessary to duck behind a tree and take a phone call from Louise about the Marchester account. Tell them it was sorted on the twenty-third and I'll get Bill to call the contractors about upgrading the roofing.

We're very lucky to have a number of very good people doing things like releasing the singles and sorting tickets at gigs and things and all that monkey hair that turns to mush in such precious brains as the band members'. Thank you here, monkey hair manipulators.

So PRAISE THE CEILING we're meeting up in person today for the first time in ages to sort out some last bits of peripheral artwork, and really get some more of it done, yeah? Everyone's going to be happy about that.

Trewin will sashay into the room two hours late, big sunglasses on his face, one arm out to the side, asking what the fuck we want him for – he's got a car waiting, he's got other things to be doing, and who are we?

Seryn will be sat in the middle of the floor, cross-legged. In his right hand will be a toy train and it will be flying through the air. It will be making a “brum, brum” sound.

Jeb will have his PC set up in the lounge, and will be rocking backwards and forwards. His eyes will be red from coffee and strain, and he will be muttering to himself. Something about aliasing. He will look pale and ill.

Ed will be hoovering, checking behind the back of the sofa Jeb is sat on, and asking Seryn to make sure all the play-doh stays on the table, please, because he's not going to scrub that out of the carpet if someone steps on it.

I will probably be sat in the corner. Alone. Speaking to the floor. After a while the others will look at each other and ask “When's Tim getting here?”

And after ten hours we will looks at a picture that we no longer recognise and collectively shrug and say “Alright then.”

-

So Volition's out on 3rd June, and we've had a few singles out and all that. Thanks for your support on this, all. We're really glad these things get such good responses and we're really glad people like them.

We've got to get back into the swing of it all after this little break. Spring is here. It's time for drinks outdoors, yes? It's time for “fun” in the “sun”, isn't it? Isn't it? That's what we're supposed to be doing, isn't it? Those are the rules, aren't they? That's what it's all for in the end, isn't it? Five minutes in the British sunshine, eh? 

Eh?

Isn't it?

It's Thursday already. Wednesday seems like it was only yesterday.

Pretty slick stuff, I insist you'll agree.

Now get out there and kick your life in the chutney without fear of losing your shoe.


Me

Wednesday, 3 February 2016

an album

Taken from The pre-musician's guide to advanced post-musical production, b3rd edition, (2013).

---

How to make an album, by Timothy Douglas (bass).

IF you are one of those people who takes the miragic carousel of life as real (IF), then congratulations: you are living in The Modern World. In this The Modern World, among the more popular things to do is to make music for listening. Music for listening can iron out your worries/shirts, liven up a boring funeral, or make you cry at just everything that's wrong.

No wonder it so as this popular!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!and!!!!!!

Music, much like a plumber's tool, comes in "information boxes". These "fo-bos" are delivered in different shapes. Smaller fo-bos, called “EPs” often come as packs of four (4) or five (4) songs or “tracks”. Fo-bos of ten (and/or 11) tracks or "songs" are “albums”. “It is albums about which we for an will be looking at today.” She said.

To make an album in The Modern World, there are ten things you need to do. We will start with number four (5):

4 (5). Miss your deadlines.

A deadline is called a dead line for a reason; it is the place in space where dead lines reside.

Experiment:

  • Draw a line on a sheet of paper.

  • Did you create this line? Or have you simply caused a small part of a line that already existed to manifest? This line clearly existed before you (unless you invented the possibility of geometry! (Which you didn't!)-!!and), and so is infinite and therefore better than you. You're not even as good as a line.

  • Rest.

If you think about this as correctly as I have, you will understand that the place where all lines exist preeminently is a place to which you do not want to go. Neither is it a place you will want to think about. Steer well clear, then. Ignore the “deadlines” that punctuate your ever accelerating progress.

7. Run out of your money.

“I have all the money in the world!” said the man who never finished his homework. Why would you finish your homework when you have all the money in the world? You wouldn't. I never finished my homework and I didn't have any money. I didn't even start my homework! I didn't even have a home! I didn't even go to school! I was never even born!

Don't start your homework; do run out of money. That's the only proven formula for any success ever and is as old as time (which is quite old!).

(and young!)

3. To make an album you must run out of your money by spending your it.

If you're going to need to run out of money (see above it's quite clear), you're going to have to find a way to do it. Spending it is the most popular way to run out of your money. Aside from private healthcare and Council Tax, there are many things a person can spend their money on. Studios, instruments, make-up, guns, and a list of english colloquialisms with the names of seasons in them are the first things that spring to mind.

Think of as many things to spend money on as you can, then get some vomit-inducingly attractive person standing at a till to list them on a receipt for you until you die.

Experiment: 

  • Do exactly what I just said.

6. Maintain poor lines of communication.

The last thing you need when you're trying to do anything at all even heart surgery is people communicating with you all of your time. Ugh, I hate all forms of communication. I don't even like it when my legs communicate with my brain. Legs can get a lot more done (swinging!) if simply left to its own devices, so cease communication with all potential interactors at all your costs (which is all your things!).

2. Have distractions to you.

Invent a game with your shoes! Tie yourself up and then wonder how you did it. Make a different album! Nothing is uninteresting if you've got something else that needs doing, so distract yourself as much

9. Lose will to live.

It's 3am and you need the toilet. You go to the toilet and hoist the arc and look at yourself in the mirror. There you are; paragon of animals. There you are in your 'jamas, staring at a sheet of reflected technicolour. Your skin looks pale and your eyes look deep. You feel dizzy with thought. The world is quiet, and a sudden sense of individuality returns after years of service to others.

What am I doing?

Where have the years gone?

Stare at the mirror for twenty days or until breakfast.

“Here comes another great album.”

5. Destroy others.

If you want to commit to making an album, you will also have to commit to not committing to anything else. This includes people. The loved ones with whom you had previously surrounded yourself must take on the role of mechanical hardware, while the mechanical hardware that you work with daily should take the role of emotional confidant, object of care, and reticent repeated sexual partner.

1. Destroy yourself.

"You are nothing. You are a waste of space. You think you're so clever, but really you're a dot on a speck on an arse. Fuck off. Go on. Fuck off."
You may find yourself thinking slightly less of yourself as doubts start to creep in following months of isolation and “private creation” (and when you think about everything you've done).

This is your favourite part.

The whole point of being someone who wants to make an album is to come out the other side of the process as someone with no idea who the person who started making it was. When you start to find the music recorded by that happy ghost unpleasant and baffling, it will finally hit home that all sentient life is not only an accident, but a mistake. This realisation will enhance creativity. Destroy yourself and see for how long you can crawl through the wreckage of your spirit, screaming into the great echoing void for anything that resembles mercy. (Hint: It's a long time!)

8. Desire nothing.

You have nothing, and by now you have convinced yourself that you will always be nothing. There is nothing. Your album, then, is nothing. But you (and your friends!) want your album. By this logic then; if you desire your album, you desire nothing. Congratulations on finding the most Western route to nirvanic cosmic annihilation. Now set the levels on your input gain.

And finally of for your and with…

10. Do not divulge your secrets.

There is a reason your rooms have your doors. Your rooms have your doors so you don't have to install laser systems to burn out the eyes of sneaky trespassing bastards. Behind all albums/doors are stories and events that tell as much as the music/dungeon itself. Do not share these stories (at least as they are occuring).

Doing this is unseemly and could decrease your future income.




Follow your excellent how to guide (this one) and you will have made your album.


---



We made an album.

We recorded it and mixed it and selected the artwork.

Now that our part is over, it needs to go off to other people to have things done to it so it can make words and videos that people will find interesting. If people don't find the words and videos interesting, they might not know the music exists, and so never hear it.

We've had to come to the conclusion that this happening would be sad.

It's been nearly two years, so I think we're going to take tonight off.

It's Wednesday. There's no use in denying that.

Tim