Less tower, more square.

Just started two things, reading The Square and the Tower by Niall Ferguson and looking into selling music clips online and it brought up a thought about creativity.

Due to the way things are, especially in these times, the ability to navigate around any pecking order and connect with both collaborators and consumers is better than ever.  Just from my own research today on selling clips there are so many platforms with different costs and ways to set up that it really comes down to the creator.

There is loads of support no matter what thing you are curious about, wheth its music, visual, performing or what have you. In my experience as a bassist there is not only instruction but boards where you can talk about how to get going out there ( I also have my own joining a band blog at Band survival guide ) I mean, you can connect to lots of folks online but what’s cool is also making connection to other local like minded artists to get you started. I’m thinking of some of the places our band have played which are artist groups, made up of people who connected online. These people can inspire you as well as be there as potential as friends/contacts who can put you in touch with others.

Not all collaborative activities work out, some do, and some are like when Ricky Gervais met Stephen Merchant, when Sting started talking to Stewart Copeland or when Johnny Marr knocked on the door of Stephen Morrissey.

You never know! It’s not about being a super anything either. New Order, members of the Fall (band) and other eventual full time artists were just people who saw the Sex Pistols at Manchester’s Lesser Free Trade Hall back in the late 70s. Some went from the show to the music store, pointed and said “that one, please!”

Dont hold back on your dreams. Where they can go is limitless.

Cheers,

Tom

Creative ESCAPE

It’s hard to escape the news.

Not just because it’s upsetting or unprecedented but because the nature of it connects more to us than it did.

I can think back to even as recent as six years back where I only knew news if it was something truly extraordinary or extreme. Now it seems its hour to hour. I can think of some speakers who I’ll catch on YouTube knowing that due to broadcast timing they couldn’t have gotten everything that happened that day.

I’ve decided that this blog wont go into that stuff. It’s going to go the other way.

It’s an idea that I’ve had for a while and with summer here and a new week starting I would like to take a little more seriously something I had already been doing for fun.

I mean, they say you should do what you would do anyway, so…

This is now a blog on the subject of creativity.

Now, I can hear you, because funny enough, I took a course on creativity that had us asking it. How can you teach that?

It’s true, I can’t.

But what I have done off and on and want to explore now is how to feel capable of it, harnessing it, exploring it and all the other kinds of support I can think of (and pass on that I will learn) to you so that you can be in that best place.

This seems especially fitting now, even with us all coming out of lockdown in places around the world and worrying about this or that. No matter how you view things the chance for stress is all around.

Creativity and the self care that gives you the fuel to harness it are a fantastic defense against this. One bit of instruction you will get from most music teachers immediately would be “turn the phone off”. That’s what this will be. It will be a place of solace.

I know there are things important to you ouf there but you need to be in your best place to deal with those. Most music lessons all speak against the idea of hours and hours of practice. As such we’re not talking about getting up early, but finding 20 to 30 minutes that are yours.

But first you need to feel you can do it and that it’s worth it. I promise you both are true. Maybe mornings are better for you, maybe afternoons. There is probably a time of day when you have more energy and you’re not at work or in the middle of some obligation.

Make that your first thing you will do. Find out what that time is. Mine is morning and I have a whole routine I run through, but even that gets switched up. It use to be early afternoons back when I was younger. And dont forget, it doesn’t have to be a big chunk of time. It could be a half hour before you get ready for bed. Maybe you will want to get up a half hour early. Maybe it’s right after school or work. I dont know. But the trick is to lock it in and make it yours.

From there we’ll plan your escape.

Think the end of Shawkshank Redemption.

The guards are sleepy. The tunnel is ready.

See you on the outside.

Cheers,

Tom 🙂

Taking a break

I’ve been working on my usual two primary fronts now for ages and I’m one of the few who the current situation didn’t effect as much.
My day job is as a cleaner and the contracts got reduced but more spread out so there’s no lack of leaving here.  I’d say the main thing I miss is coffee shops. 
Two of these posts were written in them at the very least and they have been great for escaping my environment here to consider options, challenge myself and more importantly, focus.
When I’m there I’m not as surrounded by the little details of things that beg and behoove my involvement.  My first television pilot Bass Line was written entirely at the Starbucks near the intersection of Gorge and Tillicum here in Victoria.  As it was a comedy and I was the most influenced by Ricky Gervais at the time I had this thing of leaving first thing in the morning (my then-girlfriend and her kids would be asleep in our bedroom and livingroom so turning a light on was not an option).   Going with my influence I would then put on the Office Theme, the original Rod Stewart version of Handbags and Gladrags, as I walked past all the morning commuters to where I would be working for the next few hours.  I had always used cafes as escapes but this cemented it as my office.  I did have an office  with my former cowriter as well and I genuinely miss that little spot we had in downtown Victoria.
Anyways today is the first day I’ve had off, due to the Victoria Day long weekend since this thing began.  I am doing final edits to the Quiet City novel which I’ve been working on slowly for a little under a year (though parts of research and the idea has been around since before Bass Line in 2013.  As I said on here how content creators should create content during this lockdown I have been trying to put out song a day on Instagram (tompogsonmusic).  I sometimes do them on Sundays but this is usually the dead day for that, though maybe that has changed as the idea of days has.  And without Cookeilidh I have been primarily focused on music study so I’ve been using some online sources to improve at keyboard and of course bass guitar.  There’s been some songwriting as it just happens organically but I’ve not wanted to push it as it’s so easy to make music about the most obvious subject.
I still maintain my belief that this whole thing is the natural world’s shot across our bow.  I think it’s more one part of a whole, which can be solved.  If we didn’t feel pressure to achieve, be number one, conquer seemingly everyone around us, whether a single soul, a corporation or a country maybe we wouldn’t be creating the pressure which has us pushing our luck.  We keep adding pressure until something breaks.  This doesnt work. 
Anyways, steering away from my politics I feel like creatively I’m finding my own threads musically and as a writer like finding what my groove is with more certainty and what sounds like me.  I’ve been listening back to my work and putting it into playlists and finding what has actually worked.  I mean I like everything from hard rock, industrial and electronic to Sibelius, Kurt Weill and Shubert but there is a sound that is my natural home.  Havent done as much livestreaming lately as my devices aren’t up for that but that’s fine.  I am curious to see how different things will be after all this is over. 
I dont know if I’ll put out an album soon as I have done Goldblacks (over in the Music section  click here for more on that ) and might put out just singles.  I wanted to do that album to prove to myself that I could, but its interesting as Depeche found their groove during the creation of A Broken Frame, and I think in some ways I did the same.  From it and beyond I know what works and what won’t. 
I also have my really out there vanity project called Song of Devotion which is script based onto the most controversial and dramatic part of the Depeche Mode story from 1993 to 1998 but that’s just when I’m between edits.  I like the creation process for screenwriting but I have had enough negativity in the production processes to stop a train so I’ll see how this goes.  If fully fleshed out I might bring it so someone but theres the question of who with something like that.  Due to its subject matter it could not be small budget so I would have to be connected to someone with serious firepower.  Not sure about that, but it is fun to work on anyways.
Fun is hard, which reverts right back to the political side again.  Artists shouldn’t feel like their activities are based on what has the most financial potential.  I should be able to suddenly start using watercolors without thinking I’m on the wrong course.  After the death of the legendary Florian Schneider of Kraftwerk I watch a documentary on that scene and the level of out of box thinking that led to them, Tangerine Dream and Krautrock and eventually synth-pop like DM was incredible.  This included a non musician artist who formed a band stating how he didn’t like melody as it “grows in your head like a worm”.  Some of these supposedly crazy things are how real change happens.  Instead of trying to catch up to what’s happening now, like singers tried to sound like Eddie Vedder in the nineties, your better off starting it from scratch on your own and finding your trail.”Go the other direction, your chances are better”
Anthony Robbins Cheers,
Tom

Creators, Welcome to Why.

I for one dont have a problem with Bill Maher. I’m also a big fan of Ricky Gervais as my friends have been known to bemoan that I do him. Now what joke am I setting up here?

Anyway, he still never calls.

If a joke is offensive or a song upsets you or someone’s writing made you frustrated, that’s fine. I still believe in a higher power is my point about Bill and Ricky. Just because I dont agree doesn’t mean I can’t laugh. Like one priest my mom knows, he said he like Davinci Code, saying it was fun.

Our job as entertainers, content creators and artists is to get people away from themselves.

People are freaked out as hell right now. Even if you think of yourself as the most level headed there is nothing like seeing those empty shelves for that first time. This is crowd effect. Our species thinks as a unit when the chips are down. Sometimes this can be good and of course it can be bad, but it still is there. I mean, empathy is how we work. As musicians and writers I can tell you we work people’s expectations and things for the most dramatic results.

“People hate this in real life but love it in fiction” Sol Stein on Writing.

Here’s a piece of music I did on the experience of seeing those shelves for the first time. I wrote the lyrics literally on the walk home on a notepad app. It was a bitterly cold day with high wind here in Victoria on the Canadian west coast and my hands were actually cracking from how much I’ve been washing my hands more than usual coupled with work and with performance in my Celtic band during the blur that is St Patrick’s month.

I knew I wanted to keep it simple with two chords back and forth like a heartbeat. I’ve also been glued to the late Mark Hollis’s debut album which probably influenced my choices.

Did the song work? No idea but it takes the viewer away from themselves for a moment.

With my band Cookeilidh I have certainly experienced this. We will play a seniors home and there will be a person singing and tapping her feet, or clapping her hands. Afterwards we will find out that is the first time that person has even spoken in months.

No matter what art form you do this is true. No matter what form of entertainment. We are all these gentlemen…

Or as you may know them…

Interesting being a bassist and seeing the bassist’s “White Star” tie. It immediately makes me think of the prep I’ve done before shows. Instagram girls and adult entertainers I’m bringing you in here too. Now some might say I’ve gone too far or revealed something but screw that. Actors, singers, musicians, painters, dancers, writers, poets, adult performers, filmmakers, artisans, songwriters, producers we are all doing the same thing in our way. We put on the best show we can. Sure, we have our hopes thrown into the ring as well, but without what I’m saying we’re not doing the job.

“There’s a job, there’s a gig here” Billy Joel

“Sometimes a fantasy is all you need…” Just a Fantasy – Billy Joel

“Be the sweetest five minutes you ever had…” Tomorrow We’ll See – Sting

Ariana Grande isn’t so into me our most of us out there but when she sings that against Max Martin’s brilliant production you could almost close you eyes and swear you are in some cool hip club and she is actually hitting on you.

Not that I’ve thought of that.

But especially now when there’s self-quarantining on the horizon or in effect for many of us, the need for escapism is stronger than ever. We need you.

I think of how Sting just about cried when he heard some window cleaner whistling one of his songs. He mentioned this in an interview and I think it was about the Police song “Walking on the Moon”

My music was getting him through the day. It became part of his life that helped him even in a small way

And of course this is just one example. One of the reasons I emulate Ricky Gervais so much is because of my day job which is as a cleaner. While I love music of course it can get a bit background-on-background so years ago I added the complete radio shows and podcasts plus Adam and Joe, a comedy team also from the same XFM radio in London between 2000-2006

And now I’m listening to the Adam and Joe sample… Haven’t heard this specific video so…yeah, I’m wrapping this up and checking my spelling.

Might take a while.

Kind of the point.

Get out there and do your thing.

😉

Cheers,

Tom

You are not a straight line.

Aslan is not a tame lion.This one applies to the divine if you believe in that but you dont have to. I’m not wandering into that. Half because trying to influence a choice on people’s beliefs is pointless up to being thoroughly moot, and part because that’s not my focus.It’s on you.I’m a bassist. It was my first serious instrument to any extent and it’s the breadwinner instrument in most things that I do. It gets me in the door.But i also went to Uvic and switched from music to writing.Record scratch. What?That’s right, the music side of University of Victoria’s Fine Arts program wasn’t working for me, especially with how limited my position in it was, but with the encouragement of a literature professor…writing seemed interesting. I went from this to screenwriting and working in film for a while, all the while playing bass.Songwriting which I slowed at back when I was gearing up to play classical bass reamerged after my filmmaking time came to a close, especially with the International open stage of LiveMe, Instagram and so on.Still playing bass? Yep. Still writing. Well, I think that’s clear. So am I just getting this down between scales and arpeggios on my Fender? Nope.I’m doing something totally crazy I haven’t done in a while. I’m on a bus to hike Mount Quimper which is way out above the Sooke Potholes Park. Why? I saw an image and have wanted to do this for a while and I’m going to record a cover up there.Passing the Luxton Fairgrounds as we speak. I haven’t been out here since I was getting ready to cycle across Canada back in 1994. I hadn’t played bass yet.But you see, it’s ok if you haven’t got the plan yet or if you explore. This is what gives you a richness of life and soul.

Enjoy!

Little clip from the top…

Top ten references when writing The Quiet City

Here, in no particular order, are ten that stood out for me straight away!Lots of honorable mentions as you can see from the racks behind me, including Henderson’s phone directory that told you what was where street by street in 1910 to 1911. Research was always a big deal in this, partly to make sure I got it right, but also to transport you back with all the color, sounds and sights of being in downtown victoria just before the great war.
Part of the book is set in present day which is how the room gets included as of course Victoria’s first library was the one on Yates and Blanshard donated by Andrew Carnegie.Click on the writer section of my page to read now! Thank you for checking out my work!Cheers,Tom

We are lifting

I served my regulars

Dean the electrician and Dan the

Man who had the bags of groceries set

Out when I went down to his end

Of the great open space, the lot

Everyone with lights at night

Motors of diesel and gas, high test

No espresso, just plywood countertops

I never got it at all anyway

Coffee is .05 the Baker told me, flipping

The giant horse faced mixing bat.

So here I am.

After work, sunny fresh cups and

steam.

Oh, I didn’t bring a book but I have the

colored glass of which one is decaf red.

I see myself in the line.

It’s not compression, it equalizes.

I’m out there too.

Captured in warm florescent.

The creative person you become made simple.

I read a friend’s post that was a eulogy for a creative mentor and about the advice he was given. First thing I thought was what advice I would give.

You are the sum total of your daily focus since you started.

There, that’s the condensed soup version but I’ll expand, and keep it short as my time is limited too.

Practicing, working at it, “showing up to the page” or whatever you call it is how things move even incrementally from where you were to where you are. It is really easy to run yourself down, thinking anyone can do what you do, and other kinds of self taught. The truth is you are raising your own kid in your playing (writing, painting. I’ll stick to music from here on and just insert yourself into that as needed). You’re so close that you dont see how much you’ve grown since you’ve started.

The most important thing is for it to be daily, whatever it is. If you can do hours that’s amazing but even if its 30 min do it daily at the same time.

The reason for this is that you are building literally in the day before. I’ve been trying to push for more time with guitar and I’ve been working with chords I never had memorized before. That’s because I did them two days ago, and then yesterday, and then today. Saying I cant during the week but I’m going to go crazy on Saturday just isn’t the same.

Also, not only do we all compare ourselves to that other person, but we do it totally unfairly.

As a bassist, for instance, it is so easy for me to be jealous of guys that can slap and pop and tap crazy notes all over the place or look at a piano player doing a blues shuffle like out of a western until I realize…

I dont listen to that stuff to begin with!

So of course my practice doesn’t focus there. Now I can do some as we all need to do fundamentals or what’s needed, but all of this is about creating and enjoying.

Your joy is what you are harnessing. In songwriting I get that rush of following the conception of the idea and what comes out is a mash of usually what I like to begin with.

Even if you dont sound like the person who inspired you, fear not, their influence is in you now.

Now, in every sense of the word…

Play

Cheers,

Tom

🙂

Band Survival Guide

So you’re finally going to do it! You’ve been playing and have decided to get in a group and the next step will be under the lights. The lights might be a cafe or a senior’s home or a friend’s living room but theres no need to be nervous.

Trust me, it’s all about having fun. I have been working in the same band for over 800 shows now so on my end I’ll try to get you started.

We’ll do it as a top ten, so here are my top ten suggestions to the applause.

Gear ready?

Now imagine you have some but when you’re just getting going you want something simple and reliable. Try everything you want to bring before a jam or gig and make sure theres no wierd noises. Bonus hint : No patch cords from pawn shops. Super cheap gear will always get you. If it’s super cheap you will not want to know why!

Oh Hungry? Hang on…

I got this from my mom who tried doing a gig after a dinner. Yeah, it was rough. You want to wait two and a half hours between your last meal and your gig and make the meal light but with decent protein. Classic peanut butter or almond butter is my favorite but then I dont have allergic so aim for light. You want to feel relaxed and light and able to sing fully.

Imbibe after.

This actually comes from working with some pro filmmakers. Especially if you are a bassist or drummer stick to beer and weed at the end of the show not before it. Especially with my last bit of advice which I also follow if someone gives me a beer I can actually make it last 2 hours. Melody players are better for this but for rhythm players you want to be ahead of the beat and not behind it.

It’s about time.

“Rhythm is the whole deal” Jaco Pastorius. This is something to bear in mind both playing but also about your musical life. Putting in time practicing at your most creative time (morning person versus a night owl). Being on time. For a small show my band will show up 30 min before and 60 minutes before a big event where you need to connect with people like the sound person. Early is fine as you can settle into it. Late ain’t fashionable.

Practice

Now we all to a degree know this but you should more importantly practice the bands material on your own between jam sessions. I use a Sony recorder which then loads into the computer so I can pull up any tune we’re doing and make sure I’ve got it down. Even if you’re great you need to be there for “shots” or hit the right chord on that one beat when the drummers kick comes down. One great player said it “if i dont practice for two days i know it. If i dont for four days my audience knows it.” Heres my harshest advice though…abandon ship if the rest of a group only practices at rehearsal. My band isn’t like this but ones in my early days sadly were. This doesn’t get better. You’re better off with people who take their craft seriously.

Attitude

Dont worry, this ones chill, which is the point. Bring a fun vibe to the game. Take it seriously on your end but be supportive and have a laugh. Your great attitude and the fun you’re having will rub off and they’ll feel it out there too.

As Billy Joel said “theres a job, there’s a gig here.” Some stuff you have to do in a band isn’t playing : setting up gear, hauling equipment to and from vehicles and stages, interacting with public, organizing things and even helping with things not in a musician’s role (like moving a table when you get to the venue, or setting up chairs). I remember seeing Martin Gore of Depeche Mode helping their opening act in set up with things like winding up cables. Egos stay outside. Many hands make a light load.

Marketing point I was told ages back…never talk the band down. I understand being self effacing but too much makes you sound like you really think it’s not worth their time. If people ask what’s happening dont ever say “Nothing…”. Instead tell them how you’re going into the studio soon…you got some new sounds you’re trying out, even if the studio is your friend’s living room and the sounds is a delay pedal-doesn’t matter. If you’re not into it why should they be, let alone pay for your art?

Stick with it. The greats ground through it too.

Speaking of Martin, lots of bands like Depeche Mode had absolutely terrible public debuts. ABBA’s first performance fell flat and Sting’s first review in a local paper said that “If the Police get a better singer they will be great!”

Just because it’s not perfect now doesn’t mean it won’t get better. I remember lots of well meaning people voicing shall we say concerns that it wasn’t working for me. That rarely happens now. I’m the same person but I’ve practiced, performed and kept showing up for years.

Creative 1 + 2

This is a classic which falls in sync with attitude. The basics here is that in the creative process you have :

Stage one.

– anything goes, bring every idea you have to the table.

Stage two

– take all the ideas and make them into a work.

For us it’s great to just apply this concept to rehearsal where there is lots of creativity happening. Try your weirdest ideas out and try what ideas are pitched from the others as well. Not just in playing but in how to run the project. There are so many things you can do that as one music business mentor said

If you run out of things to do, your doing it wrong

How you look

I’m not good at this, but fortunately others in the band are, which helps. Take how you look seriously in terms of what you are presenting to the world. While the sound should speak for itself you want to look like you are meant to be there. Look into things like basic design or color theory, or have someone you trust go with you on what looks right for what your doing.

How you look 2

Easy one I got from a friend and it’s a simple lady one, but try to look up. An old saying is never turn your back on the audience which is sometimes true, but try to find parts where you dont have to shift position on your instrument and look out there. I sometimes look above them or sort of dont focus on one specific person, but you will find what works for you. It also helps with posture which helps with both resisting injury but also for vocals. Not only that but like with attitude, it sends a strong signal.

Well that’s it, and like I say this is more a loose guide but I hope it helps.

If this did help and you go huge, send me tickets for the west coast Canadian leg of the tour.

Cheers,

Tom

Got paid my own rent, which is fun…

Switched over banking information as I was frankly fed up with my old one and, well, I’ll have to make another phone call.

I’ll double check, but definitely a fun way to start November.

If only life was like that, that would be amazing! My apologies to anyone who thought I had landed the perfect financial independence scheme. Imagine that! Your rent would pay for your food!

So, with that not the case, I’m presently focused on two things outside of work…musicianship and The Quiet City. Within musicianship is getting ready for this season of Cookeilidh Christmas, bass study, guitar and keyboard. Songwriting tends to come to me in bursts so I like the idea of just developing the packaging for the next album after The Goldblacks.

Keyboard especially as using one had always been around but trying to “actually play” has only been going since one year before the last cd and I’m proud of how that went, especially with songs like Precipice and Missed Connections that were recorded in one take of vocal and piano.

Quiet City is still going a bit a day after the free sample.

If you haven’t read it yet check the blog just before this one.

On my bus and about to get off for lunch so I’ll catch up in a week or so!

Cheers!

Tom