Dear funny old Mr Leon

“Get him!”

The sound of the oldest boy ricocheted down the alleyway. I ran. I hadn’t done anything but it didn’t matter. Those boys always bullied me. They were about my age but I was small for ten years old.

I ran around a corner only to nearly crash right into some of mother’s friends, especially dottering old Mrs. Wendy who was still wearing mostly black after her husband passed away four months ago.

“Kevin!” Miss Hazlemeare snapped.

“I know!” I managed “I’m sorry”

Behind them I saw a small alley and shot down there, the path rounding it’s way between towering tall buildings. The brick road became narrower and I stopped and cowered in a doorway with a large grey metal bin between me and where I had come from.

I couldn’t hear them. Just the drip, drip, dripping of water from somewhere nearby. I didn’t want to head back the way I came yet, but I had not been in this section of the city before.

I started walking thinking I had the way sorted out. I knew which way home was from when I ran past the ladies so I just needed a road that crossed again and took me that same way.

But then I realized the boys might know I had come down this way and were waiting for that.

Unlikely I realized as I started walking.

Above me in the narrow passage you could barely make out the sky, or any sun at all with the grey network of structures climbing all around. I was supposed to be home by a certain time. I knew I was trouble. They never listened if I talked of bullies.

Then i heard something very strange. It was a plunking sound with a tapping sound going along with it.

Tap tap…ta tap tap. Plunk plunk pu plunk. It made no sense and that is why I stopped. I looked around. Just high walls. Just steel doors. Just a grey street in the shadowed light of what i could guess was around five o’clock.

Then the noise again. I saw it. A single door was opened. But this door wasn’t grey. It was yellow like a gold mark in parts, red like roses in parts and blue like a summer sky. I walked quietly up to the strange door. I looked around to see if anyone could see me inching closer. The sound that went up and down in tone was coming from in there.

I looked in to see the room inside was lit by four handsome lamps, which by itself was extraordinarily extravagant as mother and all the other adults would never abide more than two. And in the middle was an older man, sitting on a simple wooden chair. Beneath him was a piece of wood which he tapped. In his hands was the strangest thing I ever saw. It was golden in parts and chocolate brown in others and had three cords that ran across it which he plunked withone hand, while the other moved a hand along a bright white plank. I didn’t see anyone in the room and he seemed completely fixated on what he was doing. His eyes were closed.

On the wall were other smaller pieces of wood that, like the door, were covered in colors. In one side of the room he had a collection of other devices, in every shape that I never could have imagined.

“Hmmm mmm hmm” he said to noone as he continued, the tone of his humming then rising and falling.

It was strange and I could only stand by the door mesmerized. People didn’t make their door or anything in funny colors. People didn’t make funny noises to the air for no reason but there he was.

“You going to stand there all day boy?” He said with his eyes still closed as he continued to plunk and tap, the plunking changing tone quickly as he went up the white board to its end.

“I’m sorry, Sir” I said as I went inside. Then I saw one of the coloured boards that really caught me off guard. It looked like the great commons in the heart of the city but it was made in his colors. In this case layers of different blues like the sky, the rivers and distant mountains.

“Do you want to take something with you?” He asked.

I just stood there. I was perplexed but also wondering what mother would say if I walked in with something like what I saw.

“You must be late for dinner, young man,” he said “I’ll take you home but here…”

He got up and went over to his desk by the hearth of his fireplace. He took a little wooden bird and brought it over to me. I had never seen anyone make a pretend thing like this, let alone how it seemed colored to look like a baby chick from the farming lands.

“Do you like it?” He asked.

I looked at it. It clearly had taken him long to make it just so and given it bright colors. It felt light in my hands. I have never been to the farming lands but I could imagine it was like that. I liked how it made me think of that.

“I do like it.”

He smiled and gestured for me to follow him. We went outside into his front garage where he had one of those metal grey engines with the side car. After clearing the side car of all kinds of strange things he seemed to have picked from the forest, from the beach and from the cheap markets he had get in. I got in and he passed me a big oversized black helmet which on my head both made me look ridiculous but also made me feel invisible which I liked as well.

“But Sir…” I said as he got on the motorcycle and started it with a loud roar.

“Yes?”

“Why do you do these things?”

“I never know,” he said and thought about it “It could be the lady from the moon who started it.”

And with that we zoomed into the street and raced down the road, the cobbles bouncing me so hard that I swear, I thought the vehicle would come apart and I would crash. It was fun as we raced through my old city, passed the commons and into the roads where the housing lights of people were lit warmly. We slid up to my front drive where I could see mother.

“Who’s the lady in the moon?”

“That’s for another time!” he said.

I thanked him and went inside. I told mother about him but decided to keep the bird to myself. She said he was a widower named Mr. Leon and how oh yes, people knew about him. He was very strange and told stories which we dont do because they are lies.

I had supper and after doing homework by the fire I kissed mother goodnight. Upstairs I was soon lying in my bed. The sound of funny Mr. Leon’s plunking came back to mind. Through my curtains I swear I could see the lady in the moon give me a wink.

She Lives There

It’s been almost a year now since the recording of my first official single She Lives There and the rest of The Goldblacks album.

I’m presently working on two projects outside of my role as bassist for the Celtic band Cookeilidh

The first is The Quiet City book project which has a free chapter you can sample here.

I’m also working on developing my studio and new material towards the next album.

I’ll keep you updated as these two side projects grow.

Until then you can get “She Lives There” on iTunes here

Or find me on Spotify here

Thank you for supporting independent artists!

Cheers!!

Tom Pogson

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

🙂

Learning from Baby Elephants

The age of the city zoo and the animal based circus is or perhaps even has finally drawn to a close. That is for the best, but that’s not my target here. I’m more interested in talking about learning and creativity.

They can teach us something very valuable here which I’ve recently ran into first hand.

And yes, in their little way these adorable youngsters and there gentle grownups have an interesting story to teach us.

Ok, it sadly involves the circus. Sorry about that, but best share the idea while we know of it.

When a baby elephant is outside of the big tent and waiting between travels, what the circus people would do is take a big stick and drive it into the ground. A rope would be securely fastened to this and the other to the elephant. The baby would not be able to pull it out and learn eventually that it had a certain space it could move, but that’s it. Eventually it stopped trying to strain on the rope.

What’s interesting here is that the Elephant’s training stayed that way. So in this way the animal fully believed that it could never escape the rope and stick, despite the obvious fact that this huge creature could now either just pull it easily or take one foot and crush it to twigs.

The metaphor is clear and I’ve certainly experienced it as a musician. I’ve come back to artists and songs that I had thought “nope, i could never come close to doing that” but I’ve not noticed my own growth.

The recent ones for me were those first artists I got into like Queen and Bruce Hornsby whose music just seemed to complex for me. I avoided them until recently when I actually found myself playing them.

I can now here what I couldn’t before. The same guy with the same instrument.

As a bassist I get this from watching (and I’m by no means suggesting I’m now his level) the video “Jaco Pastorius – Modern Electric Bass”. I’m still in awe, but when he goes over concepts I can hear what he’s saying with far more clarity. Even some of his more elaborate parts I’m hearing the idea behind it or how it works. It’s not just this ingenious blur.

I dont mean to toot my own horn, because you do it too. You’re doing it now. You’re reading a blog, when long ago you sat there mouthing an alphabet. We are all growing, in fact that is a requirement of life. We are so close to ourselves that we don’t notice. But outside of reading you more than likely have things in your life, which may be creative ones, that are in the same boat.

As person explained, I think it was Tony Robbins, imagine what you can reach is a circle, like perhaps range reached by a rope? But then something falls just outside that circle. You strain a little and reach it. Your rope just got longer now. Then another one happens, and another.

How do make this happen? Just keep going. Show up to the page and look for those things that challenge you.

You may be still trying to pull that stick from the ground, but dont worry. Just keep working at it. Your growth won’t be denied.

One day you’ll give this old circus a run for it’s money.

Have a great weekend!

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

A Young Man’s Game.

Inspired by some of the photographs of Brian Griffin on “The Worker”

I never know if I’ve ever got poetry. I like to try. The greats seem so effortless like one of the Marsalis Brothers on horns.

Did it in university to mix feelings. Still, I say do it anyways.

Go with your gut.

That’s all this is.

Tom

Trying to get there

I have gone viral a few times now.

Well, that is in terms of tweets. I haven’t done it as much with YouTube yet.

But I do know what others say when they say it just happens because it does. Some things just click into place. I’m reminded of my other successful venue, Cookeilidh. Now I had been in other bands, but right from the first performance people’s reaction to what we did was enthusiastic and positive.

Both are the same. It just happened. There was no research or plan. Dave even said it about when he and Kim started playing outside for fun, people kept trying to give them money. They weren’t busking with a case out. It just worked.

Every time I have a tweet go beserk I think “that one?” The last one I didn’t even think it was done right but off it went. And yes, clearly there is a difference between them but in a way not. You just do something you can do. Then chips fall.

The other thing I’ve noticed recently is my impatience. This might be because my time these days is limited or maybe because I want to get the idea out but it does speak to something I’ve talked about before.

Like with tweets, just return to it daily.

It’s all made up of one bit at a time. Even for me this is something to remind myself of. I’ll know where I want the story to go and I’ll race there. I wont give a song idea time to breathe and race some bit of it to Instagram long before it should get public scrutiny.

Creatively things need to cocoon. If it involves you sipping coffee and just staring at a wall that’s fine. Every moment doesn’t have to be glorious. Every second doesn’t have to be Snapchat ready.

Things have increased in tempo, which is part of the reason for the used image. The Lord of the Rings was written back in the time of the first movies, like the languid pace of Wizard of Oz or even the first Star Wars. I know from research how this has effected books, trust me! From Sol Stein on Writing he goes on for ages about how writers of yesteryear could take a slow narrative summary approach to storytelling that would be “suicide today”.

Today’s audience would find Jeffrey Archer slow.

But anyways it was the thing mentioned by Siskel and Ebert back when Fellowship of the Ring came out, it was too action packed considering the pace of when it was written. Its been twenty years since back then when the closest thing to social media was a messageboard.

I have been deliberately putting the phone aside and forcing it’s none use. I’ll bring a book on a bus ride. I practice drum patterns on my break. I let them charge away from my station as I create and turn my back on them.

Allow yourself the space to work.

Even back in my cowriting days I noticed this. The first near hour at your station is decompression.

Then you flow.

Step back in your water.

Have a great Sunday and last week of November!

Cheers,

Tom

The Quiet City – the characters

On a fall morning in 1910 a Vital Statistics clerk was found with his neck broken inside the west tower of the Victoria, British Columbia legislative buildings…

And that was just for openers.

Developing characters and how they interact is the most important part of any work, from drama to comedy to even this kind of historical fiction. Two are based in modern day Victoria BC, the rest are in 1910.

Born : May 5th, 1887 Kingston

Government employee and veteran of the Boer War, he never left his standard of military excellence behind, or the thingas father told him about why they had to leave his hometown behind.

Born: Sept 1st, 1997

Having worked at the Royal BC museum as an archivist for a year, this 23 year old First Nations anthropologist came home one day to more than she bargained for.

Both born : October 31st 1870

Highly educated, not just in England but as far flung as the Al-Qarawiyyin libraries of Morocco, James and Penny are the illustrious fraternal twins with connections from royalty to architect Francis Mawson Rattenbury.

Born : August 21st, Cridge home Victoria .

Daughter of Lekwungen mother Marie and French Canadian father Rene, Jenny tries to take care of her mother since father went missing. One day, taking care of everyone as the cheery nurse she was known to be, she met a very interesting man.

Born : November 13th, 1987, on a ferry.

Resident of Beecher Bay reservation and his own private retreat on southern Pender Island, to say Michael is an unusual man is an understatement. His strength with special gifts started very, very early in life, so much that he has found crowds too uncomfortable. He will soon have to face this head on.

Born : 1844 London, Whitechapel

Now the Sergeant at Arms for the British Columbia parliament buildings, Roger takes his role in security seriously. He doesn’t talk much about his life before he settled in Victoria.

Stay tuned!

Thank you for reading and supporting independent artists. Please follow as I get closer to my first The Quiet City teaser!

Cheers,

Tom Pogson