Jesus Meets the Harmonicas

I’ve made an album!

As discussed in my last post, I’ve been playing lots of punky harmonica music, mainly inspired by Stupids and their album ‘Jesus Meets the Stupids’. I’ve now made an album based around it, and have put it up on Bandcamp. You can listen and download for free, or pay if you feel like it!

After worrying about getting it sounding right, and doing multiple takes for each track, I’ve pretty much gone back to my first takes and uploaded them, as they have the right sound and energy. I did redo a few tracks, but only as I thought they weren’t quite fitting in with the others.

It’s fun trying to play harmonica like a guitar, as most of the tracks are based around the guitar riffs rather than anything else. I seemed to be more inspired by guitarists than harmonica players when it comes to my music anyhow.

I’m really happy with how it’s come out, as it has the feel of the original songs whilst sounding like me too. I hope you dig it too!

https://ruke.bandcamp.com/album/jesus-meets-the-harmonicas

Advertisements

Punk Rock

Hello, how’ve you all been?

I’ve been revisiting my youth lately, prompted by my old college class popping up on Facebook and meeting up again. I’ve also been going back musically, listening to a lot of the music I was listening to back then, namely Stupids and Suicidal Tendencies.

As my health has improved this year, I’ve started making music again, with more of a punk ethic, fast and short tunes that are heavy and rock. Listening to Jesus Meets the Stupids has been a real blast, and made me realise that it might be one of my favourite albums ever.

So, I’ve been playing along with the album, and have made 12 demo versions of harmonica tunes based and inspired by the Stupids and punk rock in general. Punk is huge, with such a wide range of sounds and styles, but short, fast riff based jams are seemingly my thing, so that’s what I’ve been playing.

I want to get these tracks right without sounding too polished, after all, punk is raw and ready to me, but I want them to sound good and be able to play them live. I have a great setup now, with my Pignose amp, selection of harmonicas and stereo recorder, ideal for blasting out tunes and lofi recording.

Stay tuned, there’s some great stuff coming up…

img_2418-1

Onwards…

I’ve been making more music… Working on a new EP of songs about family pets, and just this evening a quick EP of short punky harmonica tunes. I’ve even been thinking about playing live again.

I seem to be drawn to fast punky sounds at the moment, discovering new bands through Bandcamp and Instagram. Even going to see P.O.S. on Saturday was more of a punk gig than a hip hop one, full on with a mosh pit and piercings. It was a real good gig, and I got to meet P.O.S. afterwards, and give home some art I’d made for him. He was a nice dude and really chuffed with the painting.

So, onto this evening… I’ve been really struggling with a change of meds and tiredness, so I’ve been sleeping a lot more than I should be and not being able to function. This morning, I managed to get up and make breakfast, but not long after felt so bad I had to go back to sleep again. So it was quite surprising that I wanted to go and make music. Music seems to be the one thing that keeps me balanced at the moment. After most of the day being spent I bed, it felt good to climb up to the attic and just play, see where the music took me.

I said I’d been listing to lots of punk stuff at the mo, and today was no different. I have found a great Japanese band, OtobokeBeaver, who make great punk pop music. I listened to lots of their stuff, and went off to make some sounds of my own. I love the infectious energy that Japanese people in bands seem to have. So positive and uplifting. So I wanted to play in that mindset, being positive and full of energy.

I played some fast harmonica, which led to four tunes coming out. I seem to work in fours with music, and I tend to make sets of four tunes around a theme. This set were given Japanese names, and art to match. Just quick playing and mixing, with minimal tweaking, keeping the energy of the performance. Heck, I even stood up to play. I put them straight up onto Bandcamp with no mucking about, just a DIY ethic.

You can hear the tracks here: https://ruke.bandcamp.com/album/hamonikarajio

I had fun again, and enjoyed the whole process, from playing, through to mastering and making the artwork. Felt good to be creating just for the sake of creating, feeling more like myself, positive and happy. Sharing the tracks just seemed like the natural thing to do. I think I’ll practice playing them, building confidence, with a view to playing live in the New Year. Fun!

Progress…

The last few weeks have been tough mentally and physically, with depression kicking in and leaving me tired and emotional. I’ve had issues with oversleeping, then being awake until the early hours.

Today looked like it was shaping up to be another heavy day, as after I’d dropped my wife off in the morning, I thought I’d be retreating back under the duvet until she needed picking up later in the afternoon. It seems to be my default setting at the moment.

Imagine my surprise when I got home and walked our lovely dog, Breeze, cut some firewood, before settling down with 2000AD and a cuppa. Then, I managed to scrub the bathroom, unload and reload the dishwasher, before sorting the broadband and having lunch. No sign of needing a nap or hiding away from life.

And then, get this, I headed out early to go for a skate. I’ve been wanting to skate for weeks, but my depression has been stopping me by making my tired or scared. I was almost too scared to skate today, as when I got to the skatepark, there were two other people there. I have anxiety about doing stuff when other folks are around, as I worry about showing my self up. I got out of the car, almost bottled it, then picked up my board and wondered what was the worst that could happen.

So, the two at the park where younger than me, and even though they could skate better than me, they were okay, and I did my best, and managed to flow round well, getting some kick turns and fakie rolls in, feeling better with each turn on the ramp. I stayed for about 30 minutes, then went back to the car to read some Ruby Wax, feeling much better.

You Don’t Belong…

I’ve written about music a lot on here, about how much it means to me, and how making music really helps with my mental health. Well today, I finished off an EP of harmonica jams that I started on a few weeks back.
When I got to college back in 1987, I was an indie loving Smiths fan, and dressed accordingly, but the crowd I fell in with were all metal heads, lovers of Slayer and Metallica. Well, before you knew it, I was growing my hair long, dressing in skinny jeans and Hi-Tec boots, and listening to a lot of metal. I bought a lot of the same stuff as my friends, but the two bands that stood out for me, and which I discovered for myself were Suicidal Tendencies and The Stupids.

It wasn’t just the music that got me, both bands had strong connections with the skate scene, and I was skating a lot at the time, amongst college work and drinking Newcastle Brown. Both bands seemed like a natural fit to me, so I bought everything I could by them. Fast forward 30 years, and I still love Suicidal Tendencies and The Stupids, and have been buying up their back catalogue on CD. Heck, I’ve even started skating again! 

So, making music… I’ve been slowly returning to playing harmonica again, as my mental health has improved, which has really helped with my recovery, and is really good fun too. I started working on the idea of a new EP a few weeks back, and have been playing the pieces more and more, getting the sounds I wanted. I demoed them in Garage Band first, then got a lovely new Pignose amp and a new Tascam recorder, getting the sound quality just how I like it. 

Today, I played all the pieces again, and did some minimal mastering in Adobe Audition to get the sound just right. These jams are inspired by The Stupids and Suicidal Tendencies from back in the day, and Gurt from more recently. Oh, and the EP title is a Stupids song. I’m really happy with how they’ve come out… quite simple pieces, but played with gusto and energy. I did some artwork, and put them up on Bandcamp this afternoon. 

Getting this EP done and dusted means a lot to me, as it’s a good indicator of where my mind and health is. I really enjoyed putting them together, and hope you enjoy listening to them. Hey, you could even download them if you want, as they’re free!

https://ruke.bandcamp.com/album/you-dont-belong

(De)Motivation…

I have a pile of things I want to do… canvases to paint, models to build, books to read and so on, but they haven’t been touched. 

Depression sucks the life out of you at times, sapping all of your energy, so that it takes all of your effort and energy just to make it through the day, watching the clock, and wondering when it would be okay to go to bed.

Today has been one of these days. I was up reasonably early to get to the doctors and then the gym for a planning session, but once I got home again, all I could do was curl up on the bed and go back to sleep. 

We had some people round later to do some work on the house, as we are redecorating downstairs (there’s another whole can of worms/blog post…), and all I could do was stay upstairs out of the way. Depression meant I couldn’t handle interacting with others, so I hid. 

I’ve not been hard on myself though, as mental health can make you, as I realised a day of not doing much apart from reading comics and watching cartoons was what I needed to feel better and be able to tackle the rest of the week. Self-care is really important.

Tomorrow we start putting our new front room together, adding some real character to our home, and over the weekend, most of our new furniture should be put out. We are creating a waram and cosy room where we can read, watch TV, draw, whatever. It will make a huge difference to our life and our health.

But today, we rest…

Got my mojo back…

I’ve  always loved music. I was fortunate to grow up with parents who played lots of different music in our family home. Blues, jazz, rock, folk and a lot of other sounds besides. I can remember going to my village newsagent when I was young and buying 7 inch singles with my pocket money at the weekends, and my favourite thing that I spent my birthday money on when I was ten was an album by Ian Dury and the Blockheads.
Over the years I bought lots of albums and singles, most of which I still have stacked up in the attic. I love having music on vinyl, and have started collecting vinyl and cassettes again recently. At present, I’m really enjoying listening to The Stupids from my college days, and new discovery (to me anyway) Mammal Hands. I love all kinds of music.

About 5 years back, I really got into actually making music, as well as listening to it. It was great release, and I felt that I had found a missing piece of myself. Making music was also good for my mental health, as it always lifts my spirits. That all changed a while ago, when I had a breakdown, and the thought of even listening to music, let alone make it, was the last thing on my mind. 

Over the last year, music has starting creeping back into my life, first by going through my collection of vinyl, thanks to the kind gift of a stereo from old friends. This also sparked my buying of music again, on vinyl, and also cassette. I started digging through Bandcamp, finding new sounds to complement my older ones. Then I bought some new harmonicas. Slowly, I started playing music again.

In the last few months, I’ve been working on new sounds, enhanced by GarageBand on the iPad, and in the last week, through a new amp onto a new digital recorder. Some of them are fast punk tunes, some slower jazz pieces, and I’m really happy with how things are coming along. I don’t intend on rushing myself, just taking time and enjoying playing and learning to play better and with more feeling. When I’m really happy with what I play, I may just release them through Bandcamp.

Music is very strongly linked with mental health, and it’s really making a difference to mine. I definitely feel as though I’m coming back to myself.

You can hear my progress here: https://soundcloud.com/ruke-622656462/free-fall

Got it on tape..

I bought a new ‘boombox’ today, as my old tiny one is starting to wear out. You can hear it on tapes, that weird slowing down when a tape is being stretched. As a cassette collector with OCD tendencies, I want to make sure my tapes stay in good condition.

I’ve loved having music on tape since an early age, my favourite Christmas present when I was 12 was a bright blue Sony Walkman. I was into electronica then, with lots of Vangelis, Tangerine Dream and Jean Michel Jarre. Oh, and hip hop too…

I got through so many Walkmans in my youth, wearing them out on a regular basis. I loved making mix tapes, and taping new albums from vinyl, so they stayed in pristine condition. I carried on making mix tapes up until a few years back, until I had a big clear out and got rid of my tape collection, which I now regret. I loved having music on tape, loving the sound you can only get from cassette.

A couple of years back, I got into a few record labels, namely Riding Easy and Strange Famous, both of whom release amazing music on vinyl and cassette. I bought a tape from Riding Easy, the amazing Red Desert, and then starting buying tapes from Strange Famous, starting with B. Dolan’s ‘House of Bees Volume 3’. I tend to get obsessed with record labels, tending to collect most of their output. Strange Famous are really generous when they send out orders… I have been sent extra tapes, stickers, posters and badges when receiving packages from them. Stuff like that just makes me love a label more.

So coming full circle, I am starting to build up a tape collection again, and have a Sony to play them on, not a Walkman, but a boombox. Here’s to plenty more releases on cassette, and having a decent collection again, keeping my tendencies in check!

Taking a leap…

I’ve taken a big leap into the unknown today, and had my first ever zine published. It’s the first  time I’ve actually paid to have my work printed pin this way with the aim of selling it to the public.

Not only have I had Milk Stains printed, but I have launched an Etsy store to sell it too! I don’t want to bombard you with plugs for my wares, as that’s not what this site is about. There won’t be masses of posts pleading with you to buy my stuff, but I’m darn proud of what I’ve done.

You can go to the store here: https://www.etsy.com/uk/listing/549942511/milk-stains-issue-1?ga_order=most_relevant&ga_search_type=all&ga_view_type=gallery&ga_search_query=milk%20stains&ref=sr_gallery_1 

I plan on making more zines in the future, and my second one is already planned out, but for now enjoy the heavy metal kitty mayhem that is Milk Stains issue 1!

A fanfare for harmonicas… 

After struggling with depression and anxiety this morning, I planned to spend some time this evening playing my harmonicas, just seeing where the music took me.

My default setting for the harmonica is the blues, I mean, harmonicas just make me think blues straight away. Most of my favourite harmonica players are blues musicians, and slow blues and heavy rock seem to be the kids of sounds I make.

Making music is great therapy, whether alone or with others. Playing music gives me a great lift, and the upset of this morning was blown away like autumn leaves whilst I came up with riffs and solos today. I am much calmer and happier now.

I came up with a couple of pieces this evening, one a more rolling bluesy track, the other riffing on my favourite composer, Aaron Copland, and his wonderful piece ‘Fanfare for the Common Man’. Copland is a family favourite, our mum loved Copland, and we played some of his ‘Appalachian Spring’ at her funeral earlier this year. Copland also scored the 1930s film version of John Steinbeck’s masterpiece ‘Of Mice and Men’ (another of mine and mum’s favourites – I still have her copy). Lots of connections.

I plan returning to ‘Fanfare’ later, blending Copland’s score with a bluesy touch, but for now, here is my first take, I hope you like it…

https://soundcloud.com/ruke-622656462/fanfare-in-g-take-1