I have a problem…

… I can’t stop making music. I seem to playing every day at the moment. Mostly harmonicas, but also some ukulele and mandolin. It’s great therapy, and has really made a positive impact on my mental health.

I reckon I have about half a dozen eps or albums sketched out, and am thinking of releasing one a month. They are a mixture of chilled out drone harmonica pieces, heavier doom pieces and straight blues. I also have plans to play live soon too.

My wife has been very supportive of this, even suggesting that I go off and play when I’m feeling low or agitated. As I said, it really helps me, and makes me feel happy.

I’ve also been filming some of the tracks and sharing them on YouTube, some of them have even been watched! I’m really happy with how things are working out, and proud of what I’m coming up with.

Here’s a taste… https://soundcloud.com/morgan-gleave/mountain-demo

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Angels & Demons…

I’ve made another album!

My mental health has been pretty good this week, with more days of me feeling good and happy rather than not. With that in mind, I ventured into the attic earlier this week to just play, with no intentions of making another release.

I’ve been recording my playing most of the time, as you never know when inspiration will strike, but I’ve not been thinking of putting any of my new sounds out there. After all, I’ve just released ‘Jesus Meets the Harmonicas’.

I purposely wanted to play some slower music, keeping it simple and quite minimal. You can tell I’ve been listening to Earth a lot lately, given that Dylan Carlson has rapidly become one of my favourite musicians. I seem to be inspired more by guitarists than harmonica players, trying to interpret guitar riffs and lines through my instrument of choice.

So I played. Slower, more naturally and with no pressure, just to see where the music would take me. I used Earth’s album ‘Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light II’ as a reference point, and just went from there. 5 tracks just flowed out of me with no effort. I had the recorder running, so everything was captured. A minimal bit of EQ and reverb in Adobe Audition, and an album was born.

I think my current mental state is reflected in the music, as they are relaxed pieces, leaning more towards ambient and drone than anything else. Listening back to them this afternoon, getting them ready for release, I had a big smile on my face, happy with what I’d created.

I put them up on my personal Bandcamp, where you can hear and download them. https://morgangleave.bandcamp.com/album/angels-demons

Thanks for listening…

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…

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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 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!

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 

That’s better…

I’ve had a rough day today… not feeling too good about myself and my attitude, I spent the morning at college on my Counselling Diploma. This morning, we were working in groups presenting controversial issues to each other and letting the debates ensue. I dug myself further and further into my cave, withdrawing from the room and the ensuing debates.

I presented our groups issue (enforced euthanasia) with sheer bloody mindedness, stayed for the following group, made my excuses and left, knowing that my mood and mental state would not be conducive to learning that afternoon.

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The Pond in late Autumn

After a long lunch and a cuddle with my wife on my return home, I packed up my fishing rods and backpack and headed back to my favourite fishing spot of the summer, “my pond”. Just walking down the towpath in the late autumn sun made me feel better. The canal was high after heavy rain last week, and the trees were mostly bare, allowing more to be seen in the fields around the canal.

 

 

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Rods are out…

Arriving at the pond, the feelings of the morning faded, and a warm smile spread across my face. It is good to be back at one of my favourite places to relax. The pond seemed a little different, as it is not covered by so much foliage now, but it has lost none of its magic calming effect. Being in nature is such a tonic to me in times of distress and upset.

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The Pond in late Autumn

 

After fishing with my good friend Rolf at the end of last week down in Hampshire (I was after Pike, Rolf was after Carp), I was certain that there is a dirty great big Pike in the pond… I had seen it briefly over the Summer, and the lack of water birds on the pond confirmed it to me and my friends. Rolf has kindly set me up with Pike rigs and a bigger landing net, so Im determined to go after the Pike in the pond, alongside fishing for the larger Roach that are definitely in there too.

Here’s to an exciting Winter at a lovely spot, and catching some big fish. It makes me happy.

I wish my brain would shut up sometimes…

Urgh, what a week. My brain has been tripping me up over the last few days, leaving me in a depressed state and on occasion, close to tears.

Yes, I know it’s not my brain directly, as it is an organ which carries and processes chemical and electrical signals throughout the body, amongst other things. It’s how you choose to act on these impulses that causes the problem and issues. Of course, if you haven’t taken prescribed medication, supported a partner with serious mental health issues, written assignments, made music, drawn, written…

As I got so physically tired out by the end of Monday, after studying counselling all day, I was shattered and the week loomed ahead of me, full of meetings, conferences, projects and assignments. Something had to give, and it wasn’t going to be me. Been there, done that. I got my fresh supply of meds, turned off my alarm and cancelled what I could. I know that getting so exhausted was an alarm call warning me to back off and slow down. I took heed and stopped. The last time this happened, I didn’t heed the warning, and ended up being signed off work for three months. Mind you, this was one of the best things to happen to me, as it gave me time to take stock, focus on my needs and decide what I wanted from the future.

The first thing to go was my job. Working in education has been amazing, but it was costing me my mental health. That last spell was my third serious ‘episode’ of depression in 10 years working in education as a teacher, library assistant and media technician, not all at the same time, however!

So, I decided to really focus on being self-employed as an artist and designer, educating myself about mental health, restarting my counselling studies, making comics and music, and looking after me. Yes, there’s my trait of taking on too much, but I was self-aware, ready for the fallout and had support in place. Since January 2014, I have rebuilt our art and design business from the ground up; written, drawn and published three comics; released loads of music and played it live (performing live was a big scary thing to tackle); passed my Level 3 Counselling course; started networking for business and pleasure; started my Level 4 Counselling course and a ton more besides.  Yes, I still try and do too much, but I’m happy and in charge of my life now. I’m closer to my wife, our children and my family; I walk our dog most days and play fetch with her; cycle when possible; enjoy reading more often; listen to way more music and podcasts and generally look after myself and the world I inhabit.

I’m proud of where I am now, and as I can read the warnings now and know what to do. Life might catch me out sometimes, but I can stop it from completely pulling the rug from under me.

Thanks for reading!