Sunday, 31 July 2016


The last couple of months (since the last blog post) has been interesting and frustrating.

If you are one of the few following this blog, you will know, that I am slowly working on an album of original material, left over from the last 16 years of Hair Thieves tunes or songs I have written in odd timings or tunings.

This has meant, that some of the songs were started over a decade ago, using software that has been updated many times, in the intervening years and using plugins that no longer run in the modern software (Cubase) that I use to record into.

So sometime, Cubase won't open a song, or I am missing a virtual instrument or synth or an effect, or (and this is the frustrating one), the latest version of the virtual instrument has changed name, so won't open nor tell me which patches it used.

So I have spent quite a few hours over the last two months (and on and off for the last two years), trying to track down all the old versions of virtual instruments and effects I used back in 2006 / 2007 when we recorded the first couple of EPs.

I think I am pretty much there now.  I can now open the works in progress that I needed to and have been generating a patch list, so I can recreate the songs as was in my latest software.

This means, some songs, are now closer to the original than they were a couple months ago, when I had to use new matches and synths.  So I am a lot happier about them.

I have been chipping away at the album. Two songs that were just guitar ideas are slowly being fleshed out.   I seem to have mislaid some notebooks, so I am missing the original notes on these songs, so I am having to re-learn the songs by ear.     Which has been interesting, especially, when after a week or two, I realise I have been playing something slightly wrong.

So progress is being made.   August is festival and holiday season, so not much music happens normally.  So I am not expecting much progress over the next month.

Nina Kitten Records, the home of my musical output, has a new website. 

Hopefully, by late September, I will have a website for this project, with some audio and video for some of the songs on the album and more details on the first release.

Sunday, 29 May 2016

X Marks the spot

It has been a long time, since I blogged the current status of the album.

My main priority, is The Hair Thieves, so work has been ongoing for the new EP.  Normally, we write four or five tunes and four make it onto the next EP.  This time, we seem to have sixteen or more songs on the go.   We have whittled it down to those going onto EP8.  This is three quarters done, but we have also started EP9.

Thus. this solo project is slow going.

The first single was / is ready to go. 

The problem is direction.   An Example.

Sour Grapes, will be the first song on the album.  Initially, it started off with some drums and synths, then went into this really heavy, multiple guitar parts, with an abundance of effects.  A major wall of sound.

Currently, all the heavy guitars have been removed, replaced with one lead acoustic guitar and more synths.

Sometimes, I put one or more of the heavy guitars back in.

I'm not sure which way the track will go.  I'm starting to think, this is a stalling plan on not finishing, what is essentially a minute or so instrumental introduction to the album.   What this song does will set up, some of the sonics on the tracks to follow.

I may soundcloud a couple of versions later, and see which people prefer.

The second track, Sweet Lemon Mechanism, is starting to take shape now, it has been extended and I think I know now where the ending is going.

A long time ago, I wrote some music, it was rejected as a Hair Thieves song.  So I started working on it for the album.   Whilst writing for the new Hair Thieves EP, we wanted a song,  this seemed to fit the bill, I presented it to E.  He liked it, it went back to being a Hair Thieves song.    A while later, he changed his mind again, it is now a solo album track.

So a lot of playing with synths, playing with guitars and not much song finishing has gone on.  

Bob Baker, the music marketing guy, is running a 30 day passion project in June.  For $97, you will be given a partner to spar off and other encouragements, to do something everyday during June, to a project you are passionate about.

So in June, I am going to do one thing on, one of the songs on the go everyday in June, even if that something is "listen to the tune and write down, what the next thing I need to do to get the song closer to completion".

Not sure if I will manage to complete a song or not, but I hopefully, at the end of June, will have some idea of where this album is going.

The first task for June 1st is to listen to the 18 songs on the go (in the album project directory) and whittle them down to 9 or 10 for the album.

In other news, we have a referendum in June, to decide whether the UK should stay as part of the European union or not.   That could make life interesting depending on the outcome.

Sunday, 6 March 2016

FAWM Over and Out

Fawm is an annual songwriting event, where several thousand musicians try and write an album of 15 songs in 28 days.  This year being a leap year, it the idea was 14.5 songs in 29 days.

I'm happy to say, I failed to complete the task again.  Having achieved 3,6 and 9 songs, in previous years, officially, I achieved 12 this year.  Though in reality, it is less than that.

I managed :-
     three sets of partial lyrics, (without music)
     two instrumentals, that require lyrics *
     seven instrumentals for my solo instrumental project, Sineglider.
Why so many instrumentals?

Simply, I'm currently suffering from lyrical writers block and low confidence in my lyric writing. I was hoping FAWM would have given me the necessary kick to finish some lyrics, but it wasn't to be.

That with work commitments and the fact that I wanted to learn to use some of the soft synths and effects I haven't got around to using, meant that I was a lot more interested in experimenting with sounds, than finishing lyrics.  So instrumentals were the way to go.

* of the two instumentals, one was picked up by another songwriter, who put lyrics to it.  Hopefully, you can her it Here. 

I took part in another Exquisite Corpse task.  (one person writes a song, passes the last 10 seconds to the next person who carries it on, etc etc.  Someone when chains all the songs together).

here is my section of the song.  Called Gabina.

As I stated before I was trying to experiment with synths and effects this year. One of the challenges this year was to write a 30 second song. I used that as an excuse to play with effects within my recording software, much like I would have done with physical guitar effects. What I came up with was a little more than 30 seconds and is two guitars, one take each. I will re-record this later and expand it with further instrumentation, I think.
As you can tell, I seem to have been in a more heavier mood, song writing wise, than I have been for many years.
This is noticible in this track. When I first started playing guitar in the mid 1980s, I was really into thrash metal. It is nice to go back to my heavy roots now and again, now that I have some wonderful distortion plugins. Plus the guitar in this (my old B.C. Rich Warlock) was tuned to DADGBD.

Lyrically, since the last blog, I have started one set of lyrics.  Whilst doing Fawm, I was also (semi) attempting a free songwriting course.   The idea was to write a song about your hometown.

Given I had already written a song about my hometown called Strang Familar World, the thought of writing another was not appealing.  But I did start some.  I will rework and finish this, since I think there are some nice lines in this, but it is rough and needs a lot of work.

Hometown Heart

Like a Mistress
I keep coming back to her
She might not have my love
but she will always have my heart
Though distance means
we're constantly apart
Please when I die
take me back to the start
My Hometown heart
My Hometown heart

I feel the sea calling me
Through broken sleep
Too long land locked
Miss the warm salty breeze
Though I left half a life ago
She makes me believe
a smalltown boys dreams
and great things to achieve

The course has been pretty good and I did learn some new things, which might help me out of my lyrical hell.  We shall see over the next couple of months.

The two songs I think need lyrics, I have passed to E to see if they have any mileage and whether they will be Hair Thieves songs or not.  So not sure if any song this year will become Rollasoc songs.

So that was FAWM 2016.  I'm quite happy with my musical output this month, but slightly disappointed with my lyrical quantity.   Oh well there is always next FAWM!

So now FAWM is over, I can start concentrating back on the album. 

After discussion the other night in the pub about Spotify and getting music online, I think my next post will be on the companies I have used to get my music online and how I have got on with them.

So more on that soon.

Monday, 15 February 2016

Not Feeling it.

Had an indifferent week with Fawm.

This is mostly to do with issues I have had with Cubase not playing nice with my hardware as well as issues with it playing with some plugins.

It slowed me down and frustrated me.  Hopefully, I've sorted it out now.

I have managed to finish two instrumentals.

An experiment in electronics.

Every sound is from some Native instruments VST.

Drums from Battery and Kontakt

Synths from Rounds (Reaktor), Kontakt (Gamelan, Evolve, Evolve Mutations), Absynth, Massive.

Barely mixed. Some reverb added to some sounds. General panning, slight EQ, some compression.

This is in 3/4 time. 

Pick up sticks.

The second is a little ditty called Resident Wevil.

Being traditionally a guitarist, I thought that two weeks into Fawm, I should record some guitar.

All I knew is i wanted something distorted somewhere.

Drums are from groove Agent.

Badly played bass (through ampeg amp in amplitude)

3 guitar parts. All telecaster. One through Amplitude, one through Guitar Rig and one through Shuffham amp.

Synths are a mixture of Kontour and things I found in reaktor and rendered to audio, so don't know what they are anymore.

Title is due to liking the word Weevil.

Been struggling with lyrics.

I had two attempts.

I have my mother's worry
I have my mother's eyes
I have my mother's wicked tongue
I have my mother's sarcastic replies

I have my mother's humour
I have my mother's tact
I have my mother's money luck
I have my mother's quest for facts.

I have my mother's darkness
I have my mother's fears
I have my mother's lack of grace
I have my mother's attractive veneer

Just Don't Know
Fed Up with checking sources
on the news I see
Lack of faith
in the strories they feed
But a puppet has a master
holding the leash
Subjugate the masses
with the tales released

and I just don't know
What to believe
Truth or lies
Are we so Nieve
Are they Criminal or just
A Friend or foe
well you just don't know
You Just Don't know

Elected government monkies
are they corporate whores
Telling lies
to they people they swore oath to
Who's the puppet, who's the master
who's pulling the string
as the elite get rich
leave the masses begging

Not sure if I will use either lyrics.

Still have a couple of other songs on the go.

No Hair Thieves tunes so far, we have been experimenting with melody writing with existing lyrics, which isn't the sort of thing that is part of FAWM.

I'll show E the lyrics and see if he wants to use them / finish them.

So onto week 3.  Still playing catch up.

Sunday, 7 February 2016

FAWM 2016

It is that time of the year, when several thousand songwriters, attempt to write 14 songs in 28 (well 29 days this year) days.  It is time for FAWM. (February Album Writing Month)

I've done this challenge for the last three years, managing 3, 6 and 9 songs respectively.  So getting closer to completing the challenge with each passing year.

Last year, my 9 songs were split between this project (2 or 3 songs), the Hair Thieves (2 songs), which is my main musical project and my occasional instrumental Sineglider project (3 songs). The other songs were abandoned, since not deemed up to scratch.

As I write this, early, on day 7, I should have 3.5 songs written, if I am to achieve target.

So far, I have finished two demos  of instrumentals, (thus Sineglider tunes).     

The first is called Koleti

Named after a star system, I am currently in, in the game Elite Dangerous.

This is a free form (ie to no time signature), is totally improvised and was an experiment on creating something ambient, in an hour.  I also lmited myself to only using synths by Steinberg.

The second is called El Sol
This was a challenge on Fawm, which was to write a song based on the South American Loteria cards.  I was given El Sol (the sun).

Thinking of Holst's The Planets, I used this as an excuse to play with some orchestral instruments.  To learn more about programming them and use of articualtions.  

I think this is quite unfinished.  I will revisit it later in the year and flesh it out.  Maybe add some woodwinds and brass, to make it more orchestral rather than the current string sections and percussion.

I am also currently working on finishing two other songs.

The first is musically written, the challenge was to write a song with the title "Playing with fire" in an hour.  I managed the music, but not the lyrics.   I may stay with the title, I may not.

The second song, is untitled, but driven by me wanting to learn more about some synths I have.   In a mad two minutes, I ended up with a dance drum kit in 3/4 time.   So a kind of modern Waltz.
Hopefully, this will have lyrics, it is early days, so I will see how this pads out.

Regarding the current state of the solo album.

"A Winter's Memory" is finished and ready to be released once I have another track to go with it and finish the video.  It won't be this month, due to FAWM.

A couple other tunes are ongoing.

Two of the songs I have music for, which I really like, have both been given back to The Hair Thieves.   They started as Hair Thieves songs, got abandoned, I picked them up years later and worked on them some more and decided they should be Hair Thieves material, so have submitted them to E.

One will be on the next Hair Thieves EP.  The other probably the one after, depending on how other songs pan out over the next couple of months.

So the solo album is on going.  Hopefully, FAWM will give me a couple of new songs for it, or at least the b-side for "A Winter's Memory".

I'll post another FAWM update next week.