Simon Waldram

Blog

view:  full / summary

On playing live (and beyond)

Posted by SimonWaldram on December 6, 2014 at 1:45 AM Comments comments (0)


At The Cookie, Leicester 16/11/14. Photo by Trevor Cobbe


Up until the last couple of months I'd never played live on any kind of regular basis. Living in Mansfield I'd make the occasional trip to Nottingham or Leicester, but that was about it. Sometimes it was 6 months+ between playing and it's impossible to create any momentum that way. Each performance felt like starting again and I never managed to build up an audience at all.

However since moving to Leicester in September I've tried to get involved with the local scene and play quite a bit more. For the most part it's been great. I've played at Hansom Hall, The Cookie, The Musician, Manhattan 34 and The Walkabout. I've met lots of really nice people and seen some very talented artists, including (but certainly not limited to) Anna Purver, Les Hayden, Meri Everitt, Prash Gor, my good mate and touring buddy Kevin Hewick and lovely folks in my university's Music Society. I have to say I already feel more welcome here than I ever did in the often quite elitist Nottingham music scene (although I'm aware you can get self-aggrandising arseholes anywhere and some people in Nottingham I love to bits).

Being someone who never sold many records it's felt at times that I've been making music for an almost non-existant audience for the past few years. However being up there in front of me more has made me want to push myself more as a songwriter and a performer. Not that I have any intention of being more professional though. I have seen a few people recently who go over very well because their songs are catchy, have instantly recognisible themes you can cling on to and are presented in an easy to digest style. That isn't me, nor will it ever be. I might appeal to a smaller percentage of people in the room, but I hope that when I do it's on a deeper level - just because it's all about sharing sometimes quite difficult feelings, rather than presenting a carefully cultivated image for the purposes of entertainment.

I want to take this further too. I have been massively impressed by some of the songwriting and musicianship I've seen I want to develop my own guitar playing so I can share new and different kinds of songs - ones that are challenging, but hopefully rewarding. I've known what path I've wanted to take my music down for a while - one that really pushes the psychedelic folk route - but I saw this as a thing that would happen some time in the future. However recent experiences have given me the impetus to step it up and make it happen sooner. Of course I am also an university studying Audiology and that has to come first, but I have a driving artistic need to do this as well. I feel like I'm at the start of a new musicial journey, one that will probably last for years, but I'm looking forward to seeing where it takes me.

Si

November mini tour diary

Posted by SimonWaldram on November 23, 2014 at 3:20 PM Comments comments (0)

At the Chameleon. Photo by Stephanie Webb




From Nov 14th to 16th I took part in a mini-tour around  with Anda Volley, Kevin Hewick and Lisa De'Ville. Three gigs in 3 days might not sound like a lot (and I guess it isn't really), but given that before 2014 I'd never played live more than 3 times in a year it felt like quite a bit deal to me.

The gigs came around as part of Anda's first UK tour which also took in London, Belfast and Manchester. She asked if we could arrange some gigs in the midlands and with Kevin and Lisa joining the fold too things took off from there.

Friday 14th's gig was at the Chameleon in Nottingham, a place I've played a number of times before. It's quite small and hidden away and the music room upstairs and akin to a big, unkempt living room. As it's not the most known about place in Nottingham I tried to get the word out as best I though and I genuinely thought we'd get a decent turnout. I was wrong. Hardly anyone turned up. In fact I've never played a show with so few people. I was really disappointed - we all were, I guess, but we still all played out hearts out. There's a part in Henry Rollins' book Get In the Van where he talks about one of his early Black Flag gigs in which there were only a handful of people present. Henry reacted by messing around - jumping on tables and not taking it seriously. Afterwards Chuck Dukowski took him to one side and told him that even if just two people come to your show those people have taken the time and effort - and paid money - to see you, and you should put on the best show you possibly can for them. Those words have always stuck with me and I was proud that we all abided to that same kind of attitude.

We were of course very grateful to those who did come. Shout out to Stephanie Webb for taking some excellent photos too.


Lisa at the Chameleon




On the Saturday me, Kevin and Anda travelled to Northampton (...Lisa had a gig in Birmingham) to support Ed Tudor Pole at the Charles Bradlaugh pub. The pub itself is lovely and Alex, who was hosting the gig, is an absolute gent. They paid us and even gave us free beer all night! The crowd was much bigger this time and they listened and seem genuinely appreciative. Kevin and Anda were brilliant as always. The less said about Ed Tudor Pole the better, though, really - although I did get to see a diva fit up close for the first time in my life. Everything else about the night was great though. I look forward to hopefully playing there again sometime.


Kevin at the Charles Bradlaugh



I felt so much better after the Northampton gig and next we travelled to Leicester (where I'm currently living and studying) and hooked up with Lisa again to play at the Cookie. It was much better attended than the Chameleon, thank goodness, although a few more people there would have been nice. It's also a lovely place to play and Andy the soundman and absolutely fantastic. Notts finest new music DJ Steve Oliver also came and compered for us and it was great to see him again. It didn't feel like the end, more like we were just hitting our stride and someone had suddenly stopped the tour. Still, it's given me much more appreciation for playing live and I've already started working on getting some more gigs sorted.

Anda at The Cookie




A special note on my tour mates: Kevin, Lisa and Anda are three of the most genuine, decent and honest people I've ever know. They are also all incredibly talented and I watch them perform each night as a huge and grateful fan. I don't know if we'll ever get to do anything like this again, but I'm so glad we all got to do these few gigs together. Please check out their music if you're not already familiar with it:

Lisa De'Ville: https://soundcloud.com/lisadeville
Anda Volley: https://soundcloud.com/anda-volley
Kevin Hewick: https://soundcloud.com/kevinhewick

Also on my Soundcloud page I've put up some live tracks from the gigs:
https://soundcloud.com/simon-waldram


Me, Kevin and Anda after the gig at the Cookie




Si

2014 Releases

Posted by SimonWaldram on March 30, 2014 at 9:15 AM Comments comments (0)

At the beginning on the year I went on the radio and said that I was going to release at least one thing - an album, a single or an EP - during an every month of 2014. The DJ, Steve, told me that this is not something he'd announce if he was doing this as he'd feel he was setting himself up to fail. That's a good point. 2014 has not been the easiest year so far and, as we head into April, I have done very little recording and all that's come out so far is a compilation of mostly previously released stuff. There's still a lot of stuff in the pipeline though - a lot of which is already finished - which I thought I'd tell you about here. All this stuff is coming out this year, it's just a matter of when.

First Day In Spring (single)
A different version to the one that appears on The Space Between. This one has strings and is way better, I think.

EP on 23 Seconds
They have just released a compilation of my stuff and in the summer 23 Seconds will also be putting out an EP I've been making too. It's much more indie rock than anything I've released for a long time and features a collaboration with Fall Colors / Pleasure Holiday singer Julia Fernandez.


Split cassette with Halaka
Halaka are one of my favourite bands ever, so to be able to do an album with them is pretty special to me. Apparently "the curse of the Halaka split" means that usually when they plan to do these kind of releases they never actually come out, so I've reassured them that this is definitely happening. My side of the tape features psychedelic, noise and folk stuff - plus a song that mixes krautrock, punk and dubstep (no, really). Halaka's side is frickin' amazing and features some of the best stuff I've heard them do in ages.

Inside Out / Colliding Circles (single)
For one reason or another it's taken nearly 5 years to get Inside Out to the point where I can actually put it out. It's a good song, I think, and was influenced by late-period Husker Du. A video for the song is being made in LA, although I'm not going to be in it. Lucia Buffa has provided the cover photo for the single (and for the First Day In Spring single too).

Insolation (album)
This is the big one - although I'm still not sure how big it's going to be. It's already 20 tracks, which is enough for the digital release, but I'm trying to make the CD version a bit special - especially as it's probably going to be my last release on a physical format...at least for a few years. So it's going to be in a specially made box with handmade inners by Sarah Hopping (as shown in the photo below) with extra goodies and the album itself may or may not be spread across 2 CDs in an a Approximately Infinite Universe kind of way.




So those are the definite releases. There are also more tentative ones, such as an EP of electronic stuff, an album of field and ambient recordings, a tape of really way out stuff... we'll have to see how things go in the summer. Thanks for reading.

 

Just call me La Sol de Hierro

Posted by SimonWaldram on May 26, 2013 at 5:25 PM Comments comments (0)

I sometimes wonder if I would be more popular and/or successful if I didn't use my real name for my music and instead used some kind of band name or an inscrutable word or phrase instead. Here's why...

Every so often when I'm in a music shop or looking through the online catalogue or an indie label I'll come across a record that instantly grabs my attention before I've actually even heard anything from it. This may well have happened to you too. For me it will usually have some kind of enigma to it...maybe a mysterous looking cover or a strange band name. This instant level of interest rarely happens when I see a record made under the name of an individual...especially if it's just some bloke.

I think quite a lot of people, including myself, like to put their own definitions and interpretations onto the people making their favorite music, that way they can see whatever they want in them. This is easist to do when you know nothing about who is actually making the music. If a record is credited to an odd sounding band name and there are no credits or photos of people on the sleeve then you can pretend to yourself that it was made by absolutely anyone. Does it sound like it was made by two speed freak siamese twins in a garage late one night somewhere in South America? Then what the hell, maybe it was!

However our perceptions and idea about the music can often be subverted the other way when you know it's a specific solo artist that's made the record you're listening to. There they are on the cover, maybe holding the guitar they used to play the songs. However they want to portray themselves...moody, artistic, an icon of some sort....it's probably reflected in the photo they (or the record company) has chosed. Because of this the listener feels they have to bend somewhat to the personality of the performer. If it's just one person singing songs which seems to be about themselves then often any mystery is lost.

Here's an example of what I mean: You may or may not be familar with the music of Jandek, who has been making challenging and idiosyncratic records for 35 years without people ever knowing much about him at all. Jandek's name and reputation grew slowly but steadily over several decades partly because of the mystery surrounding him. People wondered: "Who is making this music?" "Is Jandek a person or collective?" "Is the person on the cover of the records Jandek or someone else?" All sorts of rumours spread over the years. One was that when Jandek albums started featuring other musicians in the early 80's he had met them in some kind of halfway house. A number of years back we learned that the man behind Jandek is almost certain named Sterling R. Smith. How much of an enigma would there have been behind those records if they were released under the name Sterling Smith or The Sterling R. Smith Experience? Everyone would have realised it was just a guy making crazy records at home and maybe not bothered with them. Of course they would have missed if they out had done this as old Sterl's best records are really great.

And maybe that's the point and it's just a superficial thing anyway. Perhaps some people would actually think it was pretty stupid if I went by the name of Static Moon or Eternal Burrow or The Lansing Thunder Corporation (sorry, they are all terrible name, they were just the first 3 that came into my head). After all, I would think it was silly if my musical heroes like R. Stevie Moore, Daniel Johnston or Steven Davies went by anything other than their real names. Often of course a performer's personalilty often is integral to their appeal, but I guess you have to have a big personaility for that to be the case. In my case I'm not really sure that my personality should matter to anyone listening and I hope that people can put their own definations on the songs and take whatever it is they want to take from them.

My favourite records of 2012

Posted by SimonWaldram on December 31, 2012 at 12:30 PM Comments comments (0)

I hope you've had a good year. Here are some of my favourite records of 2012 in no particular order.

Alberteen - Metal Book
Spearheaded by the brilliant single A Girl and a Gun, Metal Book is a brilliant showcase for Alberteen's patented "ryhthm and noir", from the dark rush of the title track and Tamogotchi Landfill to Phil Shaw's arch, literary lyrics. Also, All You Can Eat makes me think of the Clientele covering early Pink Floyd. You can't go wrong with that.

Kevin Hewick - All Was Numbered
All Was Numbered is Kevin's paen to Factory Records, which he was a part of from 1980-82. I get the feeling that in the past Kevin hasn't talked about these days as much as some people would have liked. However here it all pours out in a maelstrom of bittersweet memories and regrets, paying tribute to Ian Curtis, Tony Wilson and Larry Cassidy along the way, with lucidly set scenes worthy of any of the Factory related films and books released over the past few years. I really do feel that Kevin is one our best and important songwriters. He is a big inspiration to me.

Felicia Atkinson - The Owls
The Owls is a digital and limited edition tape release by one of the most talented and interesting experimental musicians around today. Constructed solely on a Microkorg, it is a tapestry of sounds that evokes nostalgic and melancholic yet hopeful emotions. Felicia releases a lot of stuff, but it's all worthwhile. Please take the time to check out her music if it sounds like your kind of thing.

Candidate - Psychic Dissonance From the Unself
Candidate are from Brooklyn, New York. Their songs have big, lovely melodies combined with dreamy, noisy guitars. You know what? Most online music reviewers are pretty terrible writers. I'm sorry if I come across in any kind of similar way either on here or on ObscureAlbums. I've been looking at reviews by others of some of these albums and the writing is just so forced and cliched. If there's any difference it would be I just write about music I love (which is never that difficult), compared to people who write for online sites who have to review whatever they are told to. I would probably find that difficult too. Anyway, my favourite songs here are One Day Even You Will Be Old Fashioned (great chorus and lead guitar), the beautiful Low Life and the terrific singles April Again and City of Hate (please check out City of Hate - it's absolutely brilliant!).

Elizabeth Bryson - Reflections In My Tea
Hailing from Maryland in the States, Elizabeth is a terrific songwriter with a wonderful voice. Her piano based songs sometimes evoke the Beatles, Elton John or Fleetwood Mac, but she definately has her own thing going on. Just listen to the anti-war Until the Whirlpool Stops or the beautiful In It's Own Time. This album has great production and extra instrumention to augment the songs too. I'm looking forward to seeing how far Elizabeth can go as she really deserves a lot of success.

Lisa de'Ville - Fables From the Spinning Wheel EP
Speaking of people who should be very successful, I fully expect Nottingham's Lisa de'Ville to be very big indeed in the not-too-distant future. Her terrific guitar playing and beautiful, crystal clear voice here showcase her wonderful, captivating songs. Folded Wing is especially great. See her live if you can - and buy this EP!

Rosie Abbott - s/t
Another Nottingham talent (the local scene here is amazing at the moment). From lovely Kinks and Beatles-esque numbers to the dark, skewed rock of Victim of My Imagination, this is a really excellent debut album.

Danny Short - Sunset Kicks In

Okay, so I said "no particular order", but this is definately my favourite album of the year, as Danny spikes his lovely melodic songs with huge masses of psychedelic noise and beauty. Just listen to Tell Me You Want Me, New Gardens and the storming, brilliant Aftershave and Perfume. I've loved Danny's music for many years now (and he's made a lot of music), but this has to be the best thing he's ever done. Terrific stuff!

Scott Walker - Bish Bosch
I'm still getting into this record, but I'm very impressed. As some artists get older they get less adventurous and take fewer risks. However Scott Walker is the opposite of this and, despite being almost 70, with nothing he needs to prove at this point, he gets more way out and daring with every record. I find this incredibly inspiring and I hope he continue to do it for a good while yet.

The making of Conchology

Posted by SimonWaldram on October 2, 2012 at 3:45 PM Comments comments (0)

In 2006 I met Martin Brown through Dmusic.com - a site we were both a part of and shared our music on. Martin was from Leeds originally but had moved to Canada years before. We became friends and talked a lot about the music we were making. I had wanted to make an album for a couple of years, but I was struggling with the best way to approach it. On the demo CD I made in 2003-04 my recording set-up was pretty rudimentary and most of the songs were just me singing and playing guitar into a cheap microphone. I wanted to have something more like a full band sound for the songs I was writing at that time.

In the summer of 2007 we worked together on a short instrumental called For Her. At the time this was for a charity album I was trying to make featuring various musicians and bands from DMusic. The project fell through, but it encouraged us to work together more. After I’d said that I’d like to put other instruments on my vocal/guitar tracks Martin took demos I had made of Madeline, What Were You Thinking and On the Moon and added some extra instrumentation. The results were okay, but we both knew that we were being hampered by my practice of playing guitar and singing at the same time when recording, which wasn’t Martin enough room in the mix to work. He encouraged me record them separately. I was reluctant to do this at first, which seems kind of absurd in retrospect, but it was just what I was used to.  However I knew how much better our work could be if I tried this.

In early 2008 I finally got a decent multitrack recorder and started recording songs for Conchology. One of the first things I did was a new version of On the Moon for Martin. When I heard what he had added to it I was blown away. It was leaps and bounds from the version we had done the previous year and I could tell that we were really starting to click musically.

Despite taking quite a long time to develop, I recorded much of Conchology in one week in April of that year, including songs that didn’t make the finished album. Martin and I carried on working together until December 2008. He ended up doing production work and overdubs on 6 of the albums songs. Things got a little fraught by the end. My increasing perfectionism drove him to distraction and we had a minor falling out over Madeline, which ended with me replacing some of the parts he’d recorded and remixing it. Martin had a lot of heavy stuff happening in his life, but I was only aware of some of this. We patched things up between us quickly enough, but I’m not sure things were quite the same afterwards.

Conchology had quite a lot of outtakes. These included: The Archerfish, Girl with the Clipboard, Random Hearts, Peggy Kennedy, The Way To Your House, Summer Moon, It Wasn’t Meant and a few instrumentals. In retrospect I think It Wasn’t Meant would have fit on the album pretty well. Girl with the Clipboard ended up on a compilation for Awkwardcore Records.

There’s no way this album would have happened without Martin. As well as being a constant source of encouragement and a bottomless well of technical knowledge he was a great musician and producer and helped to take my songs to places I previously didn’t even know they could go myself. Above all he was my friend. By 2010 we had drifted apart somewhat, but when he passed away in December of that year I was heartbroken. These days I see Conchology as a way of helping to keep his memory alive.

Martin was also the brains behind Umbriel Rising and LiQuidMetamorphosis. You can check out his albums on Bandcamp (click the links).

Conchology
is available from Bandcamp, Amazon, Pebble Records, CDUnsigned and this sites' store.

Si

How to write a song

Posted by SimonWaldram on September 28, 2012 at 2:45 PM Comments comments (1)

Quite a few times when I have talked to someone who doesn’t make music about song writing they have said to something like they “would how no idea how to write a song” and will talk about song writing like it’s some unreachable mystical process. This is nonsense and any songwriter who allows such ideas to be perpetuated is probably doing so for the sake of their own ego - i.e. to convince themselves they what they’re doing is special and can’t be done by just anybody. Well, I think that it can.

 

First of all, nobody was born a songwriter. However at some point in their lives, maybe when they were a kid, they were drawn enough to music and had enough imagination inside them to try and create some of their own. Secondly, you do not have to “learn” a musical instrument to make music. All you do is chose the instrument you want to use and they play it just how you want to play it. Let’s say it’s a guitar: Noel Gallagher once said about his own musical influences that "There's twelve notes in a scale and 36 chords and that's the end of it. All the configurations have been done before." Now if you want to learn all the chords and scales and keys then that’s fine. This can be important to know for certain kinds of music. If you want to keep it tuned to standard tuning that’s fine too. But you don’t have to do these things. You can put your fingers anywhere on the fretboard you like…in fact you don’t even have to use the fretboard if you don’t want to. The possibilities are endless. The only important thing is finding a sound that you’re happy with and expresses what you want to express.

 

Songwriting is the same. There may be song writing methods, but there are absolutely no rules whatsoever. I’ve never learned scales and keys because I don’t feel there is any need to. To quote Benjamin Smoke: "I still don't really understand why everyone in the band has to play in the same key. If we all have the same key it means we have the same lock, and we know (that) is not true." Even in a band it's not necessary. I admit that this can make it harder to jam with people you've never played with before, but it's still entirely possible to practice together and build up intuition and harmony (or dischord, if that's your thing). This is, of course, what a lot of punk bands did. It might be a mess at first, but when it comes together it's more special than anything any musos could do.

 

Ther are good songs and there are bad songs, but however you choose to write a song is as valid a way as any other, just as long as you’re writing it for the right reasons.. Don’t let anyone ever tell you any different.

 

 

 

Music Plans for 2012

Posted by SimonWaldram on January 31, 2012 at 4:55 PM Comments comments (0)

I tend to do quite a lot of planning around the music I want to make, as well as how and when I want to release it. Of course things sometimes changed or get delayed. Here are my plans as they stand, though...


As I write this I will soon be taking part in FAWM 2012. FAWM (February Album Writing Month) is a friendly online songwriting contest where the aim is to come up with 14 songs in the 28 days of the month..although as it's a leap year we have to do 14½ songs this time (I'm not quite sure how I should approach writing a song. I'm thinking of writing a whole one and somehow taking half of it away...or something). My previous best on FAWM is 6 songs, which is a frankly rubbish effort. I'm sure I can do better than that this time around.


Anyway, I am in the middle of writing and recording two albums. One is a follow-up of sorts to Signal and is half recorded and completely written apart from a few sets of lyrics. That one is called The Space Between and will be out later this year. The other is something a little different and hopefully I can do some of it during FAWM: it's a double album of found sounds, fuzzy folk, feedback excursions, psychedelic rock, spoken word and more besides. It's going to be called Insolation and I'm planning on releasing it early next year. I would also like to do another experimental/noise album (like Industrial Skyline, but further out). However I've not really decided how I should approach that yet.


They'll be a few singles too this year. In May there will be a free single from The Space Between out called 'How To Let Go'. Also later in the year I'm hopefully going to be releasing my first piece of vinyl featuring the songs 'Inside Out' and 'Colliding Circles'. There might be one or two other releases, plus videos and such, but I shouldn't say too much about them in case they don't happen! Thank you for reading this and for having an interest in what I'm doing.

Simon

Soundtracks and music videos

Posted by SimonWaldram on May 4, 2011 at 12:05 PM Comments comments (0)

Back in 2006 I put two collections of instrumental music on the Internet Archive and made them available with a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial license. This means that other artists can use my work in whatever context they wish as long as they do not profit from it. When my Songs Without Words album (which featured tracks from those Internet Archive collections) was also released with the same license.


As a result of this my instrumental music has been somewhat popular with independent filmmakers looking to soundtrack their work. Some of the videos I have been really impressed by and I find it really quite exciting to see my music placed in new and interesting contexts.

I am looking to work with more film makers. As well being interested in doing some soundtrack work I would also really like to have some music videos for some of my songs. I've talked to a couple of people, but nothing has been planned yet. I find myself increasingly interested in the connections between music and the visual arts and I'm looking to make this a greater theme of my work over the next few years.

I'm going to start making my own videos too. I'm going to Dungeness for a few days in June and I'll try to film something while I am there for a song on one of the albums that will be out next year.

If you happen to be a film maker and you would like to work with me you can contact me at through the 'Get In Touch' page on your left.

Here are some videos featuring my music:


By Adam Proctor:

Starlings Over Aberdeen Harbour (song: Wait Until Morning) - http://vimeo.com/9886882

Support UTG (song: Letter To Orkney) - http://vimeo.com/9852492

Frances Walker - Antarctica (song: We Were Ourselves) - http://vimeo.com/9154746

Frances Walker - Tiree (song: Kari Poise) - http://vimeo.com/9135356

Frances Walker on Arthur Watson. Peacock & Printmaking (song: Wait Until Morning) - http://vimeo.com/10101055

By Sam Renseiw:

Patafilm #791: "Repo Space" (song: Houston Sunday) - http://blip.tv/file/4157476

Patafilm #792: "Air On Fire and Heinrich" (songs: a mash-up of Wandering Spirits / Houston Monday and Waves) - http://blip.tv/file/4173048

Patafilm #794: "More Landscaping" (song: a mash up of Waves and a few bits that aren't mine)

Patafilm #796: "Simulated Metaverse" (song: Displacement) - http://blip.tv/file/4261405

 

By Elgin Smith:

Ohne Titel Fall/Winter 2010 (songs: Memories of a Storm and an early version of Elements) - http://models.com/mdx/?p=2024



Rss_feed