Tuesday, 10 April 2018

Crossover - now available!

"A threshold is a challenge..."

These are the opening words of Richard Hayes' sleeve notes for Crossover. As always, Richard's words are perfect, instantly capturing the essence of what my music is about.

Crossover is available now, via Bandcamp, both as a digital download, and limited edition CD-R.

Although I would release all my music as a physical version if I could, this was one release which I felt needed to be made available on CD, and I'm delighted with how the packaging has turned out, really feeling like an extension of the music, as all album artwork should.

Crossover is made up of three tracks, with a total running time of just under 45 minutes. There's lots to explore...

To stream or purchase the album, point your browser to:

Pros and Conventions

For the last few years I’d been wanting to “upgrade” from doing the annual Novacon SF convention to attending an Eastercon – generally the UK’s largest annual SF&F weekend, and finally this year, I finally got my act together. 

Hosted on a different city each year, the location for the 2018 Eastercon – AKA “Follycon” – was Harrogate in North Yorkshire, in the Majestic Hotel, a huge Victorian building, evidently grand in its day – complete with the most enormous gent’s toilets I’ve ever seen. This had quickly become a convention talking point for everyone... I’m surprised they don’t already have their own Twitter account. 

I arrived on the Friday afternoon when everything was already under way. I signed in and headed straight for the art show to put up my work, realising that in hindsight, arriving the day before would have been beneficial and less stressful. While I get a buzz out of the smaller events, I found it completely overwhelming at first and it took me until the following afternoon to acclimatise.

At Novacon, I’ve been used to one main rolling program and a few sub-events all within easy reach of one another. This bigger event saw multiple large panel events running simultaneously with half a dozen or more smaller events happening at the same time in various different parts of the venue. Typically, many of the programme items I had bookmarked, clashed, so I had to be reluctantly selective.

I exhibited at the art show, with my largest and most diverse display to date. The art show was huge and astoundingly good. The quality of the work on show was second to none and incredibly wide-ranging with very few similar styles. 

With over 600 pieces on display of vastly different styles and mediums, the art show was spectacular. My work felt perfectly in place and in very good company. Sadly my fellow artist and good friend David A. Hardy was unable to make it to the convention, but his work came without him. A genuinely pleasant surprise came when I realised Chris Moore and Jim Burns were also part of the art show – two artists alongside Hardy, whose work I have admired for many years, and that has been a big inspiration to me, so meeting them was an absolute pleasure.

Despite being one of the artists, I could have happily spent the whole convention in the art show! I also had the pleasure of meeting other artists such as Neil McChrystal and Anne Sudworth as well as many familiar friendly faces from Novacon –  not to mention Serena and John, the driving force behind the art show and two wonderful people who deserve a month of sleep after putting in so many hours of hard work and taking care of all their artists.

With that in mind, what made the event was really the people. Friendly, likeminded folk and people who you can strike up any conversation with. And unlike your ComiCon type of film/tv events, there are no outrageous autograph charges here (none at all, in fact) – well-known authors, artists and guests are more than happy to sign things for you and to socialise, be one of the crowd and enjoy the convention as much as the attendees – as many of them were prior to being known. There was no feeling of ‘them’ and ‘us’, with no egos on parade.  

I spent a lot of time talking with publishers and writers, but the highlight of the weekend for me, was spending time in the company of Jeff Noon, Christopher Priest and John Clute. I had attended the Angry Robot book launch for Jeff Noon’s new book The Body Library – a title with which I’d been fascinated since reading his previous title, A Man of Shadows last year.

Christopher Priest only appeared on one panel, but it was an insightful – but unfortunately rushed – discussion on the late Brian Aldiss. The various anecdotes from the panel members on their own personal experiences of knowing Aldiss was interesting. After Arthur C. Clarke, Aldiss was one of the first classic SF authors I read, and whose books also inspired some of my early artwork.

It was an honour to spend a few hours with Mr Priest after the panel, despite the traumatising lack of coffee at the hotel bar! Despite being my favourite writer, we touched very little on books, instead talking all manner of other things. I did get him to sign my copy of The Glamour, though!

There was a poster area with posters of varying subject matters. I exhibited a poster on synaesthesia and art/music and made myself available to speak about it to anybody interested. I thought this item was a really good idea and more could have been made of it, as the variety of subjects was really interesting. This also sparked some ideas for future work. 

I also joined in Guardbridge Books’ launch event for Harry Elliott’s novel Warrior Errant, to which I have recently illustrated the cover. I found myself signing copies as the cover artist, which did feel a bit funny, since the author Harry was unable to attend.

I had finally settled comfortably into things when it was time to start dismantling the art show. For various reasons, the traditional art show auction had been replaced by a ‘silent’ auction of on-board bidding. It took a long time for any bids to start filtering through and many people kept asking when the auction event was, so they had to be informed otherwise. 

On the up-side, this enabled us to have the option of instant sale pieces in our displays, an idea I really liked, as it allowed a good combination of pieces that could go to auction, and pieces that perhaps catered for people who were maybe not staying for the full weekend, or were there on a budget.

There has been a lot of things to follow up since the convention, and it has taken a while for my thoughts to settle down. If I’m honest, I didn’t enjoy the size of the event. It was a bit much for me personally. But I did enjoy the social side and of course, the exposure – and you can’t have one without the other. 

There was also a constant feeling of wanting or needing to be in three places at once, and many people who you wanted to talk to, you couldn’t, because you’d either just manage a passing hello or indefinitely keep missing each other as events collided. There was also the matter of having to choose between events. I regularly found myself yearning for a smaller, more simple affair – yet when it was all over by the Monday and things were winding down, I did feel a bit sad. So conflicting feelings, really.

It is difficult to compare an event like Novacon of around 200 people, to something like this, which is perhaps four or five times the size, though both have their pros and cons.

I prefer the simplicity of Novacon, but in recent years, it has felt like the same, but diminishing returning crowd. And it really is a superb convention, which deserves a good attendance. It has a great programme, great guests and you have both the time and space to properly see the people you want to see. However, Novacon does feel like it has become an annual meet-up for the same group – nothing wrong with that, but as somebody on the exhibiting side, you want to see new, fresh faces and a growing attendance.

I would certainly do another Eastercon, especially now I know what I’m in for. On the whole, Follycon was a very positive experience. So many things happened and people met, that simply wouldn’t have happened otherwise. I got a lot out of it from that point of view, and feel all the more inspired for having done so.

Tuesday, 20 March 2018

The Crossover is coming...

My latest music album project, Crossover, is now complete and will be released via Bandcamp on Friday 30th March as a digital download. A limited CD version of the album will also be available shortly afterwards.

I will be launching Crossover as part of my art and music display at this year’s Eastercon SF&F convention in Harrogate, over the Easter weekend. The CD version will be available alongside some of my other albums, again a limited quantity specially produced on CD for the event.

Here is a brief taster of Crossover:

I have always tried to tell stories or envisage certain scenarios in my music, despite it being instrumental. Crossover takes that storytelling to another level, and one that I have been striving towards.

Having abandoned any kind of typical song structure, this has been a very free-flowing, experimental and often challenging process, but one that to me as an artist, feels much more like painting than making music.

Looking back to the progressive rock and pioneering electronic albums of the 1970s, I wanted to capture that same kind of style and way of thinking... to create a musical adventure; a sonic dreamlike world to explore via a flowing piece of music that transcends several movements.

Crossover was originally going to be one long continuous track, but then I started thinking about how the two sides of a vinyl LP always worked so well, and I decided it would be a two part album, made up of two long, evolving tracks. Of course, once the ideas started flowing, a third piece of music gradually emerged.

The end result is a three-part album with a running time of just under 45 minutes. The project seemed to develop its own beginning, middle and end sections, resulting in three long sections that fit together and tell the story.

But what is the story?

While the concept behind the project is about a change or a journey, quite how this can be interpreted is up to you...

Wednesday, 14 February 2018


My new music project for 2018 is an album entitled Crossover.

Having returned to the world of my first album last year, with Back Into the Light, I also found myself thinking back to my roots and looking at the original influences which made me want to create instrumental music in the first place.

The albums in question are Mike Oldfield's Tubular Bells and Jean-Michel Jarre's Oxygène – two hugely influential and staggeringly unique albums that emerged in the 1970s and changed the face of both rock and electronic music. While very different in style and production, both albums took you to another place; like a vast musical world to explore. The tracks flowed seamlessly into one another, creating a continually evolving soundscape.

As a self-taught musician, every project is a learning curve and a progression. And from each, there is something that has taken me into the next. But looking back at how those albums influenced my work, I realised that I hadn't actually tried my hand at creating that kind of continuous, flowing album, so it was time to put this right!

Crossover contains just 3 tracks, but with each one lasting between 12-15 minutes and moving through a variety of styles and atmospheres. It is an album where dark and light battle it out, but also a journey and a dream-like adventure – and my most ambitious album to date.

Here is the cover art:

I am constantly fascinated with that shift between worlds, whether it is in our own dreams, films or books – particularly books. I love the often sinister blurring of alternative existences in Christopher Priest's work, in books such as The Glamour, The Affirmation or A Dream of Wessex. Then there's the wonderful writing of Haruki Murakami; his books brimming with poetic metaphors, but also characters who cross between planes or realities. I love how one moment you're in a bustling urban environment, but Murakami can take you into a building such as a hotel or office block and through there, you enter someplace else. However one of the origins of Crossover was Blake Crouch's recent book, Dark Matter. An incredible, if mind-bending read, but the travel between alternative realities and the journey of the characters really got me thinking how I might score a "soundtrack" for such a thing.

While that kind of journey is at the core of Crossover, it also remains open to interpretation – after all, there are many points in our lives in which we find ourselves transcending from one point to another, physically, emotionally or psychologically.

Creating a cohesive musical interpretation of all of the above (and more) has been a real challenge, but also a creative, fun and rewarding one, and I look forward to sharing some clips from the album soon.

Crossover will be released at the end of March, to coincide with my attendance of "Follycon", this year's Eastercon event, taking place in Harrogate. My plan is to launch the album there, where I'll have a limited physical release on CD.

Watch this space...

Friday, 22 September 2017

Deeper Into the Light

My latest album project, Back Into the Light – the follow-up to my 2007 début, Into the Light – was unleashed to the world today.

Even though two of the tracks were created during 2016, it is one of the fastest albums I have ever made, but also one of the most rewarding – if not the most rewarding.

Although the music on Back Into the Light is wide open to interpretation, all the tracks had different starting points or ideas behind them...

Back Into the Light
It was always my plan to open the album with a reinterpretation of the original title track from the first album. This song uses most of the same sounds that were present on the original, and it is built around the same analogue drum loop. I wanted it to start off sounding quite familiar, before venturing into new territory.

One of my favourite pieces on the album. I was trying to make a piece of music that evokes the same kind of life-affirming feeling that you get when you're out in a beautiful place and a huge intake of fresh air never tasted so good.

Due North
An evolving adventure of a track. I imagined plotting some kind of mystical journey across unknown lands. This one never stands still and takes you through several different places. This track remained unfinished for quite a while, before I discovered how it should conclude, with a thumping rhythm and booming bass synth.

Moments of Bliss
A simple, upbeat track with a catchy groove... for those little, rare moments in life when everything feels perfect.

Again an appreciation of the natural world around us, whether it be mountains, forests, animals or even huge manmade structures from times past.

The album takes a darker turn at this point as we enter a series of songs that explore the psyche and dream state a little more. This track started out as a series of happy accidents – sounds and notes which shouldn't have been played together are actually what make it work.

Infinite Rooms
I was reading an article about mental health, and the title came from there – the idea of there being an infinite number of "rooms" in the human mind. This immediately reminded me of a fascinating art exhibition I saw in the 1990s, of works by patients of a mental institution, produced whilst under controlled drugs. There was one piece I remember, a cross-section of a head – like the type of illustration you'd find in an encyclopaedia – and inside it was filled with hundreds of tiny little interconnected rooms. That piece stayed with me – I'd love to see it again.

This is another track with a direct link to Into the Light, being built around the same percussion loop as Above and Below. Like that track it also features the sound of marimbas and is again a track of two parts; one distinctly darker and heavier than the other, like a split personality.

The Water's Edge
David A. Hardy's stunning painting Ocean of Space – which features as the album cover – was the starting point for this track. A framed canvas print of the piece hangs above my Mac, so I can stare out into this other world at any time and watch the crashing waves. As a synesthete, I wanted to use sounds that in my mind, matched the colours and form of the painting – and like all Hardy paintings, it is one that you feel like you could jump into and go soaring off over an awe-inspiring landscape.

I've always maintained a connection between dreams and music, and the dream state has inspired a large portion of my music to date. I wanted to interpret that moment when you don't realise you've fallen to sleep and cross through that blurred line between reality and dream. This was one of those rare tracks which fell into place effortlessly, and the version you hear is pretty much my first take.

Back Into the Light is available now via Bandcamp.

Thursday, 7 September 2017

Back Into the Light - cover art reveal!

I'm thrilled to announce that the cover art for Back Into the Light will again feature astounding artwork from renowned space and science fiction artist, David A. Hardy.

In my home office/studio, a framed canvas print of Hardy's painting, Ocean of Space hangs above my Mac, and acts as a constant source of inspiration as well as being a portal to another dimension. As I was working on Back Into the Light, I found myself staring at the piece more and more – and I released that it simply had to be the album cover.

Although Back Into the Light is not a space-themed album, what I loved was the central glow in the almost animated looking galaxy, and how it reflects through the crashing waves in the foreground. The sea has often be a recurring theme in my music (see: Traces), and I think that's what drew me to this particular piece more than anything.

David A. Hardy of course provided the cover art to my original Into the Light album back in 2007, so this really makes a perfect follow-up, especially being of a similar palette. Although with that in mind, the music of the new album obviously has to live up to the expectations delivered by the cover!

For a limited time, Into the Light is available on Bandcamp as a 'name your price' release - which of course means you can grab it for free!

Stay tuned for further updates and music samples from Back Into the Light...

Back Into the Light will be released via Bandcamp in late September/early October.

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Stepping Back Into the Light

When I first started experimenting with the idea of making music back in early 2006, I had no idea if it would work – if as an un-trained musician, I could create anything listenable, whether it be for my own enjoyment or (dare I say it) anybody else.

It was a long and slow process, but it worked – and I soon discovered the creative stimulation, enjoyment and satisfaction in making my own music was akin to that of creating artwork. One uses colours, the other uses sounds, but my approach and thinking was the same. It was all about applying layer upon layer of sound, to form another world in which to escape.

After several quick demo album ideas, in the spring of 2007, I started work on what I regard as my first true album, having found my sound, style and direction – Into the Light.

The title came about after a very vivid dream. In the dream I had been shot, and suddenly found myself hurtling towards a bright light. Of course as I entered the light, I woke up. But the months that followed were also a very special time for me personally, and all of that optimism combined with travel went into the music.

Ten years on, when I look back at Into the Light, although I can hear the sound of an amateur, untrained musician finding his way, there's also the memories of a special moment in life, that you know can never be repeated or recaptured. Plus, I was regurgitating years of musical influence that I had stored up, and discovering the thrill and excitement of making music.

I never thought I would make as many self-produced/released albums as I have in the decade that has passed – but each one has been a learning curve, a new adventure and attempt to better myself and my abilities (from playing to mixing and the whole technical side), with the satisfaction that I'm able to put my work out into the world for likeminded folk to hear.

So here we are in 2017, and it's time to step back into the light. It seems fitting to return to those musical worlds and ways of thinking ten years on – although many things have changed in that time, including myself. It has also been fun to play with some of the synth sounds and presets that I used on Into the Light – revisiting some of the sounds I haven't worked with for a long time, somehow took me back to those early days of making music (or trying to) and the spontaneity that went with it... how discovering a certain sound could form the basis of an entire track.

So without further ado, here are brief excerpts from three of the new tracks. More soon!

Back Into the Light - album preview #1 on Soundcloud