Monday, 28 September 2009

Putrid Rabbit

Well, after over seven days of updating and linking, cutting and pasting, up and down-loading, logo scrapping and logo redesigning, photo-resizing and gif-creating, and finally, simply tinkering with seven or eight sites, I came to the conclusion that what I needed was.......another one.

Yes, another site, but only a single page acting as a gateway to all the others sites. A map of Pocket Rocket's web presence, if you like. Nice and simple, with a band logo, a photo, banner links, widgets and an mp3 player. So that's what I've been working on. From it you can work outwards. It helps me make sense of it all, too, because even I was getting lost between my Twitter and my-Space. Besides, it only cost 18 quid to set up, and that includes the domain name and hosting for a year. Not too bad.

I have also been working on finding a way of making just a single Facebook/Twitter-style status update spread like wild fire. It's all about where you post that update, see. Call me if you want to know more.

The good news is Pocket Rocket has now sold three EPs as downloads, so I must be doing something right. The next challenge is producing a CD, or three, for sale.

You can visit Pocket Rocket's new website/gateway URL here. And don't forget to bookmark it.

Friday, 25 September 2009

Free, free, set them free?

So, it's funny how, after all I've said about 'unestablished' bands (for want of a better term, which is probably, 'unknown' bands) making their music free for download, that as I was uploading the new Pocket Rocket EP to ROCK-TIL-YOU-DROP-RECORDS, I chose to make it: 65p your individual download, two quid your whole EP.

Apart from the one site, for which Give The Boy A Chance had to remain free to qualify to appear in an unsigned bands chart, I couldn't bring myself to give any of the new EP away. Not after all that time and love and money that went into producing it.

Don't worry though, I'll get over it. As I mentioned in the last blog, one person has spent £2 so far. He knows who he is. I know who he is. Hopefully, he's playing it in his office (there's your first clue - he has his own office) as I write, hopefully with the windows open - it is a warm and bright autumnal day - and the whole of Clerkenwell (there's your second clue) is getting an earful of it too. Maybe... no... no more clues.

Now, I'm sure, when I get round to the giant email-out promoting Pocket Rocket's new EP, that we'll sell at least another couple of downloads. Now, at this point I'll probably give in to me old modus operandi, and make them all free to download.

The CD-EP, when we produce it, will of course be two quid as well. But free to mates, and people who come to gigs. Somewhere between free and two quid, then. I wonder if there's a bar code for that?

So, should I just get on with it and make the downloads free? Because, what's the point in a few quid anyway? It's not worth worrying about, is it?

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

"This time next year, Rodney...."

So there follows a list of sites that I have been updating and linking into Pocket Rocket's network. Work still continues, but I think I've broken the back of it.

ROCK-TIL-YOU-DROP Bands, Fans & Industry site: Short of our own website, which I'm working on, this is our main page, as far as I'm concerned, anyway. But then I am biased.

I've put links and banners here to all the Pocket Rocket sites. I've uploaded a couple of songs from the new EP here, and some new photos. The site has a 'What are you up to?' status bar, which must be utilised, but unfortunately is not linked to Twitter or Facebook. Not yet, anyway. I'm sure it will be before long.

ROCK-TIL-YOU-DROP-RECORDS.COM: This is where you can buy our EP as a download, by individual track or as a whole. You can also buy other Pocket Rocket music from the last ten years here, and there are a few free downloads of older material. Still haven't looked into CD Baby or iTunes, but better get round to that too.

Facebook: This is a fan site. Don't know how useful it is, but I feel like we should have a presence here too. The music player is shite. You can't customise it, and you can't upload jpegs of the CD artwork. But it does have a useful fan site widget thingy, which I have added to this blog down the right hand side. Doesn't quite fit, mind. And it does have a status bar, but status updates don't automatically appear on my main Facebook page, which is a bit annoying.

Myspace: Fuck, ugly MySpace. I took all the old tracks down and posted two of the four new tracks. Dunno why? Probably, because I hate MySpace. I'm this close to shutting it down. Should I do it?

ReverbNation: Thought I better investigate this one. Just getting to grips with it. Nice interface, and carries links to our RTYD page, and updates our status from Facebook & Twitter. It also automatically creates a Bebo profile page, whatever that it is? What I like about this site is the MP3 widgets it gives you. Like the one I have put in the top right of this page. Pretty useful.

MeMetro Music: This is Metro newspaper's site for bands, venues, promoters etc. I have a RTYD presence here, so I created a page for Pocket Rocket too, and posted Give The Boy A Chance on it. You can vote for tracks you like here, and the number of people who like your tracks shows up on the site. You can also send the song link to your friends so they can 'like it' too, and this will obviously help to raise the profile of the song and the band. Three people like Give The Boy A Chance, as I write. It has a link to share the song on Facebook, as well, which is handy.

You too can 'like it', here.

London Tourdates. 14 Carat Grapefruit are on this one, and their song Minger is high in the unsigned bands' chart. So not wanting to be left out I joined this one too. Songs made available for free download only, can be voted into the Unsigned Bands chart. So there is a free download of Give The Boy A Chance here for those who would rather not pay 65pence.

And then there's Twitter, which like Facebook cannot be ignored because your tweets and status updates are linked to other sites. To tweet here is to minimise tweeting elsewhere.

I make that eight sites. Now the problem is getting people to visit these sites and to listen to, and download, the music. So far, we have sold one EP as a download from the ROCK-TIL-YOU-DROP-RECORDS site - to a fan. It's a start. It's two quid off our next rehearsal, or our guitarist's bus fare to the next rehearsal.

I suppose we don't have to decide how to spend it yet.

Sunday, 20 September 2009

Pocket Rocket has recorded four new songs. So what now?

Back in the old days (oh, here we go... - Ed), you came home from the recording studio with a cassette tape of your song mixes. One cassette each, if you were lucky. You called it a demo. You'd put it on immediately you got in - and more often than not, it didn't sound half as good as you remember it doing in the studio, through their speakers. It sounded muffled; you didn't get the separation of the individual instruments that you heard through the mixing desk in the studio; and then there was the tape hiss. It was disappointing.

And years later, it still sounds shit - I know 'cos I've just played a bunch of my old demo cassettes. And years later, you realise why you never made it.

However unhappy you were with your master cassette though, it would have to do. This was basically because you couldn't afford to remix it or master it properly. Because CDs hadn't been invented. And because you were all still on the dole.

So you'd lovingly create an inlay card, from photocopies made down the library. You'd write and type up a biog - not that you really had a particularly remarkable history, except perhaps that gig at the Rock Garden, where you'd played on the same bill as Suede, before they were famous and when Justine Frischmann was still with them (he's not kidding, either! - Ed) - and then you'd get your mate at work to photocopy it onto letterheaded paper that you have physically cut and pasted together.

You'd then research as many record companies as possible, and regardless of whether they were suitable, you'd mail them a cassette and biog, and hope for the best.

A few days later envelopes would start coming through your door. Some of these envelopes would be clearly carrying returned demos - this was a bad sign, of course - and others would be without, which always seemed like a good sign until you realised it was just a tight, or lazy, record company who couldn't be bothered to return your cassette. Most of the letters within, read something like this: "Thank you for sending your demo to 'So and So' Records, unfortunately, it's not quite what we're looking for at the moment. We wish you every success blah, blah, blah..."

These letters would then be collected like trophies to highlight the stupidity of the music business you were aiming to convince of your talent. These idiots were 'the infidels'. These people were blind. They hadn't got a clue that they'd just 'passed on' the next best thing.

These days, your recording doesn't have to be called 'a demo'. You can proudly call it a 'CD'. On Monday night each member of Pocket Rocket came home from the studio with a four track 'CD'. In fact we're calling it an EP or extended player, to give it its full name.

And we won't be mailing copies of this CD out blindly to record companies. It took fifteen years, but we've learnt that lesson. We will be making hard copies, but that isn't a priority because its quicker to reach your audience these days with downloads. These days people listen to music on their computers, iPhones, or iPods. Their CD collections have stagnated, and their colourful spines are fading gradually away on the shelves in corner of their living room, like old paperbacks.

The first thing that we need to do is update our web presence. This is much more complicated than it sounds but even more tedious than you can imagine. Pocket Rocket has seven sites or pages.

So that is what I have been doing. For the last three or four days, on and off. And I'm still doing it. The process is complicated by the linking all these pages. These days, post-Facebook, you have to consider 'status' activity, as a way of promoting your releases and gigs. Some of these seven sites carry status bars, some are linked to Facebook and Twitter, others aren't. But basically, the objective is to minimise the amount of status bars that you have to update. And maximise the spread of the single piece of news.

I also need to update biogs, create some new banners and some artwork for the downloadable EP, too.

All this is all in preparation for an email-out, announcing the release of the new downloadable EP, with links to where you can buy it, or simply stream it.

To be continued....

Saturday, 19 September 2009

Pocket Rocket in the studio: Day 4

Day 4 is mix-day. Can we mix four songs in eight hours? Hopefully.

Nigel and I are the first to arrive, punctually at 11:00. Nigel's brings his laptop and we spend the first three to four hours in our 'green room', while sound engineer Richard works to get all the instruments and vocals sounding their best. Just before lunch at 1:30-ish, we have a mix of Imagine This, which sounds great. We break for lunch and return to work on Banging Your Head. Lex arrives mid-way through this mix, followed shortly by a flustered Michael after a stressful drive across town.

Mike wants to hear more rhythm guitar in the mixes, so we bring it up for BYH and then cross reference the IT mix which in turn has its rhythm guitar turned up in the mix. Unlike the old-fashioned all-hands-on-sound-desk way of mixing down to tape, these days all levels and EQs and effects are saved to the computer and can be brought up at anytime, so this makes any tweaks a doddle. BYH goes down in one and a half hours, including the re-tweak of IT.

Give The Boy a Chance has the added complication of a fade end that includes some lead guitar and lead vocal that needs tidying up a bit. The rest of the mix though, is fairly straight forward. We cut and paste Lex's lead part a bit, mostly to bring the best phrases forward in time so they get featured before the fade-out. The last most '80s widdly-widdly parts can be heard just as the track fades to nothing.

At nearly 6:00pm, we're against the clock but Richard seems confident we can nail the last mix in the hour or so we have left.

Your Doom is pretty straight forward too, though the intro gives us some problems. It doesn't kick-in like it does live. Unfortunately, I think this comes down to the recording; this was the first song we put down while we adjusted to playing with the click, and apart from each other. I think to the uninitiated it'll sound fine though, and we can re-mix it quite easily, if we need to.

We pay Richard, and thank him for being so great. Then we reconvene across the road at the local boozer and talk music for an hour and a half, like an enthusiastic band of twenty-one year olds.

Download the songs, or just listen to previews, here

Thursday, 17 September 2009

TV Smith and Gaye Advert at the punk ROCK-TIL-YOU-DROP gig

There was a rumour that Tim Smith (AKA TV Smith, former front-man for The Adverts) and Gaye Advert (former bassist) were coming to watch Punks Not Dad at the punk Rock-Til-You-Drop gig at The Dublin Castle last night.

This rumour became a likely event about 8pm when I added their names to the guest list. And the likely event became a reality, when they walked into the pub about 9pm.

The Adverts are my favourite punk band. At secondary school, just before I belatedly discovered The Doors and decided I wanted to be Jim Morrison, I wanted to be TV Smith. I prized myself into the tightest drainpipes, bought the skinniest black ties and made my own badges like he did from newspaper headlines, in order to think, and feel something like I thought TV Smith did - which was probably quite uncomfortable, especially around the groin.

I wanted to write songs using the kind of imagery that TV Smith did. I was into all things apocalyptic back then and his lyrics always really inspired me to write more songs about, what in the early 80s appeared to be, inevitable Armageddon. And this was before I could even play guitar. I didn't have to know what his words meant, I just knew they sounded cool. I even called my first band and proper song, which included a bar-chord progression, 'Subterranean', after this line in The Drowning Men from 'Crossing The Red Sea with The Adverts'.

We're the subterranean vandals,
Tying air lines around door handles.

I like this one too:

The mutant freaks fantastical.
Knife's edge, unreal or actual.

Ambition stunted, the future fated.

(© TV Smith)

Having once before stood only six feet away from Tim at a back-stage bar, and on that occasion not plucked up the courage to say hello, I wasn't going to miss the opportunity last night. Anyway, this time I had a good reason, as promoter of the act he and Gaye had come to see, to introduce myself. Which I did.

Both Tim and Gaye we're lovely and were happy to pose for a photograph with me, which was sweet, and also meant I didn't need to Photoshop one up this morning.

The gig:

The gig itself was a real hoot and another great opportunity to socialise with active members of the RTYD network. The night opened with a storming set by South London three piece Probing Cranks, whose sound seems to owe something to the likes of The Stranglers and Killing Joke. They were followed by Punks Not Dad, who did not disappoint. They played all the faves, including In Me Shed, We Are The Dads and of course, Gaye Advert's Eyes, as well as their newest song I Can't Get It Up. They even bought a piece of IKEA furniture for the audience to assemble and graffiti during the latter song, which was a nice touch.

Although Punks Not Dad would have been a hard act for most bands to follow, 14 Carat Grapefruit managed to equal the entertainment value of their comic-punk allies. They unveiled two new songs My Mate Dave and a two-chord wonder, written especially for the occasion, and Otto Pthrugg had us in stitches all over again, ranting and raving his way through songs from the band's album Long Time Coming.

The Outbursts also put in a fantastic performance playing their own brand of garage punk with menace. Lead singer and keen fisherman Ian put in a suitably snarling vocal performance, and new-boy, guitarist Neale, played like he had been in the band for years.

DJ Dog-Headed Men entertained us between bands with quirky cover versions of punk classics, like To Drunk To Fuck and Gary Gilmore's Eyes, in bossanova and easy-listening styles, which added even more humour to the ocassion.

Great night, great bunch of people.

We must do it again, before too long.

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Acoustic and electric, beer and roast

I'm pleased to say first RTYD Acoustic Afternoon on Sunday at The Libertine, went really well. The staff at the venue were pleased too. The roasts went down a treat and the beers were flowing, so that's all good for business.

There was a good turnout, and all four acts were interesting and entertaining in their own way. Easy Medium Hard played acoustic and electric guitars, and used glockenspiels, an accordion and a big Muff guitar pedal to embellish their angst-ridden love songs. Michael Caines' songs were as witty as fans of Spirit of Play would expect, he even auditioned a couple of new songs for his fellow band members who had come out to support him. I particularly enjoyed his song about Buffy The Vampire Slayer.
John Rigby passionately strummed his way through a set which combined his own post-punk tinged compositions and a couple of covers including a cover of Bob Marley's Redemption Song. Warren Meneely, accompanied by friend Roy played both electric and acoustic guitar and sang his heart out through a set that included nice cover of
Japan's Ghosts.

Next stop, the Dublin Castle tonight.

Saturday, 12 September 2009

Pocket Rocket in the studio: Day 3

Day 3: Vocals

I don't usually take multi-vitamins, or supplements, and all that nonsense. Waste of money. Don't believe they make a difference on a daily basis, unless you eat crap all day, every day. The only thing I have on a daily basis is a banana milk shake, comprising four bananas, very ripe, and and pint of skimmed milk. I do, however, take multi-vitamins when I feel a cold coming on. Or at times like this week, when I am due to sing with the band, and there is a cold in the family; this particular virus belongs to my daughter and includes a free sore throat.

So that's what I have been doing. I've been doubling the dose too, which I'm sure makes no difference, but it makes me feel doubly confident that I will not catch her cold. And I didn't - thank god.

So after 'One-Take' Wilson re-recorded his bass lines, I took to the booth with just a few bananas in my belly, and with a glass of water in my hand. I always feel slightly unnerved when I first step into the booth, my breathing is slightly shallow, but after a few takes, and the realisation that in 3-5 of these I'm going to have enough to construct a strong lead vocal track, I begin to relax into it, and enjoy it.

Without a guitar around my neck I am able to scrutinise my vocals in a way I rarely get to. It's interesting. You have to think about your breathing, and about the length of words and lines, and ending your words clearly, all in a way that you don't in live performance.

With vocals down, it's over to the boys to sing backing vocals. After a quick smoke outside, they take turns to unconfidently enter the booth. We construct a couple of two and three part harmonies for each of the songs, around the backing vocals that they usually sing live. We then put them through the tuning-software-me-jig to get them in tune and tidy them up a bit, and Crosby, Stills and Nash's your uncle... we got perfect harmonies.

Job done, with half an hour to listen to a playback, and pat each other on the back a bit more.

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Colin Gillman: A RTYD Case Study #5: 'The second coming' or 'Robert Ludlum vs Facebook'

Because my band Pocket Rocket has been in the studio in the last few days and I've had various other bits and bobs on my plate, I have been a bit lax in reporting on Colin progress recently. Sorry about that - but it's all good news. Since his renunciation of all things social-networky he has had a very promising acoustic rehearsal with guitarist and drummer Roy Phillips, as well as, finished a Robert Ludlum hardback he picked up for 10pence.

Roy and Colin worked through a number of Colin's songs at a rehearsal room in Perivale called Loz Vegas Soundhouse, and the results have inspired Colin no end, and renewed his confidence. As I may have mentioned before, they plan to use the RTYD Libertine gigs, to work up new songs and ideas as an acoustic guitar duo.

The book was good too, apparently.

Colin has also been in contact with guitarist Marty from East Grinstead (?), who seems very keen, after a period of telephone silence. Colin has booked a series of rehearsals at Airplay Studios and is planning to get together with Roy, who will be playing drums in the band, Marty and a bass player (I can't remember which one, now?) on the 21st September.

All good news and Colin is suitably psyched. So psyched, he's only back on Facebook!

Pocket Rocket in the studio: Days 1&2

Day One:

Orpheus is a reasonably-priced little basement studio in Shoreditch, run by long-haired Pantera-loving
sound engineer Richard Campbell. Richard is also a drummer, so he has a drum kit set up, and miked up, permanently in the live room, which is a bonus and saves us a lot of time on Day One.

We're big fans of recording to click-tracks and having our songs tight to the beat, so Nigel has been practising playing to a click over the last few weeks. The beauty of recording to a click and using Logic recording software is that Richard is able to touch up any slipped beats at the end. The result is a perfect foundation on which to construct four driving rock songs.

We begin by recording Nigel's drums and Mike's bass simultaneously, while I play and record a guide guitar and vocal track. I'm in a vocal booth and the lads are in the live-room together. We all require a slightly different headphone mix but once we are all happy, off we go.
Your Doom is a little challenging but Nigel wants to record his hardest parts first. Mike and I wonder why we don't start with something a little easier, but once we get YD down, we get Imagine This, Give The Boy A Chance and Banging Your Head down more quickly. I play very little guide guitar and mostly sing to give cues to various parts of the songs.

Mike decides at the end that he wants to re-do his bass lines once my guitar parts are down, which makes sense. But we have enough for Lex and me to work with on Day 2. Richard spends an hour and a half at the end of the session, 'tidying up' the drums, in preparation for Day Two.

Day Two:

Lex and I get together to record our guitar parts. I spend the first three and half hours of the session recording double-tracked rhythm guitar parts using the amp-simulation software, and standing behind Richard and the mixing desk. My concentration starts to go at around the three hour mark and I have to work particularly hard to get through the last song.

Lex plays lead guitar for 3 hours. He plays my Fender Strat, and uses 3 sounds from the amp simulator: he picks through verses using a clean sound with some chorus and delay, which adds an REM sound to a couple of the songs; he uses a nice crunchy sound for opening lead refrains and chugging chord patterns; and a lively classic-rock lead guitar sound for solos.
We leave the studio in high spirits. On Saturday, we will re-do the bass and record the vocals and backing vocals.

Friday, 4 September 2009

Colin Gillman: A RTYD Case Study #4: The man who fell to earth...and took up fishing

On the 26th August, I reported that Colin had 'gone fishing'. I was of course referring to Colin's search for new musicians, not to any literal activity of this nature. Well, early on Thursday morning as I slept, an email arrived in my inbox from Colin announcing that he was closing his Facebook, MySpace, blog and Twitter sites, and that he was planning to sell his electric guitar and take up fishing. I have to say I was just a little worried and called him first thing in the morning to make sure he was okay. He didn't answer, but instead sent a text asking me not to worry, all was well, it was an epiphany rather the act of a broken man.

I finally managed to speak to Colin last night and he confirmed that this is definitely no whim. He hopes that a jam session with guitarist and drummer Roy Phillips next week will be a productive and inspiring one, and he fully intends to honour his acoustic gig bookings at The Libertine in the autumn, but he says he wants to re-familiarise himself with more down to earth activities such as fishing, reading, and socialising in the real world over a pint rather than over a social network.

I have to say for a moment I was envious of the feeling of liberation that his act of renunciation had inspired. I look forward then to Colin twittering on to me over a pint in a pub very soon.