Thursday, December 28, 2006

Festive Goodies

Deserted Issue 4

Back in the mists of time (1985) the Deserters produced a short run of magazines for those following our music at the time. They featured interviews with members of the band, articles about the music and anything else that happened to be of interest at the time. I've recently come across scans of them and for your pleasure they are now available for download from the Deserters site at Some of the references may be a bit obscure, but reading through the biography page first should be all that's necessary to acquaint you with the players. Some of the humour is also firmly on the juvenile side, mostly influenced by "Monty Python" and "The Young Ones", but there are some gems in there, too. So cast your mind back to the mid 80's and enjoy a trip through Deserters' history...

I haven't forgotten about the new track - watch this space over the next few days. I'm working on the 3rd (and hopefully final) mix at the moment.

Friday, December 08, 2006

December Will Be Magic Again

We've managed to squeeze in a last Lunacy Board session before the end of the year, and I'm pleased to say that it was a bit of a blinder. Having had a few sessions now to settle into what we're doing and where we're going, we now have the luxury of just setting up and getting on with the business (and fun) of making some new music. First of all we kicked off with a second recording of 'The Unofficial National Anthem', which has been significantly extended since our first attempt a couple of months ago - this time around it has a wider dynamic range and a wider spectrum of sounds as well as heading more towards the progressive genre than the first version. The result is a fairly large number of sonic layers which I'll be editing and mixing down over the course of the next week or so to form our first public release.

We then followed this up with a first run through 'The Man In The Boat', which I haven't even finished writing yet. I've been working on it with just voice and acoustic guitar, so it was great to hear it come alive with drums and electric guitar. It's still pretty unpolished, with only a guide vocal (which was VERY ropey) and no bass or other accompaniment, but has given us a good starting point to work from.

Finally, we also tried a quick run-through of 'Jim Crow' which is at an even more embryonic stage - just a few choruses exist as I threw away the original verses. As I've been writing it, this song had a kind of Buddy Holly feel to it, with choppy acoustic chords and a fairly standard harmonic structure, but as we played the first chorus slowly through it picked up a swing rhythm, and backing vocals, resulting in a wonderful and most unexpected doo-wop style. Given the subject nature, or at least one aspect of it, this seems quite fitting, and hopefully we can pull it off when the rest of the song is written around it.

Hopefully my next post here will be to reveal our work to date. Stay tuned!

Monday, November 20, 2006

Welcome Mr. Wheezy

J Busilacchio Reed Organ

Since the days of the Green Shed Studios and the big Farfisa organ we had there, I've always had a bit of a soft spot for the sound of the organ. Nothing else sounds like a proper pipe organ being played well in a cathedral and echoing round the space, filling the audio spectrum with trouser-flapping bass and angelic overtones. And the latest addition to my sonic arsenal fits the bill - it sounds nothing like that, but perhaps a bit more like an asthmatic monk playing an accordion in a public toilet.

Introducing the J. Busilacchio electric reed organ - it's a keyboard in a suitcase, includes 4 legs which screw in to the bottom and an on/off switch. Turn it on and a fan starts pumping a cool breeze across your fingers and you're ready to go. It has a great sound - effectively it's a harmonium without the bellows, or a horizonal accordion. The air gets pumped over metal reeds which results in a rich sound a bit like a pipe organ with a bad cold - not as bold or clear, but with a dignified, if slightly dishevelled, air. It's defintely more Ivor Cutler than Van der Graaf Generator, but that's certainly no bad thing. It sits quite well with theremin, so I may create something to feature the two together.

There's really not a lot of information available about these - they do crop up fairly regularly in online auctions, along with similar items by other manufacturers. I've seen them described as dating from the 40's, which I find a little hard to believe, as they have more of a 60's feel to them. They're also known as Chord Organs, due to the panel of accordion-like chord buttons to the left of the keyboard, though this tends to lump them in with some pretty ugly-looking plastic things with plastic reeds which really are not in the same league. If anyone has more information about the history of these critters, let me know.


I've done some more digging around, and discovered various different versions of the organ. I've put details on a new page on the Deserters site, here.

Note to eBay sellers: You are welcome to use the details about Busilacchio/Lorenzo organs from this page on the condition that you include a link to this page ( on your listing so that your potential buyers have access to all the information.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Scots, Sports and Raw Spirit

Raw Spirit - click to buy it

Hold onto your hats - this is a long one...

Tourist Tat

I've followed two generations of family working in various parts of the Scottish tourist industry and have therefore been thoroughly steeped for years in views of garish tartans, shortbread of various shapes, endless piper dolls, Nessies, clan memorabilia and spurtles (damn, but I love that word!). Billy Connolly once said something along the lines that "we're the only people in the World who actually believe all that tourist crap IS our culture", which is either a sad reflection on the commercialisation of our culture to the extent that it has become a pale imitation of itself, or an endorsement of the scottish ability to take ourselves too seriously, but with good humour.

Our culture is, of course, something of a moveable feast, as most are in these global village days, with influences from all over the World making themselves known, but even locally we have a reasonably large population of second and third generation immigrant communities who are combining their culture with our own - changing both in the process. Such is the nature of art - it thrives on collaboration and cross-pollination, despite the best efforts of critics and big business to categorise and rationalise it.

Useful Sports

I don't like football. There are probably about 5 males in Scotland who don't like football, which always strikes me as amusing that a country so bad at something can have such a love of it. It's perhaps the national sense of humour at play again - we like underdogs, so let's go crazy about a sport that we're inherently useless at. If there's one thing we're good at (and this applies to the whole of the UK), it's inventing games. We've invented loads of games - golf, rugby, football, cricket, the list goes on. Then we tell the World about them, win for the first couple of years and they thrash us. Soundly.

I do wonder about the origins of sports, and why some should be more popular than others. Running, hurdles, javelin, high jump, skiing - these all make some sense, being throwbacks to our days as hunters or foragers, but football/basketball/hockey/rugby/polo? They're all basically the same game with variations on the ball, goals or method of movement, and go back to ancient Greece (or earlier, for all I know) when they used the head of the previous losing team captain, but what is the significance of sticking a ball in a goal? Lost on me, for sure.

As for the game of golf - where to start? Cross-country snooker. Waste of a good walk. Pick your favourite insult. Golf is just weird, through and through. From the Rupert the Bear outfits through to the electric golf carts for the people too lazy to walk a couple of hundred metres between holes, it is a strange parallel universe. People come to Scotland from all over the World to play golf - we have (according to those in the know) some of the best courses in the World.

But here's the thing - no matter how stunning the landscape around the course, the course itself is identical to every other course in the world. Okay, the layout is different, the holes are further apart or whatever, but they have to be more or less similar in the same way that all football pitches are rectangular with a goal at each end. Arguably the most famous course is the Old Course at St Andrews, set beside a wonderful beach with the town watching over and the constantly changing sea scenting the air. It's very flat and sandy, and golf courses the World over have modelled themselves on this, which is all very well, but just because it sits in the landscape of the Fife coast very comfortably doesn't mean the same automatically applied elsewhere - a fact which doesn't seem to have registered with golf course designers. For example, millions were spent on landscaping a vast swathe of Loch Lomondside to turn it into a flat, bright green carpet covered in sand pits. Loch Lomond is a freshwater loch. It doesn't have perfect yellow sand. It has rugged hillsides of brown bracken, pale grasses and purple heathers - not flat, near-luminous green manicured lawns.

Please, if you're going to dedicate an unhealthy proportion of the country's first national park to the rich and stupid, would it be too much to ask to at least keep it in sympathy with the surrounding area? The local people struggle with endless forms of planning permission to make the slightest change to their house, but big money golf can come along and plant a monstrous eyesore in the middle of one of the country's most beautiful locations and for some reason (money, obviously) that's fine. And who decided that golf courses had to be placed in beautiful locations - you don't see football stadia or racetracks in the middle of picturesque countryside? End of rant.

One thing that can be said of golf is that it seems to be all-encompassing. The obscenely rich who play at Loch Lomond pay thousands for the privilege to do so, but take a trip through Glasgow and you'll see shell-suited youths en-route to their local course with golf club in one hand and carry-out in the other.

Highland Games

For the first 17 or so years of my life we spent a day each year at the local highland games - usually Luss, or occasionally the spectacle of Dunoon with its massed pipe bands. In recent years these have become the stomping ground of the "World's Strongest Man" competitors, keeping up their profiles and earning a few bob in between pulling trains with their teeth or lifting boulders with their nostril hair, but back in the day these would have been local strong men, usually from the surrounding farms.

The games include various stalls, displays of highland dance and a number of sporting events. The events range from standards like flat races and shot putt, to hill races (who can get to the top of the nearest mountain and back the quickest), hammer throwing and the old favourite, tossing the caber. For those not familar with this event, it is probably even more phallic than it sounds - in a nutshell you have to pick up a long log and throw it up and through 180 degrees in the air, or as Iain Banks puts it; "...some thick-necked twat in a skirt trying to outwit a telegraph pole..." I always enjoyed watching these events, and felt they were a pretty good way for farm workers to show off the muscles they'd built up over the years, with reasonably unique sports aimed at their skills.

One event always seemed at odds with the rest, and I suspect probably owed more to "It's a Knockout" than traditional scottish competition. It involved teams of two, one of whom would push, and the other sit in, a wheelbarrow. The barrow occupant would hold a long pole which would have to be inserted into a hole on a contraption housing a bucket of water, under which the barrow had to pass. Should the aim be off, then the team would be soaked (which was almost always the outcome), otherwise they would pass into the next round. I suppose this is really a less dangerous variant of mediaevil jousting, but don't know what relevance it may have had to highland life.

Raw Spirit

This whole article was inspired by the Iain Banks' line above which I've been chuckling about all day. It comes from his fairly recent non-fiction book "Raw Spirit" which is a sort of hybrid between travelogue, autobiography and whisky-tasting guide. I've never read any sort of travel book, partly on the basis that I'd just be jealous of the places people travel to, partly because I wouldn't necessarily be interested in the sort of things the writer would, but mainly because I find them about as appealing as a slushy romance novel or a guide to cross-stitch - just not my thing.

However, this book is written by one of my favourite authors who has written some wonderful contemporary fiction (much of it based in Scotland), and is probably second only to Frank Herbert in the SciFi genre. It covers Scotland, so no need to be envious of exotic locations. It offers up history, information and assessments of various single malts without being pompous or technical. And finally, it contains lots of amusing Banksian anecdotes to bring life to the locations he visits. To bring us back to the the issue of Scottish culture I'll end with another apt quote; " of extreme Heederum-Hawderum-ness that's patently been dredged from the very lowest, most crud-encrusted sump of the great festering bilge tank that is Scottish Cliché MacMusic from Bonnie Glen Grotesquo." So, if you want a guide to either Scotland or whisky by someone who lives and loves both, has a wry sense of humour and a knack for storytelling, as well as an appreciation of decent music, I'd recommend it.

Monday, October 09, 2006

All Stand, Please

We had a good Lunacy Board session last weekend - first time using the new studio set-up, which worked out pretty well, though we didn't exactly put it all through its paces.

Sean brought a few ideas for lyrics and music, which we mulled over and mangled into the skeleton of a song. I think we managed to capture the intent of the original text, but the music went off in its own direction, as often happens. What we thought would be a deep and meaningful anti-anthem became a perfectly formed 3-minute pop tune, albeit with deeper than the average lyrics.

The piece ("The Unofficial National Anthem") features Sean on vocals and drums and yours truly on guitar and bass, which was all recorded fairly painlessly with a couple of back-up takes just in case. The result was very pleasing, and positively catchy, if a little ragged around the edges. We're planning on doing some rehearsal of it before the next session to tighten it up before re-recording, as well as trying something more suited to our musical roots in a Can / Robert Wyatt style.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Playing in the Air

Santa hat on E-ProI've been giving some more thought to the whole idea of a public performance on theremin, should I ever be in the position to do so. As I mentioned previously, I don't think a guest spot with the band will work (unless they go somewhere with a big enough stage), which leaves me with 3 options. I could just play solo, with no accompaniment, I could have a pre-recorded accompaniment (or maybe guitar player), or I could use delay loops. I quite like the idea of the last option, having seen how well it can work in practice. I'd probably set up a backing loop on acoustic guitar, then play a theremin bassline over the top, followed by the melody.

So, that's all very well, but what could I play?

Tempting though a freeform improvisation would be, I don't know that it would go down very well with an audience who've paid to see a covers band, so that got me thinking. Our next public gig is December, and there are some festive tunes which should sound pretty good on the theremin. I tried some out today - a mixture of popular Christmas tunes like White Christmas, Rudolph, etc. along with some traditional carols - Silent Night is particularly effective on theremin.

Here's the thing. I tried 'Walking in the Air' - the theme from 'The Snowman' - which is a song that really gets my hackles up. I don't know why, but it always seems to conjure up in my mind the sugary, sickly, commercial worst of what the Christmas season has become. To paraphrase Roy Harper "I've not read the book (or seen the film), so I cannot recite", but it just grates on me for reasons I cannot explain. It may be a lovely, touching story about one boy's love for a talking ice-pop, but that music has put me off it for life. HOWEVER... What a perfect piece of music for theremin. It's in the right register, it's fairly ethereal, it's fun to play, and it's not Aled bloody Jones.

The band do a great version of Squiggle's (or whatever he's calling himself nowadays) 'Kiss'. I have never liked Prince (as was), or any of his musical output - he always seemed like he was trying to be the best bits of Jimi Hendrix, Michael Jackson and Johnny Guitar Watson and ending up being the worst excesses of all of them. Maybe I'm being unfair, but he had his chance with me and blew it. Maybe I'd like him more if he wasn't so hyped - I do tend to automatically put up barriers to hype, hence my similar dislike of REM, INXS, Simply Red; the list goes on. The point is that despite not liking the song 'Kiss' (including the self-mocking, good-humored Tom Jones version), the first time the band tried it out they completely rocked its socks off. In fact it is one of my favourite songs they do. Somehow or other it just fits, and similarly, somehow or other that awful Snowman tune just comes to life on the theremin.

Or maybe it's just me?

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Flux Sake

I've had a fairly hectic few weeks between various gigs, changing jobs and increasing family taxi services.

Another two live sound gigs - one very cool show in a barn as part of a party/barbequeue/dance/shindig event, and another more local gig which was almost a sell-out. We've also almost sold out a gig in December, and may have a slot in a big charity bash in the new year, so keeping busy on that front. Proceeds from a previous gig went to purchase our own PA system which is loud, clear and a significant improvement on the previous system. I've done a couple of multitrack live recordings of the band, with the aim being to put together a demo for future promotion and possibly even a live CD for the punters to buy.

There have been a couple of suggestions that I might join them on-stage for a song, playing theremin, which would be fun. I don't know how practical it would be however, since the venues we've played so far have been too crowded on stage for any sort of theremin playing (which needs a couple of metres space to avoid interference with the antennae). Another problem is monitoring what I'd be playing in the midst of a live-band - unlike any other instrument which can be played to some extent without hearing the outcome, the theremin HAS to be heard by the performer just to keep on pitch. I would need a dedicated monitor for this, preferably at ear-height, so the practicalities may well outweigh the desire to do a guest spot. I've tried to do more practice with a view to maybe doing a piece or two as warm-up for the band, having the stage to myself and possibly using a delay pedal or similar to accompany myself, but I don't think my theremin playing is just quite ready for public performance yet.

I've also been to see Pamelia Kurstin playing live last week, which was inspirational. She is one of the few masters of the theremin, and plays it with a combination of delay pedals and effects to produce densely-layered, almost orchestral sounds. Opening for her were an avant-garde trio of cello, guitar and monosynth which didn't really do much for me, and IME - a solo artist using guitar, location recordings, chimes and various gadgets to build up a very slowly evolving, atmospheric sound on the border between music and sound-sculpture. Not a type of music I normally listen to very often, but it did prompt me to dig out Czukay and Sylvian's 'Flux and Mutability', which is probably the closest thing in my music collection.

Between listening to these ambient pieces and playing around with delay loops on the theremin, I'm feeling the creative juices flowing again, which is good, as we have a Lunacy Board session coming up this weekend. As well as the usual improvised jams we've had in the past, we also have a little project which may or may not bear fruit, but offers us both a specific focus and potential for an instant audience. More details about the success or otherwise of that to follow.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Farfisa Frenzy

For some reason, perhaps Google have recently updated their index, there has been a large jump in visits to the blog here, 90% of which are from a Google Images search on Farfisa. The post from April this year Makkie's Rhythm included a picture of a Farfisa organ, which is now appearing as 4th in a google search. All very nice, but apologies to anyone searching for information about Farfisa organs here - I don't have any!

Well, okay, here's some background about the one we used... It came from some club or other and was on its last legs when it arrived at the Green Shed for us to use. It had a solid veneer of nicotine mottled with beer and grew progressively smellier as it warmed up with use. I don't know what model it is - I did a bit of research recently for more information, but came up with very little, but it had a built-in rhythm section (as used in the aforementioned track) and tape recorder. It also supposedly had a Leslie cabinet built in, but the switch to turn it on did nothing. At the time none of us had any idea what a Leslie was, sowe didn't realise what we were missing, or even how we could go about fixing it to get that unique sound. Oh well. At the time we did think it was an incredibly cheesy addition to our instrumental ranks, but it served us well whilst it lasted.

Unfortunately, one day it just died in a shower of sparks and our association was almost over. I did manage to salvage the rhythm unit from it and get it operating as a stand-alone analogue drum machine of sorts. It was not programmable, but you could jam two or three rhythm type buttons down together to create new composite and quite dense mega-rhythms, which was pretty nifty. I don't know what happened to that part of it, though - I can only assume it was 'lost' in a house move.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Home at Last!

My musical meanderings now have a proper home - my little studio is up and running!

I finished building the frame and shelving over the weekend. I'm no joiner, but it all seems very sturdy, if not exactly a thing of great beauty. It has taken the best part of 2 days to get all the cables and gear in site and connected up. There are still some tweaks to go in order to have everything running smoothly, but I'm at least able to get a sound out of everything, which is much more than I've been able to do for the last few years.

I'll be running it all on three computers - the good old faithful Atari ST for controlling keyboards and any forays into the world of algorithmic music, my regular PC for running virtual instruments, which I've never really got to grips with beyond the odd demo here and there, and a bargain basement (under £1) old PC for actually recording everything. It was great to get back to the ST with its simple-to-use and crash-free environment after years of using PCs, but weird to be back on a little 12 inch screen instead of this 19 inch monster. Hopefully this arrangement will give me the best of all worlds, as I'm not convinced this PC is really up to handling all chores on its own.

Give me a couple of days and I should come up with something new to post on the site...

Monday, August 21, 2006

The Green Shed Googlewhack

Every so often I'll check to see how people are arriving at the blog or the main Deserters site. There's usually a fair mix between people looking for the band specifically and 'accidental' visits by people looking for information on military desertion or fire engines. Every so often there's a little gem that makes me smile - somebody does a search for 'what does eximious mean?', for example. The latest was for 'greenshed, progressive rock' from Yahoo japan.

When I did a search on this myself, this blog was the only entry (a Googlewhack, I believe?), so I dug around for anything else about 'green shed' that could be remotely related to progressive rock. Not a thing could I find. So the question is; is there somebody over in Japan creating prog rock under the name 'Greenshed', or was this a return visitor to the site who's enduring image of the band is of us recording in a green shed? Who knows (or cares)?

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Studio Progress...?

One month later and things are starting to come together. Hopefully.

Studio Bordet (or whatever it will be called) is on the road to construction - it has power, light and walls. The next step is building a frame to hold PC, keyboard, mixing desk and various other bits of musical gear. With the addition of plasterboard, sound insulation and flooring there is just under 2m2 of useful floorspace, which is even less than I had hoped for, but should still provide enough space to have a usable setup and be able to play bass or guitar in the room. Playing the theremin in there will definitely not work, though, due to lack of space, so I'll still need to cart it around the house depending on whether I'm practicing or recording.

I did a recording recently for the local band using my new multi-input interface which worked out really well (apart from running out of disk space), but having listened to the mix I initially put together it has become painfully clear that I need a decent set of monitoring speakers. I have a good set of headphones, but mixing on 'phones is never a good idea, so I try to get a reasonable sound using them, then switch to my PC speakers, which are pretty good quality for a PC, but still far from HiFi. The mix I ended up with sounded pretty good on the PC, great on the 'phones, but unfortunately lousy in the car or through the little box we have in the kitchen. I knew the day would come when I'd have to fork out for decent speakers - it's one of the things you really can't skimp on (like microphones) to get a good sound, but it's not as exciting as the wonderful wealth of fancy studio toys available. So... Some research, testing and budget-balancing later, I've finally bought a new set of speakers, and the winners are... Tannoy Reveals.


Tannoy Reveal Speaker

I got a pair at a good price from good old eBay, and they're sitting in their box waiting to become centrepieces of the new studio, such as it is. Apart from the great balance between sound quality, tonal range and price, they have a couple of other 'feelgood' bonuses. The Tannoy factory is about an hour's drive from here, so supporting local business is good. I went on a fantastic guided tour there back in my early days of getting interested in sound engineering and have two lasting memories. Firstly, getting to spend a few minutes in their anechoic chamber - a really weird feeling having NO echoes at all, and particularly disorientating when they shut off the lights (to complete darkness) and you realise how much of your balance is dictated by audio and visual cues. Secondly was getting a demo of their top-of-the-range speaker systems at full tilt - revealing a level of detail in the music that I simply hadn't heard through normal speakers.

Plus, what's good enough for Mr Keneally is good enough for me!

In other news - I have finished my theremin/ebow remix and look forward to hearing the final album - details to follow soon, I hope. I ended up submitting two versions - one with vocals and another without - on subsequent listenings the vocal-free version is more pleasing to the ear!

Monday, July 03, 2006

Bordet the Builder (Can he mix it?)


I've been doing a remix of a short piece of instrumental music for an on-line acquaintence and kindred spirit (theremin player and electronic gadget abuser) over the last week or two. It's pretty much finished now, but I came up with a set of lyrics to the piece which I've been trying in vain to fit into the music. I've got the rhythm sorted, but can't seem to sing notes which fit in. This may be because the music isn't in a great key for my voice, or it may just be that my voice isn't fitting the music. I suspect the latter. It will be finished this week - one way or another. Not my greatest work, but it does have lots of ebow, some mandolin, and my first recorded theremin, albeit as a part of a wash of sound.

New Toys

I've managed to pick up a decent multi-input audio card for my PC at a good price from eBay. It will let me record up to 8 tracks simultaneously in high quality sound, which will be great for Lunacy board stuff, letting us swap instruments around (as we do) without worrying about changing connections, as well as allowing recording of a whole band at once.


Since starting this blog, any musical activities, apart from theremin and acoustic guitar, have required some digging around in boxes. I haven't had a dedicated music space to focus my writing, playing or recording, and that hasn't helped get things done as it's a hassle to set things up for the sake of a single song. I'm pleased that due to some changes going on around Chez Bordet, I will be getting a small studio. Whilst this won't be anything to give Abbey Road or Realworld any sleepless nights, and there really won't be room for cat-swinging, it will give me enough space to set up my recording gear and instruments in a more creative environment, ready for me to use whenever the muse starts tweaking those creative juices. It will still be a couple of months away before it is complete, but work has started and I hope it will be ready to go by the end of the summer.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Where did June go?

It seems like a couple of days ago that I last posted here, but looking at the date it turns out to be almost a month. So what on earth have I been doing?

To start with, the local band I'm doing sound engineer duties for had their first gig in the local pub - great turnout, with all tickets sold, and about 100 people in the audience. They went down really well - the vocalist really captured the crowd - he's a true entertainer in ways that are lost to a lot of live acts these days. They ended out cutting some of the slower songs out, as so many people were up and dancing, which is a good sign. Several parties expressed an interest in future bookings, so all in all a great result.

The sound was generally pretty good, though I was a bit too close to the band to get a good handle on the balance without squeezing through the audience, plus a buzz developed in the second set, which now appears to have been due to a speaker dying. Proceeds from the first gig will therefore be going towards a new PA system...

Not much on the Lunacy Board front either, due to circumstances out of our control, though I have gone through the recordings we made at the last session and started to work on some of the best bits.

Finally, I'm doing a bit of work on a collaborative track which is still under wraps, but hopefully should turn out to be interesting. More news on this soon - within the next week or two.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Summery Summary

The sun is out here and I've got 10 minutes to spare, so I've tidied up the Deserters front page, removing all the old 'Track of the Week' entries and replacing them with a single list of links to the files and links to each blog entry so you can read all about them.

So, if you've enjoyed a track or two, they're now all handy for downloading in a thrice for the full Deserters experience. What are you waiting for?

Tuesday, May 23, 2006


Final Track of the Week

Phill Up The Glass
a glass

Week 17 of the grand mp3 download extravaganza.

For the last 'Track of the Week' (at least for the next few months), here's another original track from the Bordet / Leigh spin-off album 'Mux-Ip'. You may have guessed from the name that it is inspired by the music of Philip Glass, in which case you'd be correct. However, the track started life quite differently as a study in using bird song in music. I transcribed the songs of a number of birds in the local area, with the plan of building up a whole piece of music, but on listening closely found that the repetition occuring naturally, when put in a musical context, ended up coming out like a minimalist piece, so I went the whole hog and filled out the birdsong themes with those repetitive-sounding arpeggios beloved of the minimalist movement.

This was one of the last pieces I wrote using the music computer I bought some years earlier (a Yamaha CX5M) and which required every note to be manually entered one at a time.

That's it from the Deserters archives for the time being. I hope you've enjoyed the music as much as I've enjoyed re-visiting the past. Normal service will now be resumed, so don't forget to check back for news of current activities (or use the RSS feed if you know about such things).

Click here to download.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Lunar Sea

The Moon

A good week for music...


The local band I'm doing sound engineer for are gearing up for a couple of gigs in the next month - they've build up a decent setlist now, and feel ready to perform in public. Should all be good fun, I hope. Final practice session next week, then the first gig after that.


Today also saw another get-together for the progressive project mentioned previously. I think it is safe to reveal we'll be calling ourselves...

The Lunacy Board

Still a two-piece line-up so far, but we're building towards a more cohesive vision of what we're looking to achieve. We recorded a number of pieces this afternoon - some complete improvisations, some based on riffs or chord changes we've been playing around with, and swapping instruments between guitar, bass, drums, keyboard and theremin. This was the first time I've played the theremin within an ensemble environment, as I usually either pratice solo or with a quiet backing track, and it quickly became clear that the monitoring system I had tacked together was not going to be as useful for theremin as it had been for the other instruments. You can afford to not hear the odd note or two when playing most instruments as long as fingers are in the right place, but with the theremin this simply results in out-of-tune notes. I will need to invest in a little monitor amp for the theremin in the future...

The hope is that we can put some of these together to start to form some longer pieces, which can then be further tweaked and potentially lyrics added. We'll be approaching our music from a couple of different angles including improvisation, music for film and music for the spoken word, which covers most of our interests at the moment.

Gear Hassles

I set out a selection of musical gear for us to use, but made the mistaken shortcut of using a previously unused recording package to record the music. For some reason the correct input to the computer was distorting, so I ended up using the microphone input, which is never a great idea. In this case it led to a pretty high level of background noise as well as our inputs being summed to mono. Not a problem for the recording stage, but it will make things awkward for the editing. A little lesson learned for the future, I think. Irrespective of this problem, I think we got some good base material recorded today, which will help to set us on our way.

Watch this space...

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Why Doesn't Somebody Buy Him A Guitar?

Track of the Week

Soundtrack of a B-Movie
Plan 9

Week 16 of the grand mp3 download extravaganza.

In one of the periods between Deserters activity in the late 80's, Jennifer Leigh & I recorded a limited run album called 'Mux-Ip', which was a collection of cover versions and originals performed as a duo. This week's track, 'Soundtrack of a B-Movie', comes from that album (as does next week's track).

This was one of my earliest uses of multi-track recording, and was recorded using a mini keyboard (a Yamaha SHS-10) and a dodgy Strat copy guitar. The low-budget nature of this track is emphasised by the lack of the original recordings to take this from, so this is a 3rd generation cassette copy. It does, however, have a certain charm, despite its failings.

The piece is effectively a 6 minute guitar solo with cheesy auto-keyboard percussion, some synth pads and the occasional effect (tubular bells, radio clips, etc.)

Click here to download.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Complexion Like Mouldy Corned Beef

Track of the Week

Heavy Metal Ballad
Corned Beef

Week 15 of the grand mp3 download extravaganza.

We're coming towards the end of this run of free downloadable goodies. Whilst there is more Deserters music in the archives, it's not yet in a form suitable for the web. I've probably got enough for another two weeks, so enjoy it while it lasts.

This week we have a song which has a title which is a bit of a misnomer - 'Heavy Metal Ballad' - as it is neither heavy metal, nor a ballad. It has a similar feel to 'One Night in the Back of a Fire Engine', but deals with the teen angst of spots, dental hygiene and body odour. Simple and upbeat, with a bit of a nasty streak. Lyrics by Lee Newe, once again, with music by yours truly.

Click here to download.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Polish the Blade

Track of the Week

The Complete 1978 Song

Week 14 of the grand mp3 download extravaganza.

This song has a similar feel to 'The Woman In Red', however this is certainly no love story, but a very sparsely arranged murder ballad, inspired by the story of Lizzie Borden. Music and Lyrics are by Lee Newe on this one, which has a bit of a strange history.

It started life as a heavy metal celebration of biker life; "Motorbike, Motorbike, Do what you like. I'm gonna pull a chick on Saturday Night." The original lyrics by Lee were put to music by yours truly, but never recorded. Probably just as well. I do still have a backing track for it somewhere, but the final song was a definite improvement on the original.

Click here to download.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Whistlin' Dixie

I've had more than my fair share of hillbilly / redneck experiences in this last week - must be something in the air.

Jerry Springer - The Opera
Jerry Springer Logo

At the start of the week we treated ourselves to a night at the opera; 'Jerry Springer - The Opera', to be precise. It's had quite a bit of press about some of its content and indeed, the local holy Joes were out in force with leaflets condemning us all to hell for even setting eyes on it. But really, what a great show! It's probably closer to rock-opera than plain opera, but the very sound of trained opera singers belting out a string of obscenities is worth the ticket price alone. Add to that the fact that the content of your average Jerry Springer-type show is EXACTLY the sort of stuff that makes for all the best operas (yes Puccini and Verdi may be more high-brow, but they're writing about THE SAME STUFF) - adultery, murder, cross-dressing, journeys to Hell - it's all here.

As for the content the moaning Minnies are upset about, it's pretty tame stuff, and in fact most of what they're shouting about isn't even true (big surprise, there). Yes, they do a Jerry Springer show in Hell, with various biblical personalities including Jesus and God included, but it's looking at the battle between good and evil, the grey area in-between, and acheiving some kind of balance. It's more about the issues, values and choices that most religions claim to be about (basically be nice to each other), rather than the figureheads that organised religions end up concentrating on. And no - they don't have Jesus wearing a nappy.

So if you're not easily offended (by swear words - a lot of them - or the use of religious figures to tell a moral [kind of] tale) then I'd thoroughly recommend seeing this show. It is 'fall-off-your-seat' funny, with plenty of memorable songs - lines like "Dip me in chocolate and feed me to the lesbians", a coherent plot and a Zappaesque sense of humour. There's a trailer here.

Hayseed Dixie

I'm no great fan of AC/DC, nor of bluegrass music particularly, but when I was offered a ticket to see a band playing AC/DC in a bluegrass style, I just had to know more. These guys can play - guitar, mandolin, banjo, fiddle and bass - pretty much as well as any bluegrass band I've heard (not that many, admittedly), including a pretty nifty version of 'Duelling Banjos' from 'Deliverance' in their setlist.

You've just got to smile when they kick into 'Whole Lotta Rosie' or 'Highway to Hell' whilst dressed in authentic(ish) hillbilly gear and singing with that mountain-man drawl. It's an assault on the senses - 2 hours of high-octane (moonshine) finger-pickin' acoustic rock, but somehow it works. It really shouldn't, and yet it is disturbing how easily AC/DC (and other rockers like Aerosmith and Motorhead) translates into bluegrass, and the original version of 'Ace of Spades' sounds like a laid-back ballad compared to the speed these guys take it at.

Certainly not everybody's cup of tea, not even mine really, but definitely an entertaining night out and a must-see for lovers of heavy rock (especially AC/DC) wanting to try something new. Have a look here for more info, including a video clip of 'Ace of Spades'.

See y'all later, y'hear?

Eat Your Greens

Track of the Week

My Wee Green Buddy
A Sprout

Week 13 of the grand mp3 download extravaganza.

If you liked the 'Yet Another Granfalloon' pieces, then this short instrumental ditty should be of interest. It's an earlier attempt at a similar style, in this case purely electronic, owing much to Zappa's 'Jazz From Hell' album.

It takes its name from a series of books by Robert Rankin which feature (amongst many other things) a time-travelling sprout called Barry who takes up residence in Elvis Presley's brain and uses him to re-write history. Yep, it sounds pretty daft, and it, in fact, is. But it's a bit of fun, and if you like Douglas Adams and / or Frank Zappa then why not give it a try. Rankin's a bit of a Zappa / Beefheart fan, and loads of references appear all through most of his books, not least of which is the brilliantly titled "Sprout Mask Replica".

Click here to download.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

The Drevulon Adventure

Track of the Week

Drevulon Poseiden

Week 12 of the grand mp3 download extravaganza.

Another track featuring the Newe/Bordet - lyrics/music writing combination, this track deals with urban alienation and the suppression of the man in the street. Guest stars Andy on guitar - a pretty nice solo - and features yours truly on vocals for a change.

That's us caught back up with schedule, so back to normal next week, hopefully.

Click here to download.

Montepaldé on the Keys

Track of the Week

Makkie's Rhythm

Week 11 of the grand mp3 download extravaganza.

Farfisa OrganTime to wind the clock back again... This track comes from our second single, 'Banned Practice', and is a solo keyboard piece performed by Montepaldé Pentel on the Farfisa organ. Some years later this piece would be digitally combined with samples from the 'Banned Practice' sessions to create an extended piece, but this is the original in its simple, lo-fi glory.

Click here to download.

Yet Again

Track of the Week

Yet Another Granfalloon (3rd movement)

Week 10 of the grand mp3 download extravaganza.

The final part of the Granfalloon piece exists in two versions. This one is a computer generated version used to write the score; the other is a recorded version with four guitar parts: electric, acoustic, bass and ebow. The live version is unfortunately dreadful, so this version is the closest the suite gets to completion. Without the real instruments the piece lacks the variety of parts 1 and 2, so hopefully I'll get round to re-recording it some day. Don't hold your breath, though.

Click here to download.

User Fiendly

Track of the Week

Brain Drain Rap

ZX81Week 9 of the grand mp3 download extravaganza.

OK, I missed a couple of weeks. Here's a concerted effort to fill the gap...

This song was written by Lee, and deals with the general user-unfriendliness of computers. This was written in a time before Windows, when the Sinclair empire was still king (in the UK, at least), hard disks cost about the same as a small car and held less data than a mobile phone does today. Things have improved since then. Or have they?

The song is written as a kind of cheesy rap, totally programmed into the computer with only a short acoustic (mandolin) part at the end, and represents an ongoing battle against the computerised world. The part of the computer is played by a ZX Spectrum speech synthesiser - cutting edge stuff in its day!

Click here to download.

Friday, March 31, 2006

E-Bow Heaven

Track of the Week

Mask of Deceit (excerpt)

Mask of DeceitWeek 8 of the grand mp3 download extravaganza.

Here's last week's missing track... It is an EBow solo from my song 'Mask of Deceit' which deals with and was inspired by similar circumstances to Peter Hammill's excellent album, 'Over', i.e. the breakdown of a reasonably long-term relationship under less than honest conditions. It was an exercise in venting of anger and feelings of betrayal, but the vocal on it is just so awful that I always skip past to the good bit. Which is what we have here.

It's about a minute's worth of an EBow solo, backed by piano and electric guitar. It has a very languid and fluid style, and is probably one of my favourite bits of my own guitar work. For those not familiar with the EBow, it is a gadget which attempts to allow guitarists a bit more expression like a violinist, by creating a magnetic field close to the strings which allows the notes to sound continuously without fading away. Due to the way it works it also seems to generate overtones of its own, creating a quite recognisable sound. It has been used by many guitarists, usually as a special effect for a single track, but John 'Fury' Ellis (of the Stranglers and the K Group) uses it regularly, and it was also apparently used by Big Country as part of the 'guitars-as-bagpipes' sound.

Click here to download.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Moog Envy

The new Moog Little Phatty

Being a bit of a skinflint, almost all of my musical gear is either second-hand or end-of-line stock, but I've got a deep hunger for the new Moog synth. It's the last project from the legendary Dr Bob, and what a send-off it is. It definitely looks like a Minimoog for the neext century.

Not only does it have all the usual MIDI paraphenalia required of today's digital synths, but it has several CV inputs that are just begging to have my Etherwave Pro plugged into them. I want one of these. Really very much. But I know it will be at least a year away before I can even consider thinking about it.

I haven't forgotten about 'Track of the Week' either, just been incredibly busy this last week or so, and will make it up to you with 2 tracks for this week.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Improve your vocabulary with Chinese eBayers

I'm beginning to think the green clarinet was merely the tip of the iceberg of silliness. I nearly fell off my chair laughing at the "new eximious rare larruping blue electric guitar" I came across today. Surely somebody's taking the extreme mickey? I thought this was a joke, but looking the words up confirmed that they are genuine English. I feel humbled that my vocabulary can be expanded by someone with only a passing acquaintence of the language. Or maybe he just needs a somewhat less eclectic thesaurus.

Personally, I'm going to make every attempt to make use of these eximious words in my everyday larruping conversations.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

I Suck at Singstar

SingstarI'm not a great singer. I'm not even a good singer. My voice isn't BAD, but I really need to concentrate to stay in tune, and I don't feel natural doing it. When I do concentrate and practice plenty, I can record a reasonable vocal for a song. Today I had a shot at the playstation game Singstar. In a nutshell, you sing into a microphone along with a well-known song and the game works out how well you stayed in tune and rhythm. Not very well at all, in my case.

The only song I did reasonably well in was 'Every Breath You Take', which I suspect was because I know it fairly well and it is reasonably close to my own limited vocal range. Less successful was 'Tutti Frutti', and I totally crashed and burned on 'Video Killed The Radio Star', but I was trying to sing the female part, two octaves lower than normal, so not entirely surprising.

I found I did better by ignoring the on-sceen guide, apart from the lyrics, as the notes shown are in proportion to the line being sung, so can be two words or a whole sentence; 1 bar or 4. One of those things that is probably easier to follow if you can't read music. What is interesting, though disappointing for me, is the read-out shows how far out from the notes you are singing. I found that I was wobbling around notes much more than I realised, though once I saw that I was able to address it.

I hope to have another shot soon - I think it could actually be a reasonable tool for improving pitch awareness, and helping my own singing skills (or apparent lack of them).

Friday, March 17, 2006

Theremin Update #1

I thought I'd put a little bit of blurb up here about my progress with the theremin. After a couple of months with no progress, mainly due to not being able to find somewhere suitable for it to live, I've now got into a good routine of having a practice at least once a day. So far I'm now getting the hang of aerial fingering, so I'm able to do some short runs without wobbling all over the place, and getting a feel for some common intervals. I can pull off an ascending scale, but descending is a bit more tricky for some reason. And finally, I'm able to play some basic and actually recognisable tunes.

I've done all this just by ear so far, with my acoustic guitar close at hand for occasional assistance, so my next step is going to be to get a sound source to try and play along with some pre-recorded music. Trying to keep in tune with another instrument could well prove to be more tricky than keeping in tune with myself. We shall see (hear). Hopefully, in another couple of weeks I should be ready to put some theremin parts down onto some tracks I have set aside, albeit pretty basic ones. That'll be the acid test.

My previous post about the clarinet has just been included on MusicThing - I'm quite honoured. Thanks Tom!

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Who buys this stuff?

I don't want to get into the habit of posting items of weird-but-true instruments and other musical items - I'll leave that to the experts at (the very entertaining) MusicThing and others. I have to make an exception for this, I'm afraid.

The Fluorescent Green Clarinet


I was trawling around the shark-infested treasure trove that is eBay, looking for a little bargain, when I came across this item. A bright green clarinet. Wow. Got to have one of those! Or not.

The black tube of the beautiful green

The seller, a Mr jianada0377, is from China and has a wonderful way with words. So, once he's introduced his 'black tube...' he goes on to say "If you like Chinese culture and Chinese arts, please don't miss this item. As you know, the Chinese has long history around the world." Indeed. I'm sure thousands of years of Chinese culture have passed in order that the very pinnacle of artistic endeavour can be attained by crafting this fine instrument. He sums up by letting us know that "It will bring you and your family happy". It certainly made me smile. He has a whole range of products, including "The electricity guitar of the elegant white" and "Chinese kissable bran-new superb guitar" amongst others. However, leaving aside the results of an auto-translator gone haywire, it got me thinking.

What self-respecting classical clarinet player is going to turn up for a concert with one of these? Not too many, I'd wager. Okay, what about a jazz clarinettist? Not much more likely, I suspect. Well, it would look eye-catching for a rock clarinettist, but when did you last see one of them? No, nor I. So who is buying these things? Somewhere in China there's a factory churning the little critters out (just do a search on eBay for "green clarinet"), so there must be a market. And they can't just be toys - not only do they look like they might actually work, but they cost about £100 or more to post from China to the UK. Yeah, right.


Amazingly nobody snapped this up, so it went unsold at £4.99 (plus £150 packaging, of course!). Looks like probably the same guy is (trying to) sell them under various names (just search for "black tube beautiful green" on eBay to see) starting at only 27p this time. "Pay attention to the color and the skill". Yes, indeed. And where on eBay would you look for this latest little gem? Why, 'Jewellery & Watches > Vintage & Antique Jewellery > Vintage Costume Jewellery > Pre-1837' - of course! It just gets better...

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

White Silk

Track of the Week

White Silk

White SilkWeek 7 of the grand mp3 download extravaganza.

From the ridiculous to the sublime. White Silk was written by me after seeing a mysterious dark-haired young lady, dressed all in white, walking towards the water in the distance. Viewed from the other side of a small wooded area, she seemed to appear and disappear as she passed behind the trees, like a scene from a Brontë Novel.

I wrote 3 pieces of music, all aiming to be mysterious and sad, and bundled them into 'The White Silk Suite'. White Silk itself is the middle of the three pieces and has lyrics, unlike the other two.

Getting self-critical for a moment, I have to say that I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with this song. I love the simplicity of very basic acoustic guitar and clear voice (Jennifer Leigh provides vocals here), but feel it's still missing something. I love some of the imagery in the lyrics, but some of the words make me cringe. All in all, not a classic, but it does have a certain attraction. One for further work in the future, should the muse dictate.

And yes, the chord progression does borrow a section from Jethro Tull's "We Used To Know", but it's not as blatant as "Hotel California". Is it?

Click here to download.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Nee Naw

Track of the Week

Fire Engine Disco Remix (part 2)

George the Bedford Fire EngineWeek 6 of the grand mp3 download extravaganza.

Time for a little light relief. This one goes way back to 1985 and our first album. It features the whole band playing a minimalistic theme repeatedly on the range of instruments we were playing at the time. The tune should be recognisable to anyone over the age of about 10 from the UK. It is that lovely lilting melody which used to be played by fire engines (big surprise, there) as they sped to save the day - before they replaced the sound with that dreadful banshee wail that seems designed to replace your laxative of choice.

Anyway, the theme goes 'Nee Naw Nee Naw Nee Naw' and is repeated by the following instruments; piano, Farfisa organ, Slydee (see earlier post for details), Castrol Can (a large oil can fitted with a trumpet mouthpiece), VL Tone, Yobstick (see another earlier post for details), Yodeller (a large water tank fitted with a trumpet mouthpiece, voice and finally our friendly Bedford Fire Engine, George.

This was all recorded (apart from the fire engine) in our tiny Greenshed Studio on a wonderfully low tech mono cassette recorder, so don't expect miracles with this little historical (hysterical) gem. All very silly and a lot of fun.

Click here to download.

Ivor Cutler - RIP

Ivor Cutler I've just learned that Ivor Cutler passed away last Friday. Quite disgusted that there was no mention of it on the news (even the local Scottish news) - unless I blinked and missed it. He was a true original, and has left behind a legacy of wonderful work. It is a great pity that he did not have a wider audience - the world could use more like him.

Although I had heard mention of him over the years, I had always put off investigating him as I'm not really a great lover of poetry in general, which is how he is usually remembered. I'm pleased to say that I finally rectified this a couple of years ago and discovered that he had so much more to offer. A fantastically drole sense of humour, a surreal and childlike appreciation of life and some of the funniest mournful songs I've heard. Things like "Where the river bends, the blind men fall in". All performed in a strong, but soft Scottish lilt accompanied by a wheezy harmonium.

A breath of fresh air in a crazy world. He will be missed.

Sunday, March 05, 2006


I like podcasting. I have a cheap and cheerful little mp3 player which I take with me whenever I travel. It only holds about 2 CDs' worth of music at once, but it is near indestructible and runs for hours on a single battery. I always have a few bits of whatever music I'm currently listening to along with the latest episode of 'Spellbound', which is a podcast radio show dedicated to theremin music.

A range of what is known as 'pod-safe' music is available now for people running podcast shows. This is music which the artist has allowed to be downloaded freely for inclusion in podcasts, the aim being to keep podcasts financially viable to all and enable artists to spread their music to new audiences.

Seems like a good idea to me, so if you are a podcaster and would like to include some Deserters or Mick Bordet music on your show, pop over to the Podsafe Music Network to see what I've made available. All I'd ask is that you let me know if you're including any of our music, so that we can link to your podcast from here.

Spellbound Radio podsafe music network

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Yet Another...

Track of the Week

Yet Another Granfalloon (2nd movement)

Week 5 of the grand mp3 download extravaganza.

No, I hadn't forgotten about this week's tune, but some positive comments about part 1 of Granfalloon have inspired me to re-think my choice and use part two instead.

Part 2 of this piece was composed in the same manner as part one, and shares certain common features, but is written for percussion and sampled vocals, This was very obviously inspired by Frank Zappa's Jazz From Hell, with plenty of fast percussive runs and various bent vocal belches and snorks.

Click here to download.

Your Place or MySpace?

Seems the place to be these days is over at Or so I'm told.

Whilst I don't really want to end up being scattered all over the place when it comes to providing a web presence for the Deserters and my music, it also seems daft to miss out on something potentially useful. I do find it a bit cluttered in places, but if you don't like it just stick here and ignore it... You won't miss anything important!

So if you feel the need to live the MySpace dream, you'll find me there too, at Don't expect to see anything Earth-shattering that you haven't already found on the blog or Deserters sites, but it does offer the following:-

  • The latest 4 'Songs of the Week' as streamed mp3s

  • Links to other bands/musicians with similar interests/influences/etc.

  • A blog with slightly different content and some links to other interesting music

Friday, February 24, 2006

Hat Change

I had a bit of a change of role yesterday in musical terms. There is a local band who needed a stand-in sound man to cover the mixing of their live sound. I got the call-up and took myself along to a practice session last night. It's the first time I've mixed a 'live' band, as opposed to doing recording sessions, so it was a good bit of experience, and plenty of fun.

They played a range of songs from the 50's through to the 00's; rock and pop through to more folky material, so there was plenty of musical interest as well as enough changes to keep my fingers busy on the board. Anyway, I thoroughly enjoyed myself, and hope to do it again before too long.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Red Hot

Track of the Week

The Woman In Red

Week 4 of the grand mp3 download extravaganza.

Both Lee and I have written 'Mysterious Woman in Colour X' songs for some reason. Mine was called 'White Silk', and may make its way here eventually. Lee's song was called 'The Woman In Red' and is probably just about the slowest and most ballad-like song the Deserters recorded. It was recorded in a single shot with just Lee and myself featured, though I later went back and recorded some extra keyboard backing to fill out the sound a little more.

Click here to download.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

A Wee Dram

Track of the Week


Week 3 of the grand mp3 download extravaganza.

Many moons ago we came up with an idea for an exciting new drink, which was to be based on a mix of fruits which would be fermented and then distilled, before blending with a mix of fresh berries. The effects of this potent cocktail were elaborated upon in the song 'Remembering the Juicy Berries', but the actual drink itself was never produced. Probably just as well, since it would almost certainly have involved explosions or poisoning at some stage in the process. Some years later I was inspired to write this little ditty as an advertising jingle for the drink that never was.

Click here to download.

Monday, February 06, 2006


Track of the Week

Yet Another Granfalloon (1st movement)

Week 2 of the grand mp3 download extravaganza.

This mp3 is the first part of a three-part instrumental piece of music written in a semi-classical style for a small 'chamber' group, which would ideally have been the Deserters plus guests (on oboe and violin). However, it was never recorded in such a manner, and what we have here is a demo of the track with all instruments played by me, with electronic alternatives filling in where there should be flute, oboe and violin.

There is quite an interesting mix of electric and acoustic instruments - electric guitar and bass, mandolin, Nancarrow-like piano, e-bow (I think this was the first time I had used the e-bow on a recording). They don't always blend entirely successfully, but I still quite like the overall result

Click here to download.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Opening the Archives

I've had a dig around the Deserters archives recently, and have decided that the time has come to open them up and share the goodies within.

Track of the Week

One Night in the Back of a Fire Engine

The aim is to make a song available every week until the well runs dry, and try and provide some insight to the track here. I've started off with a classic Deserters song, as featured in 'The Songwriters Guild' compilation mentioned previously.

The song was written by Lee Newe many years before it was recorded. Jennifer Leigh features on lead vocals, with the Porter Girls on backing vocals. The 'NeeNaw' sound is provided by George the Bedford Fire Engine.

Click here to download.

Go to the Deserters website and look on the 'Tuneography' page for more details and other songs.


Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Change of Direction

We had another jam/recording session at the weekend, and things took an interesting (for me, at least) turn following a bit of between-track banter. We'd been working on a song that just wasn't quite coming together in the way expected - it kept turning into a ballad without being asked. Some chat later, we came across the discovery that we both have a deep love of Can's music, which changed things in a significant fashion.

So now we're going to focus on longer improvisational pieces, which may be overlaid with spoken word or singing depending on the music. We recorded a number of improvised snippets with just bass and synth, with fairly mixed results. Mostly it sounded like a part of a larger piece, lacking percussion and a lead instrument or voice, whilst some bits just sounded painful, like when we changed key to different keys, but time and practice should sort those things out, or at least address how to recover quickly. There were a few parts where the sounds and the lines we were playing meshed together really well, giving a hint of how good it could be with work.

What I particularly like about this direction is that it will allow us to swap between instruments and make use of our whole sonic arsenal, which means I'll get to put the theremin and yobstick (when completed) into use.

Hopefully we'll have another session within the next week or two, and more progress can be made...

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Happy New Year

Survived another round of Christmas & Hogmannay festivities?

Yes - and welcome to 2006. Eventually. I'm having computer problems by the handful - one thing gets fixed and another gremlin pops its ugly little head into the middle of the hand-crafted box of wires which connects me to the online World. The end is in sight, but I'm not taking anything for granted... Making the switch away from the Gates empire into Linuxland - it's either going to be a breath of fresh air or a stream of expletives following a trashed PC. Digits are well and truly crossed.

Some good news, though. I wrote a new song, "12 Years of Christmas", and did a fairly basic recording of it. It's a bit slow and needs a little jazzing up, but most of my gear is still in storage for the time being, so it's just bass, guitar and vocal for the moment. I'm going to set myself a target (or new year's resolution, if you like that sort of thing) of a new song a month. Whether that is likely to happen is another matter, but it would be good if I could get some more new material under my belt.