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