I’d like to begin 2019 differently—to shake the cobwebs, kickstart the brain...actually, maybe to start with a clean slate.
About two years ago—despite everything I’d promised myself—I got it in my head to launch a new music venture. Well, a band to be more precise: as in real people, in a room, playing and rehearsing, eventually hitting the stage together in some form or another. I’d been recording ideas on my own—mostly inspired by a return to my very early alternative roots and various experimentations with iOS vintage synths—but I wanted the input and synergy of live performances.
I named this tentative project Horse Machine.
At some point I called my old band mates and we jammed a few times over the span of a couple of months. It felt amazing. Unfortunately, it didn’t really work out: the sound wasn’t gelling, busy schedules made it hard to find rehearsal times, even harder to commit. So we called it quits fairly early on. By the time we did however, I knew I was already in too deep. I went on writing new material, recording drafts that slowly turned into full blown songs...that slowly became an album...which I’m releasing today: No Hollow Wave.
Yes, it’s quaint. I know the album is dead: it became a relic the moment we were able to purchase individual songs and create our own personalized playlists, wreaking havoc on order and mood. I don’t care. To me an album is like a poem or a portfolio—chosen objects interlinked and meant to be absorbed as a whole, flowing from one to the next. I still love listening to an album that was meant to be experienced this way, from start to finish. I don’t know that I’ve succeeded here but I’ve certainly tried.
Now you might be thinking “what the...? Is this the right blog? I come here for photography damnit!”...well, there’s actually a photography angle—at least in the project’s backstory.
First off there’s a PDF booklet that’s a little along the lines of These Kings, These Subterraneans— a mix of pictures, words and drawings. But I also did something I’d never done before when it came time to write the lyrics to these songs: I picked photographs as starting points. Not my own work mind you but images I loved, some well-known and some randomly compiled in my ongoing inspiration journal. Images that somehow felt like the right fit to the music. I’d simply look at a chosen photograph and write whatever story or impressions came to mind, without analysis or overthinking, mixing in my own thoughts throughout. It was freeing but also weirdly revelatory...in a surrealist, automatic writing kind of way.
And if you look closely, you may also spot a hidden word easter egg. ‘Nuff said.
Some geek nitty gritty in you’re interested: songs were recorded and mixed in Logic Pro X on an iMac. For the first time however, the iPad became an important part of the musical process as well—it was used to run several virtual synths (Moog Model 15 and Korg Odyssey most notably). I also dusted off my (VERY) old “physical” Roland JX-3P but sadly, it died on me along the way; I replaced it with the company’s new incarnation, the boutique JX-03 external unit.
All images were shot with various Fujifilm cameras (obviously) and re-processed for the booklet in Affinity Photo. Drawings were created with Procreate and the Apple Pencil 2. The booklet was designed in Pages...again, all of the above on the new iPad Pro. Btw: that whole debate about the iPad being a real computer? Guess where I stand on that one*?
A few quick words about “value”: the album is a free download. But the concept of not paying for creative work is something I’ve struggled with lately: just before the holidays for instance, Squarespace integrated Unsplash as part of its package, essentially providing images for free to anyone on the platform. After having built their business on photographers and visual artists, this felt like backstabbing the very folks who were here from day one, AND who also depend on image making for a living—it didn’t go unnoticed. My friend Morten wrote them a letter asking for a free website…who needs money, right? Anyway, I wanted to write about this but time got in the way.
The thing is, I have friends who similarly earn their living writing and recording music. When I decided a few years ago to offer my entire catalog for free, I didn’t reflect on the move all that much—I was simply fed up with the business, no longer expecting anything out of it and finally free of contractual obligations. I didn’t depend on the revenu and just wanted to share the work…which, in light of this latest controversy, feels a lot like my own personal Unsplash: I do this for fun! It isn’t my job! I don’t mind giving it away!
So I’ve decided to at least frame the music content as freeware from now on, by introducing THE APPRECIATION BUTTON—a give what you want IF you want sort of vaguely karmic concept. The music is still free but at least this underlines the fact that yes, creative work does involve time and sweat and tears, just like anything else; that in spite of the illusion of immediacy we get from downloading a file in seconds over broadband, or reading an article on our phone, it doesn’t all magically appear out of thin air and it is valuable. I hope this won’t come across as some sort of guilt inducing thing—because that’s really not the goal. Please just take it as a way to show support or appreciation for the work, if you’re so inclined. There’s no obligation and no minimum either.
Alrighty...the album page is here if you care to hear what this sounds like.
All the best for this new one folks: I hope 2019 brings great things and very little drama. Now back to photography in 3-2… :)
*It’s fantastic. It’s my main machine. It also desperately needs FULL read/write external drive support. It’s ridiculous to have a USB-C machine this powerful and not be able to access files on a plugged in drive.