…I turned 23. And on 23rd April 2002 Wilco (officially) released this record. It changed my life, in a musical sense. And it’s still as important today as it ever was. You can find a piece I wrote about it for Art Star last year here.
Musically, things have gone from bad to worse. Another pair of broken headphones has been followed by the sad news that my ipod – which I’ve had practically attached to my skin for around 5 years – appears to be dying a slow and painful death. I fully charge the battery regularly but of late it doesn’t take very long for that battery to die again. In fact, there can be about half the battery symbol still left on the ipod and the thing will suddenly, for no reason, claim there is no battery left and just stop playing.
This is a disaster. Broken headphones are one thing because I can always easily replace these with cheap ones if I have to. However, a broken or dead ipod is a nightmare scenario that I just don’t want to happen. 6,500 songs are on that machine. It’s travelled with me everywhere. It’s done the Edinburgh-Glasgow train journey countless times. It’s soundtracked almost every Trampoline night. It’s kept me sane at work when I’ve needed to shut everything out and just get on with writing reports. And now it’s dying. It’s not as simple as just going out and buying a new ipod either. They don’t cost twenty quid. So yes, the music at work saga continues at pace. Even if I went and bought new headphones now I still couldn’t listen to music. Sucks.
…this is awful. I have no idea how I ever managed without music in this place. I can hear everything. I can’t shut out the constant noise. I can hear the noisey people at the other end of the room laughing and talking. I can hear every phone conversation. I can hear every. little. noise. Damn you cheap headphones. Damn you to hell.
Nope, not a new band. Just a consistent occurrence in my life!
I break headphones all the time. It really is a giant pain. Headphones were not designed to be used by me, I’m sure of it. I think I must go through a set of headphones within a couple of months. It’s never anything major, just that because they are always in my pocket the wires seem to fray, a loose connection is formed and all of a sudden I’m only hearing music through one ear – worse still is when the other ear is intermittent! I’ve tried buying more expensive sets, but it really doesn’t matter the price of the headphones, because I am simply not careful enough and I end up damaging them in some way. This always seems to result in the “one ear” phenomenon, which I absolutely detest. I cannot cope listening to music in one ear. It really bothers me. It feels completely wrong and it actually freaks me out a little. No, scratch that, a lot. It freaks me out a lot. It’s like frosted glass. I cannot stand the feel of frosted glass. Or it’s like wearing a watch or something on my right hand side. I cannot bare it. I feel imbalanced. Everything to the left please. Yes, I know I am weird. Especially given that I’m right handed. Sometimes I feel like I was meant ot be left handed and just got it wrong.
Anyways, I just simply cannot listen to something in one ear, and it’s doubly bad if it’s the left ear that goes – then I’m just all over the place. Needless to say, I have broken another set this morning and am now unable to listen to music at work. Music is the only thing getting me through work at the moment, so to say I am gutted is a massive understatement. I had a good few records to listen to today as well. I just cannot do it though. One ear is not enough. It feels wrong. I’ll just have to get to hmv as soon as possible and get another set asap, which I guarantee will be broken by March, if not before. And the cycle will continue.
Neil Milton is an artist working under the name Beneath Us, The Waves. He also runs a record label Too Many Fireworks and used to be one half of the much admired photography outfit We Sink Ships. Here he takes some time to explain his love of Jonny Greenwood, the man and the music.
There are few musicians that provoke quite such an emotional reaction in me as Radiohead’s resident “mad scientist” Jonny Greenwood. To describe my 16 year long relationship with the man and his music, is to talk of part obsessive fanboyism and part influential musical guiding star.
I came to Radiohead, like many others, in 1995 with the release of their second album, The Bends but it was the aggressive, muted crunch of Greenwood’s guitar during my first, retrospective, listen to the band’s breakthrough single, Creep, that hooked me. On Grant Gee’s documentary Meeting People Is Easy, Jonny’s fellow Radiohead guitarist, Ed O’Brien, explains that Jonny disliked the song so much, he did this to ruin the take but inadvertently made the song. His experimenting with alternative uses of guitar or the sounds it makes continued through The Bends album most notably using a Digitech Whammy pedal to pitch shift his guitar for songs like Just and My Iron Lung and using a coin to scrape at his strings through a Roland Space Echo on High and Dry.
Until 1997, Radiohead were still considered, by the indolent British music press at least, part of the “Britpop” movement but this changed irrevocably after the release of what many believe to be their magnum Opus, OK Computer. Greenwood’s guitar on OK Computer (combined, I have to admit, with Idlewild’s Rod Jones’ early freneticism) became the driving influence behind my undeniable need to start a band. As an eighteen year old, only 2 years a guitar player, I was in awe. How did he create those sounds?
Though Jonny’s prowess on guitar is undisputed, he is, of course, very much more than “Radiohead’s lead guitarist”. Through the two Radiohead albums that followed, he cultivated his interest and talents in sequencing, MaxMSP, modular synthesis, Ondes Martenot and orchestral composition; my own interest in each of these comes, at least in part, from Greenwood’s influence, especially from that Kid A / Amnesiac period. Further to this, it was in an NME article around this time that Jonny mentioned an album he had, called OHM – The Early Gurus of Electronic Music. It was one that was to throw open the world of electronic music to me like never before.
In 2004, Greenwood was hired as the BBC Concert Orchestra’s composer in residence, and though my interest in classical music stretches back to my last years in school, I had rarely looked outside the sphere of household names such as Mozart, Bach, Holst, Schubert and my favourite, Chopin. It was through Jonny’s BBC Concert Orchestra commissions that I learned of Polish composer Krzysztof Penderecki (Popcorn Superhet Receiver, for instance, is influenced by Penderecki’s Threnody for the Victims of Hiroshima) and French composer, Olivier Messiaen’s Turangalîla-Symphonie (a work that influences many of Greenwood’s Ondes Martenot compositions).
Recently – only 16 months ago – I returned to writing music after several years of photography as my creative output of choice. Unlike the music performed in the band I was in previously, the music now is occasionally more electronic and certainly rooted more strongly in classical music. Admittedly Jonny Greenwood is only one of my several cited influences. The most relevant? Maybe. The longest standing? Without a doubt.
When I started the Steinberg Principle I always intended to make it more of a place where I could write than a place where I simply reviewed music. I didn’t want it to turn into a music blog per se, but a place where I could note my thoughts, express my feelings – something I’m horrendously bad at doing normally. I was hoping to post some of my poetry. Maybe little pieces of creative writing, as well as the usual music chat. I hope I’ve managed to keep it away from turning solely into a music blog and retained a little diversity and a little bit of me. The interviews of late have been predominantly with musicians, but I’m hoping to change that soon. I really want to keep the blog fresh and make it more than just my thoughts on music. Cause lets face it, my thoughts on music are not always that interesting!
Something I’d been wrestling with the idea of for a long time was writing a book. I got the research and writing bug when I was doing my masters thesis and I’d always wanted to write – I originally applied to do English at University – so it made perfect sense to me. Sometime last year I saw a post somewhere, my mind fails me where, challenging people to write a novel in a month. I SO wanted to do it. But time, and my lack of any real solid and interesting ideas, just got in the way. Since then, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about stories. Formulating ideas. And I feel just about ready to put pen to paper. Or fingers to keyboard. Willy Vlautin inspired me. Matthew Young’s recent interview with him raised some lovely points, which I could easily relate too. One such point was the crossover between writing stories and writing songs. Where a song didn’t work it became a novel. I can relate to this idea as there is a spoken word track at the end of the Kays album. It started as words which I couldn’t work out music for. Chris our drummer created an atmospheric piece using bells and whilst it sounded great it just didn’t feel right. Once Fraser from Small Town Boredom delivered the words we realised that it worked better as a piece of poetry on it’s own than to music. So we’ve left it as just the words. The words are important to me. They are possibly my favourite words on the record. And yet they could never be a song. They are what they are.
So anyways, I digress. I’m going to try and write a book. Something I’ve dreamt about doing since I was young. Something I’ve started many times and scrapped after chapter 1 on many occassions! Something I intend to see through to its conclusion this time. I have no idea if it will be successful or any good. But if it is, I will almost certainly use the blog as a place to publish it. Chapter by chapter. We’ll see. It’s another of my crazy schemes. But I spend a lot more time in my flat these days. So I have the time to focus on it. Let’s see where this goes eh.
It’s a scary fact of life but it’s a dangerous thing to admit a liking for something that might be considered “uncool” amongst your peers in this world. Not many people are willing to stand up and admit to liking things which their friends would immediately dismiss as garbage, rubbish or embarrassing. In fact, you might even find yourself ridiculed or isolated simply because you have the balls to say you like something. I guess it’s even more dangerous to have a blog and admit globally that you like certain things. But you know what, I am tired of trying to be cool. Cause at the end of the day I am one of the least cool people in the world., simple as that.
Of late, I note that I have a fond liking of Lily Allen. Yes, I completely fancy the pants off her, but that’s a different matter all together. I actually think everything she has released off her new album has been seriously great pop music. So as well as not kicking her out of bed for farting (sorry Shonagh, what a typically male thing to say!), I now wouldn’t turn her music off if it came on the radio either. And I am seriously considering buying her latest album. Honest. If that is not bad enough, to date, everything I have heard by Paulo Nutini from his new album has also been really good, and I thought his performance at T in the Pak was simply great. Right, whats next? Might as well get it all out on the table. Kasabian. Having produced a good debut album and being one of the best bands I’ve seen live, Kasabian went on to produce 2 pieces of utter crap in my opinion. However, I have become mildly addicted to the tunes they’ve released off their new album. The need to dance when these come on XFM during feeding time for Roddy in the evening is undeniable. So 3 down, how many more to get off my chest?! Editors – poor mans Joy Division, Interpol etc. yadda yadda yadda – what a lot of crap, they really fucking rock! I really like Idlewild too, not just 100 Broken Windows and before but everything they’ve done since as well. I like a lot of what Calvin Harris has released. ‘Come into my house. You’re invited into my house. Welcoming you into my house……” And I own the majority of Coldplay and Snow Patrol albums – though it must be said not the more recent offerings as I just don’t like either of them anymore.
And it’s not just nowadays I’m uncool either. Being this uncool has taken years of uncool training. Let me see. I once had a Bon Jovi poster on my wall and loved albums like New Jersey, Slippery When Wet and even Keep the Faith. I used to listen to compilation CDs like Hot City Nights, a classic rock cd. I liked and still like Counting Crows. I once paid good money to see Hootie and the Blowfish live at the Clyde Auditorium. One of my favourite old records is ‘New Miserable Experience’ by the Gin Blossoms. I love Soul Asylum and own pretty much all their records. Even when they got a little shit. I loved the Backstreet Boys song ‘I Want It That Way’ – perhaps the best boyband song of all time. And even before I hit my teens I was being uncool listening to hip hop such as MC Hammer and Vanilla Ice. And before this owning music by the likes of Wet Wet Wet and Bananarama.
But you know what, I don’t care. I am uncool and I’ve always been uncool and I’m pretty sure I’ll always be uncool. But one thing wipes clean all those flaws. All those things that I can be criticised for, laughed at for, mocked for are forgiven simply because the very first record I owned was ‘Dancing On The Ceiling’ by Lionel Richie. How cool is that?!
Glasgow Pordcart went and wrote a lovely piece about some of their favourite blogs. Unbelievably I’m on there. So a big thanks to the guys for a) Reading my blog and b) Telling others about it. Thanks. You can read their piece here
I recently wrote a piece for my new monthly column over at songbytoad.com about the wonders of sharing music. You can see this here. Basically, Matthew had prepared a mix cd of Willard Grant Conspiracy songs for me as a sort of introduction to the band. My piece centred around this idea of sharing music. I invited people to submit “introducing” pieces about a band they love or want others to hear. I encourage people to do this now as well. Send them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will post them on this blog.
Anyways, last week I went to meet a couple of friends at a local bar. When I arrived at the bar, I looked in the window to see if Graeme and Alex were there and sitting in the seats by the window were none other than Rod Jones and Roddy Woomble from Idlewild. This really should not have been a big surprise to me given that Rod lives around the corner from us. However, as you may already know, my wife has a massive thing for Roddy Woomble and he was the last person I expected to see sitting in our local bar. My wife was GUTTED when I told her he was there because she was at home with Roddy and couldn’t come round to the pub. Just as well though as she’d probably have stolen him and left me in a flash! I have to admit though, sitting there at the next table to the pair of them I had a real sense of being a little star struck. And the reason for this is simple. Their importance to my relationship and I guess therefore life. Without knowing it, they impacted on my world and there we were sat beside each other in a local pub. That felt weird. You see, when I first started seeing my wife, about 10 years ago, I lived in Dundee and she lived in Arbroath. We used to travel back and forth between the 2 to see each other, travelling along the dodgy Arbroath Road. It has now been upgraded to a dual carriageway, but at that time it was a single track road notorious for bad accidents and slow tractors! Anyways, one day she gave me a tape to play in the car. 100 Broken Windows by Idlewild. I knew the name of the band but had never listened to them before. That tape never left my car after that. It was a constant in both our lives, something we shared a real passion for. Something that brought us together in a special way. And something that is still one of our favourite albums of all time without a doubt. It united us. Brought us closer. And that is something I love about music.
A friend commented on my post for songbytoad that a mix tape she was once given brought her closer to the friend that made her it. I completely understand this for the simple reason that I believe in music bringing people together. There’s nothing quite like having a normal mundane conversation with somebody, mentioning a love of a band or artist and then all of a sudden seeing a spark ignited and a mundane conversation transformed into a passionate debate. And its what I love about going to gigs as well. The coming together of all these people united in their love of the music. From different places, walks of life, cultures, but all there to share in a common love of the music. It’s ultimately I guess what Church would be about if the Church achieved what it was meant to be about in the first place. So I guess I’m taking the idea of sharing music even further with this post. I want to explore how music unites people. Any stories? Let me know. In the meantime, go and buy 100 Broken Windows by Idlewild. It’s a real gem.
Well I’m delighted to say that on the first Sunday of every month Matthew over at songbytoad has asked me to do a column for his site. I love his idea of opening his site up to other writers on a Sunday – his day of rest – and am totally chuffed that he has been able to see past the fact that I’m an uneducated, stupid, pompous twat/cunt who is appalling at writing, and allow me to contribute to his lovely blog. My first instalment was due to be up on the 4th of October but due to a technical glitch didn’t actually go up until yesterday. You can read both pieces I wrote over at www.songbytoad.com and will be able to read my stuff on a monthly basis over at his site. Obviously I will be continuing writing on this blog, though after yesterdays vicious attack on my writing I may well get back to writing only about things I love. My one and only adventure into the world of criticism was not exactly pleasant so I’m thinking it’s probably best if I focus on the music which turns me on and not off in future.