Friday, 28 December 2012

My Love

So, we are now fully into winter.  The sun rose in the centre of the milky way, the world didn't end and life is just as chaotic and normal for everyone.  I was so excited for the 21st December, I stayed up all night to watch the sunrise.  I couldn't see the sunrise though, and when it was raining constantly for days afterwards, I  thought this could be the start of 40 days and 40 nights of drizzle.  You  know of my love for the city of Amsterdam, I write and try to describe the magic of this beautiful city.  That was in the summer though, and in the winter, it is a different story and mood.

Since I left to go travelling, I have really felt like I have experienced every single day, and every season.  What I mean is that when you live day to day, you wake up and look out the window, and the weather decides your day.  You really appreciate a warmth, you feel the cold wind, you watch the leaves sprinkle and fall.  I am still out busking in the night, but my hours are now reduced due to the cold season.  It has felt like someone has been pushing pins into my fingers as I am playing, and I have felt the size of the challenge of living from your guitar with no home and no job in the winter.  My experience of Amsterdam is different than it being sunny, playing outdoors for hours, and sleeping outside.

When I returned from Liverpool with 10 euroes in my pocket and a bite of cold from the air, I tried to re tune myself into the busking travelling mentality.  It was hard though, I just feel like hibernating in the winter, but when you have no money, you have no choice about going out in wind or rain or cold and sleet to sing your songs on the street.  The gypsies are holding Waterlooplein vigorously between them, I haven't been able to find a good daytime spot that pays like Waterlooplein, but in the night I have the perfect spot.  I  go for an hour a night and make between 15 and 30 euroes.  This is just enough I feel to get me through the winter.  I was able to buy some nice presents and food and beer and had one of the best Christmas' of my life.

Busking will keep me fed and watered for the winter, a long with a few paid gigs and recording jobs.  But my main focus now, is on the 'Electric Soul Circus' album I am recording with Cato and Chiel.  We are 6 songs into a fun fare of songs, sounds and styles.  I am feeling it is some of the best music I have ever been involved in, with each track we just get better and better.  The last one we recorded is one of those ones that just brings a smile to your face, very brilliant combination and style.  We have built a studio in Cato's, and we now have a dedicated creative space.  I have a matress to sleep on in there, and I get to enjoy a real Dutch family meal and conversation each evening.  My Dutch is getting much better, and I  really feel a part of this beautiful family I am proud to call my dear friends and High Seas partners.

I'll be honest, I was scared of the Winter here, I knew she was changing seasons and I could feel the city become a different place.  But the love and help I have received my from friends here have given me the strength to feel that I can get through this cold season, and when it is over, know that I have came through a big challenge to a traveller living from his guitar.  This city does love me, I still feel that.  She is a challenging city, but that is what I love about her.  The harder the game, the greater the gain.  Things are harder in a lot of ways, but the rewards of the experiences I am having are making me a much stronger person.

Through the winter, if I ever feel a bit low, or a bit down in the city, the time when I remember best why I love it here is after I have been busking, made a good bit of money, buy a joint and then ride home.  The feeling of cruising along, high on my bike, after earning a good chunk of money from singing in the streets, will always bring a smile to my face.  Ringing my bell and parting the ocean.  Life is very beautiful here, and when the daffodils appear in a few months, it will be a heaven on earth to me.  Back to the days of playing in the sun for hours and hours, sleeping outside and riding for hours upon hours.

I was mostly working the festivals over the summer, Ruigoord, ADM, Fusion, Magneet, and loved it!  I was still busking a little bit between the festivals, but it was when I finished the Magneet that I threw myself into  it full time and started to make a good living from it.  This was in the close season - late September, so I know that when Spring comes, I am in a great position and mindset to make a really good income and experience the city even greater than these last 8 months.  My voice has a nice gravel crackle, I am learning lots of new songs, I know the best spots, so come on spring!!  I will be ready for you.

I make plans daily, and seasonally.  They are always subject to change though, as the uncertainty of a life on the road can flip things upside down at times.  But my plans at this moment are this*.....Winter, continue busking the night shift and earning a bit of bread.  Putting all recording energies into the 'ESC', spending as much time with the girl of my dreams.  Spring, hit the busking circuit day and night again and pay a little visit to Switzerland.  Summer tbc.

*Plans are subject to change without notice.  Your statutory rights are not effected.

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Into The Music

This is a heavy chest of songs recorded and written by the captain over the last ten years. It is his 'Best Of' volume 1, that contains work done with many different identities including 'SLUTCO', Peggy Brainchild', 'The Dawn Fanfare', Brainwire, Guttermask and White Trash ana Halfcast'.

They are like a suitcase of songs he has taken with him, as he builds the new sound and identity of 'The Dead Sea Captain'. It offers a glimpse of his musical past and like a memory box contains little treasures that will always take him back to that place.

Holes In The Souls

Written about being poor but happy, and seeing and appreciating the beauty in the small things.


I got holes in the soles of my shoes
I got those good-bye-girl blues
I've got a pocket that's full of your change
as I sing for my supper again

Should I get out of bed
I'll watch her sleep instead
and I'll crawl out of my mind
Should I follow the pack
and eat heart-attack
work 'till I'm sick to the bone

Is your money that good
are your hands full of blood
well, someone's gotta pay
in the blink of an eye
your life passes by
you didn't stop to see

a morning sunrise
when it catches her eyes
or feel a cool winter's breeze
and the beauty you miss
when it's money you kiss
it makes my world an ugly place

Well, I'll sing....

As they fight in their suits
for the land and the fruits
well there's none left for me
What can I do
when they build a brand-new
concrete factory
on the place where we'd go
to believe that our souls
were still allowed to be free

Well, I'll sing...

Well, it seems the race
has been won
and we're late
and the roads have been burned
by the well-fed
and the learned

I got holes in the soles of my shoes
I got those good-bye-girl blues
I've got a pocket that's full of your change
as I sing for my supper again

Should I get out of bed
or watch her sleep instead
and crawl out of my mind

Voices -
This is the acoustic version of Voices, written on the dole. It was recorded by Pete Skalley of my old band White Trash ana Halfcast after we had took acid and went down Thurstason.


Dont look, dont look for me.
Cos it's hard, it's hard to be
when it all gets lost inside your head
you say you know you never forget

Dont change, dont change who you are
cos you lost, you found out who your not
and its all too much for me to take,
my mind says no, my body will break

Its not the voices in my head,
she moves through me and my sanity says
I need you now before they take me away
my mind was all for you to take

Why cry, why cry so much
when you need, when you need my touch
but it all gets lost inside your head
I say I know I'll never forget.

Dont forget to say bye when you go
cos I feel no more love and she's letting go
I ache for the days, when she took me away
the woman you lose is the woman that stays

And I'd like to say why I even try
they look like they do, but then always pass by
I ache for the days when she took me away
the woman you lose is the woman that stays
and it all gets lost
and she moves through me
but I, I can see
she did it all for me.
Come By Ours -

I wrote this as a bit of a take on Kumbayour. I started playing the chords, and the opening lyric of 'There's another shit stain playing on my radio' came out. So I stuck with it and developed the idea. It was when I had just moved into a horrible flat in Kensington in Liverpool, and wasn't too happy!
The cheap quality of eggs with feathers still attached to them. The packs of tabacco with images of people suffering from throat cancer, wandering why they worship the cross when it was a torture instrument


there's another shit stain
playing on my radio
and another girl I had to hurt to let go
Another junky at the end of my road
he moans and he mumbles
and he stumbles and he groans
Oh lord come by ours

There's another feather stuck to the egg that I'm about to eat
It was ripped out so fast
that it makes it snotty and weak
another image of death
on the pack of my cigarettes
and another reason
why I tend to help myself
Oh lord, wont you come by ours

There's another kid, who's got hatred in his words
he don't belong to his mother
just another loveless birth
and another miracle for sale on my T.V
god always seems to need
a little bit more money
Oh my lord come by ours

There's another cross on the spire of the church
what they used to kill jesus
and then murder in his words
Oh lord, come by ours
Under The Spreading Chestnut Tree -
I wrote this as a farewell to a first love. The girl who had been a big part of my life and thoughts for 5 years. We gave it one last go, and realised our lives were heading different ways. I based it on the suicide romance tale in Orwell. As I just think it is a sad and beautiful line and image. Under The Spreading Chestnut Tree, I sold you and you sold me.


under the spreading chestnut tree
I sold you and you sold me
I sat with my head in your hands and i said
made you a promise we'll do it again

and soon my love we will dance
soon my love we will dance
in a suicide romance

backwards and forwards and upwards we talk
but the words they are twisting and away i do fall
I sit with my head in my hands and I say
why does it always end up this way

goodbye my love
goodbye my love

(this isn't like me at all)
(this isn't like me at all)

we spoke in the rain
in cold seasons change
in the sight of spring
I remember everything
I awoke to taste
a dream that I erased

now I cant sleep
nothing tastes as sweet
in 4 walls of me
I fall silently

so I think i should go
I think you should know
I've been through your mind
in time I hope that you'll see
that memory of me
that makes you smile
and in that place we would go
where your flowers they grow
by your favourite tree
I'll pick one up for her
and give it to you
in someone new

Under the spreading chestnut tree
i sold you and you sold me
I Gotta Know -
The lyrics are from a Woody Gurthrie song, and I wrote the music to fit my style. I think it is such a powerful poem, and love the energy in it.


Why do your war boats ride on my water
why do your death bombs fall from my sky
why do you burn my farm and my town down
sir I just gotta know

What makes your boats haul death to my people
blockbuster cannons and guns
why don't your ships bring some food and some clothing
Sir I just gotta know

Hungry lips are asking me
wherever I do roam
comrades and friends
are falling around me
and I sure gotta know

Why cant my hands get a good paying job
I can work I can plant I can sew
I built your big house where you hide from my people
but why do you crave to hide?

What good sir have you done I ask you
to deserve my money from my hands
Why does your law book chase me off my land
well sir, I just gotta know

Hungry lips are asking me
wherever I do roam
comrades and friends
are falling around me
and I sure gotta know

You lock me in jail
and you shut me in prison
your hospitals full
your crazy house jammed
what made that cop kill my trade union worker
You gotta talk plain cos I don't know

Hungry lips are asking me
wherever I do roam
comrades and friends
are falling around me
and I sure gotta know

Old Pleasures -

This was a bit of a throw away track that I took a liking to. It was written for a songwriting excercise at university. I threw a couple of chords and lyrics together and out this came. It's about my worries of the world, how I felt freedoms were slipping through our fingers, and the future is becoming scary. The boat is sinking, but the captain tells us it's fine.


I know the stories
that shape over time
a memory in melody
a childrens rhyme
the talk of the town
has buried the clown
and all the kings men
are loose all around
fe fi fo fun
i smell the blood of
of the wars you begun

blessed be beautiful
hollowed and vain
sold by the systems
for profit net gain

the pleasures of old
these freedoms I'm told
float from our reach
if we forget what we hold

i know the ship
is sinking right now
but the captain has told us
it's fine anyhow
just stay on your knees
and wait for your turn
but the more that we stand
the more that we learn
Daylight Savings -
I wrote this when the clocks went forward at spring just before I turned 29. I wanted to write a song and not use a minor chord. The lyrics are about watching the days fade, and that feeling you get when you know you should have done more.


So many things I could have done
so many races i could have won
so many songs i wish id have sung
spent my days playin catch up with the sun

so many wrongs i should have made right
i shouldnt run when i should fight
there were times when i should have cried
instead of hiding beneath my pride

see how it works you get nothing from this world
if your waiting for your life to happen
see how it hurts just observin the world
afraid to make things happen

so many stories i wish i could tell
so many promises i broke to myself
all the dreams i had when i was young
fading more the older i become
Meet Me In The Middle -
Written and recorded in a few hours. It is a simple track and the lyrics are about still missing my first love. Thinking that we can just meet in the middle of our crossing roads.


why am i keeping
your pictures on my wall
does it solve the feeling
of gotta gotta give some more

my mind was sleeping
in the memory of your warmth
and my soul is creeping
to follow you out the door

i thought that i could shake it
i thought that it would go
but instead your everywhere
and my heart wont let you go

is it wrong to feel you
in the arms of another girl
is it wrong if i see you
in the smile of another girl

so the story goes
wherever the wind blows
ill meet you in the middle
of the crossing of our roads
 Resolve -

I wrote this based a little bit on religion and ordered society. How orders are followed in blind faith. it was during my waking up stages and this is the band version recorded with The Dawn Fanfare


Put your clothes on it's not what it seems
wipe your smile with all your broken dreams
sit tight and tell me just what you meant
your tongue is talking but your not making sense

and so it's so sentimental to
confuse the virgin of her fruit
God's got an answer in a sympathetic smile
lost in the pages of a human denial

put it all together boy it's all in your head
the secrets that they sold you were the ones you never read
and so it seems what you know is never right
what makes you different when you scream and fight

cos they all stand up for you
go fetch the stick for you
and they trust noone but you
but I say God is inn us too

It's never over the wars have just begun
Jesus is living in an asylum
crucified with drugs
and colours fight on reality-v

But I wont stand up for you
go Fetch the stick for you
cos I trust noone like you
I say God is in us too

I'm not making no sense if the moment pretends
to be anything but you
in a blissful decline
we slowly entwine
and forget we ever knew
I'm not making no sense
get it all off my chest
but all's I seem to do
End of The World -

This was written about a change I felt I was going through in understanding the world. I was in love with a beautiful girl, and it was special, but yet I felt guilty of feeling good and being in love when the world is ending, and I felt I needed to do something about it.


Though they seem a bit confused
As to what it is to lose
don't taste that good for you
But it;s not hard to make a change
when the sympathetic blame
is all that gets you through
But if the sex is nothing less than the best just get dressed
and throw it all away
And if you seem a bit suprised
when you look me in the eyes
and the moment gives you away

Its getting harder says the father
I'm in love with another girl shes just like you
See what you need is what you get
a girl that helps me to forget its the end of the world

And now the mother takes another sip and moves a little closer
and all's it takes is a touch
and though I'm never giving in
you know ill still never win
cos you always lose too much
so you talk a little longer
about how your feeling stronger
smile like you care
but all's you think about is wanting
something more than what you got
when I promised you the earth

Its getting harder says the father
Im in love with another girl shes just like you
See what you need is what you get
a girl that helps me to forget its the end of the world
God, I love thew way you are
Want to taste the way we were
Oh well she's got me on my knees
Oh please

sometimes words can be mistaken
when the path that you have taken
has lost you along the way
but in the innocence of knowing
which way the wind is blowing
it always leads me astray
See I can try to cover up
with a sentimental blush
the silence in my place
but in the bottom of my heart
Ive forgotten that it's hard to give the world away.

Its getting harder says the father
Im in love with another girl shes just like you
See what you need is what you get
a girl that helps me to forget its the end of the world
God, I love thew way you are
Want to taste the way we were
Oh well she's got me on my knees
Oh please
Secret -
"This was written when I was living in an empty 15 bedroom mansion on Penny Lane. It is about a girl I was sleeping with who had a boyfriend. But we just felt completely and physically drawn to eachother. We never had a mental connection, just a physical one. A beautiful girl, good memories, good song."


The Secret
she steals
From my eyes
The wanting The Needing
Speaks in Smiles
In sunlight, my thoughts might
Catch her waves
And when she lies with me
Her conscience sways

Maybe I'm afraid
She says with her hands close
Maybe I'll be late
And my reasons can't be told
Maybe I'm afraid of the secrets in your heart
Maybe Ill return back to where we start

The pale girl
remains still at my touch
Another before her
just wasn't enough
between her heart beats
her body's warm
the secret between us
set with the sun
 Another Social Casualty -

This was a B side to the Guttermask sessions with 'Dog'. Again, the lyrics are about the decay of society and we satisfied our Ska tastes with the music. The alleyway were we used to rehearse in Liverpool was always filled with dirty underwear, rats and old men.


Down in downtown deeply
in an alley there's a show
the policeman confiscates another nudder womans hole
starting to crawl creeping is the old man we all know
looking kinda tired with a story noone knows
down a little further we find pinkish underwear
A needle and a tissue and a lock of golden hair
a little biddy piece of her in all of you and me
taste it in the water in the air we breathe
It's another social casualty

This whole world is falling around me
The sky is grey so unnaturally
angry eyes are following me
concrete cages all around me

Looking just like insects in a march of unity
hooded little creatures scurry all around me
never had no love and they will show none in return
only breed another nother never ever learn
it's another social casualty

This whole world is falling around me
The sky is grey so unnaturally
angry eyes are following me
concrete cages all around me

walking through the cars pumping carbon in my face
past the factories exuding filthy fucking waste
another fucking bilboard with an angry army man
asking me to murder be the best I can

This whole world is falling around me
The sky is grey so unnaturally
angry eyes are following me
concrete cages all around me
A Heroes Theme -
I wrote this about soldiers in the middle East always being called Heroes. For blindly fighting a war that they know is not right. I felt a true Hero, is one that has seen and knows what true freedom means.


Watch out for the preacher
with Jesus in his bones
Reachin out for ya money
Cos god he needs his throne

As the soldier dreams
Sleeps through the screams
The hero has seen
Just what freedom means

Watch out for the police
Policies to force
Not nice for the dreamer
Escaping from the wars

With all ya force
Get up off the floor
No more shall war
Be forced upon the poor

The salt of the seas
Is forgotten histories
Shaped by the breeze
Of our own destinies

Get out of the city
She got no love for me
Her thousand eyes
Keeps a track of me

As the soldier dreams
Sleeps through the screams
The hero has seen
Just what freedom means
Be Minor -
I wrote this in my band White Trash ana Halfcast. The lyrics are about a bit of the decay in society that I would feel, I would tell people about my views at these drug parties and noone would believe me.


Momma told me someday
I would be a man
and they'll crucify me any way they can
so here's my story from a to b
I sold my soul for my sanity

Why do you cry when no-one hears
the morning leaves ya
but ya keep your fear
cos all those stories they used to tell
got lost in your mind
cos they knew too well
that I could talk all night

it tastes so sweet when thoughts entwine
and dignity eats away all your time
oh they say they know it all
don't question what your fighting for

I could talk all night but my momma told me not to lie

Well you move so soon when society blooms
they say why do you hide behind the truth
oh they say your getting old
no time to lose your self control

Its another mothers birth
an immaculate deception
of rejection of perception
getting kinda low
cos society blames it on a god they say
take hate so great in the love he made

Well you talk so clean for the king and queen
then spread your legs in a magazine
and you feel so pretty you feel so tame
now they got someone else to blame
A Song To Save The World -
This was written under the guise of Guttermask which has 'Dog' from White Trash ana Halfcast on electric guitar. I wrote this during my problems with the world.


my head was in the gutter
of a terrible dream
i really think id better
get a belly full of steam
and get myself away from here
this aint my home
or all it appears

there are eyes in the sky
i see planes fly by
making clouds that cloud
my troubled mind

I see God in the face of Adolf Hitler
I see God in Martin Luther
I see God in the hearts that hate
and I see God in the minds of the great

for a dollar a day
brown childrean make
the clothes that you
just throw away
its a sale of sin
just dont ask why
ignorance is bliss
when we dont hear them cry
its simple economics
and you dont understand it at all

there are no nations anymore
just share holders
and boardrooms
profiting from wars
dividing the world
and feeding the flames
enslaving us all
with debt to our names

we'll write a song to save the world
(but it will never work)
Voices -
I wrote this when I was on the dole, and I would wait for dole day to get some weed in and lock myself away and record and listen to music. It was spring and I just started playing this nice acoustic riff which became a favourite of people and was the first sign of me developing into an acoustic player.
This version was recorded in the big 15 bedroom house I was looking after! I collapsed after recording this for 2 days.


Dont look, dont look for me.
Cos it's hard, it's hard to be
when it all gets lost inside your head
you say you know you never forget

Dont change, dont change who you are
cos you lost, you found out who your not
and its all too much for me to take,
my mind says no, my body will break

Its not the voices in my head,
she moves through me and my sanity says
I need you now before they take me away
my mind was all for you to take

Why cry, why cry so much
when you need, when you need my touch
but it all gets lost inside your head
I say I know I'll never forget.

Dont forget to say bye when you go
cos I feel no more love and she's letting go
I ache for the days, when she took me away
the woman you lose is the woman that stays

And I'd like to say why I even try
they look like they do, but then always pass by
I ache for the days when she took me away
the woman you lose is the woman that stays
and it all gets lost
and she moves through me
but I, I can see
she did it all for me.
Gods Own Blame -
Written with my friend Radio Ray it is about religion a bit and is about the people who believe blindly. Saved by the blame of God.


Who knows, what your dreams arer about
Where God has fallen from his cloud
She cries in words so blind
To find the same empty minds
Your sins, wash away my love
cant get no grace with what feels good
Were safe when were in our grave
and saved by Gods own blame

Reasons to burn the witch
on bliss she talks in myth
secrets still seem to itch
cant get no answers from the rich
Self Destruct  -
From the Guttermask E.P Panopticon and another ska satisfaction track. With some Orwellian and Wells lyrics. It is about a system that is built on slavery and greed will self destruct.


the pride of pigs
in the palace pens
dogs of war smart
uniformed men
sent to kill
for coloured ribbon

you know its gonna self destruct

the righteous king
of the old blood lines
spits his orders
to the marching lines
upon the throne
safely far behind

you know its gonna self destruct

pretty pictures
product placement
in our stare
a clever dose
of mind warfare

soldier soldier
in the dirt
tell me why your conscience hurts
fighting for a brave new world

order order in the court
lock away the reasons for war
you know its for
the greater good

but i know
(its gonna self destruct

the television
will make you sick
programming minds
on what to think
soap for the washing
and fear is a fix
Make Up Your Bed -
Written as I was immersed in Orwell and Hicks. I recorded an E.P called We are The Dead over a couple of days, it was all just simple songs recorded on an old computer and bad microphone. This was the last track about waking up and dealing with the thoughts in your head.


you say all that you see in your mind
its not that cold but i wont stand in line
open you eyes and make up your bed
live with the nonsense that pours out your head

gotta get by gotta get high on my own
gotta know
gotta know why gotta know why I'm alone
well take me or leave me but never say why
love me or leave me its OK to try

you found out what they wanted from you
just a moment a moment to lose
open your heart and do what you feel
live with your love and believe that its real

so you find what really makes you sane
with sunlight comes the chances to make change
open your eyes and make up your bed
live with the nonsense that pours out your head
Trespass -
Bit of a throw away track this one that I took a liking to. I wanted to try some crooning and tired it with this track. The lyrics are inspired by the Lords Prayer a bit.


When you return to find
the rest have lost their minds
and walk in insect lines
not what you left behind
forgive their trespass

Lead us to a land
where there are softer hands
that makes what god demands
in pyramidic sands
and build your world
between my nowhere stare
upon the cross he bares
he cremates my cares
my faith is in the air
believe your self

Dear God deliver me
from human industry
they breed so rapidly
not one born free
release your mind
Panopticon -
very proud of this track. I recorded it over 3 days, and got so ill from recording it. It is full of reverse messages about god and satan and the church and stuff. It really did make me ill! From the Guttermask album Panopticon.


silence sits upon my throne
making castles in my home
graves are for the wall that falls
for a common cure
and all i ever do

salt is soothing but were moving
from the ocean to the shore
with all the souls that swim inept
in cold fetal silhouettes
shine shadows on the secrets
of stupendous saints of sex
rolling wombs out for the lepers
setting free the mindless deathless
Who are you to be

now recite my disciple my sweet acolyte
we have the loss of exhaled delight
through sorrow the king
has taken my wings
the curtains glow in the light
its check mate so stay up late
pass the days with coloured grace
you are the god of your own little race
though the suppers at my door
the letterbox is sore
off the bone is quite alright for them


Oh digital world...How we step into you, through our natural evolution.  You bring many freedoms, and almost telepathic communications to anyone in the world within seconds.  But you also come with consequence.  Meaningless information about people you don't really care about or would want to know.  The psychology of spending too much time reading this information makes you more and more bitter, the whole spectrum of human emotion is reduced to a 'like'.  As winter is here, and I spend more time indoors, it's time for a break from that world.

 What I love about facebook is that it is a digital memory box.  You can zoom into a month or day at any time since you have been 'using' it and see pictures of that time, your thoughts and conversations.  I always loved to fill memory boxes when I had a home, ticket stubs, photos, little reminders of good days spent all crammed into shoe boxes that maybe one day I would show my kids.  It has free communication to anywhere in the world by just thinking it.

When I am on the road, and staying between places, it is good to login, see some familiar faces and let everyone know how I am and where I am.  I found my news feed was getting smaller and smaller, I would remove anyone who told me any information I never felt I needed to know.  I think thought space is valuable, and should be occupied by good things that justify being looked at or remembered.  And when I find myself looking at photos of some lad in schools wedding, I ask myself if the good sides are outweighing the bad.

When you look at your facebook picture, it is like looking in a digital mirror.  This is how you look to the rest of the digital world.  You are extremely conscious that hundreds, if not thousands of people are seeing these thoughts you type without even speaking.  The profile picture is a good example of how someone is feeling, without saying anything.  It reflects the image they really want you to see.  You at your best, you at your most wrecked, you at the best place you have been.  Some people never change their facebook profile pic, they like to stay the same.  Some change it all the time.  Each side of this behavior is reflecting a core element of that persons personality and mood.

I kind of got used to the fact that I am being watched at all  times by anyone who wants to look.  I always felt that whatever I do online leaves a trace, and this is picked up and viewable to anyone.  If you were to have a conversation in a pub with 200 people in the room.  Only you and whoever you are speaking to would hear what you are saying.  Your body language and eye contact would make the conversation fluent and natural.  The same conversation on facebook bewteen someone who has 200 friends, is read in it's text format in silence, by the 200 people, not fully getting or undersrtanding your true meaning can be read and responded to so wrong.

I think man has a natural want to file things and organise them.  The universe is infinite with no beginning and no end, yet we attach unimaginable year counts to it.  The universe blew up 67 billion years ago or something.  We offer measurements of ages to life, say that once you reach a certain number of years on  this earth you can drink alcohol or smoke, completely ignoring the spectrum of individuality.  Facebook is an extension of us wanting to file our human and social existence.  It is not necessarily a bad thing, but it just has certain side effects that can detach you from real life social interaction.

Too much information on people I don't really know or like.  My brain is taking in this information and giving it a place in my storage department.  You ask someone how they are, and they tell you about something that they have also posted on facebook.  They then begin to tell you something that you already know about, but didn't respond to.  So do you stop them and say I know, or pretend you didn't see it or what?  All these different elements of our social existance are being categorised and filed.  Relationships, events, births, marriages, everything has a tab now! 

Except disliking.  The whole spectrum of human emotion is reduced to a thumbs up or no response.  You either like something or you don't.  Do you like the news of your friends grandmas death, or like the way he said his farewell through a drunken post.  Life is becoming a drunken text message existance, constantly analysing old things you have said or done, and looking back at a pictural and textural past.  I have known social casualties get so caught up in the past, that I start to see facebook as that very flashback.  I am going to try and keep my existence real and verbal.  Not digital and textual.  I will balance my digital existence through email and blogs.  It offers great possibilities to share and communicate this digital world of ours, but for me, not using facebook will re-balance this weight.

Monday, 17 December 2012

A Royal Rumble

The most glorious battle in Sports Entertainment.  The Royal Rumble, where everyone who exists as a soverign wrestler will get into the ring and throw his force behind his fists to be the last man standing.  He will make alliances and team up with another wrestler to destroy one, and then double cross him to get him out.  This 'sport' could be a good analogy of well......The world, but quite specifically, the world at war.....

The world is like a wrestling stage, as it's gearing up for the 'Royal Rumble' everyone is saying how mighty and strong they are, and they are going to win, and crush their opponents.  Crazy stereotypes in latex and spandex flexing their muscles and rallying the crowd to get behind them

What a strange time we live in, if you were to look on Google Earth at where you live, and then keep zooming out, you start t see how small we actually are, yet however small, we are all part of a collective fabric that makes all life in this world as chaotic, beautiful, scary and everything else that it is.  The world is all of us, and every action or output into world has a reaction, and that has a reaction, and every little thing, no matter how small, goes on to shape the wider picture.

You cannot escape 2012 theories.  In more and moore conversations people are offering their views to the table, and explaining what the Mayans really meant.  I don't know what's gonna happen myself, so I choose to just accept that there is a great change in the air.  All of my family and friends, and myself have gone through massive changes this year.  Most for the better, and some for the worst.  I know in my heart, that on the wider scale change is happening too, and I may have my own beliefs based on the evidence I see and hear, but I am just going to prepare myself, like brace myself and get ready for something, though not knowing exactly what it is.

Something is happening though, read the headlines this year and they all seem so extreme, and offer pieces to the puzzle that something is happening.  Open genocide in the Middle East, Britain having no summer, just floods, New York under water, proven corrupt people still holding positions of high power, revolts all around the globe.  If the Astronomy is true, and the sun rises at a place in the galaxy that is dead centre, and a new cycle begins, are we on the up, or the down?

I believe we are on the up, when we awake on 22nd December, we will feel like we have a whole new world ahead of us.  It is the closure to old ways and systems that are rotten from within, and will fall.  It will become crazy for a while, as the people who own the structure that runs most of the world, will want to hold on to it, and will keep trying to fix it, but the more it does to sustain itself, the more it is eaten from inside by its corruption.  It cannot survive these technological freedoms and developments, that for the first time in human history can free every single one of us. 

How though?  By clearing the board, and not just starting a new game, but thinking of a new game all together.  We have been playing the old one for hundreds of years, so lets all have a think how we can put the betterment of each and every human being to the forefront of our decisions.  We need something that understands all sides of life and the world and we have some great minds and artists and philosophers in our generation, so put them to work thinking of ways of how life can be more beautiful for everyone.  You never will please everyone of course, but the current system is only pleasing a small percentage.

People are afraid of change though, not everyone, but the majority is.  A prime example is when facebook drastically changed to a time line, and their were so many revolts, groups, people angrily speaking out about being forced into what they had become used to using from changing.  Though the new timeline was a more useful and colourful way to track your digital existance, people had become so used to something that is a part of their life and social and business interactions, that they were afraid of even a similar , only slightly different and more useful format..

But change is constant, and the old systems are pulling one way, and the great minds of art, science and technology are pulling the other way, soon the string will break, and the structures will come tumbling down, and then you gotta face change whether you like it or not.  Look at WW2, after it was over life was different for all of the world.  It was the Royal Rumble, and the winner held the crown and money and growth for a while, but now it is being challenged, and another battle seems like it is brewing in more and more places.  China is building a robotic army and claiming some more land in the Pacific, America is bankrupt.  Britain is boiling up, and the far right charisma of Nigel Farage is resonating in peoples sense of losing their identitty.  Talks of breaking away from a German/French/Italian dominated EU superpower and a divide in Europe.  The Middle East just being a never ending war featuring genocide and other horrible acts against humanity.  

It can only continue so long, until it explodes, and then a new way of life will emerge from the ashes of the old ways.  I hope and feel this change will be for the better.  I know I will watch sunrise on 21st December and feel like it is the start of something new for everyone in this world, and even if we have to fight, it will be worth it, because I know, a change gonna come, yes it is.


Monday, 3 December 2012

The Buskers Survival Guide: Part 1 - Amsterdam


I have spent a lot of time here in Amsterdam as a busker, that I know a lot more information on busking than I did with my previous survival guide.  So here is some more stories and info on my time busking in this legendary city.

Lets start with Permits.  If you are planning to stay in Amsterdam for a few months busking with an amp, then it is definitely worth looking to apply for a permit.  The rules have changed a lot now, and they only give 10 out, give you a set time to play, and give you 3 chances to get a warning.  There is only a window of a few weeks to get the permit, and that is the first 2 weeks of February.  It will cost you 50 euroes and some photos, but is a good investment for the summer.  As when Amsterdam is busy it is a gold mine for street musicians virtually wherever you play.  They give you 4 sets of one hour each, for 3 days of the week.  Thursday, Friday and Saturday.  The best places to play with an amp are Rembrandtplein, Leidseplein and Dam Square.  These are the places where you can draw a crowd and fill a big hat.  I reccomend having someone with a hat, as that triggers much more of a drop rate than waiting for people to put it in your case.  Someone with a hat, selling CDś is a way to massively increase your takings for a set.  But keep the volume down though, as the Handhaving and Politie can give you a warning if it is too loud.  Amsterdam enjoys itś peacefulness, so respect that and you will be fine.  If you are travelling with an amp and band, it is OK to risk a few sets here and there, and if you are stopped, just play the Travelling band card and they are usually fine with you.

Acoustic Busking can be just as rewarding as busking with an amp in Peak season, and if you are only on your own, you can make almost the same amount that is usually split between 4.  I survived a whole winter here on 2 spots.  Not overworking them, which is important.  If you overplay a spot too much it will start to reject you.  Itś strange, you will find aggression from passers by, Handhaving and neighbours stopping you.  The best plan is to find a route, of 3 or 4 spots where you know you can make between 10 and 30 euroes an hour.  4 sets and you have a good days wage.  But dont bank on the spots, sometimes you can make just pennies, when the previous day you had a full hat.  Thatś the only certain thing about busking.  The uncertainty.  The good thing about Amsterdam though is that there are so many good acoustic spots, because of the quietness of the city.  These are the spots I have found have been reliable drop spots.

After 10 years of being closed, the Rijks museum finally reopened this year and it is the most beautiful acoustic spot in the city.  A whole chamber of reverb for you to fill.  Tourists walking by, lots of people coming through.  They like people playing there also, as long as it is nice.  They will move you on if you go and try to play punk in there.  Busking is about fitting your environment.   I remember in Liverpool I would play all the gritty angry folky ones, cos that is the environment.  When I tried to play them in La Louvre in Paris, it just didn fit.  A good busker can pull out the perfect song to fit his environment and situation.  Lovely day?  Play some sunshine music.  Rainy?  Play some rainy day songs and so on.  The Rijks museum naturally attracts the classical players, single instruments and bands.  There is sometimes a waiting line in there, as it is sheltered, reverbed, and a tourist hot spot.  So just go and book yourself on and give it half an hour.  I find it is even the most perfect practise spot late at night.  There are no neighbours, so I just go there late sometimes and practise some new songs.

Waterlooplein.  I love this place.  Not just because the market there has kept me in good shoes all through my stay, but it is just so great a spot to play.  It is busy with the market, but still so quiet.  It makes all the difference in busking when you can hear yourself, and enjoy the set.  It has no car traffic, just bikes and passers by.  This place kept me going through the winter.  I would have to get there early to beat the Gypsys, but now they are at Rijks a lot so Waterlooplein has mostly been free!  I have had some very good hat fulls here, but it is playing to passers by, not drawing a crowd for people to sit.  There is a woman who lives close by that likes to come and tell you to stop.  But the law for acoustic busking is that you can play in one spot virtually anywhere for 30 minutes.  So if you are acoustic, she has to let you play.   I love this place, and will be there again over the Winter, so you best get there early to beat me!  This is a day spot, night time it is pretty quiet, but sometimes worth a shot in Summer especially.

Red Light District, the bridge by the church on the same line as the bull dogs is another good spot.  Night time especuially, but prepare yourself for randy tourists and noisy drunks.  This risk can bring big steady drops, but you have to put up with some pricks.  'Play Wonderwall!' They scream so gleefully.  It is supposedly forbidden to play in the Red Light area, but they seem to let it happen, as long as you are not too noisy, and not there for too long!

Vondelpark is a good day spot, but only through the summer.  Playing just by the entrance always served me well, or the tunnel a bit further on, but that has awkward walk ways.  The thing about your busking spot, is funneling them into a narrow walkway, making eye contact and BOOM BABY, there is the drop.  Vondelpark has a lovely quiet, and tourists and passers by.  You can probably find an OK spot in a lot of places, but the drops were always unsteady with this place.  Sometimes really great, and sometimes nothing!

The Hard Rock Cafe on Max Euweplein is a good night time spot.  After the chess board has closed at 21.30 you can do a sneaky set and sometimes make a really good hat.  It is supposedly forbidden to play there, but the street guards dont seem to mind.  Just dont drink a beer on this set as its not allowed to drink there.  If you are tempted by the tunnel just a few metres away, there is a guy who lives above that doesnt like buskers playing there.  So just watch out for him.  But somtimes you can catch him out and play a little set there.  Nice acoustics and good passers by.

There are that many bridges in Amsterdam, so Iḿ sure you can find one that suits you.  There is also another type of busking you can do, which has proved to me to dwarf any of the above.  It is a way to make big money in Amsterdam.  But since that is our project for the summer, I will keep it to myself for now.  Enjoy your Amsterdam busking adventure.  And if you want a little insider advice.  Go to the Coffeeshop Degraal on Albert Cuypstraat.  They have the best, cheapest weed, best music, best people, a recording studio in the back and weekly jam nights.  This place has been like a second home to me, it is a creative atmosphere where you can smoke a joint, play chess, draw in the house book,  and meet some very good interesting people.  Do say hello if you catch me in there!

Albert Heijn is the best Bar and Restaurant in town.  Good healthy salad for 3 euroes, bottle of good beer for 1.  But only an outdoor seating area, haha.  Hope this gives you a good heads up on enjoying Amsterdam as a busker.  If you are reading this and want some adventure, then do it.  Take a holiday, learn some busking classics and just head out into the unkown.  I promise you it will make you truly experience life.  Each day, each season, you will really feel the city by standing the streets playing music, seeing life come and go and fill your hat.  What are you waiting for?

Buskers Guide To Berlin Here

Tips For Busking Here

Buskers Guide to Liverpool Here

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You'll Never Walk Alone

I always thought that was just a song, sung by the football supporters, but being away from Liverpool for 6 months and then going back, it made me realise that it is more than just a song.  It is a fabric weaved into the personalities of the people and places.

I was really ready for a recharge back in Liverpool.  The night before I had played a gig at Roest.  It was a perfect closure to what had been the best summer of my life.  I had spent Autumn in the Garden house, watching the leaves tremble and try and hold on to the trees as they turned this beautiful tone of dark red and yellow.  Playing guitar for hours and hours next to the wood fire oven that cooked my coffee.  I knew as the trees became more bare, that Winter was approaching, and 12 days back in Liverpool would recharge my batteries enough to get through the cold season.

I stepped off the plane at Speke, breathed in a deep breath of the dirty smokey air and smiled.  It felt good to be back.  The accent of the air hostess as they did their routine selling of toasties and scratch cards on the flight brought another smile to my face.  I got out of the airport and had 3 quid to my name.  When I am busking in Amsterdam, sometimes I get pound coins dropped so I save them for when I visit home.  I spent 2 quid on the bus to the city.

I had heard that the Liverpool council wants to bring in busking permits for street performers and when I walked through the city I could see why.  Every ten meters was someone with an amp playing in the street.  I laughed to myself, and felt proud that Liverpool has such a vibrant street music culture.  When you go shopping, outside is like a music festival of all kinds of street performers.  I headed up to Lime street forgetting what a hill felt like and found Gary at the best busking spot where I always used to go.  He only plays 2 chords, and 3 notes in the harmonica for hours a day, but somehow Lime Street wouldnt be the same without him.  We had a quick chat and he lent me 2 quid to get the train to my mums house.

Nothing really felt strange on the train journey there.  It was like I had never been away.  I put my key in the front door of me mums house and came inside.  Mum wasn't home so I made a cuppa tea, put the radio on and just soaked in the warmth that only your family home where you grew up can give you.  I thumbed through the local papers and waited till me mum got home.

The door opened and in came my Mum, with a big hug and a bag full of tea bags, socks, undies and vests.  Sometimes a Mother just wants to be a Mother and make sure her son is clothed clean and fed.  Me mum is a special one.  I inherited my love for music and care free attitude to sing, dance and enjoy a gig from her.  We had a ciggie and a coffee in the greenhouse and a good catch up about how we are doing.  She made me some bacon, egg and beans on toast and I headed out to see my dear mate Radio Ray.

Radio Ray is master wordsmith and musician.  And when I was a misdirectional teenager at 19, he would introduce me to songs and a way of playing that made me believe I could learn to play myself.  Roy Harpers I Hate The White Man, and Dylans Hurricane were the bait pulling me into a world of music that I felt I always wanted to explore.  I love anger and balls in music, and Radio Ray oozes that, as well as a style and determination that I love to be around and make music with.  We have made a lot of music together and work well with eachother.  He is a good friend, a great musician and has introduced me to a lot of great music I would never have found.  We jammed, smoked, drunk tea and slagged off the lizards.  It was a cold but clear Autumn night at 2 am and I made the hour walk home.

I just wanted to rest a bit while I was home, I didn't want to be darting off to try and see everyone, but just drink tea and take her easy for a few days.  The Friday night was my brothers best friends 40th birthday party at the British Legion, which is a working class social club.  My sisters and their husbands were there too and it was great sipping a pint of real ale and watching the dance floor psychology of the 3 or 4 generations at the party.  Young kids of 10 and 12 in their nice shirts and pants, dancing with the older girls.  The old grey man in his fruit of the loom T shirt slowly dancing to Chesney Hawks and miming the words as he did the front step.  Was beautiful.  Me and my brother and sisters danced for a few hours and then I headed home quite drunk.

After 3 days I took the train down to Yorkshire to see my mate James Bragg.  He is a fellow travelling street musician who has now settled in this beautiful little village.  We recorded 3 albums together in Liverpool and he is a big inspiration for me wanting to become a really good acoustic songsmith.  He is like a human juke box, with a voice of pure gravel, heart and soul.  A repatoire of songs you would think impossible to memorise and play like he does.  We went to his friends Rosie's for a smoke and drink, and on the piano there he played an amazing rendition of Amsterdam.  Neither of us had any money, so he showed me his busking spot in the village and held it between us making enough to get some food, tabak and drink in for a little party he was throwing that night.  On the Saturday when I was leaving I did an hours busking at the spot and made 25 quid, enough to get back to Liverpool and see my old friend Viv.

I arrived back in Liverpool in the rain, and the orange street lights that make the place glow amber in the puddles and wetness.  I breathed in the air and set off to meet my friend.  I sat down at the Marloborough, and got talking to this man and woman who were asking me about my travels and stuff.  Then in came Viv, we drunk 2 bottles of wine and a pint of mild then headed to do some karaoke at the Vines.  She treated me to a lovely meal and we departed.  She is a beautiful girl Viv, a 60's child at heart in love with the birth of pop music culture.  When I lived in Liverpool we would meet up at the Jacaranda, fill the juke box with 60s music and dance the night away.

Sunday was roast dinner day, and my brother and sisters came and we had a lovely meal.  I then set out back to the city to meet my travelling bud Ash, and go in and record an interview for my old radio show and play some tracks from the Cato album I had just produced.  It felt good having a beer with Ash.  Sometimes you can feel a bit strange telling people who have settled with a job and kids about your adventures of freedom, but Ash is a fellow free spirit, a born traveller and gypsy guitarist.  We got pretty drunk at the Mello and then dashed for the last train.

Amsterdam can be quite a lonely place.  The freedoms are woven into the city, so noone really bothers you or gets in your face, or goes out of their way to speak to you.  But Liverpool, wherever you sit, be it on a train, a pub, a bus, a cafe someone will speak to you.  it's just natural there.  I started to realise the song 'You'll Never Walk Alone' is more than just an anthem, it is a feeling that is in the hearts of nearly everyone in Liverpool.  You will never feel alone there.

The day of my flight back to Amsterdam it felt a little strange, part of me didn't feel I was ready to go.  But the other part knew I would regret not taking the flight and then having to busk enough to buy another ticket.  I said a tearful goodbye to my Mum, and all through the journey through the airport, I was hoping they would say my bag is too big to go on, or your ticket isn't right, and I could go home for just another week.  But it was a smooth journey back to Amsterdam and I bunked the train back to the East and was greeted by trigger my bike, shining black in the night like a powerful trustworthy and loyal horse.  It felt good to be back, I knew it was gonna be hard getting through the Winter on the road, but these challenges are what I asked life for.

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Martha my Dear...

In 2 days I head back to Liverpool for a recharge of my batteries, to spend some time with my mum and friends, eat English breakfasts and drink copious amounts of Yorkshire tea for 10 days.  So before I leave, I want to document the last 6 weeks since my last entry.  I will pick up where I left off..........

I was getting into a good routine with my busking, 3 or 4 sessions of an over an hour at my favourite spots,  I was feeding myself, buying some treasures from the market, pimping my bike and was waking up with about 40 euros still!  That is a lot to me, I know some 'buskers' who use amps make hundreds a day, but believe me when I say I am satisfied just to eat and treat myself.  I am not a greedy or money hungry person, just enough to enjoy the day suffices for me.  It was turning bitterly cold though, and my hands would ache to the bones, but I was determined to keep the momentum going.

I was playing at Waterlooplein in the evening, it was around 9pm and there was a little trickle of cold rain falling from the skies.  A beautiful young girl was riding past and stopped, she parked her bike and stood by the bridge just listening.  After I had played a few songs, she came over and commented on how nice it was to hear me play, and that she never takes this route home, but just decided to tonight and was very glad she did.  She is putting on a house concert and asked me if I would play at it, I said yes in my ever so enthusiastic way and gave her my email address.

I had decided it was Martha's turn for a treat, so I paid to get her pampered by a pro, with a new bridge, action lowered and new strings.  I was breaking 3 strings a day with her, so I thought I would invest in getting her looked at.  He did a great job, and after a few weeks of tinny-ness and thin sounding worry, she is now back to her deep honey like maple syrupy sound.

I had started recording an album with Cato, in the morning I would come round, we would drink a coffee then record a song.  We set up a little studio in the corner of the dining room and started to understand how each of us work. We recorded an album in Liverpool exactly this time last year, it was dance, hip hop electronica, but this one we wanted to capture the organic flow and feel of her songs she plays on the accordion.

For a few hours each morning, we would pick a song to do, then start recording and doing a few overdubs.  They were going well, and one morning Cato said she wanted to do a song about May Day that is a few hundred years old.  We stripped it down, and built it into one of the most beautiful vocal and accordion arrangements ever.  Each time I listen to it, my body tenses up as it's so powerful a performance and recording.  After we recorded it, Cato burst into tears and the 3 C's of Cato, Colin and Chiel knew we had recorded a special one.  The album is now done and getting ready to be released.  I am very proud of what we made, and want to dedicate a whole chapter to the recording sessions and the 3 C's.

I turned up for this gig at a house concert and was immediately met with such a warmth.  3 girls live there with a female cat, at the top of an empty building with a wood fire and musical instruments everywhere.  A double bass player turned up and a gypsy guitarist.  All of us just played and sang completely improvised and felt this great musical rush of energy.  We ate some lovely food and then carried on.  Each of the girls would then play one of their songs, and the other two girls would sing these telepathic harmonies with her.  It was very amazing to watch.  I had nowhere to sleep that night, so they let me crash on their couch, and their very grande cat slept under the covers with me. (I think it just craved some male presence)

Gig offers had started to come in all of a sudden.  I was booked for this music and poetry night at the artists squat called 'Valreep'.  It was an amazing day, the audience were silent as people read their poetry and the music played.  I got up to play, and loved the bit of nerves I felt.  Whenever it is a really great line up, it makes me up my game a bit and really go for it.  I went for it.  The applause from each song seemed to last ages, it really seemed like they connected with the songs.  I played a few Ewan Mccoll folk numbers, my own and a few others, and they really went down well!  I was on a high, had my busking amp with me and thought I will do a spot at Rembrandtplein.......

There was someone just finishing up and I asked if I could jump on.  He said that ´them´2 were booked next.  I turned around and seen the vile ego of this horrible little South American Nickleback wannabe.  I know them, and each time they play it´s like someone is pushing dog sick into my ear drum.  I sighed and walked upto them.  I said Í am gonna play after you, how long are you playing for?` They said they are only allowed 40 mins.  So I waited for nearly an hour while they dicked about setting up.  I was getting a bit tired now, the alcohol was starting to wear off and I just wanted to play.  They finally set up, and then I had to sit through 45 minutes of them murdering Pink Floyd, spewing out ´Want you back for good´and just filling the air with ego voice bile, just as they started a police man came and checked their permit....

While I was waiting this Irish busker called Tom came and seen I was in the queue, so he left.  And the little ego splein said in a voice quite desperate ´come back Tom'.  I think he was a bit put off by the look I was giving as he 'sung'. I can't help it if things distgust me!  When they finally finished, I said 'We got there in the end didn't we hey.  I set up within minutes and started to play.  NO!  My batteries had died in my amp so noone could hear me, but I thought fuck it.  I just sung as loud as I could and out of pride for the fact I had waited so friggin long.  That Tom came up to me and after a few songs, and said 'Make this your last one hey, we don't want you here making trouble, we will tell the police you dont have a permit'  I said you sad little man, I turned around and played a few more songs, but then it was boiling up in me.

I took off my guitar (almost) threw it down and walked up to the 3 little terds all sitting there.  I said who the fuck do you think you are, you little snake!  Saying your gonna snitch like the little snake you are!  I said get out me face, I said I needed to make 50 euroes so I could rent a room for a week, and I come here to have to wait will these 2 dick around and then fill the air with shit.  The voice said Í don't know what your problem is with me' I said, Ít's because your voice is like shit in me ears you NOTHING!  I started to rant at their faces, and then I just went.

Looking back, it was quite sad what happened.  Me losing it, and them threatening to snitch on me like a snake.  But these guys make 300 euroes a DAY!  And here's me just wanting to do a little slot and they react like that.  So fuck them.  He does sing so HORRIBLE though, like a forced, strained Nickleback horror ego show, and then he begs the crowd for money in this horrid way and it JUST MAKES MY SKIN CRAWL.  But enough of that......

I think I prefer to just play acoustic, and make enough to enjoy the day.  Me and Martha are quite a team, haven't broke a string since I got her fixed, and she is enjoying being fingered a lot more.  But, the weather is bitterly cold now, and I think the main busking season has ended for me.  But I have a portable recording studio and lots of contacts to build on and make it through the winter with my production experience.

Saturday, 13 October 2012


What a crazy month it has been.  A rollercoaster of emotions and events that has left me sure of what I want to do for the future, and where I want to be.  So much has happened, that it is best to take it from the Magneet........

I never thought it was possible to live of cheese toasties, wine, beer and drugs for 6 weeks, but it was.  It comes at a massive cost to your body though, and I felt empty and tired.  I had no drive or energy to stay at the festival once the final weekend was over, and I was anxious to see if I had got this job in the French Alps.  I had borrowed a bike off Raymond and I left for the city to get online and check my email.  The sand had destroyed all my shoes, I was a stone lighter, and felt dirty all over.  I looked like a tramp, and many people commented on this.  I had been sleeping on a couch in the lounge, or outside underneath the stars for the last 6 weeks, and the city was a sharp change of scenery.  It was also howling with powerful wind and rain.  I had nowhere to sleep and just wanted to curl up and rest for a thousand years.  I logged on in the library and as soon as I seen my email, I knew I didn't get the job.  I was right, after going in there and giving them everything I had, they didn't want me.  I remember telling them that I know that if I don't get the job, it is because it is part of a greater plan that I may not fully understand, but accept.  I had to swallow and take my own advice, and know that however disappointed I was, it was because life has a different plan for me.  At the interview I was running on energy I didn't know I had, a 12 hour cramped bus ride from Amsterdam to London, should have shattered me.  But I walked for 4 hours trying to find a guitar shop, then went in to this interview full of energy and dtermination to spend my winter playing music in the alps.  They must have thought 'Who the fuck is this loon'?  My friend Bart made the perfect analysis that I was just like Spud from Trainspotting who goes to his interview on speed.  Haha, looking back he got that spot on.  Though I wasn't on speed, just determination that that job was mine.....

Feeling empty, tired, knowing I had nowhere to sleep, and then being told I didn't get a job I was so sure I was getting, hit me hard.  I felt fucking low man!  Cato, who has been so determined I should stay in Amsterdam was a lifeline I massively needed.  She has a garden, and I was able to sleep in the shed and rest a little.  She also did so much to lift my spirits and help me realise that Amsterdam wants me.  And over the next few weeks, my experiences in the city helped me realise that too.  It is like the city is alive, and she opens up to me in ways that make me feel like I am in the Truman Show or something.  A raincloud that rains over just one spot, or the church bells that play in key to the songs I sing on her bridges and more events that I will come to shortly.  The low feeling lasted for 12 days, and in that time I made a million plans, my head was all over the place, first I was going to Ireland, then to Berlin, then to Switzerland.  I just felt I wanted something but I didn't know what.  I was going to sell my recording gear, and my busking amp and get a ticket to somewhere.  Those 12 days were the most challenging I have ever felt.  I felt so alone, I felt I failed on my part to bring a bit of Liverpool to the Magneet, and ended up losing some friends over it.  The more I felt I wanted to leave, the more the city looked after me and helped me pick myself up....

I have felt like a true Amsterdamster since I have been here, and that is down to a few very kind, and special friends I have here.  Bart, who I mentioned a little has been a massive part of that.  Last year at the Magneet, I felt he was like a protective soul who was always going out of his way to help me.  Be it from doing my ditrty washing after weeks of camping in the sand, taking a big group of us to his or his brothers house close by to get a shower and feel human again.  Making sure we would get something to eat, and getting me a caravan to sleep in when it felt like my back had been broken.  He would run the Magneet bar with his shining bright colourful character (he has the best collection of bright shoes and pimps jackets that make my bright socks look grey!)  And during the shift, he would say to me 'Çolin!  Grab your guitar and get on top of the bar to play!' So I would, and then he would go round with his hat to collect some money for me, cos he knew I had nothing.  After a month at the Magneet, he 'adopted' me and I spent a few days at his house in the West.  Watching films on the projector with his girlfriend, all in our pyjamas eating popcorn and I had a much needed rest in a real bed.  I remember after a shift at the bar, we went to the teepee to play round the campfire, and someone had tried to grab my guitar and pretend to put it on the fire, and Bart screamed at them!  Hey, what the fuck ya doin man!  This is what I mean by protective soul.  But it's not as if he has to try to be this way.  He is just naturally.  As much as there are people in the world who go out of the way to hurt you, there are just as many Barts who will go out of their way to help you, because they are made of the good stuff in life.  He has his own business that translates into English as 'I'll Take Care' and he spends his time with kids who have behavour problems and ADHD, by helping them with their homework, taking them to football matches and theme parks, and being a good positive and helping influence in their life.  He is a proud Amsterdamster and his house has also been my home for a large part of my stay here this year.  I got in touch with him when I was arriving in Amsterdam this year, without me even having to ask, he gave me a set of keys, let me use his girlfriends bike, let me make my home in his spare room, and just opened his home to me and allowed me to really feel like an Amsterdamster.  He spends summers travelling around, going to lots of festivals and really enjoying life with his girlfriend and friends, so I had the place to myself for a large part, and I felt like I was living like a Prince. 

After sleeping in Cato's shed, I was able to stay at his for a few days again and just start recharging my batteries.  I felt so weak and unsure and empty.  I am usually an energetic, passionate and confident person, but I was the polar oppositte  for these 12 days.  I accepted it though, I know that extreme highs are followed by extreme lows, and this adventure has been filled with massive highs.  I had been out of the busking mode, and was trying to get myself back in the swing.  I left Barts one morning and went to the bridge in Vondel Park, I was playing 'Holes in The Souls'and I started crying as I was singing the words. (It got 3 drops immediately though) I always want to try and really feel the lyrics to the songs I sing, that is why my repatoire is purely selfish to the songs that I love and that have reached me with their message.

It may sound strange, but I feel the city is reflecting my moods and  feelings.  The weather was stormy, cold and cloudy and I really felt the season change.  In the 8 months I have spent here, I have never seen one bike accident, but during my low time over a few days I seen 3 crashes involving kids, a motorbike crash, and a few other ugly sites that seemed to reflect my mood.  I was starting to worry I was causing these crashes.  But my spirits were getting lifted bit by bit, Bart had given me a warm wooly jumper, a big coat and scarf and we recorded a video of me singing Dutch christmas songs.  Cato has also been helping massively and had taken me to an artists squat in the East for a jam night.  I met some great people there, and have got 2 gigs lined up through the contacts I made there.  I have also started building my own business as a mobile recording studio, and have 2 jobs lined up this week.  But for the last month, I have been busking and playing heavily......

I have always played at my favourite bridge, people would stop and ask me why I play there, as it is not a great spot.  But I always tell them that I like it here, I can see the moon go from once side of the canal to the other, and even though there are lots of cars that go past, it still has a relative quiet.  Plus, I like the fact that people see a busker where they don't expect it.  So they can say, I walked past this quiet street, and seen some guy singing his heart out on a bridge.  I was there again one night when I had an experience that made me realise it's time to upgrade to a better spot.....

I had just played for an hour of my upbeat songs, that always go down well.  When I had just started my minor set, and 6 drunken Checkelslovakians came up to me and cornered me, shouting this drunken bile aggresive language.  This big fat mongoloid looking one came to the side of me and I was trappped between them all.  My eyes changed and I screamed at them to get the fuck away you idiots, don't ruin the city, enjoy it!!!!  One of them stated taking his pants down to poo in my guitar case, while the fat one at the side had his hand in my coins. I pushed him out the way and said 'GET THE FUCK AWAY NOW!!!!' They started to leave, so I bent down to pick my money up and one of the fat Mongoloid ones stole my hat from my head, then ran off.  So I said, right.....I packed my guitar, grabbed my money and ran after them.  As I was approaching a bike taxi hit the one with my hat, so I got to him, ripped it off his head, and said.  You fuckwit, my girlfriend gave me that hat.  You sad pathetic waste of human flesh.  He started to walk after me, and I really lost it.  I screamed right in his face to get out of my sight you shit stain.  They backed off, cos I was really fucking angry. I went for a joint to calm down And felt it was the cities way of telling me I needed a new spot.  But I felt like the city helped me, with that taxi hitting the guy and all.  Just feel like this city is alive, and it wants me to stay here.

I thought OK, lets go back to the very first bridge I busked at, and maybe it will give me some clue to where to go next.  I stood there and thought, then decided to follow the lights, it took me all the way to Waterlooplein and I was engulfed by the quietness of the place.  Is it too quiet to play I thought?  And then right then, a rush of theatre goers and tourists started flooding by, I thought this is the perfect spot!  It looked like a stage after soundcheck, the quietness of the club, and the venue.  I went back the next day, and made 20 euroes in less than an hour, drew a crowd and felt I had found my new spot.  It was like the city was saying to me Çolin, I love the way you sing your heart out in my streets, it adds a beautiful tone to my air, but it is wasted here now.  You are getting much better, and I have a much better place for you.'  Those fat Checks had all been part of the plan to make me find this new spot and really become a full time street musician.

I am doing 3 or 4 sessions a day, and really understanding the different peak times of each spot I play.  Vondel Park bridge in the day, Waterlooplein early evening - Jointje - Then the tourist nectar of Leidseplein in the late evening.  I have been making between 30 and 60 Euroes a day, and have been able to buy myself all little bits I have needed, a couple of snazzy jackets from the second hand store, a pair of big leather boots, a new compass, got my guitar refurbished (I was breaking 3 strings a day) a water bottle, bought a few little presents for people, a speedomater and distance calculater for my bike, (infact I have pimped out my bike beautifully.)  He is called trigger (cos the bell is in he trigger position) and he is now painted a smooth black, with a gel seat cover, a saddlebag, and a few other little touches that make me proud to own my first pimped Dutch bike. (It is the bike I borrowed from Raymond, he let me keep it!)  I woke up one morning, and said 'I am gonna get a paid gig today'.......

I was busking the late spot at Waterlooplein, it was raining a little and I was shivering as I was playing.  But the drop rate for the people who walk past is so high.  I think 50/60 % of the people who walk past give a generous drop.  They just dont expect to see some guy singing his heart out under s street lamp with hardly anyone around.  I was so cold and decided to call it a night.  I went past this place that seemed to have live music coming from it.  So, I went down to investigate to see if I could play a gig there.  The lad stopped me at the door and said it was a private party, I said 'Oh I was just looking to get a gig'.  They said, OH, you a musician, come play for us!  I said sure bloody thing!  They were relentlessly giving me beers and cigarettes and I tuned up and sung my bloody heart out!  They loved it, they were saying how randomly crazy it was for someone to just come in from the streets and play like that.  They gave me lots of beer and love, and asked if they could book me for tomorrow night for a party.  I said of course!  You just make a donation to how much you wanna pay.  I went back the next night to play for this party (turns out it is a student fraternity house, with 3 floors and some of the elite of the higher schooling system all live there)  I made 50 euroes for playing 5 songs and they said I could crash there anytime.  I told them about my love for this city, that I have just been busking in the cold, to come in to this place and feel such warmth makes me truly blessed.

My local coffee shop is called Solo, on the Korte Konings Straat in Nieuwe Markt, I love it there.  Guys play dominos and backgammon as smoke fills the air, and music plays.  Sometimes songs come on that I think are like the soundtrack to my life.  There was this really melancholy instrumental one playing, and as the guys chatted in Dutch, playing dominos it felt like I was in a film.  I am well received there, and always get a handshake and a warm welcome.  After me and Cato had been busking we went in there for a smoke, a guy called Fonz De Bay started asking us if we would play in there.  I was fixing a string so Cato got the accordian out.  What followed was the most beautiful moment I have felt in the place.  People started joining in and trapping and freestyling, and people who were to shy to sing at the start, by the end were singing the heart out.  People came from outside just to sit in and listen.  I got my guitar out, and it was one of the most beautiful spntaneous jams I have ever had.  I have always wondered why there isnt more live music in coffee shops, as weed and music are a great combo, I felt I wanted to bring music to the coffee shops when I first arrived last year, and that night I did.  It was a beautiful experience and has really bonded me with the locals.  Eric, sat down with me a week later and we had this very strange chat.  It's like he knew everything about me and what I was going through.  I can't recount the conversation as it would sound just silly in text format.  But it felt like something from the Matrix that just made perfect sense to me.  I will just say that he said 'Once you decide to stay in the city, she opens up to you more and more quickly, as she truly is a magical city'.  I fully believe this..........

I suppose the moral of this long rambling story is that I am glad I didn't get the job in the alps, can you imagine me having to learn shit songs to play to drunken rich kids.  Nah, that aint the journey I am on.  I am on a different path, and that path is Amsterdam for the forseeable future.  I feel I have a role to play here, it's like the city wants me and is doing her best to make me stay.  I shall not fight it.  As I write this, I have a 3 gigs lined up over the next 2 weeks, 2 recording jobs, I am halfway through recording Cato's album with her (it's sounding fucking lekker) And I am in love with the most beautiful girl in the world (But that chapter is private, and just for she and I to write and enjoy)

Monday, 1 October 2012

The King of The Kups

I wrote this blog about 5 weeks into the Magneet festival.  I was angry, and felt let down and a little distant from the festival.  I am still going to post it though, because like songs, it's good to keep things in their emotional state, so you can look back and learn......

The King of The Kups

It has been more than a month since I went back to the Magneet terrain to start building the lounge with Ron and to get ready for a party I felt would be like no other.  Some of the fondest memories of my partying and traveling life came from this place last year and I was eager to meet up with all the old faces again, but this time bring a lot more of Liverpool to the place......

It has been an incredible experience yet again, but in many different ways.  The good times have come from bonding with Ron, and learning how a master really creates something special.  The parties we have had in the lounge and the people I have met.  But I have a completely different experience with the organisation.  Any entity that is run completely on a voluntary basis, brings with it a certain chaos that I felt has made what I have tried to bring to the festival a lot harder, and ruined relationships with the bands I have asked to come over and play...

The sun shines like a desert drain, the landscape is bare apart from the few tents and constructions that have been their since the keys to the dykes were handed over.  I arrive with Greg, a manic depressant who I met in Paris.  After pulling him around on Roller skates because he refused to sort himself a bike out, we see Ron just unpacking the lounge.  I tell Greg, that this place is a chance to prove yourself, if you work hard, and put your heart into it, it will be appreciated with the best party and atmosphere you could wish for. I made some good friends here last time, and since returning, they have helped me to really live and feel like an Amsterdamster.  His head wasn’t in the right place for Amsterdam though, or heavy physical labour, and he lasted a few hours before getting a ride straight back to France.  I was in the mood for getting stuck in though, and building something special with Ron....

Ron is one of those rare beautiful, care free and creative genius souls in this world that I always find I get on well with.  Someone who gets things done, and is straight, strong and to the point.  As well being a brilliant artist with no organisation skills and a curse of losing everything he tries so hard not to.  He has a vision like no other, and finds the most perfect use for things you would walk past in the street.  His place is a finely decorated work of art, and every touch has been placed there for positivity.  The ambience combed and styled with a fine tooth comb, junk and scrap all given a stylish part to play in the decoration of what is the most luxurious place in a festival on the sands.  Its like stepping into a VIP night club.  Ron, as the builder of this wonder, looks with pride as the room is full of people dancing and enjoying this living work of art we call ‘The Lounge’.

I start to help in any way I can, it is hard to understand how all the bits work and the systems and process for building it.  But I do whatever I can and learn a great deal along the way.  Me and Ron have very big personalities, and we are quite similar in a lot of ways, but we don’t clash (often) and act like an old couple and good strong partnership.  We look after eachother, because we feel we are the outcasts of the festival.  We were told that we were the ‘pain the arse’ of the place, which hurts a lot when we think about how much work and love we tried to put into what we created.  We are both completely broke, with massive debts behind us, we came to the festival even though the fee kept getting reduced from the original agreement and more was being asked of us for less.  We were promised to be looked after with food and drink, and be given a cut of the beer sold from our place, but yet again, things were made harder for us, and it seemed every promise was getting broken and I was starting to feel guilty eating the meals there, because of the way they screamed at Yolande, who is Rons dear friend who painted all the lounge and sorted the kitchen out.  Made her feel like she didn’t have the right to eat a meal like the volunteers or sip a beer without guilt like the organisers and staff do.  She was told to sit there and wait until Ron came back, just looking at a meal going cold.  Thats when I started to taste the coldness of the atmosphere and the brutal grip on every penny a young festival must have to survive.

Last year the festival was a failure and calamity in many ways.  Massive debts were created and big hard lessons learned.  It had its great moments for the people involved, who still partied hard and went through an incredible experience together.  The feeling of being together with everyone last year is what made it so special.  But this year, I have felt very isolated from the Magneet and been given a very different experience.

The man behind Magneet is Jesse, a bright shining crazy soul in this world, who gives all or nothing on what he believes in.  His ego can make him do some fucked up stuff when he is partying, but everyone seems to just accept it because it’s Jesse, and that’s the way he is.  I don’t know what he did before the Magneet Bar, but he I hear he is an artist of some kind, or film maker.  He could be doing a million things or nothing.  But his bright coloured clothes and boyish smile and character just tell you that he is one of those creative crazy types. 

Legend has it, the Magneet bar started at the biggest festival in Holland, Lowlands.  Jesse from his tent gave beers away to people who would come and perform or play a few songs at the party he would throw.  This then grew into a bar, with the same party ethos.  I hear tales of legendary secret parties through tunnels made in caravans that would lead to the special party Jesse was throwing.  After years at Lowlands, feeling detached from the changes and growth it had been through, he decided to throw his own festival.  The idea became a big reality, and big lessons were learned on how insanely massive a job putting on a festival for 3000 people really is. 

This year, it has sold out almost every day, it looks like the debts have been cleared and they may start making some money.  I am so happy for them, but feel a little sad as me and Ron have been the grey area of the festival.  Not given clarity on what we were doing or selling, noone seems to know how to deal with us.  We are between a stage and sound setup that the festival has hired for their use, but paid nothing in the amount that even gets close to costs and labour, but then not allowing us to sell what we wish, or be able to cash our coins in to get some more supplies for the toasties in.  We are in a limbo, broke, worked solidly hard and helped the festival massively in the last month, and feel so unappreciated it makes the memories of Magneet a little bitter.

How do you put on a festival, with no money and just debts behind you?  It has been a massive challenge for the Magneet, but they have succeeded it seems.  First of all you create your own economy, your own currency that you have complete control over.  Then you ask 30% of all takings from all stalls, and charge them a hundred euroes a day for being there.  As long as you can fill the place up, it should balance itself out and everyone should get a payday from the work they put in.  There is nothing sadder than building the ultimate party, and noone shows up.

This year they made sure they filled the place up, and have had a hand in everyones takings.  Even the kids who collect the unwanted plastic cups, have been offered deals for a cut of their takings.  Flitz, who is the very bright son of Dani, got taken to one side and was offered the title ‘The King of the Cups’ if he would give them 50 cents from each cup (worth 1e25) and they would make it so it was only he who could change the cups in for money.  He responded ‘I am already a king’ and rejected their offer. 

I am so happy for the Magneet, and everyone involved that it has been such a success, and again, I have some wonderful memories of jamming around a campfire as a pale moon on a clear sky shines down on the dykes.  I am glad that I got to experience the festival from a different perspective.  I now see how chaotic a task it is to run something of this magnitude.  I have had my lows and have felt like just leaving at times, because of the criss cross decisions that change almost every hour, or being passed off to one person after another to try and find some answers for your problems.  But on the whole, I will take away good memories from the place, just very different from the last time.

I regret trying to bring a piece of Liverpool to the place, by asking bands I know to come and play.  It was a big expense for them to come over, and they got lost in the chaos of the organisation not knowing what was happening in terms of schedule or stage times and what ‘The Lounge’ was being used for. 

Tomorrow the final weekend starts, and I feel in a much better place now, than when I started writing this a few days ago.  It is good to get things off your chest, and not to let the frustration a place like this will cause you to bubble up with.  I love all the people involved and I am proud of what they (and we) have achieved.  Maybe next year, I will have a completely different experience again.  Infact, I am quite sure.......

Zappas Vibrations

Although I speak with so much love for my studio space, it does come with its challenging sides; mainly, the noise. You can have it all cos...