2018 – a fertile affair

We’re 14 days into 2019. After a heavy going festive period, both for partying and feeling sub par due to recovery and head cold, I have just this last week been getting back into the swing of things.

2018 was a great year in all which saw Dawn of Elysium enter its sixth year of existence. Our live calendar improved significantly on the previous year, taking in 11 gigs. Most were in Bradford and Leeds but we managed our York debut and also had a great night in Keighley. Hopefully we can improve on this in the coming year and get a bit further afield. It’s always been our aim to get about more and indeed we have had things arranged in the past which have often not worked out for whatever reason. Still, we shall persist. In the summer, I got a new vehicle which is ideal for band activities so it would be nice to use it as such 😉

I’ve enjoyed the collection of material we’ve played as we’ve tried some new ones this time out. We’ve been working piecemeal on the follow up to 2016’s Time and Tide pretty much since the album was released and a collection of recordings had been almost finished for quite some time. I am happy to say that it is now complete and release is imminent. It will be nice to clear the decks and finally commit it to CD.

Last January, I founded Idle Hands Studio. It’s just a moniker I gave to my little project studio and an online platform from which to talk about my projects and technical interests.

The first real project I did was to complete the EP which we recorded when I was in Echofire. I have mentioned this a number of times over the last couple of years and wrote some liner notes to accompany the release, which I published in June of last year. These can be read here.

In September we released the Dawn of Elysium Divide and Conquer EP, which is essentially a small collection of alternate versions and covers of existing songs. The title track is one which I wrote for Suicide By Cop a decade ago and I had been meaning to record an alternative version for some time. More info on this and the other songs on the EP can be read here.

Last month I started some solo recording. It’s all very embryonic but I have a calling to do something of my own this year and I am very excited about it. What shape and how long it will take remains to be seen but I have a strong idea for my first song at least. It’s a sketch at the moment but now that the DOE album is finished I will be turning my attention to developing it further. Although I am happy with programmed drums for many things, I have been speaking with a drummer friend of mine about recording some live drums for this particular song. Not only does the style lend itself particularly well to it but his playing will fit perfectly. More news on this project when it starts to grow legs. Hopefully this will pave the way for more collaborations. I’m feeling more motivated than I have for quite some time.

The band we put together in September 2017 finally started gaining some traction. The original line-up ultimately didn’t work out as bassist Kenny decided last January that it wasn’t for him. This left us bass-less and in limbo for a couple of months but in some ways reiterated how much we wanted to do it as we stuck together. In April, we were joined by Chris Brooks, with whom I played in the Reeved days some 15 years previous. He hadn’t played for quite some time but fit in with us immediately. We named the band Crash Scene Flowers and it started to feel like a solid unit. This was further augmented in August when we were joined by guitarist Mick Barrett and thus became a 5-piece. Mick had actually been my replacement in Echofire but aside from that, we go back years. It was great to be finally playing alongside him. Despite rehearsal time not always being consistent or plentiful, we ploughed forward. The chemistry and creative energy has been excellent, not to mention the camaraderie. Although not having had sufficient material for a support slot proper, we managed to play a short set at the jam session in our local pub The Brewery Tap, Idle in November. It wasn’t much but it was a start. It was great to be back playing live with a rock band for the first time in almost 2 years. Much as I love DOE, it’s quite a different type of gig with a different vibe. Crash Scene Flowers is a very organic thing which I love and am looking forward to eventually committing the material to disk. However, I am really looking forward to doing it live.

I have played guitar now for almost 30 years. I’m not the most dexterous of players and my theoretical knowledge is rudimentary at best. I get by, playing mostly things which I create myself by ear and it brings me great fulfilment and enjoyment. I have held a keen interest for years in effects but have hitherto not paid as much attention to raw tones, the bread and butter sound which is affected by guitar, amp and overdrive/distortion stages. Until fairly recently, my guitars have been often cheap ones which feel reasonably comfortable to play and sound “right enough” and I adjusted whatever multi-fx unit I was using to compensate. This served my needs fairly well and I was quite happy with the sounds I achieved. A few years ago, I bought a Gibson Les Paul from a friend and I became very aware very quickly that it was better than anything I had played before in terms of both feel and sound and I was also becoming aware of the plethora of pedal and amp setups which many of my guitarist friends were using. Earlier this year, I embarked upon a little journey of my own to discover and understand tone to a greater degree than I had before. I set about putting together a pedal board, consisting of mostly analogue tools. I covered this in more detail on the Idle Hands blog. It has been quite an enlightening experience to finally gain an understanding of some of the more fundamental aspects of my chosen instrument.

All in all it has been an interesting and fulfilling year in many ways. My home life is wonderful. We’ve made a few home improvements and earlier in the year we got a little cat, which has been a little dream of mine for many years. She’s a mischievous but adorable little soul. The most awesome summer in living memory brought many barbecues and garden parties not to mention days out. 2019 already feels like it is set to follow suit. I am happier and more positive than I have been for a long time and loving life. Here’s to more exciting times ahead!

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