2020 has been a very strange year for all of us worldwide and one which was not anticipated by most people.
As far as my musical activities are concerned, the circumstances of this year have both curtailed and enabled progress in a few ways.
Rehearsal and live performance have not been possible since the early spring. although Dawn of Elysium did manage to get in three really good gigs before everything changed.
Conversely, I have been spending more time than ever before in my studio and have progressed a number of projects as well as made a few improvements in terms of both equipment and technique.
In January, Dawn of Elysium released what was to be the first of three works in 2020. The single “First Light” was the first to feature the full 5-piece line up, most importantly with Kaz taking the lead vocal. It ushered in a new era for our recorded output and hinted at a sign of things to come as we had begun work on the next album.
We recorded the Crash Scene Flowers “Scars” EP in February at Voltage Studios and I brought home the files to produce and mix at Idle Hands. This kept me busy for much of the lockdown period and we released it online in April. Apart from a small handful of rehearsals since, we have not managed to do anything else. Everything is very much “on ice” until further notice.
Threshold Shift had a number of gigs booked for over the spring/summer. Unfortunately, none of them transpired. We got together a good few times to rehearse and have a bash about. It was a lot of fun but it was getting to the point where I wasn’t getting as much out of it as the other guys and so I took the decision this week to step down. Had we been gigging, it would have been very different but I think as far as rehearsals were concerned, we seemed to want different things from it. I had a blast and enjoyed playing with them immensely. I love those guys like brothers but I felt it was best to leave before the fun was lost. Time to move on.
In fairness I was struggling in 2019 and into early 2020 with the commitment of three bands and although rehearsals are not happening all that much right now, I still felt something had to give. I somehow always knew that this would come eventually.
In August, our friend Alastair Appleby was diagnosed with terminal Cancer. With very limited time left, bands and music friends were rallied and an intimate event was put together comprising a few of his favourite local acts. With Dawn of Elysium unable to get together as a full unit at the time, it was suggested that I play an acoustic set. It had been years since I had touched either of my acoustic guitars and was well out of practice. Nevertheless, not doing it was simply not an option for me and so Kaz and I got together a short set and opened the event. It was an honour and a privilege to play for him one last time and end the set with his favourite song. I was well out of my comfort zone but I think it came across well and most importantly, Alastair loved it.
Although I used my Crafter for the performance, the experience encouraged me to have my oldest guitar serviced and fitted with a new pickup. My old Tanglewood acoustic had not been played for years. My friend Simon at Magus guitars gave it a brand new lease of life and made me appreciate just how beautiful an instrument it is. This in turn encouraged me to play my acoustic more regularly, which I have continued to do and also to record the next Dawn of Elysium EP.
“Driftwood” was an excursion for Dawn of Elysium. Comprising three songs, it saw acoustic/orchestral reworkings of the Suicide By Cop song “Why Now? Why Me” and the Dawn of Elysium number “Lost and Found”. Sandwiched between the two was a track recorded for the forthcoming album entitled “Ghost In The Machine”. This track saw a sharp contrast in sound, bringing a heavier, more experimental progressive tone. Its inclusion was due to it being used in a local film production entitled “Scarred Evolution” created by director Ryan Paul Troy, who loved the song when he heard it. The EP was released in November and was dedicated to Alastair. He passed away on 21st December
Driftwood was an interesting and enjoyable journey, which saw us explore new sonic territory. However, in some respects there was a feeling of having drifted away from the band’s core sound. In an effort to reacquaint ourselves with our gothic rock roots as well as have some fun, we returned to the studio to record what would be our third release of the year.
“Far From Home” was a two track affair comprising a reworked, vocal version of the track “Gravity” and a cover of the Sisters of Mercy’s “Poison Door”. Since Kaz had joined the band, many of our songs had been reworked or further developed to include her singing. Gravity was one such song. Having been included as a (semi) instrumental on the “Raven” album, the song had always had lyrics but I never felt happy with their delivery. Plus it was complicated to play and sing well enough live without it sounding cluttered. Kaz took the song and reworked the vocal in a completely new way. We felt it was too good not to record/release but since it was already on the last album, including it on the next wouldn’t feel right.
Like many people who are into goth rock, the Sisters of Mercy have been one of my favourite bands from being a teenager. “Poison Door” is a personal favourite and I have always fancied playing it. The idea of recording it was to have a bit of fun, recalibrating the band’s sound after spending time in acoustic land for the previous couple of months, whilst bringing the full band back into the fold. Covering the Sisters is probably considered not cool in some quarters. In some respects this actually encouraged me more to do it. Call it a defiant celebration of the genre which influenced us. We had a lot of fun recording it and it seems to have been received in the same spirit.
The “Far From Home” single was released in December just in time for Christmas.
In and amongst all this, work on the next album has continued piecemeal. As mentioned above, towards the end of last year I had felt a bit overwhelmed with regular rehearsals with three bands and the pressure of trying to book gigs. I had been craving some time out to work on studio projects at home. Although it has been a very challenging year for everybody, I consider myself very fortunate in many ways to be able to do this. I’m sure we’ll get back to making a racket before too long (I hope so because I bought myself a really nice new amp this year) but in the meantime, I have plenty to be getting on with at home.