2019 – a sum of parts

2019 has been a truly great year for me. I have been busier with music than I can ever remember and I am feeling more energised for it (although my ears are feeling a bit punished!).

As I alluded to in my summer blog entry, I am now in three full time bands (although from the way people ask me I’m sure they think it’s more!). I am having loads of fun with all of them and although I have been a part of some of them longer than others, I consider each of them with equal priority. There are no side-projects here, just projects.

Dawn of Elysium has been undergoing a much needed metamorphosis over the last year, resulting in us expanding our numbers from three to four and eventually to five. The band is sounding and feeling a lot more together than it has for a long time and we are all enjoying it immensely. I have written about this extensively in the latest Dawn of Elysium blog entry.

Crash Scene Flowers reached the end of its second year of existence in November, although the current line-up had only been together for a year in August. Creatively, it’s still a very young entity and as such, things are still taking some time to develop. This has been compounded at times by limited rehearsal time for various reasons. That being said, we have a number of original songs and have played live three times in 2019. We’ve got our first proper recording sessions booked for February 2020 and are rehearsing for that as and when time permits. I have some great ideas for the production and I’m really excited to get my teeth into it. It will be great to have something tangible on which to build the band. We are hoping to get out and play a bit more next year once the EP is finished.

In June, I was invited to join long-standing Bradford punk band Threshold Shift. The band has been in existence since 1988 in various guises and they last called it a day around 2012. We have all been friends for years and when they started talking about starting the band back up, I was part of the conversation. I replaced long standing veteran and local legend Phil Hey. He was obviously given first refusal to be a part of it as is only proper but given the success of his band Psychlona, he did not have the time to commit and so the invitation was duly extended my way. I honestly didn’t think I would be able to handle three bands, two can be more than enough at times but it has actually had the opposite effect and made me feel more invigorated. We have had so much fun playing together. At the moment, it is a case of working through their extensive back catalogue of material. We played ten songs in Scarborough in August and sixteen songs at a big hometown comeback gig at Bradford’s Underground in December. Further gigs are already being confirmed for next year and we have all decided it is something we want to continue with, not just playing the archive but writing and recording new material. I have made the existing material my own to a point as I was encouraged to do my own thing. It seems to have been well received so far and has been so much more fulfilling than learning songs as covers verbatim.

I am extremely lucky to be working with so many talented musicians. We have an awesome little family of bands and we are all really good mates.

Studio work has taken a bit of a back seat, given that I have been rehearsing up to three times a week and have played a number of gigs with all three bands but that will hopefully change as I work on the new Dawn of Elysium output and then the Crash Scene Flowers EP in the coming months.

Bradford By The Sea was a lot of fun back in August. I have recently been told that we might be able to make it happen again next year but more on that later.

Hope you all have a fantastic Christmas and all the best for 2020!

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!

Summer 2018 – feeling hot hot hot!

Last year was a very eventful, chaotic and musically unproductive year in the main. This year is seeing some things come to some semblance of fruition.

Dawn of Elysium have spent the first half of the year playing some live dates after a lengthy period out of circulation and in need of a break from recording activities. It has been just the tonic for all of us and we have played what I would consider some of our finest performances to date. I really feel as if we are evolving as a band and have started turning heads who have hitherto been uninterested.

This gig season has held some especially memorable moments. Special mention goes to our March date in Keighley with Black Horse Fairy and Echofire. This was a personally very poignant night as not only did we share the bill with Echofire but Paul Gooding joined us on stage for Pictures of Matchstick Men. This was the first song his dad Steve taught him to play on the guitar when he was a small boy and we played it as a surprise for him. It was great to be sharing a stage with my old sparring partner and I for one would like to repeat this or do something else together at some point. What shape that might take is anybody’s guess.

We played the last one on 22nd June at The Primrose in Leeds. I am not sure what was going on that night but I have not enjoyed playing a gig that much for many years. It was one of those nights where everything just felt right.

We have a couple more dates in the calender but have tentatively returned to recording/writing mode. Since plans for the second album seemed to be taking longer than anticipated, our intention is to release an EP in the interim.

Regarding studio activities, the first few months of the year saw me make a final concerted push to finish the Echofire EP. It was an intense period as I was determined to put it to bed and get it sounding the best I could. I am very pleased indeed with the results. I released it on my own Bandcamp page as a free download. Echofire have their own page and release with a very different lineup and I wouldn’t presume to interfere with that.

The EP is my first full work under the new Idle Hands Studio moniker and after its completion, I needed to give my ears and head a break. In addition to this, the last few weeks has seen some particularly hot weather hit the UK and so the studio room has not been the most hospitable of places to spend a great deal of time.

Last September, I came to the decision that I’d like to set up a brand new rock band. Starting from scratch certainly doesn’t get any easier as you get older and even securing adequate rehearsal time can be problematic at times. However, on I ploughed and managed to get the first line-up together at the start of October. It was a promising start but as one might expect at these initial stages, not for everybody. After a couple of months, our line-up issues were resolved as we were joined by ex-Reeved bassist Chris Brooks. We named the band Crash Scene Flowers and have since been working on our initial songs and sound. The style I am playing is sort of a natural continuation of what I was doing with Echofire and Man Down but maybe a little more grungey.

This has been a very exciting breath of fresh air for me as I am working with people I have never worked with previously, namely singer Jamie (Jimmy Pop) Sullivan and a really talented drummer called Kyle Grundy. I always had a great relationship with Chris back in the Reeved days too. We are gelling nicely and getting used to each other’s way of working. There is also the possibility of us introducing a second guitar into the mix, taking us to a 5-piece but at the time of writing has yet to be tried. My goal for the band is to have something recorded and to have played some form of gig before the year is out, with a view to getting out more next year. I have played just two non-DOE gigs in the last three years, one each with Echofire and Man Down respectively, therefore I am probably more determined than ever that this progresses beyond the rehearsal room walls.

Stay moist!

Ten albums that changed my life

So this one has been doing the rounds on social media so I thought I’d do it justice by writing a blog article. The remit is “Ten albums which changed my life”. It differs slightly from what would be my top ten favourite albums I guess but not significantly so. It’s a mixed bag if nothing else. I wrote the first of what was intended to be a series of articles a couple of years ago entitled “My life in music Part 1 (1980-1991)” from which this article borrows heavily in parts.

My awareness of music began at an early age. My dad played a huge part in this, regularly putting his huge Wharfedale cans on my head as a small child. Each speaker was probably as big as my head. It was the late 1970s and it was mostly the pop music of the day but one artist of significance was Stevie Wonder. He was a family favourite and still is at least between my Uncle and me. These were my very early formative years and Stevie has been with me for all of my life. It’s difficult for me to pin down a single album of his as they were all brilliant. Although not his greatest work, I am going to go for “Hotter Than July” as my first choice. The 1970s were Stevie’s decade and everything he touched turned to gold, although I needed to be a bit older to have an awareness of this. Hotter Than July was released in 1980 and was his last great record and since I have a memory of it being played when it was new, I have decided to opt for this one as one which changed my life. I was five years old. The ballad “Lately” has been a lifelong favourite and one which I often like to attempt on karaoke. The album also spawned the hit singles “Master Blaster (Jammin’)” and “Happy Birthday”. This was years before I commenced my journey into rock music and my appreciation for Stevie Wonder has been the subject of some surprise for people over the years, especially through the “long hair and biker jacket” years. Whilst Hotter Than July is a great album, my most favourite era of Stevie Wonder is his trilogy of albums “Talking Book”, “Innvervisions” and “Fulfillingness First Finale” released 1972-1974. Quite simply, the man is a musical god and his music will stay with me whilst ever there is breath in my body.

I grew up listening mainly to pop music throughout most of the 1980s. The radio was always on at home and my dad always liked to watch Top of the Pops. It was a fantastic era for music and even the most commercial hit singles were well crafted. Long before the era of manufactured bilge, artists had to actually write their own material and do it well to get anywhere. One album which sticks out especially is Frankie Goes To Hollywood’s “Welcome to the Pleasuredome” from 1984. Trevor Horn’s production work was legendary (in fact it was arguably more his album than the band’s) and the songs were brilliantly crafted. It was quite progressive in nature, featuring long form songs and remixes of the popular hit singles “Two Tribes” and “Relax” as well as a kick-ass version of Springsteen’s “Born To Run”. It has been some years since I listened to this record and writing this piece has inspired me to buy it again on CD.

My first favourite rock band and inspiration to start playing guitar was definitely Dire Straits. I can’t recall exactly how I came to originally discover them but I remember being 13 years old and immediately obsessing over them. I had all of their albums on cassette and played them all on constant rotation. The first one I bought was the compilation album “Money For Nothing” and so I guess I should say this is the one which changed my life. However, the Straits album I keep going back to is their eponymous 1978 debut. I guess because it’s probably a bit more miserable than the rest of them but the production is just sublime. In contrast to the huge epic production of Welcome to the Pleasuredome, it’s simple back to basics rock. Very carefully crafted and considered guitar tones just melt through you, complemented by Mark Knopfler’s evocative semi spoken vocal. “Sultans of Swing” was the hit of course but this album must be heard in its entirety and on vinyl.

In my mid-teens, many of my school friends were getting into the heavy metal of the day. It was the late 1980s and Iron Maiden, Guns n Roses and Metallica were the sounds of the day. Although I was to later catch up with them, I was on my own journey of musical discovery. My dad’s friend Paul had recommended an album to him which was to change my life forever. That album was “Trespass”, the 1970 album from Genesis. I fell in love with the band in a huge way and later bought their entire back catalogue, along with various related solo releases. It’s a significant body of work. Although not an obvious choice for fans of the band and progressive rock, Trespass was my first love and it remains to this day my favourite album of all time by any artist and unsurprisingly Genesis remain my favourite band of all time. Every track on Trespass is a masterpiece. The textures and soundscapes are beautiful from organic acoustic guitars to heavier rock passages and Hammond organ. Peter Gabriel’s amazing voice sits wonderfully in the mix taking you on a journey. From the opening line of “Looking for Someone” I was hooked. To the average Joe, the name Genesis tends to be synonymous with Phil Collins, yet he was not to join the band until the album after this and this was sadly their last with creative genius Anthony Phillips. I really can’t recommend the band enough. Every album has some absolute gems on. Fans of heavier music tend to favour the Peter Gabriel era which was pre-1975, up to and including “The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway” but I love all eras of the band. Genesis started my obsession with progressive rock, taking in music from Yes, King Crimson, Van Der Graaf Generator/Peter Hammill, Marillion and later Pink Floyd which leads me nicely on to my next choice.

I had not really paid any proper attention to Pink Floyd until around 1994. I was a regular in the Mannville Arms pub in Bradford and the legendary jukebox contained “Wish You Were Here” and their new release “The Division Bell”. I remember the first time I heard “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” and I was blown away. I proceeded to regularly invest many pound coins in putting the albums on constant circulation in the pub.
For me, it’s difficult to pick between the two as to which one changed my life but The Division Bell has endured as my absolute favourite Pink Floyd album. Often derided by Floyd heads, I think it is their best work. Although I loved their earlier work with Waters, by the time they were doing the likes of “The Wall” and “The Final Cut”, the band was losing itself in Waters’ ego. “Animals” was their last great album with him. After his departure, it took the band quite some time to find its magic again with David Gilmour at the helm. “A Momentary Lapse of Reason” had some great moments but The Division Bell was on the money. Sadly it was to be their last proper album. I never tire of listening to it and watching David Gilmour play “High Hopes” live a couple of years ago reduced me to tears. Quite simply magnificent.

Throughout my life I have always been a huge fan of moody and atmospheric music and so discovering Fields of The Nephilim felt like all my Christmases had come at once. “The Nephilim” was my gateway album to goth. It was 1991 and my friend Adam introduced me to this music. His older sisters had been goths throughout the 1980s and he was exposed to it first hand. I promptly went out and bought everything I could find by the likes of The Sisters of Mercy, Fields of the Nephilim and The Mission. I transferred “The Nephilim” and “Dawnrazor” onto a cassette, one album each side and it lived in my Walkman most of the time. There were never many of us who were into goth in our circle of friends and I guess in Bradford at least this largely remains the situation. My attention drifted onto other musics over the years and it wasn’t until much later in life that I rekindled my love for goth and formed a band of my own. It was really a toss-up between this album and “First and Last and Always” by The Sisters of Mercy and were I not limited to 10 albums, then both would surely be included. They both changed my life at around about the same time and in the same way.

Like many of my peers in the late 80s/early 90s I started listening to heavy metal. It took me a little while as I didn’t take to it at first but I eventually got into it at the age of 16/17, which is around about the same time I started going to the plethora of rock/alt pubs and clubs we had in our city. I guess my gateway album to metal had to be Metallica’s “…And Justice For All”, which I discovered just before the “Black” album was released. Of course the Black album became ubiquitous for many years and there are probably thousands of bands out there across the world who are playing a cover of “Enter Sandman” at any given time. I preferred the harder sound and progressive nature of Justice. I remember regularly rocking out to “Harvester of Sorrow”, “One” and “Dyers Eve” on the dancefloor of Bradford Rio’s on a Friday night. Like the obsessed music fan I was, I promptly went out and bought the back catalogue of not only Metallica but the “big four” as well as many many other bands. Out of the thrash bands, Slayer were my favourites with special mention to “Seasons in the Abyss” which is one of the few metal albums that I still listen to from time to time. That’s not to say I don’t still like metal and I particularly enjoy it live. Metal has introduced me to lots of my friends over the years and it’s a brotherhood that I still feel very much a part of even though I’m more on the periphery these days.

My love of goth and my love of metal were both serenaded in about 1993/4 when I discovered the likes of Paradise Lost, My Dying Bride and Anathema. They were the big three of the underground in the early to mid 90s and although I kind of stopped following their work in subsequent years, those early albums remain a big influence on me to this day. It is so difficult to pick one album from this era but Paradise Lost’s “Shades of God” was the first one I discovered. Their follow-up “Icon” was a Mannville jukebox favourite as was My Dying Bride’s “Turn Loose The Swans”. Special mention goes to My Dying Bride’s “The Angel and the Dark River” who’s opening epic track “The Cry of Mankind” was a firm favourite. I happened upon a bunch of guys one night who had been trying to get a band together for some time to play music of this style and I immediately got excited. They needed a bassist. I owned a bass. I ended up becoming the guitarist. I loved playing in Dark Embrace and my thoughts and playing often hark back to those days. 1994-1996 was an awesome time to be in Bradford and a great time for underground metal. It essentially came in three flavours, death, doom and black and any mixture of therein. My standout memory from this time was playing with Solstice and Anathema at Rio’s. It was an awesome night. We ended up taking the Anathema lads round the corner to the Underworld club for a late pint after Rio’s closed. We had to ask the tour manager’s permission and he said “don’t be too late, they have to play London tomorrow”. I think we ended up getting trashed and leaving them in there at about 4am. Great days indeed!

Many of my musical influences ran in parallel and round about the same time as I got into metal, I also liked indie. The standout album for me was The Stone Roses eponymous release. Where the metal brought dark and shade, the Roses brought light and I enjoyed many a night in Tumblers nightclub dancing away to the likes of The Stone Roses, Suede, Blur, The Smiths, The Wedding Present, Carter USM, PWEI, Happy Mondays and many more. Special mention goes to The Smiths “The Queen is Dead” which remains one of my all time favourite albums and one of those rare cases of every track being blindingly good. Much of this was before Oasis emerged onto the scene who I never really got into that much. They were a sort of poor man’s Roses in many ways with the personality of a road accident.

I have always had an appreciation of punk but it wasn’t really until about 2000 that it came to the fore. The musical style changed my life but it’s difficult to pin it down to a single album but for me I think it has to be The Adverts “Crossing The Red Sea”. It has a perfect mixture of melody, power and creativity whilst keeping it simple. TV Smith has a great voice which reminds me of Peter Hammill at times. I have an appreciation of punk in all its forms and I loved playing it in my band Wild Trash. I am more into the first wave, more melodic stuff than the hardcore stuff. Other notable albums are of course The Damned’s “Damned Damned Damned”, The Ruts “Grin & Bear It” and Adam and the Ants “Dirk Wears White Socks” as well as the most obvious example of “Never Mind the Bollocks, here’s the Sex Pistols”. Being a part of the punk scene was an amazing time and it’s something I intend to do more of in the future.

2017 – Order through chaos

This year has been about pretty fundamental life changes. All of them good and most of them hard work. I didn’t realise that settling down could be so chaotic!

We have relocated home twice this year. We made the move initially from the city centre to the area of Idle where we had a fairly troublesome 6 month tenancy. The owner of the property had some considerable problems which affected us directly and quite profoundly. It was a disappointing experience overall because we saw ourselves staying there for much longer but it simply didn’t work out in the end.

In the summertime, we found ourselves moving once again, this time on a much more permanent basis. Our new place is lovely and not too far away from Idle. Minor teething troubles notwithstanding, it has been relatively stress-free since we moved in. Moving home is fairly traumatic as it is and after having done it twice in such a short space of time, it’s not something I wish to repeat.

We barely had chance to catch a breath when in late summer, Emma and I got married. Of course us being us, we simply had to do it in Las Vegas with an Elvis impersonator. It was an amazing and full-on experience. The autumn was taken up with a couple of parties which we arranged in October and November respectively. It was so lovely to share our experience with so many family and friends, some of which we hadn’t caught up with for a while and some who had travelled some distance to be with us.

Since then, the chaos of wedding and parties turned to the chaos of Christmas. Not having much chance to plan, it has felt a bit more rushed than usual. We are looking forward to our first married Christmas together in our new home.

So amongst all of the above, music has been much less prevalent. I started the year with Man Down but ultimately this did not work out, which I have talked about in other blog entries. Looking back, Man Down was a short flash of something which seemed to appear very quickly then disappear just as quickly. We recorded and released the Christmas song “Man Down the Chimney” around this time last year and had one fantastic gig but despite having some strong material, the project didn’t work out as we had hoped. It lasted about a year all told, starting in May 2016 and after I left in April 2017, it lasted another month or so before the remaining members went on to do other things. If truth be told though, the bottom really fell out of it in the new year. I still have all the rehearsal recordings and there’s some great material so perhaps we can do some proper studio recordings at some point. Mikey has expressed an interest for the two of us to work together again and I have missed him dearly since the band, so we’ll see what time will permit.

Dawn of Elysium has still ploughed along in the background. We played just 3 gigs this year and released a single in April. Our profile has been lower for a while as we’ve been trying to write and record new material. Given the upheaval described above, this has not been easy. Of course Emma and I are in the band together so music has not always taken priority. We were hoping to release a second album or at least an EP this year but it just hasn’t transpired. Don’t get me wrong though, there’s some fantastic material being developed, which may take listeners of our music by surprise. However, there is much work to be done before it’s a releasable entity. I think it is ultimately time to take a step back and give it some space. You can lose yourself in the writing and recording process at times and I think we have all missed actually playing our songs and doing gigs. So, in 2018 we have decided to do just that. We’ve a couple in the pipeline already and are on the lookout for more opportunities to play.

The frustration of Man Down not working out and lack of live activity led me to start looking for a brand new band in September. My intention was to steadily get something together with a view to starting in the new year. As it happened, it came together quite quickly and we kicked off in October. It’s still early days and we don’t yet have a name but ideas are flowing. Most of us had never worked together before and barely knew one another so we are still very much getting used to playing together. I suspect it will be a little while before we’re ready to get out there but we’re enthusiastic.

Since we moved into the new house, I have finally achieved a bit of a personal goal which was to set up my little home studio. When we lived in the apartment, there was never any space to set it up properly and there is only so much you can achieve with headphones. I began setting it up in the house in Idle but when it became apparent that this would be temporary, I was reticent about doing much with it in anticipation of packing it all up again. It’s only a small space but it’s reasonably comfortable and very usable. I have recorded and mixed bits and bats in there and I’m improving each time. There is a whole host of activities and projects I want to do. I have toyed with the idea of starting a new blog to describe the studio in more detail and document my progress, I just need to apply more focus, which is something I’m hoping 2018 will bring.

My immediate plan however is to enjoy Christmas in my new home with my new wife and look forward to a bit of relaxing winter sun in the new year as we take off for sunnier climes for a few days. Have a great Christmas and a prosperous New Year.

Riding the cloud again

I have always been an over-thinker and over-worrier. I don’t know the root cause of it but it drives me insane at times, especially during the darkest days of the year. I guess some aspects of my childhood were not straightforward, particularly in my school days. I always think people think the worst of me or are mocking me (even some people whom I consider friends). Common-sense suggests that they are not but it’s difficult to focus on that when your head is in a dark cloud.

It’s a self perpetuating exercise to seek reassurance because I believe that comes across as needy, which is seen to be a socially negative trait and so the anxiety continues. Most of the time, it seems to make the most sense to simply say nothing. Although in contradiction to that, some might see me as emotionally expressive anyway. Believe me, there is a lot which I keep to myself.

I suppose being creative exacerbates this, where often work goes ignored or uncommented on. That’s just the way it is, the nature of the beast. Although music is something which should be a personal expression done for ones self, feedback, be it positive or negative is not only reassuring but very useful. You know where you stand to some degree. Absence of feedback, especially from those who’s opinions you value the most contributes to the crushing self-doubt, which most musicians or artists will recognise. It’s not that one seeks approval so much as seeks a frame of reference from which to move forward. Silence and indifference are so much more a cause of anxiety than anything negative and because I consider music to be an extension of the self, it feels to me like being physically ignored at times. It’s never been about recognition or popularity, it’s more about connection or lack of.

As I said though, superficially it’s the nature of the beast when being part of something musical and will always be thus. I just keep on keeping on, doing what I believe in and for those kind enough to take the time to connect, I am truly appreciative. As for these low ebbs, I just sit tight and ride the cloud.

10 years on – the more things change, the more things stay the same

Ten years ago, I once again started frequenting an old haunt of mine called The Mannville Arms. It was called The Head at the time and had been subjected to a great many changes since The Mannville of old had closed in 1995. Located just across the road from Bradford College, it was very much a student pub with a student vibe. It hadn’t hosted anything particularly noteworthy until my friend Tom started there, apart from some DJ nights with Steve, the manager at the time. There was a general feeling that a change was going to come. Mick Dunn was working the bar and he decided, in conjunction with his brother Billy to buy the lease on the place with a view to restoring the pub’s name and vibe. Tom booked the bands and I jumped onboard as a DJ, primarily doing monthly nights but also the odd additional session. I’d been a DJ since 1996 at the Smithy and Empress pubs.

The more I used the place, the more I got involved. It was very infectious. It had always been my favourite pub of old and it was amazing to see the resurrection unfold. I eventually became ents officer for the place, overseeing the entire roster after Tom left and loads of people got involved in the burgeoning scene. At one point, there was some form of entertainment on every single night of the week, be it live music or DJs and punters flooded in.

It was awesome. There was also a real sense of renaissance in the Bradford music scene at large as more and more places turned their attention more to live music and DJ nights. We tried to establish a collective called the BMC (Bradford Music Collective) to attempt to collaborate and cross promote. This worked to varying degrees and most folks were very helpful towards each other. However, despite pleasantries, there was often an ever so slight underlying air of territorialism as quite understandably, everyone wanted to make sure they had their fair share of punters. There were only so many people to go around after all and bills had to be paid. It’s this territorialism which has plagued Bradford over the years, sometimes more than others, which any landlord or manager of one of the city’s venues, past or present will testify. It can be a tough and at times political game.

It gave me many a sleepless night and caused a number of mini-breakdowns as well as self-doubt and doubt in the trust of others. Friendships were tested as I got too close to what I was doing and I became defensive in the face of criticism. Tensions were high.

After the closure of the Mannville in November 2009, over the course of the next 7 or so years, I was to be involved in other venues, each time running myself ragged. I stepped down from regular involvement in 2014 and organised my final event at the beginning of 2016. By this time, the landscape had changed considerably. Old places had closed, making way for new places and new faces. Things seemed on the surface to be very convivial.

After 20 years of being involved in Bradford music scene events in some capacity, I did my last DJ gig on the New Year’s Eve of 2016. My lifestyle was changing. I was ready for the next phase of my life which involved moving away from the city centre and settling down a bit. I’ve still had my bands and I will always be involved in creating and playing music but the events game is not for me anymore.

So far in 2017, I have relocated home twice and my trips into town have been sparse. However, I have kept in touch with people and keep my ear to the ground as much as I can. I sense that between some parties, the politics is still ever present and with it the ill-feeling, mistrust and territorialism which have for years plagued Bradford. I have no reason to not remain neutral and I do hope that differences can be rectified for the sake of the customers above all else. When I was in the thick of it, we were stuck in the middle of a major conflict between venues. It was all very uncomfortable. The punters voted with their feet, ultimately away from the city centre and everybody lost out. The people who learned from that lesson are all now out of business or have moved away and it took a while for things to improve again. It would be a real shame to see things deteriorate again. The traits I recognise from myself of that era, I have noticed in others in more recent times. For those still involved, I would urge you to take a step back from it once in a while, settle your differences, try and cultivate a culture of support and trust and above all else, be positive. People really dig that!

A hunger still unsatisfied

Last Friday, I came to the decision that I would like to start a brand new band to commence in earnest in the new year. I have come to the realisation that there is something missing for me in the musical things that I do and life is passing me by at an increasing rate. I want to be more active in a band and have more fun.

That is not to say that I am not happy with Dawn of Elysium by any stretch.

I love what we do and what we do is good in my opinion. However, in order to get the material to where it needs to be is not the easiest of things. It can be laborious to create, especially with the absence of a drummer and I also struggle to write the lyrics a lot of the time. Then I feel restricted in my guitar playing because I am also singing lead vocal.

When the material is ready to gig, opportunities for the more appropriate gigs seem to be limited, which I can maybe attribute to the nature of the size of the goth scene versus the number of bands that promoters have to accommodate. Despite some very encouraging and very appreciative audiences, progress is positive but comparatively glacial in pace.

We have tried additional (non-goth) gigs where possible and on the occasion where we can get the bookings, there simply doesn’t seem to be the audience. Perhaps people are simply not taking to it, perhaps it can be attributed to not enough promotion. In reality, it’s probably a bit of both. Although there have been those who have really enjoyed it, I have heard the phrase “I think you are great at what you do but it’s not really my cup of tea” a number of times. I’ve given CDs to people to listen to hoping for some feedback only to be met with silence. It simply is what it is and unless I am really missing something, it can never be anything else.

It has a whole lot yet to offer creatively and I will continue with it enthusiastically. It’s five and a half years since we started up and despite my sounding a bit negative, I am loving it more than ever and not about to let it go any time soon. I still believe in what we do, despite feeling a little disheartened at times. There’s no objective right or wrong when it comes to creating music, only what you believe is right for yourself and Dawn of Elysium is certainly right for me within the confines of itself.

However, what I really miss is jamming and creating music organically with a like-minded bunch of people, including live drums. Being able to relax behind my guitar and have some real fun.

Reflecting back on what I have done over the years. I think the last time I was truly happy in this type of situation was pre-2013 Suicide By Cop and the Wild Trash days. Grafting the rehearsals, getting out and playing gigs and perhaps having a bit of a decent following in my home town as well as playing a little further afield (something I have always, always wanted to do more of).

Anyway, 2013 onwards saw SBC grind to a halt. We attempted to reinvent and reboot the band with Echofire and despite us writing some great material, it never regained its mojo and lost momentum to the point where I felt unable to continue with it as it stood. This was remedied for them by getting a new line-up together and continuing with a fresh resolve, the results of which have been fantastic.

As an antidote for me, I set about getting a new band together, which became Man Down. Despite the odd flash of the old spirit returning in the latter half of 2016, it also ultimately suffered from lack of momentum which coupled with a bout of ill health led me to bow out of that project too. On reflection, I maybe threw myself into that too soon. It certainly wasn’t a waste of time for me because I had some great times with some great friends and it did let off some steam. Musically it lost its way in the new year of 2017 for me and that coupled with all the personal challenges that this year has presented me with led me to realise it wasn’t for me at the time. The by-product of it however is that there is still a band of sorts in existence with a new line-up so it hasn’t been a waste at all. I have not heard much of their progress but it all seems very encouraging.

So that brings me to here, the latter half of 2017 with many of the recent personal challenges out of the way and space to think properly.

Have I been fickle? I don’t think I have. In the last 8 years since 2009, I have left two bands, the former of which I stuck with for 6 and a half of them. Much has changed but much has stayed the same. I still have that hunger, that need to create and bounce off other band members. I have done some bits and pieces with friends in a home studio situation but I got stalled with that too. I need to get into the rehearsal room, make some noise, rock out, get sweaty and get excited then get out and play my bollocks off on stage.

To that end, I have put feelers out and am in communications with a number of people. There is a singer/lyricist who is itching to get going with something and a keyboardist whom I have been talking with for months about doing something. It sounds very encouraging. We have yet to get together and talk properly but I think the sound we produce might be of an alternative/indie/rock/punk vibe, judging by common influences. We will need a like-minded drummer and bassist to get things going properly and as such we’ll be actively looking and I will put a more concise advert together.

2017 so far – restless frustration

We’re halfway through the year so I figured a round up of 2017 so far was appropriate.

It’s been a year of changes and frustration in the main, a very different animal from 2016.

From the get go, we had decided to terminate our tenancy at our old place and relocate. It was time for us to move on. We had been in our city centre apartment for a number of years. It had served its purpose and we had a lot of happy memories there but we wanted somewhere we could have a quieter life with a garden. City living has its advantages but it’s not a place to settle down and as time went on, its shortcomings and limitations became all the more evident.

Moving home was a big upheaval. It’s not something I have done very much in my life and it’s not something I want to do many more times to be honest. Finding somewhere was stressful due to the market being very active. It seemed as soon as places came up, they were taken almost immediately. So January was taken up with finding somewhere and after we found somewhere, February was taken up with sorting and moving.

We were in our new home by mid-February, situated close to the village of Idle, which is where much of my family are from and where I spent most of my young life growing up. I noticed a very swift improvement to our quality of life. Less air pollution, less light pollution at night, generally fairly quiet and a real sense of community. My social life started to change and I stopped venturing into the city centre as much and started spending time with friends and family closer to what I now called home.

In the early part of the spring I experienced some health problems which rendered me immobile for a few weeks. My knees were causing me great pain and so I was unable to go about my day to day life. It gave me some time to reflect on a few things and in April, I came to the decision that Man Down was no longer working for me. We’d had significant line-up issues and not much rehearsal time and the more time I spent away from it, the less I felt like returning to it. It was no reflection on anybody else, It’s just that being in two bands was not something I felt able to continue with at the time and if I’m honest, the music wasn’t quite what I wanted to do. I wasn’t giving myself the mental space to think and concentrate on anything creative properly.

Dawn of Elysium rehearsal time was also fairly limited for a number of reasons. However, we started on some new material and have now got 5 definite pieces to contribute to our next album. We released the single track “Drown” at the end of April to co-incide with a couple of gigs we had booked. We have not done much since due to equipment problems and external commitments. However, we have plenty to be getting on with and hope to commence the writing process in earnest in the very near future. This year is especially gig-light for us, which is a welcome thing at the moment.

May has seen a number of further complications as far as our home is concerned. Without going into details, it has resulted in us needing to once again find somewhere to live. This is very much a work in progress. One that we don’t need at this time but one which is necessary. It has been a tough period to say the least.

With all of this going on, I haven’t felt able to settle or feel inspired to use my home studio very much with knowledge of the imminent further upheaval. I had not finished unpacking and arranging it properly as it stood and presently see no point before it all has to be packed and moved again. I have been doing some bits of studio work elsewhere with a couple of friends, though not much has come of it as yet. With a bit of luck and a fair wind, everything should be resolved in a few weeks and I’ll be up and running with my relocated and properly arranged studio. There is certainly plenty on my to-do list and I hope to be in a position by late summer to begin formulating plans properly.

I’m not exactly sure where my musical journey is going to take me next. Dawn of Elysium has certainly got plenty left in it and I can see it continuing for some time to come. There are a number of pieces of unfinished business to attend to regarding projects past but this will be casual and studio based. There’s a certain part of me that wants something but I’m not exactly sure what that something is at the moment. This is the thing that keeps me keeping on, despite me not appearing to be very active.

My stand down from Man Down

2017 has proven to be a challenging year for me so far with personal circumstances and commitments taking centre stage. Consequently, band activities have been thin on the ground. After a recent episode of ill health which rendered me immobile, I had chance to reflect, take stock and think about what I’d like to pursue and where I need to concentrate my energies. I came to the decision that being a full time member of two bands was no longer working for me.

Even when there is lack of activity, being mentally committed to too much full time can be draining and the pressures we impose on ourselves in wanting and planning to improve things take their toll. For 5 years I have been in two bands at any given time which have nominally had weekly rehearsal schedules and I guess in that time it has slowly evolved from wanting to explore different sounds to doing it for the sake of it and I have found myself a little burned out.

It’s no reflection on anybody, I have really enjoyed what we have done with Man Down but being honest with myself, it wasn’t ultimately what I wanted to do musically. This was exacerbated by the fact that I was open to ideas so kept trying to make it fit but it was somehow not quite gelling and it was difficult to focus. That said, I am very proud of what we achieved with the Christmas single and some of the original songs we wrote sounded great. It’s just a shame they were never properly committed to tape. Mikey and Lyndon are talented guys and it’s been fantastic to work with them. I wish them both the very best in their continued endeavours.

The drummers we played with – Warren, Rick and Kallum are also top players and it’s been great to have the opportunity to play with each of them.

It has been a fun journey if frustrating at times and I have been glad of the experience.

For the foreseeable future, there are a few things I’d like to do but I intend on primarily concentrating my efforts on Dawn of Elysium and perhaps tinker with some casual studio based projects. With my recent moving house, I have a much improved home studio setup and I’m keen to use it more.

Whatever happens, I need to mentally regroup before I make any more plans. I think it is important to try and keep a clear head-space and not spread myself too thin.

2016 – Marching time and changing tides

After a number of years of keeping this blog and especially writing my annual reviews, it has become apparent that each year has its own character.

Every year has its ups and downs, its endings and beginnings. 2016 has seen the closing of a few fairly long term chapters for me and some new beginnings too. A lot of this was covered in previous entries in more detail so please excuse me for repeating myself a bit. It’s not in chronological order.

Dawn of Elysium has seen a great year of progress, playing 13 gigs in total, making lots of new friends and most importantly finally completing and releasing the full length debut album Time and Tide. The album was almost two years in the making. Despite the majority of the music having been written, we recorded it ourselves. We started from scratch in many ways, buying the equipment and learning to use the software as we went. My friend Martin Hawthorn was along for the ride, doing an outstanding job of the producing and mixing, giving the songs a new dimension in many cases.

It was a proud moment for me when it had been completed and we had CDs in our hands. A huge personal milestone indeed. I have been involved in bands for many years and had always wanted to do albums but aside from anthology type albums from Dawnraiser and Suicide By Cop which were made up from collections of EPs and extra tracks, none of the projects ever reached the point of doing a full length album. Up until this point, it would have been a relatively expensive goal to use a professional studio to record so much material in one go as I simply did not have the equipment to achieve it. A few of my friends had done so in their past and present projects and I had always been in admiration of their being in a position to. It takes the full band to be 100% committed, wilfully and financially to achieve it and it’s not always possible for everyone to be so focused. Since finishing the album and becoming more familiar with the hardware and software, we have commenced a number of recordings which will form the basis for our next releases. We’re looking forward to a period of further writing and recording in the new year, the latter of which will probably come a whole lot easier.

In May, I took the decision of leaving Echofire. After a prolonged period of no momentum and a few internal issues, I had simply had enough. We gave it a good run but unfortunately it never got off the ground as it stood. There are some recordings for a planned EP which I did quite a bit of work on in the first half of the year but we never got round to finishing them properly. Perhaps one day they will see the light of day but for now they are parked. My leaving was ultimately the best thing for all concerned looking back. Echofire continued and after a few line-up changes, found a new enthusiasm. They will hopefully be ready to do something next year. They remain some of my best friends and seeing them socially recently and looking so happy about the band has made me smile. Fortune did not favour Echofire for many reasons until I left and they really deserve a break. I sincerely hope 2017 will be their year.

After my departure from Echofire, I formed a new band with my friends Mikey May and Lyndon Birchall and we decided on the name Man Down. It has not been without its teething problems but we managed to get a bunch of songs together and play our first gig in December. We really enjoyed it and it seemed to be well received. We’re planning to spend some time adding to and refining our material in the new year with a view to getting out playing towards the spring time. In and amongst all this, we also wrote, recorded and released a Christmas song. The song is called “Man Down The Chimney” and is in aid of CALM. More information about it can be read here.

In August, there was a brief, exciting and strange episode where a number of planets aligned and I was taken down a path of deep nostalgia. I had met up with some old friends with whom I was in a band called Dark Embrace many moons ago. The topic of a potential reunion was discussed and put to the wider band membership but it was not clear exactly what shape the potential reunion would take. I wrote about this in this blog entry. Shortly after, the embryonic talks broke down and the idea floated off as suddenly as it had appeared. Not everyone was up for it and those who were each had slightly different ideas about what they wanted from it. My conclusion was that too much time had elapsed and we had all changed so much in the intervening 20 or so years. There were certain aspects of the situation which I did not personally want to revisit which I won’t elaborate on and although it was wonderful to catch up with some old and still very dear friends with whom I would very much like to maintain contact, I was relieved when it became apparent that the project wasn’t to be. Who knows, something may come out of it in the future but evidently not at the moment.

For many years, in addition to my band activities I have been involved to varying degrees in events and DJing. The former had all but finished in the last few years and in February, I organised my last event. It was called “Somebody Else’s Problem” and was in aid of PAFRAS. More information can be found here. It is of course a very worthy cause and the night itself went well but it wasn’t without its headaches. As anyone who has organised an event will tell you, it takes a fair bit of mental energy to keep things together for this type of thing and I would rather focus my energies onto my musical projects. Of course I am more than happy to play as part of charity events as I have done for years and I will pitch in where needed but my days of putting events together are at an end.

With regards to DJing, I have had some enjoyable DJ gigs at The Black Swan over the last year or two, playing alongside Matt Kula as part of the Trap Door pre-party for some months. I have been asked to do New Year’s Eve of this year and I decided that I would like to make it my last one. I have been a pub rock/alt DJ since 1996 and 20 years seemed like a nice cut-off point. I don’t have the enjoyment that I used to for it. I have sacrificed a fair few weekend nights to it but also have had to cancel a few due to gigs with my band, which is not really fair on the venue. I intend to enjoy this last one as much as possible and I am really looking forward to it. I guess it’s just a case of changed priorities ahead.

Special mention needs to be extended to the passing of our friend and colleague on the Bradford scene Harry “Scouse” Roberts. He really was a stalwart and worked many a music venue, mixing the sound and being a general nuisance. He was many things to many people but to many of us a very caring friend and he shall be missed. I wrote this eulogy about him when he passed on in April. In true Bradford tradition, we got together and had a big shindig in his honour with a few bands and we were positive he was with us in spirit.

It has been very much a year of changing tides as the old makes way for the new and it’s fitting really that the DOE album title wraps this up so well. It’s almost like fate has somehow coordinated things. Not to mention the plethora of significant celebrity deaths 2016 has brought us. I definitely feel like 2017 will be a year of new beginnings in many ways. In my personal life, I am planning to move home and also get married to my beloved Emma and we’re looking forward to all the new adventures it brings.

My initial plan for January is to have a period of abstinence from the drink and quit the smoking (which I have cut down on a lot in recent years). I am also planning to go “off grid” for a bit, particularly from Facebook which I will be deactivating for a while. It’s just a time to catch up with myself for a bit and to concentrate on what’s important.

Until then, I plan to enjoy the festive period. I hope everyone has a fantastic Christmas and a prosperous New Year.

2016 – home stretch

As we enter the final couple of months of the year, I look forward to the last three events I’m involved in for 2016. It’s a mixture of firsts and last.

On 26th November, Dawn of Elysium is playing its final gig of the year. It’s as part of Goth City Festival. We’re on at the main event at Wharf Chambers, Leeds and will be onstage at around 7.30. It will be our 13th gig of the year and our last one in the calendar as it stands. We’re taking some time out certainly in the early part of 2017 to write and record some brand new material following our debut album release in October of this year.

On 10th December, my new rock band Man Down plays its debut gig at the Black Swan in Bradford. We started at the back end of May of this year and have been spending time putting our first batch of songs together. We are all looking forward to making our first noises to the world. To coincide with this, we’re releasing our charity Christmas single. More details of this can be read here. There are further writing and recording plans to commence in the new year.

On New Year’s Eve, I am spinning the tunes at the Black Swan as I do my final DJ gig of the year. I have decided that it will probably be my last one. 2016 has been my twentieth full year of being a pub rock DJ. I’ve had a lot of interesting and fun times. Everything from verbal and physical abuse to people having the time of their lives. I’ve done wedding receptions, reunions, birthdays, punk nights, metal nights, prog rock nights. I have DJ’d using vinyl, CD and even cassette as well as the now ubiquitous laptop. The gigs have been more sparse of late, due in the main part to my band gig commitments. I have found myself enjoying it less so these days and I’d rather leave it to the many talented folks out there who have more of a passion for it. I will still be doing the odd favour for friends at private functions but I’m not going to be seeking any more pub/club gigs. There’s a lot I want to achieve with writing and recording with my bands and I’d also like to get out to watch more gigs. I have sacrificed a lot over the years and I’d like to alter my priorities a bit. Emma will still be doing it without a doubt and I might jump in for the odd half hour when she needs it. I’d like to thank all the people who have given me a platform to DJ over the years and of course everyone who has helped and supported me.

So, three fairly different events. I hope to see a few folks at each. They’ll be the last ones I do for a little while.

Time and Tide

Anyone who has been following my blog or updates of what I’ve been up to may know that for the last 21 months, I have been working on a full length album with my band Dawn of Elysium. I am very happy to say that it has now been completed to the point of having physical CDs delivered. The album is called “Time and Tide” and contains 10 tracks of original material. I’ll cover the contents and details of the album itself in more depth on the Dawn of Elysium website. This is more a personal reflection of the process of making it.

Despite being in bands for many years, it is the first time I have made an album in the sense of setting out to make an album from scratch and completing it. OK, in the last couple of years there has been the Suicide By Cop album “Zeitgeist” and the Dawnraiser “Blow By Blow” album but these were pretty much compiled from various separate EP and demo recordings. This was the first bona-fide “album”.

It was quite a milestone for me as well because I recorded it myself on my own equipment. Obviously this could not have been done without the fantastic performances by Emma and Charles and the production ear of Martin Hawthorn but essentially this was a DIY project for us.

The idea to record the album was conceived over the Christmas period of 2014, since we’d not recorded anything for 18 months at that point and there was essentially just one song released which reflected what the band had sounded like since the drummer left in February 2013.

I bought the equipment needed in the first half of 2015. There was a learning curve due to not having really worked with the software and hardware to this extent before. After establishing an effective workflow, the recording went down slowly but surely as and when we had the time to do it.

Music and vocals had been recorded by the end of the summer of 2015 and our aim was to get it finished by the autumn. In hindsight this was ambitious as it did not take into account any further learning curves required to develop the mixes to our satisfaction or limited availability of time together. We managed to release the “Trust” EP in October 2015 but there was still a large amount of work to do.

Over the winter of 2015, studio time together became very limited and even non-existent for a time due to unforeseen external circumstances. We carried on as and when we got the opportunity and by the summer, it was virtually complete. It was then a case of listening through mixes, making notes and tweaks when we could and when we were happy with it, Emma put together the artwork and the project was finished.

I am extremely happy with the results. There are always going to be things with any project which you think could have been done better and many many lessons have been learned. I’m sure there will me many more to come but further recording work should be swifter. I must give special mention to my friend and mentor Tim Walker at Voltage Studios. Although I had effectively “flown the nest” for this one, it was the many years of working with him which helped me develop the skills to do this.

Quite literally, blood sweat and tears have gone into the making of “Time and Tide”. The lyrics are very personal to me and I decided to dedicate it to my late mother. I just wish she’d have been around to hear it but then again, had she been then at least two of the songs would not exist.

The official launch date is 1st October, with the launch party at Carpe Noctum, The Library, Leeds with Berlin Black and The Danse Society. However the more keen eyed may have spotted that it is already available via iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, Spotify and a plethora of online stores. Have a listen, I really hope you enjoy it!

Something old, something blue

Now and again, something happens in life where you get pulled into a big nostalgia trip. This has recently happened to me.

Craig Daynes and I occasionally have a beer together, usually along with our respective partners. We all see each other maybe once or twice a month and it’s usually by accident more than design, which is kind of cool as the spontaneity often makes it a better night.

We used to be in a band together some 21 years ago and have been friends ever since. We probably see each other more than any of the other ex-members do to be honest as we are the only ones still permanently resident in Bradford. Craig is a drummer but sadly hasn’t played for many years. Consequently, his partner Sean, with whom he has been for around 15 years has never seen him play on stage.

The band we had was called Dark Embrace and was kind of our first “proper” band (I had done bits before but nothing much). In recent years, Sean has often suggested that we get together for a reunion which is something I have always pretty much refused. It was all a very long time ago and there were certain personal aspects of the situation which I did not (actually still do not) care to revisit. Some parts of the past should stay there.

Anyway, after months of him bringing the subject up, I eventually submitted and said that if everyone else was up for it then I reluctantly would be. Following this, I saw Simon Thorley who played guitar in the band. It was the first time we’d seen each other in years and we had a really nice catch up. Coincidently, a few weeks later, Tony Wildwood the band’s old vocalist turned up in town whom I had not seen for going on for a decade. Craig had a good catch up with him and to a lesser extent I did (it was a gig night for me so was too preoccupied).

Following this, Craig became especially nostalgic, which got us to thinking that maybe the question could be asked to the wider band membership. Although still reluctant, I wanted to proceed with it mainly because I saw how happy this was making Craig and I would very much like to see him play and play alongside him again. The question has been asked and thus far feedback has been fairly minimal but not negative.

Further to this, I went back and watched a very old video recording of us playing in 1995. The sound and video quality leaves a lot to be desired but I listened intently all the way through. There were some songs and musical passages I could not even remember doing but it sent my imagination running and wondering how whese songs would sound now with the benefit of experience and better equipment. Some of it has stood the test of time rather well and it invoked memories of a very exciting, creative time. I was 20 years old and full of youthful passion.

I also happened about this article, which was a fairly in depth review of our demo tape, along with an interview with bassist Daryl Parson. It was not long after I had left the band and in the biography section, it cites musical differences as to the reason for this. In reality, my reasons were not musical or even personal. The music was great and I loved those people like family. We were a pretty close unit at the time. Thinking back, I had no good reason to leave the band and to this day I cite it as being one of the few regrets I’ve had on my musical journey. I was also in another band at the time and I got caught up in the excitement of that. I had convinced myself that I could only manage one band and so foolishly sacrificed Dark Embrace. Reading through the interview amplified that regret and brought many memories and old feelings flooding back. It has been quite a strange experience. They went on to make some (from what I remember to be) phenomenal music with my replacement Rohan Lander, who was such a lovely sweet guy and a brilliant musician. I remember seeing how close they all became and remained after I left and how much I regretted my decision.

Still, it was over 20 years ago and I have been in around 10 bands since, currently happily managing to play in two bands.

So what happens next? Well, the jury’s very much still out. For all I have appeared to enthuse about the reunion idea, I am still fairly anxious about the whole thing. As it stands, Daryl is unable to play for quite some time due to an ongoing injury so this will give us plenty of time to ponder further. Nevertheless, the box has been opened.

Dark Embrace

Profile by Richard Stuart

Review of “Tears Of Pain” + Bonus

Dark Embrace play a gothic kind of doom metal… very noticeably English, although that’s not necessarily a negative thing. It’s going to be hard for me to avoid the usual cliches such as “melodic, gothic, well executed, impressively tight,” etc… because they all apply to this band. Of course, the production isn’t overly crisp, since this is just second-generation demo quality… but given a decent studio budget, these tunes could really shine. Daryl tells me in his letter that the band have improved musicially since this demo, which was recorded early last year. I have no doubts that this band could become Peaceville’s new lovelies, or something. Obviously the music isn’t up to Dominion’s standard quite yet, but the potential is definitly there. This easily rivals what I’ve heard from The Blood Divine, though, IMO. Dark Embrace are recording a new demo later this year, “Under The Veil Of Winter” (sounds like the sort of title Thus Defiled would use) so watch out for that.

I’m pleased to report that their keyboard player can actually play. So many bands these days simply incorporate synths into their sound in a last hope for atmosphere, and think that two alternate “oohs” on a Casio will suffice. Thankfully, the synth here is of a higher standard. There are some piano sections which remind me of Theatre Of Tragedy, and a full synth fest (either the outro to the song “Dark Embrace,” or a whole track in itself… things got vague as to which song was which around this point) reminiscent of the mighty ‘Filth. The guitars are also well played, not as Maidenesque as many melodic metal bands are these days, yet still peppered with delightful chord changes and what have you. The drums seemed fine too, although the band now have a new guitarist and new (temporary) drummer.

The vocals are mostly the typical doomy style… thankfully not moaned and groaned so much as “sung whilst spoken” in a David Bowie fashion (pun intended although not very amusing). There are also some death vocals, which don’t half remind me of Anathema’s “Serenades” album. The clean singing could be improved a tad, although the guy’s hitting the right sounds. The spoken style often contributes a rhythmic catchiness which is also a typically British trick of the trade.

“Lost Dreams” is one of my favourites here, if anyone’s interested in standout tracks. It’s melodic and incredibly well executed, with a great piano and drums outro. I think this demo will appeal to people who like My Dying Bride and what have you… although Dark Embrace, despite the songtitles etc, aren’t as slow and depressing as many bands of this ilk.


(provided by the band)

Formed during a cold Spring of 1994 in Bradford, West Yorkshire, Dark Embrace are a band unafraid of bringing as many diverse influences as possible into their sound. Each member of the band has their own individual set of influences, ranging from My Dying Bride to Marillion to Dream Theater to Emperor, and everything in between!

Dark Embrace started life as a three-piece consisting of Tony, Craig and Daryl. Guitarist Alec and keyboardist Emma were to join later, the full line-up to be rounded off by Simon, also on guitars. With this line-up, Dark Embrace have had a string of successful gigs, supporting such luminaries as Anathema, Napalm Death, Solstice, Hecate Enthroned and Cradle of Filth.

However, musical differences were to rear their ugly heads and Alec left, to be swiftly replaced by Rohan on guitars. The current line-up remains strong to this day:

Tony - Vocals
Rohan - Guitars
Simon - Guitars
Daryl - Bass
Emma - Keyboards
Craig - Drums

Dark Embrace have already released one demo, the critically acclaimed “Tears of Pain”, a powerful showcase of their unique blend of epic doom metal, gothic overtures, and progressive majesty.

Dark Embrace are currently working on their long awaited second demo, “Under the veil of winter” which they hope to have ready by the Winter Solstice, 1996. Supporting this, they will be playing as many live dates as time allows.

Dark Embrace have high hopes for the future, and hope to bring their original musical style to as many people as possible!


(with Daryl)

Sure, England is overflowing with melodic doom bands with gothic tendencies, but this band truly does have a unique approach to their music, without sounding totally off the wall. Being the inquisitive man I am, I thought an interview with this promising band was long overdue, so here it is…

First of all, why the bandname Dark Embrace?

Well, we didn’t start out with that name. When there were just the three of us; Tony, Craig and myself, we decided on the name ‘Bitter Existence’, half of which we got from a beermat! Later on, after we learned how to play, we chose the name ‘Dark Embrace’ because it sounded cool!

More seriously, we like to think that the concept of a ‘Dark Embrace’ is reflected in our lyrics as well as our outlook on life. We’ve all been in a ‘Dark Embrace’ of sorts; be it on the verge of suicide, in a loveless relationship, in a shit job, being stuck below the poverty line, being betrayed by people you trusted as friends, and many other unhealthy situations. Surrounded by an ever encroaching black hopelessness that seeks to engulf us all as we search for some sense of meaning in our empty, hollow, lives…

Still, you’ve got to laugh, haven’t you?

Do you think your band has anything unique to offer the listener?

Most certainly! Our strength is in our diversity! Each member of the band has their own far-reaching individual musical tastes. These influences become apparent during song-writing, as we’re brave enough to have an open mind and try anything! As long as the music comes naturally, we’ll play it!

We hope that people listening to our music can appreciate the wide range of influences we have, and accept us as being something a little more original than whatever ‘flavour of the week’ the masses are following.

“Suicide,” “Bitter Existence,” “Desireless…” some typical examples of your chin up cheerful songtitles! Are you all manic depressives?? Why are you so attracted to the doom and gloom side of things, like many other English bands?

Have you ever tried living in Bradford? It’s crap!

Although we hail from the Doom capital of England(tm), we’re not really as miserable as our song-titles would lead people to believe! Our lyrics aren’t necessarily a direct reflection of our lives, but are more like ‘stories’ reflecting the darkness within us all. There may be a lot of misery and anguish in our lyrics, but we never let it overwhelm us.

In all reality, we find that the ‘darker’ side of life is a hell of a lot more interesting to write about. We’re aiming for a more atmospheric style these days, which means we’ve rehearsed in candlelight more than once, and we do wear black most of the time, but that doesn’t make us ‘morbid’, does it?

There are six people in the band… is this an advantage? Are there many arguments and creative differences? Do you ever meet each other on a purely social basis?

Yes and No. How’s that for a cryptic response?

Yes, we argue and squabble, but it’s good-natured. We don’t have any fragile little egos to worry about getting bruised. I suppose the main reason we keep ourselves sane is that we don’t take ourselves too seriously as people. We DO take the band and our music seriously however. Together, the band is far greater than any one of us. Each of us is willing to yield for the greater good of the band.

I’ve never had much faith in bands that boast that they’re “The best (insert sub-genre here) metal band ever!” Once you reach that level of overconfident bullshit, the music is bound to suffer. Sure, it’s nice for any of us to be told that we’re good musicians, but we’re not perfect! Confidence doesn’t come from forcing how wonderful you are down people’s throats. And without the ‘fans’ (for want of a better word, we’re not THAT popular yet!) listening to and appreciating our music, we’d be nothing! We’re a very sociable and approachable band, and don’t have any sort of ‘rock star’ attitude stifling our creativity. And we never will!

Remember: If you think the sun shines out of your arse, then the shit’s gonna have to come out of your mouth!

We all get along pretty well together in the ‘real’ world. We’re not the sort of band that can’t stand the sight of each other, rehearse for a few hours, then go our separate ways until the next rehearsal. We always get on well with each other outside the band. We’re like a big family really, scraps and all!

How would you answer certain critics who say that keyboards have no place in metal music?

I put this question to Emma and she gave a simple answer: “Bollocks!”

I think that keyboards certainly have a place in the type of music we play. We’ve got the raw power of our twin guitars which could easily become overwhelming were it not for the finesse of our keyboards. We’re always striving to find a delicate balance.

In a way, we’re lucky as we’ve got a keyboardist that knows what she’s doing! There’s far too many bands out there who add some simplistic synth bits as an afterthought, just because that’s what everyone else is doing. We’re a bit more advanced than that, and write our songs around the combination of all musicians equally. This only means trouble in the short run, as three and four part harmonies are becoming the norm. But, once we’ve all worked out what we’re doing and when, the music sounds a hell of a lot better for it!

The keyboardist is the only female in the band. Does she ever feel outnumbered?? Is everyone’s role in the band equal?

As stated above, we’re all equals. We have to be, otherwise we’d only end up driving each other crazy!

As far as Emma’s reproductive plumbing goes: That’s not a problem. We’re a band of equals, which means everyone gets a fair say, regardless of gender. Certainly, when she started out with us two years ago, she wasn’t as cynical and foulmouthed as the rest of us, but in time she’s fit in quite nicely! (And can normally drink most of us under the table, more’s the pity!)

You’ve supported Cradle Of Filth, Hecate Enthroned, and similar bands. Do they live up to their image in “real life,” or are they basically “normal” people? Are there any bands you would refuse to share a stage with?

Before I answer this question, I’d just like it on the record that ‘Dark Embrace’ are not a band that takes any pleasure whatsoever in slagging off other bands in the scene. When all’s been said and done, we’ve all got to stick together and support each other, because there’s far too many people out there who want to see the whole metal scene wither and die, without us doing most of the backstabbing ourselves…

However, we can certainly say that we will NOT be supporting CoF for a long time to come. Although they are bloody successful in what they do, and have brought extreme concepts to the imagination of the mainstream, their newer fans have a disturbing single-mindedness that makes supporting them an uncomfortable position.

They’re a good band, just not one we’d like to play with again…

Without naming any other bands we’d refuse to share a stage with, it goes without saying that we wouldn’t want to be on the same bill as any band that promotes intolerance, arrogance, or outright hatred.

Conversely, we’d really love to do gigs with bands like Dominion, Amorphis, The Gathering, Orphanage, and Therion. I suppose it makes things a lot easier for us all if we’re playing the same style of music!

What do you think of religion in general, be it Christianity, Satanism, Paganism or Buddhism?

Well, each of us have very different views towards religion. There’s one thing we all agree on though, and that’s to live and let live. We’ve got no time at all for these idiots who have to force their religion down other people’s throats…

They’re one of the reason’s that city life’s so crap these days! If you’re walking down a typical high street and someone approaches you with a smile on their face, you’d think they either want some money off you, or they’re going to tell you how wonderful whichever ‘God of the week’ they believe in is…

You wouldn’t for a minute think that maybe they’re just being friendly, or are interested in you as a person. It’s all false smiles and outright lies. They think they’re getting closer to their god by irritating as many other people as possible…

And regardless of belief, it’s these zealots that do their cause far more harm than good…

Are you interested in ghosts, the paranormal and all that lark?

In a sense we all believe in the supernatural, in one form or nother. There’s a lot ‘out there’ that we don’t understand, or can’t explain rationally. We’ve all got a healthy interest in the unknown, and have even written songs about it!

Personally, I’m convinced that H.P. Lovecraft knew a hell of a lot more about the supernatural than what he left us in his writings!

Ideally, how popular would you like Dark Embrace to become? Are you content with keeping a reasonably low profile in the music world, or would you like to reach a wider audience than just the underground metal scene? (For instance, I’m sure that some David Bowie fans would find something of merit in your music…)

Hey! Enough with the David Bowie already!

Sure, it’ll be nice to be really, really popular. To have hordes of groupies ready and willing to succumb to our every peverse desire. To have our own range of fully-posable action figures and video games. The usual ‘big star’ gumph! But if that means having to change ourselves from the people we are now to something a lot easier to market, then I’m afraid we’ll have lost far more than what we’ll have gained.

What I’m really trying to say is that yes, we want to be popular, we want our music to reach as many people as possible, we want to break through this wall of bullshit that the masses put up against anything slightly ‘metal’. But if that means changing the style of music we play, ‘selling out’ for want of a better phrase, then it’ll be a hollow victory.

Like us for who we are, not for who you want us to be.

And we’re certainly not going to wait around for the next bandwagon to come rolling along. Although if more kids start wearing ‘In the Woods…’ T-shirts instead of ‘Offspring’ ones, then maybe the world will be a better place after all!

Who is the “son” who’s mentioned in the song “Sleep?”

The song ‘Sleep’, and ‘Suicide’ in general, is about a person that has lost the will to live. His inner voice, his ‘conscience’, has become so polluted with angst and self-hatred that he’s trying to convince himself that it’ll all be a lot easier if he turns his anger and frustration inwards and destroys himself.

The ‘Son’ is his inner self, locked away in a cell of his own making. Looking through the ‘bars’, he can see that the world’s still going on out there, regardless of whether or not he makes a contribution or not. So ‘thoughts of death’ cross his mind, and when he tries to comprehend the future, there is no escape from this torment.

He takes a gun, and points it against his head. In his final search for inner peace, he realises that this is the only answer. The only way out. He pulls the trigger…

At that last split second, on the brink of death, he realises just how precious life is, for even in misery, he at least has his humanity! The walls that he’s built around himself finally come down, and he wants so desparately to live. Of course, by this time it’s far too late, and he is killed instantly…

The moral of this story? Manic depressives and loaded firearms don’t mix!

That last bit isn’t reflected in the version of Suicide we’ve got on our demo. We added another section to it after the original was recorded. But what you see above is the full story, make of it what you will!

Did I mention that we’re not really morbid? Honest!

What albums have you been listening to recently? Any you’d like to recommend to the people reading this interview?

There are many albums we’ve all been listening to quite frequently. The hard part is getting everyone to agree on a list! We can safely say that most of us like all these albums:

Dominion – ‘Interface’ Absolutely amazing! And to think we’ve known them for years! (Back when they were still called Blasphemer!)

Therion – ‘Theli’ We’ve heard bits of this one and fell in love straight away! It makes what we do seem just a little bit too bland and simplistic!

Nocturnus – ‘The Key’ One of these days, Nocturnus are going to get the credit they deserve! They were geniuses in their time! Whatever happened to them anyway?

Iron Maiden – ‘Seventh Son’ There’s people out there who say that Maiden are crap because they’re not ‘cool’ or ‘trendy’ anymore. To them we say “Grow up!” This is still their best album by far though! Up the Irons!

A good demonstration of our diversity would be to tell you what each member is listening to at the moment:

Daryl: Monumentum – ‘In Absentia Christi’ A marvellous blend of gothic romanticism and serene atmospherics. With a cool cover of ‘Fade to Grey’ as well! A thousand thanks to the witches at Misanthropy for replacing my scratched copy!

Tony: Amorphis – ‘Elegy’ Mainly because it’s different to most other bands in their genre, and is always interesting to listen to!

Emma: Psychotic Waltz – ‘Bleeding’ Her all-time favourite band of all-time! She’s even got her own PW T-shirt printed up!

Craig: The Prodigy – ‘Music for the Jilted Generation’ OK, so they’re not ‘metal’, but both Craig and Simon love them!

(They’re not ‘music,’ either, in my opinion -Ricks)

Simon: The Gathering – ‘Mandylion’ He borrowed the CD from me a month ago and hasn’t stopped listening to it since!

Rohan: In the Woods… – ‘HEart of the Ages’ A sheer masterpiece of extreme metal and pagan ideology! Take the time to read the sleeve notes, they make a hell of a lot of sense!

What can we expect from your forthcoming demo “Under The Veil Of Winter?” Will this also be available for a blank tape only, or are you going to start charging hard cash for your music?

Well, we didn’t intend to be giving ‘Tears of Pain’ away when we recorded it! The reason it’s free (plus tape + postage, of course!) is that it was recorded with the old line-up, and thus isn’t an accurate representation of the band as we are now. So we were faced with a choice: Either bin the whole thing, and concentrate entirely on the new stuff; or give it away, making a few new friends in the process! We think we’ve made the fairest decision!

What can you look forward to on the new demo? A better production for a start! We intend to record all 5-6 tracks on one day and mix on the next, which means that we won’t be rushing around like the proverbial blue arsed flies trying to get everything done all at once!

We’ll be showcasing most of the new songs we’ve worked on, as they’re proving to be the best we’ve written so far! We’re aiming for a more ‘atmospheric’ release, with each song flowing into each other, rather than chopping and changing between styles. We’ll be trying to get a female vocalist in, to complement Tony’s singing. And if that works out as a permanent feature then we’ll have even more arguments in rehearsals! (But at least it’ll be cheaper for the rest of us!)

That’s it now, mate… do you have any closing comments?

Well, thanks for the interview, we appreciate the interest! Hopefully some of the answers make sense somewhere along the line… We’d just like to make one last comment to the people who are reading this.

We’ve had to endure a lot of bullshit over the years, from other bands saying they’re ‘better’ than us, and people who seem to think it’s cool to talk shit in general. The fact is, we’re not going to stand here and tell you how wonderful we are in return. What we are going to do is make this offer.

If anything we’ve rambled on about above makes any sense, then why not give us a listen? All you’ll need to do is send us a C90 tape and an SAE (IRC if you’re outside the UK), and we’ll tape you ‘Tears of Pain’. Free, Gratis, and for nothing!

If you like what you hear, then keep an eye out for ‘Under the Veil’ – coming soon to a distro list near you! And thanks for the support!

And if you don’t like it? Well, all you’ve really lost is the price of a few stamps!

Either way, you’ll have taken a chance, which is something too few people do these days! Most people prefer to listen to what they’re told to like by the mass media, and never have the opportunity to hear music that they might actually enjoy…

At times we just wish that more people would have the courage to think for themselves for once!

But anyway, I’ll stop trying to change the world and shut up for now. Feel free to email me at dparson@continuum.ragroup.co.uk to find out what we’re up to at the moment.

And if you want a copy of ‘Tears of Pain’, send a tape and an SAE/IRC to: Dark Embrace c/o Daryl 32 Rand Street Bradford West Yorkshire BD7 1RW ENGLAND

If there’s any bands out there who want to trade demos and arrange gigs and stuff, we’ll be glad to oblige! We hope to hear from you!

Man Down

I guess it’s around about the right time to mention a bit more on here about my new band. In my previous post, I mentioned that I set about getting a new band together shortly after I left Echofire. The result is Man Down.

I got chatting to my friend Mikey May who had been itching to set up a rock band and play some original material. His previous efforts didn’t quite get to where he wanted them to be and whilst he enjoys playing acoustic shows, both solo and as part of his duo act May Moon, the emphasis was always more on playing covers.

We then got in touch with Lyndon Birchall, whom I had previously played with in Wild Trash and later Reeved. Mikey had also had some sessions with him. We both knew he had been looking for a band for quite some time and fortunately, he jumped at the chance and took the bass position.

Initially, we got together with Warren Garner. We got on great with him and he is a fantastic drummer but unfortunately his work commitments would not allow him to reliably make the rehearsals and so he had to bow out. We all sincerely hope he manages to hook up with a band which fits in better with his schedule as he has an amazing talent and is a great guy. We wish him all the very best.

Shortly after Warren went, Rick Bulmer took up the drum stool and immediately brought a new dimension to the sound. Rick is very versatile, technically proficient and plays with a great feel. He also plays for local reggae/ska band Trenchtown and whilst he enjoys that, rock is his main passion. He settled in very quickly and it’s great to have him onboard.

We have a handful of songs already and there are loads of ideas floating about. Our first gig is booked at The Black Swan in Bradford. It’s on 10th December and we’re on with our good buddies Black Falcon. We’re hoping to hit the studio over the autumn and have our first EP ready for the gig then hopefully get out there and build on it in the new year.

The music itself is kind of contemporary rock with an old school edge. Style-wise it reminds us very much of what we did in Reeved. I can see it being a lot of fun. Really looking forward to getting it properly off the ground. There’s so much positivity and enthusiasm between everyone, it has been quite a tonic for me.

2016 – So far, so mixed …

It has been a little while since I last blogged. It’s just over halfway through the year, so I guess it’s as good a time as any to reflect on 2016 so far.

On the whole, it has been a good year if rather stressful at times. January started off with a tirade of abuse from a bunch of people. It wasn’t a great time and I won’t go into their identities or nature of it. Suffice to say that it has been dealt with appropriately and they no longer have any means of contacting me. Also as a consequence of their actions, I will never speak to any of them ever again for any reason.

Dawn of Elysium has been going well for us. In January, we got to play at Carpe Noctum with seminal 80’s goth band The Danse Society and our friends Hands of Industry, which kick-started us into the year quite nicely. We resolved to improve on 2015’s live schedule and by April, we had already done that. We’ve been playing fairly regularly in West Yorkshire and are in discussions regarding gigs further afield later in the year.

Recordings are filtering through with our release of the “Trust” EP going online in February and the release of “This Rising Sun” in June, both of which are now available on iTunes and various other online outlets. Work on the album has continued piecemeal as and when we can get time with Martin. However, just about all of the mixing work is now done, with mainly editing and mastering to go. We are aiming for a late summer release. Demo work for the follow-up release has been ongoing with 3 tracks nearing completion. We’re aiming to release an EP to follow the album but this is some time off yet. Everything has been ticking over nicely and we’re very pleased with progress. It has been great to be able to be in a position to record the songs as we’ve been writing them.

In February, I put an event on at the 1in12. Called “Someone Else’s Problem”, it was in aid of PAFRAS. It was a stressful but fun evening and we managed to raise £225 for the charity. As a rule, I generally don’t run events anymore but it was for a very worthy cause. It was a great line-up and a bloody good night. I toyed with the idea of organising a follow-up event but thus far I have had neither the time or the energy.

In April, Bradford’s music scene lost a dear friend and colleague. Harry “Scouse” Roberts passed away after suffering a heart attack during a shopping trip in town. He was a much loved character and sound engineer with whom I had worked at a number of venues. Of course there was an all day event organised in remembrance, affectionately called “Scousefest” and following his funeral, we gave him a great send-off. He will be missed by many of us.

In May, I took the difficult decision of leaving Echofire. Echofire had been in existence for 15 months. It was actually a follow-on project from Suicide By Cop, which dated back a further 6 years and so three of us had been together for quite some time. A lot of water had flowed under its bridge and we had made some great music in all that time but progress had been frustratingly slow for too long. It was really affecting my state of mind and to stick around any longer would not have been fair on anybody.

Thankfully, my leaving gave rise to much positivity for everybody.

The remaining members of Echofire regrouped and are enjoying a long overdue period of renewed enthusiasm with a modified line-up. I am so happy for them as it had been difficult for all of us. They remain some of my closest friends and I wish them all the best. It took some time but I think this was the fresh start the band really needed. I am very much looking forward to hearing what they come up with. We recorded an EP in the spring of 2015, which I had spent quite some time playing around with. There’s still a bit of recording to do vocal-wise but I’d like to finish it off at some point just for posterity. It’s different from Suicide By Cop and will more than likely be different from what Echofire is to become but it’s a snapshot in time of where we were at.

Shortly following my departure from Echofire, I set about getting something new together. The as yet unnamed band started off really well, very quickly getting some songs together. We’re currently going through the initial teething stage which comes with every brand new band as we get our line-up established. I am sure we’ll get there. It has really been a breath of fresh air for me and it’s great to be starting afresh with new people and new ideas. There is much work to be done but we are cracking on. Our initial goal is to take it live by the end of the year and have something recorded.

My DJ nights at The Black Swan have continued and am happy to say are very well received. I have been playing on the last Saturday of each month as part of the Trap Door pre-party (unless I have a gig). Trap Door is a monthly rock club which takes place at Bradford University and is very popular. I have been asked if I am available to do more nights. Unfortunately as yet I have not been able to do it but no doubt I will as time goes by.

So life is generally as busy as ever. Mentally, I am up and down. The Echofire split is still processing itself in my mind. I know it was the right thing to do but as with any parting of the ways, things are still a bit weird for me especially with them now moving on and looking for other band members. It is undoubtedly what both parties respectively needed to do and the pleasure I am getting from working with my new band is testament to that. Bands are odd things and the relationships you have with your band-mates run deep. Adjusting to changes, whilst keeping friendship and band stuff separate can be tricky. I always tend to throw myself emotionally head first into musical projects and end up feeling a bit fragile when it comes to an end. I am optimistic but a bit at sixes and sevens with it all.

Still, there’s lots to look forward to. I am loving Dawn of Elysium, the gigs we are playing and the recordings we are on with. My new band has some real potential and I’m looking forward to all that it brings. There are always other recording projects I want to get involved in too.

RIP Harry “Scouse” Roberts

Today, we say goodbye to our dear friend Harry Roberts, more commonly known in Bradford as “Scouse”. He passed away on 29th April after suffering a heart attack during a shopping trip. The funeral service will be at Scholemoor Crematorium at 2.40pm today (Wednesday 18th May, 2016) followed by a gathering at his favourite pub The Black Swan, Thornton Road, Bradford. There will also be a memorial all day event featuring a collection of local bands and DJs. This will be held at The Beehive pub, Westgate on Saturday 4th June starting at 2pm.

Harold George Roberts (Scouse) was a well known and much loved sound engineer, spending many of his later years working in the venues of Bradford. He was a unique character with a wicked and mischievous sense of humour, which got him into trouble from time to time but as anyone who knew him will testify, his heart was always in the right place.

His time in Bradford stretches back about 20 years when at that point he had retired from the sound engineering business and was working as a sheet metal worker. He first came out of retirement at The Peel pub in the early to mid 2000’s, where he started off doing bits of karaoke. When The Peel closed, he started up at The Black Swan, where he laid his heart. He was to continue with live sound at that venue on and off until very recently.

He moved from the Black Swan to the Zuu bar in 2010 where he worked for another year or so. After the Zuu closed, he decamped back to the Swan again for a while until in the summer of 2013, he started doing bits at the Love Apple and moved into Vampire as resident sound engineer in the September. The following year, he moved along with the Vampire team to the Tavern in the Town on Barry Street where he worked for a while. He later moved on to Trash on Sackville Street and continued with bits of work at the jam sessions at The Black Swan. He mixed hundreds of bands in those few years alone and he was a very well known face in the city. However, what many people don’t realise is his rich and varied history with sound engineering.

When Scouse passed away, he was 70 years old and was coming up to celebrating 50 years service in the entertainment industry as a sound engineer. He started off in a band in Liverpool in the early 60’s in which he played the drums. He didn’t feel as though his talent laid in this role and decided that being a roadie was where his heart was. He was one of the first people in Liverpool to own a mixing desk. In the 60’s they were all valve and cumbersome with only 4 channels but he could see the value in using one for a rock band. Marshall were hesitant to let him buy it at first as they intended the product to be for the BBC and such like but after his persistent nagging with the various sales executives, they agreed to sell him one. In the late 60’s and early 70’s, he worked in London and Liverpool, doing sound for many up and coming bands often going on tour with them.

He also worked as a junior sound engineer in the early 70’s at some big gigs in Hyde Park, London. They were known as the Hyde Park Free Concerts and the bill contained such heavyweights as King Crimson, Soft Machine and The Rolling Stones.

He went on tour with Kid Creole and the Coconuts, Kool and the Gang, The Real Thing and Supercharge. He loved mixing brass and vocal harmonies more than anything and his favourite band was the Eagles.

Of course we only knew him in recent years and the facts above were compiled from various stories and anecdotes. We believe in all those years, he must have worked with many well known acts and had probably forgotten more than most people experience in a life time. He was never one to brag or name drop and would only talk about his time on the road when asked and (usually) under the influence.

He was a very passionate man who lived and breathed music. He paid for all of his own equipment from his pension and built all of his own speaker cabs from scratch. He was also a master carpenter and watching him at work was a joy.

For all in his latter days, his ears sometimes failed him (he left many a ringing ear after some of his gigs), his heart never did and he particularly loved watching new upcoming artists. He also passed on some of his knowledge to young budding sound engineers and was always happy to help and teach anyone who wanted to listen.

Rest well old friend, we will miss you.

Alec Marlow & Michael Dunn.

Farewell Echofire

Last Thursday, I took the very difficult decision of leaving my band Echofire. Echofire is the follow-on project from Suicide By Cop and so line-up changes aside, I had been a part of that unit of people for over 7 years. In truth, I had not been happy for some time. The progress was in fits and starts and although I very much enjoyed the music, there was hardly ever any momentum. In the last three years, the band played just 5 gigs and managed to write 5 complete songs. We had overcome a considerable number of hurdles but in the end, I just ended up feeling more and more despondent. After a recent particularly trying phase, something inside me simply said “Enough”. It wasn’t fair on anybody and had I stuck around, I fear that resentment would have set in. Being part of a band is sometimes a struggle but ultimately it is something which is to be enjoyed and if that stops happening, then it is time to take a look at the situation. The band as it stood simply wasn’t working for me and in reality had not been for a while. It was a heartbreaking decision. As anyone who is in a band will testify, the bond you have with the people with which you play runs deep and is very much like being in a relationship in many ways. In the few days which have elapsed since, I have grown more sure that I have done the right thing for everyone involved.

I would like to say to my former bandmates that you guys are some of the best friends I have ever had. As far as I am concerned that will never change and I mean that from the bottom of my heart. I would like to wish you the very best of luck with whatever you continue to do and I am sure I will end up working with many of you in future projects.

As for me, well I still have Dawn of Elysium of course and I will probably be looking at starting another band in the near future. With whom and what style remains to be seen.

Zero tolerance for abuse

I have not had a great time of it recently, particularly today. The details of which I shall not go into. Suffice to say that I have been the recipient of various communications which have been abusive. I am adopting a zero tolerance approach to this and any number or profile which sends me any kind of abuse will be blocked with the messages permanently deleted and it does not matter who it is.

I am always open to conversation and adult constructive criticism. After all, none of us are perfect. However personal character assassinations are unacceptable. I suffered with bullies and abusive relationships in my young days and I refuse to be subjected to this again. Up with this I will not put!

2015 – All going in the right direction

2015 has been on the whole a positive year all round. There have been low points as there are most years but generally the year has been very productive. I have covered a lot of this in previous blog posts but here is my annual review.

I have really settled in to the job which I started in December 2014. It has really highlighted that I am capable of more than I gave myself credit for and also how much better off I am when not surrounded by negativity. The support and encouragement shown to me by my new colleagues has done wonders for my self-confidence. I am very happy and I really hope I can stay at this place for a long while.

This is the first full year for ages where I have not been involved in any venue/gig organisation. I am working on a gig in February at the 1-in-12 club (more news on that to follow) but nothing in 2015 and I have not missed it I have to say. I have done a number of nights DJing at The Black Swan throughout the course of the year. The pub is under new management now so whether or not these continue next year remains to be seen. I’m happy to get to do the odd night, it keeps my hand in. It will be coming up to 20 years since I started as a DJ.

Music-wise it has been a very positive but irritatingly not-quite-there-yet year.

Suicide By Cop was retired at the end of 2014 and we entered the rehearsal room in January with essentially a blank slate. We expanded our numbers and became a 5-piece and decided on the name Echofire. There were 4 songs which were carried through to the new project. We added a 5th and set about recording them with a view to releasing a 5-track EP. This was started at Voltage Studios. The first part of the year seemed to be very encouraging but around about spring time we lost the momentum. The recording project was shelved in order to concentrate on getting a set together for a June gig. This would have to involve covers in order to make the numbers up. For many bands this is fairly straight-forward but not so for us as we all have different tastes and so consequently it ended up with all of us suggesting songs which not all of us particularly wanted to do. We managed to salvage a couple and resorted to playing another old SBC song. The one gig we managed to play in reality came across as “SBC with a new guitarist playing one new song and a couple of covers”. Although the gig was OK despite Paul’s amp dying half way through, I came away feeling rather despondent and disappointed with the whole thing. It should have been so much more and so much better. Echofire was clearly not ready yet. After that we just kind of treaded water for a while and external Summer commitments rendered us out of action for a couple of months. When autumn arrived we started on some new music and I started doing some more work on the recordings. This injected a bit more positivity into it for me and although I have only to date mixed one of the songs, it has been a very positive and exciting learning curve. We were to be playing another gig in the December but this had to be cancelled due to health problems. In reality we were not really any further forward than we were for the previous gig and it came as some relief when we were no longer playing. When I look back on the year, overall I am very happy with what we have done so far but would’ve liked more of it. Next year we have decided to not think about anything other than writing new material and hopefully we can get an album and an entirely brand new set together. I will finish producing the EP and get that out of the way too.

Dawn of Elysium began the year with plans to record an album and in the main, this is what we have done. All of the recording work has been completed and production work has been progressed fairly well. There is still a fair bit to do. Martin Hawthorn is in the chair for production but autumn commitments for him have rendered studio time very thin on the ground. We have a little time over the Christmas period and we’re hoping to get it finished in the early part of the new year. Both Martin and I have got other studio projects which we want to embark on. We released an EP, which consisted of “The Last Time” – a song from the album, the recording of “Smoke and Mirrors” we did in 2013, a remix of the newly recorded version of the same song and a cover of Status Quo’s “Pictures of Matchstick Men”, which has been very well received as a live number. There are 10 tracks in progress for the album. Overall I think Dawn of Elysium is sounding much more professional, due in part to the time spent on pre-production and production of the album as well as regular rehearsal. We haven’t played very many gigs this year, just 5 in all but we hope to improve on this in 2016 and also to get a bit further afield.

In the spring time, I contributed to a charity single. It was a cover of the Gerry and the Pacemakers song “You’ll Never Walk Alone”, which featured a number of celebrities. It was released in aid of Bradford Burns Unit in commemoration of the 30th anniversary of the Bradford City fire. It was recorded and produced by Tim Walker at Voltage Studios. I played the majority of the guitar work on the single. We were both totally unsure of how it would turn out at first but after a short while, we got into the swing of it and I think I managed to put my own stamp on it. It was very well received and I was proud to be part of such a project.

Since the beginning of the year I have expanded my collection of recording studio equipment and am now fairly self-sufficient. I have learned much and am now producing results which I am very happy with. I have a few tentative plans for future recording projects but there is still a lot to complete before I can think about them. So, 2015 has had lots going on but to my eyes not much in the way of complete results. Hopefully 2016 will bear more fruit.