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!

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.

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.

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.

2014 – A work in progress year

2014 has been on the whole an odd year. Eventful, yet uneventful in some ways. I have been referring to it as a work-in-progress year.

I endeavoured to embark upon 2014 in a more productive, positive and focused manner and in the main that was the case.

I started the new year in a positive light, with a brand new full-time job to get myself involved with. The company was great with some really lovely people. However, as time went by, I increasingly felt that it wasn’t quite for me and set about looking for something new around August time. I found what I thought would be a great position and duly handed my notice in in the September. It had been around 20 years since I had actually left an employer and it was a scary and exciting prospect.

After a couple of months involving a rather stressful false start and a brief and very intense period of seeking new employment again, I landed a new role which I started at the beginning of December. I am looking forward to taking the job forward into 2015 and hopefully far beyond. The team are fantastic and I feel like I am settling in pretty quickly. That short but crazy time in between really brought home to me just how many people believe in me and I felt very humbled and much more confident in myself. I have evidently come a hell of a long way since the spring of 2013.

I also started the year involved with venue activities at Vampire. It seems like an age ago now. The club was great and had created a buzz but behind the scenes, the cracks were showing and the business did not last beyond February. Throughout March, April and May, I was involved with a place called Tavern In The Town to varying degrees but by that time, I had lost motivation and if I’m honest was getting a bit disillusioned by the whole thing. I had started my new job in January and whilst that was going well, I found I was struggling to do everything that I had set out to do and in particular, I felt my music was suffering because of it. I left the whole thing behind sometime around Spring Bank and the owner decided to make some fundamental changes to the venue anyway, rendering it somewhat different from what we believed to be the original brief.

The whole spring/early summer period of 2014 was an emotionally murky time for a few reasons and it was apparent that some re-evaluation was necessary. In contrast to the tragedy and intensity of 2013, it was more a period of coming to terms with and putting to bed many things.

The bands have carried on regardless throughout the year.

Dawn of Elysium played a decent chunk of gigs. Less so than 2013 but what we did play was (in the main) good. There was some progress with new material but not much and no recorded output. I am really wanting to improve on both in 2015.

Suicide By Cop grinded on painfully, managing just 3 gigs in 2014. We were getting nowhere, really slowly and we had lost focus. We took the decision to finish the project at the end of the year and start afresh in 2015 with a new name, retaining only the newest material. The band as it was had run its course some time ago and it was only after our friends band made a similar decision to start afresh that we came to terms with this for ourselves. Since making that decision and playing the old songs for the final time, I am genuinely excited about letting go of the old baggage and progressing things as we should. The last gig was on 5th December, almost 6 years after the band started. To coincide with this, we have released a 15-track album of all of the material which was recorded throughout the lifetime of the project. Entitled “Zeitgeist”, it comprises the three EPs and some previously unreleased songs.

Despite the lack of newly recorded output, I released a remastered version of the Dark Embrace Tears of Pain EP from 1995 as well as completing the Dawnraiser album Blow By Blow from 1996.

In August, I had the opportunity of buying a car from an elderly relative who was giving up driving. I had been toying with the idea of getting a vehicle anyway so quite quickly I got myself on the road. I had not driven since I had passed my test in 1998 and I surprised myself at just how quickly it came back to me. Apart from the odd prang, I have been generally doing well with my driving and it has improved day to day life in a lot of ways.

All in all a good work-in-progress year. I have sorted out the foundation pieces of my life and found a good job, got myself driving etc. and things have improved significantly. Music has unintentionally been left on a back burner which is something I want to rectify in the new year.

Here’s to 2015 and all the adventures it brings.

2013 – My year in review

As 2013 draws to a close, I find myself reflecting on what has been a very chaotic and eventful year. Lots of downs and some ups.

It started off in January with a flurry of Suicide By Cop activity as we entered the studio to complete our final recordings with Stevie Ward before his announced departure. Most of the results were released as the Ice Cold Sunshine EP. The rest of the songs we kept back as we are planning to release a full 15 track album. This will include all of the songs which we wrote and recorded between 2009 and 2012. The release date and title are as yet undecided but we want to coincide it with the release of a brand new EP sometime in early 2014.

In February, tensions which had been surfacing in Dawn of Elysium between drummer Phil Holroyd and the rest of the band finally came to a head. This resulted in him leaving the band. As these things often are, it wasn’t really a massive deal in hindsight. It was unpleasant for us all at the time but in reality it was a situation which arose from misunderstandings. It was the first time Phil had been in a band and he underestimated perhaps what was involved and maybe we expected more from him than he could give. It could have been handled better but it doesn’t matter anymore. It’s just band stuff. He’s a great guy and a great drummer and our first EP Sense of Belonging is testament to this. We haven’t really spoken since but we certainly bear no ill feeling towards him.

Around about this time, it was announced that the company for which I had worked for 15 years was planning on making a considerable number of redundancies. It was scary to think that I could lose the job I had loved for many years from the company which had provided me with most of my professional experience and education. It was all I had really known.

March started off with Suicide By Cop’s final gig with Stevie. It was a fantastic night and it was great to have one last blast. We were genuinely sorry to see Stevie go but in reality, we had kept him for a bit longer than he originally planned in order to draw a fitting line underneath everything.

Throughout March, we developed the sound of Dawn of Elysium considerably as we switched to programmed drums as well as adding more atmosphere by introducing various effects. I think Phil’s departure brought a much needed kickstart to the band and the three of us became closer as musicians and friends.

On 28th March, my world fell apart as my mother passed away. To say I was absolutely devastated would be an understatement. It all happened so very quickly and it is something that I presently don’t think I will ever fully come to terms with.

We had planned an all day event called Honeypot at The New Beehive which took place on the 30th, just two days later. After much soul searching, I decided to press ahead with the gig and I am so glad I did. The love and support I received from all of my friends that day was overwhelming and just what I needed. The only bad thing to stem from that day is my breaking my three month abstinence from cigarettes, something which has remained broken since and which I am planning to address in the new year.

In the days to follow, the redundancy period was happening very rapidly and shortly after losing my mother, I also lost my job.

They say that these things often happen in threes and my final days of employment were ruined for me by a very painful injury to my knee. This rendered me immobile and in a lot of pain and my friends kindly helped me retrieve my personal belongings (which had mounted up considerably in my time there). The painkillers I was using zombified me for a time. I didn’t know whether I was coming or going, probably neither.

The spring/summer months saw me begin my journey towards finding new employment, whilst taking some time out to recuperate and recharge the batteries a bit. My confidence was in tatters and it was difficult to try and find my place in the world, especially since the one person to whom I always turned in times of difficulty was no longer there.

However, it has to be said that my girlfriend Emma has been a rock for me throughout all of these times and beyond and I truly love and appreciate her for everything.

Gigs with Dawn of Elysium were happening very frequently and they helped to occupy my mind to some degree. It was great to finally get out there, play in front of new people and make some fantastic new friends.

Suicide By Cop started on the long and difficult road getting used to a new band member in the shape of drummer Liam Brook. He had not played for years and his confidence was low when he joined the band. We essentially started from scratch but with that came a couple of much needed brand new songs. We rehearsed as and when we could and progress was very slow for a while but we stuck at it.

I went for a number of job interviews, initially losing more confidence with each one. I found it a harrowing experience overall. I very nearly secured a job in August and reached the point where it was between myself and one other candidate but alas this was not to be as they chose the other fella in the end.

At the end of August, we went on holiday to Vienna to visit my elderly relatives. It had been 13 years since I had been on holiday to a foreign destination and almost 25 years since I visited Austria as a child. It was exactly what we all needed. We had a fantastic time and returned with some very special memories. It was lovely to connect with some of my roots and I really want to go back in the not too distant future.

Upon returning home, my job search continued to no avail at first and hope was a bit thin on the ground. However, in late September a lifeline was presented to me as an ex-colleague offered me the opportunity to do some short term contracting work. This lasted 5-6 weeks and really gave me a much needed boost.

Around about this time, some friends of mine opened a new venue/nightclub in the West End area of Bradford called Vampire. I found myself falling in love with the club and taking the opportunity to be in the position of club promoter. I ploughed my all into it, working with the owners on building a roster of varied entertainment from the ground up. The initial push was demanding at first but served well to occupy my time before my contract work started.

Throughout October, I enjoyed working again for the first time in what seemed like an age. Things were starting to look up. The contract was temporary but it really brought my confidence level back up. I continued my search for further work and when the contract finished in early November, I stepped up the search, whilst enjoying my free time for the first time in ages.

A highlight of November was taking my daughter to her very first gig. It was for her 15th birthday. It was fitting as the gig took place at Leeds Met, which is where I went to my first gig when I was 15. She loved it and we loved taking her. I am looking forward to taking her to many more. I am immensely proud of the way she has turned out. She shares the same passion for rock music as me and she is very intelligent. I love her very much.

In early December, my friend informed me of a job which was going at his place of work. I duly applied and was offered an interview more or less straight away. After the first interview, I was invited back for a second and I am happy to say I was successful in securing the job. This allowed me to breathe a huge sigh of relief and enjoy the Christmas period with peace of mind.

We finished December off with two gigs, one for each band. These took place on consecutive nights at Vampire. The Dawn of Elysium gig was very enjoyable and we are hoping that it will be the last one playing the same set. We are gig weary from the gigs we have done and are eager to take some time out and write more material. Although we have a couple of gigs booked in February, we’re hoping to invest in more development time. We’re also in the process of finding another guitarist to give the sound more dimension.

The Suicide By Cop gig for me was more enjoyable. We hadn’t played live since Stevie’s last one in March. It was the first one with Liam and there were a lot of nerves building up to the gig. It was nice to finish off the year with our first gig together and we are all now very excited about starting 2014 in a much more positive light. Liam has now very much put his own stamp on the band and it has been great to see his confidence build up over the last few months. It has been a tough year for the band and there have been times when each one of us has probably considered our enthusiasm for it but the dedication and hard work have paid off. There is much work to do but I think the hardest bit of that first milestone is done.

The festive period has been an enjoyable but strange one. Christmas was always about family and the foundation of that for me and for many of us in the family was Mum. Certain things have changed in the family which I haven’t been ready to deal with so far and certainly Christmas was something that needed to happen before I could even bring myself to begin to. Consequently, this has seen me employing a certain amount of distance towards some of my family for a while. It certainly hasn’t been out of malice or ill feeling. I guess it’s just a part of the grieving process. Hopefully, when the decorations have been taken down and I start a new year with a clearer mind I can start to deal with a few things better.

We spent Christmas day with my friend Magda and Emma’s Mum. It was a lovely day and after a brief period of stress earlier on whilst we got the food all sorted, it was very relaxing.

And so, we are left with planning our last few nights out of the year before a new start next week. Looking forward to a fresh start, new job, security, new non-smoking regime, more productive in my music projects (bands and venue) and hopefully start to take better care of myself.

2013 has been a very emotional and at times a reckless journey but I survived it. It was probably one of the most challenging years I have experienced. Massive love and thanks to all my wonderful family and friends for helping me through it but most of all thank you to my wonderful Emma for being right by my side every step of the way. I can never express how much that meant and I will be forever grateful.

I hope you all enjoy the rest of the season and all the very best for 2014.


Well, it has been just over a year since my last proper blog entry. I don’t have much new to say and I don’t know if anyone will read much of this but my friend Wayne hinted I should write an update. So, why not?

2012 was a fantastic and chaotic year. As I stated in my previous entry, there were many changes in the latter part of 2011 and it was a bit of a rollercoaster of emotions as I left my old life and started to establish a new one. I resolved that 2012 was to be a year of fun and happiness and in the main part it was. There were gigs, festivals, parties, nights out, random trips and lots of spontaneity – which was exactly what I needed to blow away the cobwebs. New friendships were forged and sadly some old friendships faded. Lessons were learned about people, places and situations and overall, a sense of perspective was gained.

As the year went on, the apartment I moved into in September 2011 turned into “home” and my girlfriend and I began the process of settling down together properly. It has been a period of adjustment for both of us as we have tried to strike the balance between planning for the future and living for the moment. We are getting there now I think.

Musically, it was very much two sides of a coin.

On one hand, the new project (originally The Wraith) which began last January evolved nicely after a slightly shaky start and ended up becoming Dawn of Elysium. It took a little while but we developed it into something which we are all very happy with, managing to do our first couple of gigs and record our debut EP before the year was out. The future looks exciting for Dawn of Elysium and I am looking forward to getting back into the rehearsal room now that the New Year period has elapsed. I blogged about this on the Dawn of Elysium site.

On the other hand, it wasn’t the best of years for Suicide By Cop, saved in the main by playing at Nice ‘n’ Sleazy in Morecambe last June. Gigs and even rehearsals were thin on the ground for most of the year due to external commitments and problems. This ended up with our drummer, co-founder and my best friend Steve Ward deciding to leave the fold. I wrote about this on the Suicide By Cop site if you want to read about it. We are all saddened by this, including Steve and we are set to finish this phase of the band properly with some more recordings and a farewell gig due to happen in March. The rest of us have resolved to soldier on and find a replacement. Despite my current despondency towards the situation, I personally think that the project has a lot left to offer and I believe we still have our best years ahead of us. We have been going for 4 years and in the grand scheme of things, we haven’t really done very much gig-wise. We have some great material which I am very proud of and have committed a decent portion of it to disc but there is still more to do to realise the potential of the band.

The studio based project (The Last Cut) has not happened yet to any real degree. There has been a small start and a few emails / conversations but no real work has started as yet. It remains to be seen whether we will get round to it in 2013. I would personally like to but it depends on other people’s commitments as well as my own, it just hasn’t worked out very well just yet.

After an enthusiastic start to the year, I gradually all but phased out my promotions activities. The Commercial gig didn’t come off in the end as the management chose not to adopt the live music format. Right Up The Bracket II at Bradford Rio’s was a great day but despite talking about it, I never did any more events for the club before its closure in April. I did a few events for The Black Swan in the first half of the year, including DJ nights and also helped with a punk night at a short lived venue called Utopia but after a while, I admitted to myself that I wasn’t enjoying it and I wanted to concentrate on my bands. That said, I am collaborating in organising an all-dayer this year at The New Beehive. I like being involved in the odd event here and there and am not ruling out more. At the moment, I have had my fill of DJing. I had some great times last year but I think I would like to give it a good rest for a while. I am up for doing the odd night here and there if asked but am not actively seeking it.

I have enjoyed being a punter for a while to be honest. It has been nice to discover/rediscover more places this year. We occasionally have nights out in Halifax and Leeds and it has been a refreshing change. I think we’ll be visiting these places in particular more regularly as and when time and finances allow.

I have resolved to stop smoking this New Year and thus far I have managed 8 days smoke free. I know it is early days and I have been down this road before a few times so I don’t want to turn this into some half arsed smoking diary which may or may not get abandoned. Nonetheless, I have been 8 days with no cigarettes or any replacement therapy and the cravings have subsided to a large degree. After a tricky night in the pub at the weekend, the drinking side of things started settling down as we (unusually) went out on Sunday and Monday night too. I do feel I am ready to end my 18 year relationship with nicotine now. It has been a wholly fruitless experience on reflection and I am sure my lungs and bank balance will thank me for it. I have done the easy part of giving up, now for the much harder part of staying given up. Confidence is high though.

Anyway, as always thanks for reading and I hope 2013 brings you all your hearts desire 😉

The next chapter in the rest of my life

So, here we are in 2012 then. I have not written much of a blog for a while as there has been so much going on in my personal life, the particulars of which would not be fair of me to repeat on here for various reasons.

The last three or four months have brought many changes and I found myself beginning a very new chapter in my life; new home, new relationship and new responsibilities, both personally and professionally.

Now the dust has settled and the chaos seems to have subsided, I have started to reacquaint myself with myself. As many who know me will testify, my life has always been very much music orientated be it playing, DJing, promoting, watching or listening and up until the latter half of 2011, I seemed to have had forgotten that to an extent. Sure, to the outside observer I was doing those things but somehow I felt unfulfilled and had somehow lost a large part of myself. Moving into a situation where I am living alone, whilst a struggle at first has really helped me to find that again and having someone special in my life with whom I can properly share this, I can honestly say, has made me feel happier and more alive than I have ever been.

I have thrown myself into my music to a greater extent, continuing with Suicide By Cop almost into our fourth year, reforming Wild Trash for a short period and a gig or two, forming a brand new gothic rock band called The Wraith which is set to commence next week and planning a studio based project in the background called The Last Cut with my old mate and bass player / electro-programmer extraordinaire Ian Bell.

I am slowly creeping back into booking gigs again for my local and regular watering hole, The Black Swan and also for The Commercial Inn on James Street. I have got a 7-band event coming up on the 28th of this month at Bradford Rio’s (Right Up The Bracket II) and plan to keep my hand in up at The Polish Club as well. In addition to this, I have started doing some semi regular DJing nights at The Black Swan and have done bits at The Polish Club and The Commercial.

I have been revisiting my old vinyl collection too, which was criminally underplayed for many years. I have been playing my acoustic guitar which was sat gathering dust and I intend to bring my synth home and start tinkering with that again. I am just generally reigniting that spark which had somehow faded over the course of more years than I feel comfortable admitting to myself even.


Despite all my best intentions, the Open University module which I enrolled on fell by the wayside amongst the chaos of this transitional period but thinking about it pragmatically, I don’t need the qualification and I have all of the course material which I can pick up at a later date and work through in my own time. Trying to cope with everything whilst sticking to the study schedule was causing me undue stress and so I came to the (expensive) decision to withdraw from the course.

Family and friends have played a massive part in this transition and have helped me so much it moves me to tears at times. I consider myself very fortunate that I have such a bunch of loyal and loving people in my life and they really have stuck by me through thick and thin. My employers and workmates have also been incredibly understanding, offering whatever support they could.

Of course this period has not been without its casualties and my finances have taken a severe hammering, especially with Christmas happening. Fortunately, it has not been to an extent where I can’t recover from it, provided I start to exercise a bit of discipline. OK so discipline is not one of my strong points but I can but try.

Anyroad, a belated happy new year to you all and may you all find the happiness you deserve!

See change, sea change

As 2010 draws to a close, it seems to be the beginning of a number of changes for me – some good, some not so good.

As a few of my friends will know, I unfortunately lost my grandmother a few weeks ago as she finally lost her long and brave battle against cancer. We all loved Nanna dearly so this was a very sad occasion for us. It was nice at the funeral to meet up with family whom I seldom see but very sad to see her go. We had some nice visits in those final weeks, the memories of which I will cherish.

In the last week or so, I finally parted company with the Zuu bar. After over 2 years of events booking for the Zuu and before that the Mannville Arms, it was finally time for me to move on. It has had its ups and downs and some phases have been easier than others. After a recent communications breakdown at the venue, I initially decided to quit “for the foreseeable future” (i.e. a cooling off period and to get my breath back). However, I had not really been happy for some time and after more bad lines of communication, I have finally decided to move on completely. I won’t comment on the reasons any more than that. However, I would like to wish all of the staff at the Empress and the Zuu bar the very best. There is a fantastic team of dedicated people at those venues (and in the background) and they really do go the extra mile to keep things going from time to time. The last event I have booked there is this coming Saturday (11th) with Keyside Strike + The Bullet Kings + The Zombie Head Hunters. It is a great line-up with a great set of people. Sadly I will not be in attendance but it will be a fantastic night’s entertainment so please do call in if you are in the area. There are other outside promotions coming up in 2011 such as various Fungalpunk nights and Dragonfest so watch out for those.

A few weeks ago, Billy at the Black Swan had decided he would like to tackle bookings for the pub himself. I was involved in a limited capacity but at the time, I was too ensconced in the Zuu bar business to be able to do it justice, so this came as a welcome decision at the time. Billy has some great ideas and a lot of spirit for the Black Swan and the pub has really come into its own.

Events-wise, I am fairly relieved to be stepping down my commitments to be honest. I shall be supporting the Polish club where I can in times to come but I am happy to leave it at that for the time being. I have met some great bands and individuals over the last couple of years of doing this and am kind of looking forward to being a punter for a while. So, with that in mind, the old @ambivalent-productions.co.uk addresses for the Zuu and Black Swan will no longer be in use. I am still friends with people at various venues and am always happy to help out if I can, so please do ask. I cannot really commit to the levels I have in the past but I don’t mind lending a hand.

On the band front, things are changing round a bit after Mick has decided to leave the band. Things are on hold for SBC in the short term but we shall be back soon, initally down to a 4-piece probably. It is still early days yet, so much has to be discussed but we are still here and hope to be gigging again early next year. We are also hoping to play at some different venues too. More on this as it unfolds.

I would like to conclude by extending a warm and sincere thank you to all of my friends and family who have been there with me and for me through all of the above. I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas and I hope to see many of you out and about real soon. Cheers!

A new outlook

As we emerge blinking into 2010, another year, another decade infact. I am sure various people have been thinking about fresh starts in many ways and to some extent I am no exception.

I have resolved to afford time for the things in life which are truly important to me and to strike a better balance. For too long now, I have been bogged down by the whole Bradford music scene thing and the politics contained within, so much so that I let it consume me to some extent. Both with the BMC and with organising things for the Mannville and later the Zuu Bar, I spent an unhealthy amount of time thinking about and performing tasks related to this, sometimes doing things when my attention should have been elsewhere, waking up in the middle of the night to switch the PC on and fire off messages / set up Facebook events, going straight on the PC when I got up and when I got in from work. Not just with the bookings but with the online disputes and flame wars and trying to gather news for the BMC newsfeed as well as look for new ways of getting the word about. I have been at times, a man obsessed. I think it had affected my mental health a bit and has strained some friendships at times. It was reminiscent of when I was at the height of my degree commitments, except then I had a real workload to get through and a definite end goal to reach.

All the while, the rest of my life was not being given the attention it deserved and to some extent I was losing the plot. This last couple of weeks has been great as I have had the opportunity to spend some real quality time at home and in some ways it feels like I had been away somewhere.

I have been and still will spend quite a bit of time online but I have been using my own personal accounts more again recently rather than BMC ones (Blog/Twitter/MySpace) and have been trying to vary the kind of information I read as well as learn new things a bit. I do like social networking but am tending more towards the evolving Twitter culture rather than the (often banal) Facebook culture, which is getting more ridiculous by the week. Don’t get me wrong it is nice to keep in touch with friends but quite a few people are finding new and more ludicrous ways to waste time and bandwidth these days!

I have still been out and about over the festive period. I will always be a social animal and love going out with friends and listening to / watching cool music – this has been the whole driving force behind my music scene activities, However, until very recently my whole “going out” experience had an agenda behind it. I was switched on, networking, exchanging ideas and making sure other people where having a good time rather than simply enjoying myself. I was constantly arranging everything else around gigs at the Mannville / Zuu bar, sometimes speculatively and I consequently missed out on some cool events because of that. I also found myself going out more often and drinking more regularly. It was nice over xmas to go down to Idle village with some friends and just be out enjoying ourselves with a change of scenery. I need to do more of this socially and I shall do, whilst balancing it with a healthy amount of home life too.

Then there is the band. I have been enjoying this immensely. In the past a band has been a means of escape from the rest of life’s pressures but on this occasion, it has been intrinsically linked to them. We did have to put it on hold in October, again due to the venue(s) and both Mick and I were probably physically and emotionally tied up elsewhere whilst that happened. Thankfully (I think) we are now up and running again but it feels like a bit of a struggle sometimes. The music is great though and as long as we keep ticking over it should be fine. We are set to return to the rehearsal room on the 14th January, the day before our first anniversary (started our first rehearsal 15/01/09). I am personally looking forward to recording (allegedly in February).

There have also been brief talks about a brand new musical project which I may be involved in, which will likely be a more casual affair but I don’t want to jinx it by saying anything about it just yet. More on this as it unfolds. SBC will remain unaffected anyway.

So what future for the whole venue / bookings / BMC activities? Well, don’t get me wrong I will not be stopping doing any of this by a long chalk. After all, it does need doing and I do enjoy it. However, I will be re-addressing it with a healthier outlook and not be obsessing over it like I was.

I simply realised that I don’t have to turn up to every single gig that I have booked every week or spend my time agonising over things that don’t matter too much in the grand scheme of things. Yes I care deeply about music in my city, I will never let Mick and co. down and I will try and keep up the efforts to the best of my abilities. However, I realise that I don’t have to make it my sole purpose in life and I also realise that no-one has ever really had that expectation of me, other than myself.

So, apologies if I don’t get back to you quite as quickly as I have in the past or if it takes me a little longer than before to get things done or even if I do not get to every gig I have booked for you. I am still here and I still care very much! You could say that I have rediscovered “me” and the bigger picture of my life to some degree. I feel much more at peace and it has been a long time coming. More of everything else please!