The 10 Commandments (According To Captain Beefheart)

 

Beefheart once described his ‘thing’ to an uncomprehending radio interviewer as “music to dematerialise the catatonia”. His style was rhythm and blues-based but completely unorthodox in its approach to structure, rhythm and key. Magic Band musicians had names such as Winged Eel Fingerling, Zoot Horn Rollo, the Mascara Snake and Rockette Morton. They wore a ragbag of cloaks and the Captain wore a hat, usually a topper, which became his trademark. Here are his 10 Commandments to budding guitarists.

1. Listen to the birds

That’s where all the music comes from. Birds know everything about how it should sound and where that sound should come from. And watch hummingbirds. They fly really fast, but a lot of times they aren’t going anywhere.

2. Your guitar is not really a guitar

Your guitar is a divining rod. Use it to find spirits in the other world and bring them over. A guitar is also a fishing rod. If you’re good, you’ll land a big one.

3. Practice in front of a bush

Wait until the moon is out, then go outside, eat a multi-grained bread and play your guitar to a bush. If the bush doesn’t shake, eat another piece of bread.

4. Walk with the devil

Old Delta blues players referred to guitar amplifiers as the “devil box.” And they were right. You have to be an equal opportunity employer in terms of who you’re brining over from the other side. Electricity attracts devils and demons. Other instruments attract other spirits. An acoustic guitar attracts Casper. A mandolin attracts Wendy. But an electric guitar attracts Beelzebub.

5. If you’re guilty of thinking, you’re out

If your brain is part of the process, you’re missing it. You should play like a drowning man, struggling to reach shore. If you can trap that feeling, then you have something that is fur bearing.

6. Never point your guitar at anyone

Your instrument has more clout than lightning. Just hit a big chord then run outside to hear it. But make sure you are not standing in an open field.

7. Always carry a church key

That’s your key-man clause. Like One String Sam. He’s one. He was a Detroit street musician who played in the fifties on a homemade instrument. His song “I Need a Hundred Dollars” is warm pie. Another key to the church is Hubert Sumlin, Howlin’ Wolf’s guitar player. He just stands there like the Statue of Liberty — making you want to look up her dress the whole time to see how he’s doing it.

8. Don’t wipe the sweat off your instrument

You need that stink on there. Then you have to get that stink onto your music.

9. Keep your guitar in a dark place

When you’re not playing your guitar, cover it and keep it in a dark place. If you don’t play your guitar for more than a day, be sure you put a saucer of water in with it.

10. You gotta have a hood for your engine

Keep that hat on. A hat is a pressure cooker. If you have a roof on your house, the hot air can’t escape. Even a lima bean has to have a piece of wet paper around it to make it grow.

Though they bear numbers, they are not arranged heirarchically — each Commandment has equal import.

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A Fall

 

I am a bit worried this post may set the cat amongst the pigeons – indeed, I asked permission from a family member if they would object to me putting a post up here about the subject I am going to write about. The subject of Mental Health is still a taboo subject and, in many cases, still an elephant in the room; mental health, there said it again. In this blog post, I intend to put into words and rationalise the emotions and sensations that have been keeping me down in this most recent episode of my head.

Things have taken a bit of a dip here at Chateaux Backhouse – I am worried my brain is turning in to something akin to a dystopian science fiction novel penned by Philip K. Dick. I have around the same level of paranoia as the aforementioned author; just slightly blunted by the good doctors I have seen.

At the minute, if you shake me; I rattle – I am on a lot of medication and feel bloated and on a continual comedown. Today, I’m vacant.

I do not know if you are familiar with Simulation Theory, Dear Reader. It is the belief that all that we inhabit is a simulation – an alternative reality to the core reality where your cells inhabit. Indeed there are an infinite number of simulations and an infinite number of outcomes. Last night I thought I inhabited my brother’s simulation. I thought his back was better and he had attained deserved recognition from his peer group, that he had enough of an income to keep a roof over his young family’s head and, should he so wish, he could go out and buy a CD with enough disposable income to get some fancy coffee on the way home. I was convinced of all of these things. I was convinced I died in China in 1999 from malaria and the sum of my existence was only in this reality; my brother’s simulation. This may seem like tripe – but for a good four hours, I was tilting at windmills. You can’t tell from the calm, measured fashion I just recounted last night – but – I was really climbing the walls.

The ‘alternate reality/simulation theory’ has been a long standing theme through my health (yes, it is a matter of health … Malaria or Schizophrenia or a reaction to anti-malaria medication (I was on Larium)).

This simulation theory was the crux of my spirituality. Even when I was bothering God, I could not shake the spiritual metaphor that “we are all but feather’s ‘pon the breath of God,” as attributed to Julian of Norwich. This feather is spiralling to the ground and needs some extra ‘puff.’ I do not know if this blip in health is because I have been neglecting my inner dramas. I admit I have been neglecting my spiritual side – and, “Man cannot live by bread alone.” Inherently, we are spiritual creatures – Do I need a constant trickle of crazy to keep the floodwater from smashing the levee? In other words; “Do I need to have a ‘Prayer life’ to stop the spikes in a psychosis?” I admit I am not in a position to get out of the house much at the minute, so heading off on a Spiritual Quest seems a bit too much (first thing I would need to do is shower …). But, what do I mean by ‘Prayer Life?” The begging of the Universe to forgive me eating all the pork pies? No, it will be a dialogue between me and what goes on in my head; as prescribed by a Doctor I saw back in 2010.

I would quote Aleister Crowley; something about creating your own system or being enslaved by another man’s. But, instead, the quote on this post will be ….

Love Is The Only Principle Which Makes Life Tolerable.

  • Aleister Crowley

And that is how I will ride this Blip out. I am grateful for the confused help I am receiving and I will try and be a nice person, despite what adversity and tortures my mind throws at me. I will offer my psychosis ‘cake’ and that generally shuts it up. If the hallucinations are happy then I do not think I will get a full-blown psychotic episode like I did last night.

Ensure a gentle trickle of crazy to stop the dam being breached.

Grammarly On My Blog

 

As I wrote on my work blog – www.treebarkdesign.com/blog, I am trying a new app called Grammarly – It claims to be a “do-all” spell checker. But, most importantly, it also helps with Grammar – and as readers of my blog may know, my grammar is atrocious. It is a free tool that I have installed in my browsers (I use Firefox and Chrome) that tells you as you type where you went wrong. There is a version of the app that you can install in your browser and a version of the app that you can download for your OS. So far – so good.

I figure I would try the app by writing this post and deliberately putting in a few errors – so far so good. My biggest concern was that it would only update the text into American English – it is after all and US based app having a headquarters in San Francisco, California.

However, there is an option on the Profile page to set your default spelling and grammar to British English – it seems quite a good app and I am very impressed with it so far. The best thing about it is that it is free!

If you want to check out the free app, Grammarly, then please head over to www.grammarly.com

It could stop a costly error.

 

On Staying In

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On Staying In :: Quite a fan of Sploging – the days where your shower is at 10pm and you only get changed in to fresh Pyjamas. Well, today is one of those days. Admittedly, it is one determined by health – but still, it is a Splogy kind of day even though there is a fre festival happening in town.

I have a new EP due out on the fourth of August and the PR should be in full swing come the start of the week. The PR is already in full swing for the remix of a track I did (with the great help of my band-mate, Allan) for The Sarres. “Cosciente” is an authentic dub track built using traditional methods …

How To Produce A Traditional Dub Reggae Track In 6 Steps ::

This page will give you a basic idea of what producing Dub is about. Since Dub is an art-form which evolved from the recording techniques available in Jamaica back in the seventies the equipment used in this example is from that period too.

Of course nowadays you can use modern equipment which offers far more possibilities especially when it comes to editing and controlling details of the production (hard disc recording, mixing automation, ..). It is felt by some producers however that real dub must be mixed by hand in real time as a “direct-to-tape mixing performance”.

  1. Get the following equipment: multitrack tape machine, mixing console, amplifier and speakers to monitor your music, a second recording device to capture your final mix, effect units: delay, reverb, cables to connect everything, instruments & players: drums, bass, guitar, keyboards, horns, percussion, vocals
  2. Record a song or at least a basic arrangement. Make sure each instrument or instrument group is recorded on an individual track of your tape.
  3. Start by making a basic mix: Set the levels and equalising for each track on the mixing desk so that all elements are well balanced. (This alone is an art in itself, but this site is about Dub not about general recording techniques so we won’t go into details here).
  4. Run the song and switch on and off individual tracks during the song. Typical settings are: all tracks switched on, just drums & bass, all tracks except drums & bass, Voices are usually only thrown into the mix occasionally.
  5. Use the different effects on the individual tracks. Typical techniques are: Connect the effects to the auxiliary sends of your mixing desk. Thus you can apply an effect to a single track only. Set delay times to match the song speed (use whole beat, half beat, triplet timing. Very typical: one and a half beat) reverb or echo on the snare drum; not every-time but once in a while. Change the delay time during the song – this leads to echoes bouncing up and down in pitch (only on analog delay unit echo on the offbeat guitar: Open the aux send slowly over 2 bars letting the echoes accumulate until they start to overcrowd the sound then switch off the offbeat track. The delays will go on for a while and fade out.Make sure the sound stays crisp: keep bass and drums dominant; Don’t open all aux sends at once.
  6. Repeat the whole mix many times and listen to the recorded dubs afterwards. Then select the best version.

So …. now you know.

In other news, my radio show nearly ground to a halt – The Parish News has taken up a lot of time recently and I (and it) was lacking in energy and mojo. I knocked together a mix without any voice-overs and it seems to be doing okay – have had good feedback from some of the band’s that I feature in it; so I will keep on doing The Parish News.

A lot of my friends have been talking about how this past week has been … “funny.”

Some are blaming the weather, some are blaming electro magnetic fall out, some are blaming the aliens who live amongst us (maybe not) but it has been a a funny old week. One where a lot of things go wrong.

Well, here is the latest instalment of The Parish News –

The Best Gig I Have Been To Yet – Sunn O))) @ The Stylus, Leeds

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For sixteen years, Sunn O))) have been challenging the way we think about music. In that relatively brief time, core members Stephen O’Malley and Greg Anderson have forged connections between the worlds of Metal, Drone, Contemporary Composition, Jazz and Minimalism with startling results while remaining true to the eternal principles of volume, density and weight.

Sunn O))) are renowned for their no compromising live sets. I did not know if this was limited to their hometown of Seattle, Washington or if they pulled out all of the stops for all of their tours. So when I heard they were playing just down the road in Leeds I bought a brace of tickets and set off with Kathryn.

We descended the stairs to The Stylus and it became apparent that the band were pulling no punches. Despite getting there an hour before Sunn O))) were to step on stage we were met by a wall of dry ice as soon as we entered the main room. This artificial smoke was to be continuously pumped out throughout the live performance to the point that by the end of the gig we could hardly see the bar to our right, of which we were stood ten foot away from – let alone the group on stage. There was a thick fug – but we could make out most of their gear..

Smoke: The Beginning – Taken with an iPhone SE

So, Atilla took the stage at around 2030 and started muttering incantations. The mans voice was amazing. The room was shaking (physically and atmospherically) to just the gruff growl of a satanic blessing – at least that is what I thought he was doing. It was a bit hard to make out with the smoke machines. Kathryn thought he was speaking in Elvish.

Then the Guitars started. And my what drone. To call it a musical feat would be belittling music and in turn be belittling the spectacle that we witnessed at the Stylus. To be so tight as a group as to know when exactly to play your note is something else – but it was more so with Sunn O))) as there was no beat or drummer yet could do just that. But there were smoke machines. From what we could make out through the fog, the members of the group were all clad in robes.

Smoke Pt. II – Taken with an iPhone SE

Was what we went to see? Music? Noise? Ah, an old debate. I’m comfortable saying it was music even though they played drawn out notes for forty seconds – it was tight and it was organised sound therefore I would describe it as music. The was the whole minimal/maximal thing going on and they pulled it off really well

But the volume! Hands down the loudest gig I have ever been to. The hair on my shorted legs was flapping about as the notes blurred and pulses into an overwhelming climax that saw Atilla have a outfit change so he re-appeared on the stage, dressed as what can only be described as Disco Sauron – with lasers shooting out of his mittens.

Smoke: The Finalé – Taken with an iPhone SE

It was hard to make out the member’s of the group on stage – Atilla was lit up with a spot-light and had his own smoke machine bubbling away at his feet. Stephen O’Malley & Greg Anderson were only seen right at the end when the curtain call came. There was no encore – the Satanic Mass had ended and were released to go about our business. I think I saw Atilla waving a blade around in the fog – so, this could have been an actual ritual. If you know a bit more about the group than me then feel free to fill in the comments section and correct me.

It was easily the best gig I have been to – Kathryn echoed that sentiment too. It was completely overpowering. It was non-compromising. It was inspirational. Tomorrow, I will picking out my SUNN amp and dusting off my guitar – sod the poncy Jazz Guitar, Drone is what I want to do now.

Letter #13

 

I have the good fortune to be a member of Amnesty and Liberty. They are both Human Right’s Groups who campaign for mankind’s betterment – I figure all I have to do is click a few buttons to express my point of view – how different that could be if I was just born in another country.

So, when Amnesty UK emailed me asking for support I jumped at the opportunity – I have emailed another letter to Andrew Jones – Member of Parliament for Harrogate & Knaresborough.

I admit that most of the following is copied and posted from Amnesty’s web site – but the more people who hear about it the better. Strength in numbers … right? To petition your own MP to attend the debate please click here.

Arrested at the airport

Nazanin had been visiting family in Iran with her daughter Gabriella, and was about to board a flight back to London from a Tehran airport when she was arrested by officials believed to belong to Iran’s Revolutionary Guard. Her toddler daughter was handed to her grandparents who had accompanied them to the airport, while Nazanin was taken away.

A family torn apart

Following arrest, Nazanin was subjected to 45 days in solitary confinement. Her family had no idea where she was, and it wasn’t until a month later that she was allowed to see them; or to be granted access to a lawyer. Any contact with her family in Iran and the UK is now limited and controlled.

Gabriella, now three, has had no choice but to remain in Iran with her grandparents. She gets to see her mum just twice a week and only gets to speak to her dad, Richard Ratcliffe by Skype. Richard has campaigned tirelessly for his wife’s freedom from their home in the UK.

Nazanin’s ‘crime’

Nazanin was arrested on vague charges, held in solitary confinement for months, and – following an unfair trial – was sentenced to five years in prison for ‘membership of an illegal group’.

The charge was in connection to her work at the Thomson Reuters Foundation (TRF), a charity organisation promoting socio-economic progress, independent journalism and the rule of law, and her past work at BBC’s Media Action.

We therefore consider Nazanin a prisoner of conscience, held solely for peacefully exercising her right to freedom of expression and association: she must be immediately and unconditionally released. 

Health concerns

Prison is taking its toll on Nazanin. She suffers from severe arm, neck and back pain and needs urgent specialised medical care in hospital. In recent months, she has had very limited movement in her arms. The specialist who requested her hospitalisation warned that there is a risk that her right arm and hand will be permanently damaged if she doesn’t get the medical care she needs.

Kamal Foroughi

Nazanin is in no way the only dual national in prison in Iran. Kamal Foroughi, a 77-year-old British-Iranian man, is also imprisoned in Iran serving a seven-year prison sentence in Evin prison, Tehran, for alleged espionage, with no evidence or explanation ever provided. He was arrested in May 2011 by men in plain clothes who did not show an arrest warrant or explain the reasons for his arrest.  He was kept in solitary confinement for 18 months before being convicted in an unfair trial.

Like Nazanin, Kamal is separated from his family – he hasn’t seen his daughter, son or two granddaughters for six years. He has not had any outside visitor for over 2,000 days and he’s not allowed to write or receive letters.  

Also, like Nazanin, he has not been provided with much needed specialist medical care. Despite needing an operation to remove cataracts in both eyes and screening for prostate cancer, Kamal has repeatedly been denied leave on medical grounds. Read more about Kamal’s case on the next tab.

UK’s role

Although Prime Minister, Theresa May and other Ministers have raised concerns about Nazanin and Kamal with the Iranian government, and have called for Kamal to be released on humanitarian and medical grounds, it is deeply concerning that they have yet to call for Nazanin’s release.
It is time for the UK government to up the pressure and publicly call for both Nazanin and Kamal to be released from prison and brought back home to the UK.

Kamal Foroughi & Grand-daughter

Kamal Foroughi should be free

According to Iranian law Kamal has been eligible for release since January 2014 as he has served a third of his sentence. His lawyer has made more than 50 applications for his release on this basis but there has never been a formal response. In addition, he has been barred from legal advice and contact with his family at various points throughout his six-year incarceration. He was denied access to a lawyer from the day of his arrest until the day before his trial. Now, in prison, he has only very limited access to a lawyer. He has not been allowed British consular assistance either.

Kamal has not seen his daughter, son and two granddaughters for six years (they all live in/near London) and was not allowed to call them for the first three years of his detention.

He has not had any outside visitor for over 2,000 days.

He is permitted regular phone calls but must only speak in Persian, which family members in the UK do not speak well, making it difficult for them to communicate with him.

It is time for Kamal to come home.


Dear Andrew Jones MP,

As you may be aware, there will be a Westminster Hall debate on Tuesday, 18 July at 4.30 pm – 5.30 pm in the House of Commons on British prisoners in Iran. This is a real opportunity to show the government how much support there is in Parliament for the release of two British-Iranian dual nationals, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Kamal Foroughi. I know you will have a busy Parliamentary schedule, but I am writing to ask you if you could please attend the debate and join the call and ask the UK government to press for their release.

Background:

Nazanin was arrested in April 2016, when she was attempting to board a flight home to the UK after visiting her parents in Iran with her then 1-year-old daughter Gabriella. She is currently serving a five-year prison sentence after she was convicted of “membership of an illegal group” in connection with her work at the charity, Thomas Reuters Foundation, and her past work at BBC Media Action. Nazanin is a prisoner of conscience imprisoned solely for peacefully exercising her rights to freedom of expression and association through her professional work and must be immediately and unconditionally released.

Kamal is a 77-year-old British-Iranian man serving a seven-year prison sentence in Iran, for alleged ‘espionage’, with no evidence or explanation ever provided. He was arrested in May 2011 and was kept in solitary confinement for 18 months before being convicted in an unfair trial. Under Article 58 of Iran’s Islamic penal code, which allows for the conditional release of prisoners after serving one third of their sentence, Kamal is eligible for release and has been since January 2014. The Iranian authorities must apply this provision without discrimination.

Thank you for your support.

Andrew Backhouse


In the interests of democracy I will publish Andrew Jones’ reply in the comments section of this post.

Kathryn Had A Vinyl Birthday!

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So then, the love of my life, Kathryn Backhouse had a birthday today – she has given permission for me to print her age on this blog. She is no longer twenty one years old but has reached the fine age of thirty three –  we call this a “vinyl birthday” in our house (33 // 45 // 78). She has grown in beauty and grace everyday since I met her drunkenly in a nightclub when she was 21.

The road of matrimony has not been smooth due to me and my health but Kathryn has always been there to level out my Yin with her Yang. She is the best thing to ever happen to me.

So, what happened on her birthday? I admit I missed out on the first part (the AM of the day) due to a late night at CREAO Studio with Stewart and Allan recording the Sound of Wonder Show.

However, as soon as I woke I was dispensing gifts.

For Kathryn’s birthday I bought her a print by locally acclaimed artist Robby Burns and some vinyl – well, it is a vinyl birthday (33rpm) so I bought her the vinyl she would like. I got her two records by Blood Youth – a local group who Kathryn has been following for a year or so. I admit we are yet to stick it on, but it bodes well and their sticker is on our fridge now.

Here are an image Kathryn took with her phone of one of her gifts –

 

 

I went for a power snooze around two and woke up at five – this was quite disconcerting as I thought I had broken the bad cycle of day time sleeping. Still – it rejuvenated me for the on-coming evening. We had a table booked at the local Cau Restaurant and the meal there was fantastic!

I am always worried that this will turn in to a “what I had for tea” blog – but seriously, I cannot praise the food and the friendly staff at Cau higher – they really looked after us and the food was tip top. Whilst at Cau, we experimented – we figured we had never taken a selfie in our eleven year’s worth of relationship. So, I plucked up the courage and asked Kathryn if I could take a selfie – and what a selfie:

We hot footed it down to Major Tom’s Social Club to see about getting a few beers down us. Simon G. was there and he was a the life and soul of the get together – me, Kathryn and Simon chewed the fat and had a great time. The highlight of my beer tasting was buying a can of Verdant’s “Chasing Kevin” – a delicious Cornish Pale Ale brewed using five Malts.

I gave the barkeeps’, Sam & Joe, a taste and went home carrying a cactus with a sense that all is well with the world. Yes, there were drunken farmers arguing with Take-Away shops. But, there was also us, a couple walking home, who were so desperately in love that the roots of the initial blossom of their relationship have intertwined so much that me and Kathryn are inseparable for a lifetime and beyond.

I love you Kathryn. Happy Birthday. x

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