Tuesday, 2 February 2021

Pondering Sobriety


The following was a post I made on Facebook to "celebrate" one year of sobriety. It is a hollow celebration, for sure, but this statement won't matter at all to anybody except for any person that could need to see it.

It is no secret that music and substance abuse go hand-in-hand; drug use and alcoholism is glorified in our general perception of musicians, and this archetype filters down through every level of player. The conflation of work with hobby makes for ambiguous modalities where you spend a lot of time “at work” in pubs, clubs, or rehearsal rooms, outflanked by people who are able to drink or use drugs.

It is also well-understood that mental illness is over-represented in creative industries, which offer a different path for people who struggle with a “normal” job. “They’re amazing, but you couldn’t imagine them working in a bank,” is a statement I’ve heard levied at a significant number of the most talented people I’ve worked with – and it certainly matches my experience prior to committing to music work full-time.

The conflation of those two negative elements is equally well-codified within our perception of musicians: “the 27 club,” genre-defining musicians who were killed by substance abuse far too soon, and then celebrated for doing so, musicians crushed underfoot by the pressures of their vulnerability, choosing to take their own life, and so on. These are not mutually exclusive, and one element certainly portends to the others - and this horrid list is hardly even exhaustive.

There are people for whom the above will never be an issue, and then there are people for whom the above will only ever be an issue. It is easy to be in the latter group, hoping to assume the strength of the former – but it is easier to reject the game outright. I’m not particularly happy to celebrate one year of sobriety today, but I would rather publicly stand for that in the hopes that some other person at some time would maybe see it and perhaps be empowered to choose life, than, in my silence, allow this already disparate group of survivors, to which I belong, live in that pressured solitude, which crushes underfoot so quickly and easily.

Philip K. Dick ends “A Scanner Darkly” with a sombre eulogy for “some people who were punished entirely too much for what they did.” The dead should, if possible, be used to serve the purposes of the living, and so for me (and for nobody else, as it is my personal choice relating only to myself, with no judgement upon the way anyone else lives, or chooses to live), with a heart full of dead friends and heroes, it seems better to steer clear outright. When the consequences for losing are so severe, it is better to win; it is easy to win, and anybody can win.

Friday, 27 November 2020

Christmas Presents and Christmas Wishes!


    It's still November but I'm just about set up for Christmas! I'm currently offering discounted lessons and sessions via my gift cards - if you're buying someone an instrument for Christmas, giving them a 5 week starter course on top can make all the difference. If they're for an already a talented performer or composer struggling with writer's block after this wretched year, then we can get straight to work getting back on track to create some awesome stuff in the new year!

    I've been busy as hell through UK Lockdown 2, with lots of remote teaching and a few sessions to keep things interesting: some furtive Radio Eroticism recordings that I need to sift through, as well as laying down drums for a track by SiNic that should be getting released pretty soon! I've got a possible Christmas single to drum for in a week or so - I'm glad I invested in the extra recording gear as an early present for myself! If you're on the hunt for a session player, let me know via my Contact page and I'll book you in in the next 8 weeks!

    I was a featured vocalist on an electronic track "Gone" from UKS Records that'll hopefully get released pretty soon so I can tag a link in - I've been trying to up my singing chops for a while, so I've gotten involved with quite a few more vocal sessions recently. I'm pretty happy with my progress (I don't need quite as much autotune as on Gone...!), although some of recordings I'd probably best leave in the private collection unless someone really wants to hear my dodgy Sepultura covers. I'll probably get a few covers in at some point once my beloved Ibanez comes back from re-fretting with Nottingham Guitar Tech.

    We all know that this year's been bone-dry for gigs, but it's given me a solid chance to sit in the woodshed and get the practice hours in while watching old silent movies (any recommendations?), so I'm hoping that once rehearsals are able to restart in the new year, I'll have some more flash to show off in my playing. That said, I'm being heartily diverted by the 9-string guitar, and by picking up violin to boot. I'm always up for more challenges, although it'll probably be a while before my violin intonation is worth hearing. At least I got the Christmas decorations up ahead of schedule for remote teaching!

Monday, 12 October 2020

UK COVID Regulations Update

To all my students,

        An update based on the new COVID regulations released today:

                   For remote students: business as usual!    

                    For in-person students: be cautious, but business as usual!

        With Nottinghamshire being placed in "Tier 2", the updated restrictions apply to social gatherings rather than businesses (shops, pubs, restaurants, myself) – and in the higher “Tier 3,” shops and educational facilities would stay open where leisure facilities and hospitality businesses will close. The government is highlighting the importance of maintaining education services through all this, and so I'll be doing everything I can to safely keep things running even if Nottinghamshire or Erewash moved up to “Tier 3” in future.

Although some of my students are Nottinghamshire-based, my studio is located within Erewash, so I'm technically under “Tier 1” restrictions, which is the same 6-person rule as the rest of the country - although I encourage my Nottingham students to take extra care while the virus is at large.

        As such, I will continue business as usual for the foreseeable future – although majority of you are remote students, the minority that wish to come to the studio will still be able to while following the same social distancing guidelines I've had in place the last few weeks. I'm still disinfecting the studio between students, and making sure no in-person student are back-to-back to reduce any risk of transmission. You've all been fantastic at keeping distance, wearing masks, and cancelling lessons if you or somebody close is showing symptoms - although I normally have a late-cancellation fee, I'll be waiving this for any illness-related last-minute cancellations while the virus is looming – better safe than sorry! If I or someone near me starts showing symptoms, I'll immediately cancel all in-person lessons until I've taken a test, and then update from there.

I am confident that there are more curveballs in store, so it's possible that I'll have to post out another update if the guidelines are updated, or we move drastically beyond “Tier 3,” but hopefully this clears the confusion in the mean time. If you have any questions or concerns, you can always let me know.

As always, stay safe, stay indoors, and remember: perfect practice makes perfect!

                        All the best,


Thursday, 20 August 2020

Back to the Grind

    In a bit of an anti-twist, my brief foray into game sound design didn't quite pan out, although I'm very happy for the reason: I'd had a few calls, but by the time I was able to get into interviews, I suddenly had too much teaching and technician work come flooding in - so it looks like I'm back to business as usual, although I'm still composing for Inspiratio Studio and for another project that hasn't yet been announced.


    The studio is looking good! I've still got a few last bits to do before I can finally end my career as a painter/ decorator, but it certainly feels great to have a musical home! I'm in there every day working on something or other, but not much student footfall - although I'm now teaching in-person again (with masks, disinfectant, and social distancing), a lot of my students have embraced remote teaching from the comfort of their home! It's not quite the same, but it certainly has it's advantages! I've got a narrow few slots open at the minute, so send me a message via the Contact page if you're interested to know more!

    I don't have too many upcoming projects to discuss - my production work is functionally on hold while I reground myself with some slightly less bonkers working hours, and that unfortunately means my own music is also on hold - the Radio Eroticism - Earth Drowning record is sounding better and better, but doing a bad job of honoring "Early 2020". There's another Radio Eroticism album on the way too - but I'll talk about that next time (maybe).


    It's important to stay humble - what is easy for me can be a nightmare for my students, and "just do this" is never a good enough answer from a teacher. With that in mind, I've decided to tackle a new instrument to remind myself about those grueling beginner practice hours, with a guitar that my students have described as both "awesome" and "totally evil". It's a 9-stringed Ibanez RG9, and it certainly feels both to play... Though having the range of an entire piano (!) on a guitar is quite something! Not that I have the time to play it at the minute...

    Everyone told me that after the first few years running a business, you get to start having days off and sleeping more than 60 seconds a night again - I can't wait to find out what that's like...! As per usual, if you're interested to more about my work or availability, you're welcome to get in contact with me. In the mean time, back to the grind!

Thursday, 11 June 2020

Through a Door Upwards

It feels like I'm starting to arbitrarily begin these posts with a lament about how overdue it is - anyone who tries to keep up with me by email knows what a bad habit I have!

I've contacted all of my current students already, but for anyone who doesn't know yet, this COVID business hasn't meshed with self-employment very well, and so I'm jumping in as a game development gun for hire within the broader Nottingham community! I've been cutting my teeth as an audio over the last 2 years with several projects, most notably with Inspiratio Studio for the last 18 months, but I'm interested in reapplying some of these skills in a larger team. I spent the month of May building a small playable demo I'll hopefully release soon once I've fixed a few minor bugs, but there's a video below!

Playable CV Video

I'm still teaching, but it's moving over to my secondary income stream - my biggest priority is keeping the lights on, and I feel that the best way to secure that in the long run is to admit that life has changed quite dramatically in the short term! I'm not sure quite how it'll all integrate together, but I appreciate you all persevering with me in the mean time - I think we're all struggling with the pervading uncertainty!

The studio (Degan Studios? I should probably christen it with it's own name at some point) is certainly staying open, and slowly getting closer to looking "finished"! It's certainly a space I feel very comfortable and at home in, so as it approaches it's 6-month-iversary, here's to 6 more, hopefully slightly less turbulent months!

Saturday, 21 December 2019

Merry Christmas, and a busy new year!

Quoth Ferris Bueller, life moves pretty fast. I blinked for a second, and suddenly everything's turned upsidedown and I'm months behind updating my to-do list, to say nothing of my "done" list! I've just moved to The Loft in Long Eaton, where I'm currently teaching piano, guitar, drums, composition, theory, production, and so on! I'm still pretty much booked out during the "rush hour" hours of 4pm-8pm, but I've got daytime slots left for any adult students who aren't constrained by the usual 9am-5pm shift pattern!

My drumming is on the way up - I finally got around to taking my Grade 8, which I passed with Distinction, so I can finally get to working on my LTCL degree-level drum qualification - which mostly means getting to grips with Gavin Harrison's incredible material with 05Ric! I've only got the one recording session booked in at the minute, as drummer for Kyros alumni Samuel Higgins, for the as-of-yet-unlaunched band The Great Manta. The material is hard as hell, so I'm looking forward to the challenge!

Once I've cleared the immediately pressing to-do list, I'll be releasing Earth Drowning From Soil To Sky, the third Radio Eroticism release, which finally features new players and vocals! I'd previously expected to finish the 2nd Aurigae album this year, but that looks to be a long way off - I may well delay that in the Autumn while life gets in the way.

As always, I'm always up for just one more project, or just one more student, so if you're interested, send me a message and I'll find a way to fit you into my schedule! I'm hoping to get a whole lot more music made in the new decade, so if you can help me toward my goal, I can't wait to get back to work!

Thursday, 24 October 2019

Success, Stress and Waiting Lists

Having survived the immediate post-graduation aftermath, I've been operating pretty successfully as a teacher and player! Thanks to a surprisingly overwhelming demand, I've now had to implement a waiting list for new students during the "after-school" hours between 4pm-8pm, since I'm totally booked up! I'm still taking new students during the daytime, but you might want to contact me to find out for sure! Since I don't update this blog very often, you should probably ask away anyway, since it'll surely be out of date by the time you read this!

I've got the occasional live and studio session coming in, and a few other projects on the boil, but have been in the grinder as far as time and energy managing the usual turmoil of life. Once that simmers down, I'll be hitting 2020 pretty hard as I gun for a bit more mixing work and video editing to fill out my daytimes, besides the usual rehearsal time!

There's not much to report at the minute - most of my band work is in stasis while we brew material, and all of the teaching work doesn't leave much to report on, although my FirstTutors reviews suggest my students are pretty happy with me! I'd better keep cracking on with that, but I'm hoping I'll have slightly more to report by the time I check in next!