ramblings on the nature of spare-room music

I think it is generally acknowledged nowadays that making music is not problematic. I am lucky to be one of the <insert big number guess> with a computer, a guitar or two and a microphone in the spare room. Like all those people, I can make music of my liking, unhindered by annoyances like other people or time or studio dollars, to a quality unimaginable when I started out. I won’t go into what “quality” means in this sense as that is not really the point.

The point is what you do with your music once it is done. From my bedroom studio, I think there are people out there in the ether with a similar musical worldview to me, who I like to think would enjoy The Complex Engine if they got to hear it. How to find and connect with them is the challenge…..

Initially, I naively thought that Facebook would be the best means of promotion. And indeed, it is a useful thing. However, I was shocked – call me stupid – at how few of my FB friends actually got to see my “release”. I had woefully underestimated the speed at which things disappear off the FB timeline. Anecdotal and actual evidence showed that it was not simply that the music was unlistenable, though I am happy to say it is not to everyone’s taste. Many FB friends who I think would be partial to my music never knew it existed.

This really caused me to examine exactly what I was trying to achieve, something musicians probably don’t spend enough time pondering. If they did, they’d probably give up. I had made some music that I was happy with, stuck it on the web. I told my FB friends about it. Those that listened seemed to think it was ok, and a few downloaded it. If that was it, did it matter? Was it enough? Was I successful if I liked it and no-one else did? Or if it was never heard beyond my friends and family? Did it need to be liked or downloaded or played by some undefinable number or type of people to be successful? Given that I am not yet playing live and not part of a scene, what is a reasonable expectation? How long can one be happily lost in the long tail?

I don’t know the answer yet, but this is one of the few moments where I will acknowledge my ego comes into play – I reckon my music is plenty good enough, when compared to other things, to find a niche audience somewhere. And that niche should be big enough to provide sufficient feedback to make me think it is a worthwhile endeavor, over and above entertaining myself as a hobby.

So what am I trying to achieve? Well, I find it really easy to dislike a lot of music. I am unsatisfied and frustrated by most things I hear, so my primary motivation is to fill those holes and make something that I want to hear. I want to hear a guitar that sounds like this, a drum that sounds like that, a structure that is like a building instead of a pop song, a melody that is not a melody, lyrics that are as much about nothing as they are about something. Like a lot of people (so I’m led to believe) this helps one make sense of the world. Certainly it is an odd sense of relief and satisfaction when something is completed and I can sit back and say “yes, that is right, that is how it should be”. It is also a bit of new hobby for me – the nature of a “good song”, what works, what doesn’t, and why that is so. It is a different thing applying such analysis to your own work instead of listening to other people’s songs.

Secondly, I like the idea of making these things as a thank you to those whose music I have enjoyed over the years. Making stuff for others is more satisfying than making them solely for yourself.

Finally, I like building things, and it is fun to use the things I build – guitars, preamps, mixers, amps, fuzz boxes etc.

Note – in case it is not self evident – that making money, or burning cd’s, do not feature on this list. More those another time.

web units

I was a bit over music today so thought I’d try something different:

WU meter 250

there must be better things to do

Lord help me now I need to spend my time making & integrating a facebook page. To say nothing of twitter, reverbnation, tunecore etc etc

aiming for the stage

Well, I know that throwing music out there to be swept away by the long tail is a pretty pointless exercise, and I miss the smell of stale beer on the stage floor. So, to follow up on my groundbreaking solo performance to 6 people 4 years ago (it was groundbreaking for me), I have roped a friend into playing bass and we have started working on performing these things. Drummer and keyboard player required….else we’ll just have to use loops.


Initial goals are simple – 4 or 5 songs at UFO, and we’ll take it from there. Past experience tells us to manage expectations. Downwards!

First gig – tick

Played my first ever solo gig at the Wine Cellar last week. Only did 3 songs to an audience of a couple of dozen, but that was what I was aimimg for for first time around. I thought it went pretty well.

Was also pleased to find poet David Merrit on the same card, seeing as we go a long way back….grotty, mouldy flats in Moray Place in Dunedin, about 1985/86 give or take a bit.

Bit by bit….

Horribly unprofessional I know, but the web site is being developed in public rather than behind the scenes. Hence the themes and content will be cranky until I settle on something I like and can manage. But if I do it properly nothing will ever hit the web….