“After silence, that which comes closest to expressing the inexpressible is music.” – Aldous Huxley
I’m writing this article because I love music. I always have and I always will do. At times in my life it’s been the only thing that I have had that makes any sense – it has saved my soul. I know that music can heal division across race, culture and belief/political systems. Music has been with us since the start of human consciousness – it is perhaps only predated by art as the first ‘spiritual activity’ that helped us draw aspects of our subconscious minds into society as a valid expression of our sense of imagination and our inherent desire for progression. Through this expression we can change our sense of self and how we understand those around us for the better.
My personal music journey began with Toyah Wilcox, ELO and Adam and the Ants (keep reading pleeeeze!) – hanging around in my elder brother’s bedroom chatting about how cool certain sounds were – we had our own little thing going on with this away from our parents as children. Since then I’ve learned that apparently Jeff Lyne (ELO) wrote the entirety of ‘Out of the Blue’ in 2 weeks stuffed out of his face on cocaine – good work Jeff you legendary snow plough!
After this foray I rapidly descended from rock, (god I actually bought Bon Jovi’s ‘Slippery When Wet’) into metal, then goth, then psychedelia, followed by every extreme aural soundscape imaginable. The hunger inside me for extremity wasn’t in retrospect about music, it was about the extremes of human consciousness – the crossover between conscious deliberation and subconscious freedom – still the eternal key to writing good ‘choons’.
My brother gave up on being interested in my music collection. He became convinced that I just liked ‘weird for the sake of weird’ (brother Lawrence during this time I was still head phoning Aha – admittedly I kept this a bit quiet given I was young and still concerned about looking cool in front of my peers). For a while I became a truly ‘sensitive artist’ – pop or anything commercially acceptable did not fit with my own sense of pushing conscious boundaries.
As I’ve aged and mellowed/given up I’ve let pop back in (a bit). Recently I’ve loved the first half Of Nero’s ‘Welcome Reality’ album (drop the second half!?!?!), whilst realising that ‘yoot’ has already passed beyond any Dubstep shenanigans, probably being old school given the album was released an awfully long time ago in 2010! Good music to me is about placing something where it needs to be and whilst I wouldn’t pretend to really enjoy the entire X Factor ‘Karaoke Queen/King’ soul sucking belief that all talent has left humanity for good mentality, I’m far less judgemental of the whole proceedings (ish) these days.
I’ve played in many bands since the age of 17 with varying degrees of absolutely no commercial success, from my first collaboration ‘Children shouldn’t play with dead things’ through to ‘Siberian space disaster’ and the current and best musicians I’ve had the pleasure to play with, ‘Dead Dux’. To play music with good friends is a great honour. As a band we are OLD – even the young un’s in the band are in there 30’s and I’m very close to a decade on from them regarding grey hairs. We play together because we enjoy each other’s company, perspective, passion and we believe we have something musically valid to express. The majority of bands start because the members want to live the ‘lifestyle’ – drugs, sex, fame fortune etc. Most give up in their early twenties when they realise that the only way to make money out of music is to learn covers and gig at functions like weddings, because in truth, there is no support for original and creative music in any shape or form other than from a passionate and usually unpaid few.
Don’t believe the record companies responses to the digital age regarding the inability to fund new talent – most never gave a flying fxxck about anything other than unit shifting. The current internet fuelled response to this means artists, as they did under record companies, still earn nothing from music but at least they can express themselves and develop their own fan base away from cash hungry idiots telling them what is right or wrong regarding the most recent ‘fifteen minutes of fame’!
Living in Chelmsford is frustrating as a musician. Perhaps our proximity to London holds the town back but our ‘countryside cousins’ in Colchester fair much better with every aspect of culture compared to Essex’s capital town (yeah sorry council gentry we probably won’t ever have enough crack heads, armed police or MUSIC VENUES to be considered a city even if we do end up with a John Lewis!!!).
There are a few local bastions of local music, Panic magazine (Andy Poole, Dan Hewitt, James Lapham, Lucy Jones, Dusk Daily, Kat Howchen, Paul Dale and David Arsoctt and crew), Shakey’s Night’s (Dave Wheelhouse), the and those that support his efforts, Barhouse/Hooga (Mark Jon and Jon) and maybe you can even include Captain Fleece (Brett) in this as well given there are some excellent bands at The Fleece, as a manager his efforts have definitely facilitated Chelmsford’s music scene!
Generally bands don’t get paid for playing in Chelmsford, Shakey, having had experience with the gent (regarding our own band), always does his best to pay bands but unless you bring in the crowd you won’t generally get paid and many venues will only have original live music on a Monday/Tuesday/Wednesday/we’re empty night – of course that’s going to work! (fail). For venues themselves it’s always got to be about the pound note – as with any business you need cash to survive.
This should be where local council has a greater part to play – we do have funded events (Fling etc) but this is different to having a dedicated music venue where the pound sign doesn’t rule creativity. If the Chelmsford music scene continues to be dictated by the pound sign there is still little future for music in Chelmsford. I attend a lot of nights in Chelmsford, sometimes busy, but all too frequently lacking in attendance. Whilst I’ve seen some fantastic local bands and met some great people, still the only thing Chelmsford is known for regarding music is V Festival which currently has nothing to offer local musicians who want a platform or audience to appreciate their efforts. Thanks Virgin/Branson – glad to know you care!
In all truth I have few solutions to my comments above but I think the start of it actually lies with bands and musicians – if you are in a band then support other bands, if you love music rather than trying to look good on stage then why not attend each other’s nights. If people who proclaim to love music can’t be bothered then no-one else will. I will always live in hope and I will always enjoy seeing bands I’ve not seen before and go back for those I enjoy.
I’m truly grateful for the effort a few have made to making Chelmsford something more than a shopping centre and I can only hope that their efforts continue to make this town a more fruitful creative melting pot.
PLAY MORE MUSIC.