Being a musician (again)

I’ve been making music since I was 15 when my stepdad got me an electric guitar.  Many, many months of leaning to play followed and eventually I managed to start strumming some recognisable tracks. I was into Brit Pop, Grunge and Dance and I used to rip beats off other tracks and layer some guitar over them with some mad effects.  Occasionally a few moments of greatness followed, but the majority sounded pretty shocking.

I also wrote a shed load of poetry.  Over a period of 5 years I wrote over 500 or so poems, lyrics and ideas for songs.  These were written under the guise ‘The Monsoon Project’ and were documented as numbered collections – a bit like an album in a way.

Years went by and I started writing proper songs with chords and melodies and whilst at University I purchased a Roland digital 8 track with a ZIP drive recorder.  I went by the name of ‘This Lonely Soul’ and started doing a few gigs. I wrote a fair few songs and ended up releasing a few albums and EPs.

I was your typical singer-songwriter and enjoyed playing gigs in random places, sometimes just to my wife or whatever friends I was able to bring along, but also to rooms of people who had never heard of me and seemed to enjoy what I was doing.

It was alongside this that I also set up a record label and started managing friends of mine who were in a band called ‘Nothing’.  They released a series of EPs on the label and I helped get them more gigs and exposure.  At the time I thought it would be easy.  This was just before the rise of digital downloads and social media and was a lot harder than I had envisioned. But it was fun and that was the main thing.

I also started to put on regular nights in Brighton where local bands could play, and also bands from out of town.  I gave Frank Turner his first gig in Brighton as a solo artist and prior to that had started putting on bigger touring bands.  Again, this was fun, but hard work and not financially viable so after a while those nights stopped.

During all that time I had started working on a new musical project under the name ‘Amongst the Pigeons’.  The first ATP release was in 2004 and over a period of ten years I released two albums, a whole load of EPs and singles and got to do some amazing gigs, played at festivals and although it never set the world on fire, I had fun and it felt good to tell people I was a musician and I loved being on stage, playing songs I had made to people I didn’t know. But towards the middle of 2014 I realised ATP had run its course and I released the last single.

That was almost two years ago and it felt strange not having a new musical project to move into.  For a while I started trying to get a new solo project off the ground but I just could not find the inspiration I needed and felt frustrated trying to force something which obviously wasn’t there.

What it did do was allow me to revisit music made by other people, listen to classic albums and fall back in love with music and the art of listening to music.  Not just hearing a song, but analysing it, deconstructing it, hearing the individual parts and considering how the producer had recorded and mixed the tracks. 

The other thing it allowed was more time at home with my family and gave me a space to just be me for a while without being a musician but I always missed being able to tell people that I make music and I missed being on stage.

Then a year ago (November 2015) I started a project with my friend Ollie.  Ollie and I have known each other for years and years and he actually introduced me to my wife back in 2005.  We talked about doing something ever since we met and last autumn we actually started doing it.

I am very lucky that I have a recording studio at home and pretty much every Thursday night for the last year Ollie and I have been recording new music.  We had no idea what would happen, if it would work or what the output would sound like.  It has become a very cathartic process and for a few hours each week it allows me to forget about work, forget about trains, turn off my mind and focus on being creative.

Over the last year we’ve managed to record 8 tracks so far.  It may not sound like a lot but we only get three hours a week to do this.  It is very much time boxed and we are still learning as we go.

On a personal level I have never been in a band before, I mostly made music on my own or collaborated with others – but our new band is very much a joint project.  We challenge each other, we use each other’s strengths and are not afraid to try different things, even if it means we go back to what we started with if it doesn’t turn out how we expected.

And why have I written about this now? Well, this week we released the name of our band. We are called ‘Exactly Zer0’ and will be releasing our debut single next month.  In fact it comes a year and 6 days since our first ever rehearsal.  The track is called ‘Digital Soul’ and is the output of our first 4 weeks working together.  As mentioned we had no direction in mind, we started with nothing and made a song, we then made another, and another and so on.

I am really proud of where we are heading with this and I am pleased to be able to once again say I am a musician and tell people the name of the act and that soon they will be able to hear our music.  I’m also looking forward to playing gigs next year, getting the album finished and hearing what people think of us.

I don’t think either of us know what to expect from this project, and we will very much keep making music because it is what we do.  Releasing it is just part of the process and putting it into the public domain.  I have heard bands say that when you release something you no longer own it, it becomes something others own and I like that idea. 

We are going to spend the rest of this year finishing off our debut album and as we head into 2017 we will release a second single with the album soon to follow.  Beyond that we will keep making music and seeing what happens.  But right now, as we approach a month of promotional activity for the single I am really excited and hope you will be too. 

Go check us out : www.exactlyzero.co.uk