July 3rd, 2012
I’ve just posted two collaborations on the website with other artists, over and above my regular works (an awful lot of my work seems to be in duos, i’ve noticed. I must be a coupley kind of guy). First up is David Rovics, whose work you can find at www.davidrovics.com. He’s a folk singer, and the Peacemakers (my English Folk/World Music crossover Big Band. And not a duo) did a gig with him last year. I was rather taken with this rush of anger, but every time i replayed it in my head, the music to it was somewhat different to Mr Rovics’ original. This plagued me for weeks until it seemed i had no choice but to tackle it. The original recording had bass & djembe on it, as well as the obvious voice and guitar, but i did the best i could with that until it was ready to be passed to the unsuspecting songwriter. Fortunately he wasn’t completely outraged at this vandalism of his work, and arranged for me to get the vocal stem off the record, with only minimal guitar leakage, and i was able to finish it off, along with Si Mack, my partner in [d]-fekt, our beats & sax driven DJ project. Find this at http://soundcloud.com/d-fekt-1
Second item for your consideration is a somewhat different proposition, from local poet & musician Tom George. Tom was involved in the Friday daytime session of the If Only festival at the Bluecoat Arts Centre in April. Part of the If Only vibe is about collaborations across and between artforms, and Tom asked Graculus if we could put something suitable with a poem about butterflies. This went very nicely, so we were only too pleased to recreate it for him: http://soundcloud.com/tom-george/the-butterfly-1
As i write this, the blackbirds that live behind our house are ushering a nestfull of fledglings carefully around the walls, still too young to fly the nest completely, but nearly ready to face the wider world. Just as these recordings are doing…
June 5th, 2012
‘Human’, as i hope you’ve noticed elsewhere on the site, is the CD i’ve done with Maggie Nicols. What with one thing and another (and another. And another), it’s taken two years from completion to release. There’s a curious mathematics at work here, in that the nearer completion it got, the smaller the decisions became, and the harder they got to make. At the start we were happily throwing around large chunks of audio, mapping out the thing as a whole with abandon. Now we’re agonising over single words on the sleeve.
I’m guessing that part of that process is that at the beginning, no-one really knew we were doing it, so if we decided it wasn’t up to snuff and abandoned the whole thing, well tant pis. At this stage, we’re slightly intimidated by what we’ve achieved. It’s an amazing CD, and we’ve got an obligation to it, to give it it’s best chance in life, our little baby. Even as late as this weekend i was unwisely revisiting some drum loops that i felt could be polished a little more.
Well, later this month we’ll have to commit. The baby grows up and leaves home (just like our real children, come to think).
May 2nd, 2012
Continuing the theme of Stuff All Over, i’m just recovering from the If Only festival, which was a laughably intensive weekend of exhilarating and dizzying performance all over the Bluecoat Arts Centre in Liverpool. Sometimes wildy experimental, sometimes it was the mix or the context that was daring. Also worth noting that we get an audience for this stuff as well, so just because you’re trying to push boundaries doesn’t mean you’re condemned to playing to three people on a Tuesday evening. But i digress.
After it was all over, and we were grasping our hard-earned pints, it struck us how high a quality of work we’d been able to present using mainly local artists. It would definitely seem that Liverpool is having a bit of a moment, artistically: some people were born here, some have been pulled by the gravitational mass of what’s happening (trust me, it isn’t cos of the money!). A slightly odd feeling – abandoned by both the state and the private sector, yet here we are, at the centre of the universe…
April 7th, 2012
Spring comes, and everything wakes up. I know this is all very 21st Century, it’s a blog and it’s all in the cloud and stuff (i used to read a comic called Century 21 when i was a kid. And now i’m here, things aren’t so very different, frankly. I digress…) but i have an allotment, and as such i’m more aware than most of the changing of the seasons, of the year turning around, which even in this digital age we can’t escape. In fact, you could argue that global warming puts us firmly in the clutches of natural processes: however – spring.
Keen readers of this blog, if such creatures exist, will have read about my breakdown and subsequent struggle with Depression. When it first happened i lost the ability to process music at all, for roughly four months. After that, i restarted my relationship with the entire artform by listening to ‘Goodbye to Love’ by the Carpenters, which was the first single i ever owned. Last Saturday, a mere 9 years later, the wheel came round again: just before the Fall Over the Cliff, i did a large-scale gig with Maggie Nicols. And last week, here i was again, doing a large-scale gig with Maggie again. I’ve completed my journey of re-treading my musical life, and anything more is purely new: it’s all mine, from hereon in.
By the way, if anyone reading this is contemplating doing a large-scale gig with Maggie, i’d thoroughly advise you to try it. This one was exceptionally good, even by her standards: we involved the dancers/performers from the Liverpool Improvisation Company, and frankly – we rocked the house. Was it improvised music, was it performance art? Who knows or cares. The important thing was that we created a minimal structure and created something vital, beautiful, funny, engaging and powerful out of the very air we were breathing.
February 11th, 2012
There’s stuff happening all over!
I’ve very little idea if anyone reads this blog, and certainly 99% of the ‘subscriptions’ i get are spammers (fortunately, my providers filter out the robots, so there isn’t piles of offensive ads in the comments). But, if it’s there, it ought to be looked after, so i’ve decided to post more often here.
But actually, part of why i haven’t posted as often as i could is that there’s Stuff All Over. Last year was quite busy, and suddenly 2012 is getting even busier. Currently i’m organising two big band gigs, sorting out pressing details for two CD’s, lining up editing/recording for three more, and even playing a gig or two between times (my left foot was cracking walnuts – after all, i gotta eat).
Assuming you don’t live much near me (and, as i overstand it, a lot of people don’t…), this may not bother you too much, other than the observation that Liverpool is starting to look like a bit of a centre for improvised music. Watch out for articles about the ‘Liverpool Scene Mk 2’!!
January 16th, 2012
Firstly, apologies, as i seem to have neglected at least some of my online duties in 2011. I got an android tablet recently, and when i pulled up the whi music site as a test i was horrified to see it hadn’t been updated for a year. Now rectified! It’s also a while since i did this, but here i am.
One thing that keeps on coming is years – happy 2012, tho i’m expecting it’ll be more interesting than happy. But we shall see, i guess. The other thing that keeps on coming is CD’s – i’ve got a new one out. ‘Small Things’ by Graculus is an album of 34 miniatures, all improvised, which took most of 2011 to put together. We’ve taken the plunge and done a silver disk (ie it’s not a CDr), and now you can buy it direct on the site, should the fancy take you.
There’ll be a couple more CD’s this year too – i’m currently working on a CD with vocalist Steve Boyland (see my YouTube channel at http://www.youtube.com/user/PhilCHargreaves?feature=mhee for a tasty preview), and i’m hoping that 2012 will be the year that my unreleased CD with Maggie Nicols will stop being unreleased. Look out also for an amere3 CD on Bruce’s Fingers.
Lots of stuff in duos this year – i’m also working with DJ/artist Si Mack as D-fekt, and even doing some African-influenced pop with Kevin Paton (Mojo Storm). All of which, hopefully, gives you some idea of why i didn’t get round to doing the blog for 9 months (sorry! sorry!!). So – onwards…
Oh, and if you’re reading these sequentially, the lightbox seems to be working so far.
March 17th, 2011
I’m not coping well with Winter these days. January and February finds me brutally depressed, which is kind of the reverse of how things used to be – Winter used to be my favourite season. But the worst part is Winter Fingers. Not cold or chilblains, Winter Fingers just don’t respond properly to the signals i send down my arms. Sluggish, recalcitrant, they’ve got a mind of their own, and it’s not a co-operative mind at all. Of course, this does nothing to lift my mood.
But here we are, it’s the middle of March. In a few days it’ll be the equinox, so there’s more light, and it’s more intense. I noticed a couple of weeks ago that the Winter Fingers had gone (hoorah! Lashings of ginger beer all round!). So – ten interesting months of playing to come. Next year, i’ll try one of those light boxes…
January 6th, 2011
Happy New Year!
Like a lot of musicians, i’m not over busy at this time of year, in these latitudes the nights are long and the temperatures are low but time for taking stock and making plans.
I’d have to say that 2010 was a good year for me, musically I had several of those moments where you think that maybe you didn’t waste your life learning an instrument after all: the Gathering continues to be a joy, and its live offshoot, the Infinite Monkey Orchestra managed another memorable performance with Simon Fell on bass.
Meanwhile, I’ve got two finished CD’s on the launch pad: ‘Human’ with Maggie Nicols is a 50 minute collage of improvisations, found sounds and poetry that we took 18 months to assemble, while the second amere3 album is a classic bass/drums/sax recording with a classy sound and some fabulous playing. Recording-wise I’m continuing to work on Steve Boyland’s solo album as well, which, true to form, has developed into something a lot more complex.
But the best bits, as in 2010, will be the things I haven’t seen coming. Kind of like the best improvisation, really.
July 9th, 2010
I’ve been curating the Liverpool Gathering for roughly 18 months now, and i have to tell you – it’s a blast. Once a month we throw open a room the Bluecoat Arts Centre, and whoever turns up makes music for two hours. Every time is different, each one is rewarding; it’s either a testament to the Liverpool scene, or the methodology (or maybe a bit of both), but it’s an unfailingly engaging experience.
Last year Simon Fell was in the city to do some work, and we dragged him along to the Bluecoat for a gig with the Gathering’s finest; when we perform, we’re the Infinite Monkey Orchestra. We had a session the night before, just to get used to the combination, but it’s an unedited, undirected 50 minute improvisation by a nine-piece band:
Rob Dainton – drums
Simon H Fell – bass
Ricardo Fernandez – piano
Richard Harding – guitar
Steve Hood – guitar
Steve Boyland – voice
Phil Lucking – trumpet
Phil Hargreaves – soprano sax
Ian Simpson – electronics
Available (for free!) for you entire delectation at http://www.archive.org/details/InfiniteMonkeyOrchestraem100
If you want my personal opinion (and it’s my blog, so you’re getting it, sorry), it’s a fine example of how improvisation lets you build something that’s so much bigger than the sum of its parts. You can hear the whole ensemble navigating its way along, working from dense and powerful to small intimate spaces. Hope you like it…
March 31st, 2010
Some recordings are documents of particular gigs or moments – often the line-up is drawn together for a gig or two, someone might only be in the country for a short time, whatever. Whi 011, Graculus (name of the band and the CD, so its eponymous. Great word.) isn’t like that: me and Richard Harding have been playing together pretty much weekly for two years now. Which means that the release is basically the pick of just over a year’s worth of recordings, itemised compiled and mastered (though not edited: they’re all full-length as played).
As such, there’s a variety of different acoustics, varying from the dry home recorded ones to the Great Hall at Hope, which is cavernous, to say the least, and Richard plays electric guitar on some tracks (he’s normally a classical guitarist). The common thread through all this is our respective approaches to our instruments and our shared history, and in the event that proves stronger than the variations, in my opinion, so the package achieves cohesion where none might have been found. It’s an interesting sound that doesn’t pigeon-hole easily, sitting as it does on the fault-line between classical chamber music and jazz-based improv.
Find it here: http://philhargreaves.bandcamp.com/album/graculus