Close My Eyes and Let it Go (free track)

ey up…

Here is a free English language version of ‘Cierro los Ojos y Despierto’ from my recent Spanish language record ‘Almas Buenas’. Click on arrow pointing downwards to download it.

I’m shooting a stop-motion video for it now 🙂


Almas Buenas – Drongomala -Lanzamiento 20th Oct 2010 (Español)

Edinburgh, Magrite and how the cover of ‘Garden With You’ came to be

As a teenager I mostly grew up in Cowdenbeath and Dunfermline and would always be excited when I could somehow get across the Forth Rail Bridge to see Edinburgh the capital of Scotland.
Over the years I developed regular haunts and one of them I indulged regularly was a visit to the Modern Art Gallery in Edinburgh. The collections didn’t change a huge amount but I just liked the building, the setting and the mood it put me in when I was there. I
was/am big on the surrealists and they had plenty of good content in that direction.

Time passed since then and in May of this year (2010) I was experimenting with different ideas for imagery for a single I was completing. I was in Argentina recording another album and was completing the artwork and remixes for this other single – ‘(When You Go You Take The) Garden With You’.

As the single was a dance single I thought that I could try a geometric idea and keep it simple in the way the imagery of electronic dance music often translates the music maths of sine waves and frequencies to their artwork.
I thought of a green triangle simply communicating the pubis of a woman but it was boring when mocked up and the idea had been done before. Then I thought of cutting out grass in the shape of a triangle and slowly the idea developed and crystalli
sed when I remembered a wonderful painting by Magrite (Belgian surrealist with a penchant for bowler hats) that used to hang in the back room of the Edinburgh Modern Art Museum. Using the painting as a launchpad I had the specification below for the artist that was going to work on bringing the idea to life.
Here is the mail I sent to the artist….
Specification for ‘Garden With You’ Cover Art

The song title is a reference to a womans body as a garden – specifically her vagina/pubis. The idea for the cover is to have a picture frame shaped like a womans hips and the picture frame to contain green grass with one triangle cut out (like a womans pubic hair shape) showing the brown soil underneath.

There is famous painting by a surrealist
Magritte called La Représentation (1937) that used a picture frame shaped like a womans hips and it would be good to use this shape (not the actual frame) for the picture frame.

I have done a very rough mockup in photoshop to give you an idea but I do not consider it to be anywhere close to a finished piece because :

  • The picture frame is not shown squarely i.e. I used the photo which shows the frame at an angle. I have not taken the frame shape and created a new frame. A new frame shape is needed not a photograph using wood or branches for the frame
  • The grass is not attractive enough (I used quick stock footage photo) and is in much too low a resolution. The grass should be rich, green, natural and shown from an aerial view.
  • The soil is not rich and warm or complementary to the colour of the grass. The triangle should look like it has been cut out of the grass.- the pubis triangle shape could look more like a womans pubic hair
  • Proportions are not correct and the elements do not look like they belong in the same composition
  • It doesn’t look sexual or erotic

It should be immediately clear to viewers that the picture is a representation of a womans hips and pubis using grass/soil and natural elements.

And this is what Santiago Carosella managed to come back with exceeding my expectations by some margin.

Single is available now directly from and also available from iTunes and other online shops around July/Aug 2010.
More exciting artwork coming for Almas Buenas, a record recently finished in Buenos Aires due out later in the UK summer.

The little things I will and won´t miss about Buenos Aires, Argentina

Things I´ll miss about Buenos Aires, in no particular order, and without reference to the typical tourist sights…………..

Things I´ll miss

  • Smart taxi drivers who can engage about music, politics or anything else.
  • Empanadas
  • Bullshit conversations about Maradonna
  • Malbec
  • Meeting up in apartments around 11pm before going out and drinking wine mixed with coke. This is often the most fun part of the night and is revered by Porteños
  • Simpsons, Family Guy and American Dad dubbed in Spanish
  • Old people sitting outside cafes watching the world go by
  • T-shirt slogans in English with broken grammar
  • Cheap beer
  • Small children walking about in Lab Coats
  • The Soldera family
  • Steak – Bife de Lomo
  • The modern art
  • Acerbic political satire
  • Spanish terms of endearment for your girlfriend
  • The sense of drama that fills the city
  • Fileteado- the distinctive porteño artwork
  • Friendly people – it´s such a misconception that Porteños are aloof
  • The graphic artists
  • Almagro Boxing Club
  • Being in a context where I can use Spanish
  • The lack of obvious class distinction
  • The horse and cart men (and their family) that collect recycling at 2 in the morning
  • Second rate jugglers operating in the road at traffic lights.
  • Views of the city from the 12th floor
  • The cyan blue of the Argentinian flag
  • The mashup of architecture styles – like Paris/Italy crossed with a noir Batman movie
  • Great second hand clothes shops
  • Mastery of ice-cream
  • A common dislike of Maggie Thatcher
  • The blend of South American and European culture – it´s just right.
  • Kissing on the cheek when you meet
  • Waking up late and going to bed late
  • Clapped out American saloon cars from the 70´s
  • Coffee obsessions
  • Pharmacies that will give you almost anything without prescription
  • Choripàn (sausage in bread)
  • How the streets look in the rain
  • Hearing tango on the Radio
  • Dulce de Leche (milky caramel syrup for all kinds of cake, ice cream)
  • The musicians
  • Not seeing the 2010 World cup here…I leave just before it starts
  • Morcilla (black pudding)
  • The Argentine version of Spanish (Castillian) – I like how it doesn´t have all the ´htth´sounds
  • Cheap massages and service industry (legit I mean!)
  • San Telmo bars and markets
  • Getting a bag of laundry done for 1.50UK
  • Palermo
  • Black market stalls
  • British theme bars that play the Stone Roses all night.

Things I won´t miss

  • Dog mess on the streets
  • The never-ending noise of the streets through the whole night and the public service vehicle sirens that sound like Commodore 64 SID chips through a distortion pedal
  • Lack of really spicy food
  • Obsession with Grunge music from the 90´s among men aged 25 and over
  • Natty 2 peso notes and shopkeepers that are unhappy that you don´t have the correct change
  • Cash machines with a low limit for withdrawals per day
  • Seat belts in cabs that don´t work

Please do comment and leave your own slant on what you will or won´t miss about this city!


Autumn, Ephedrine and Rolling Tape

Recording is complete for Almas Buenas. I know I am a lucky man to have had the idea grow over 5 months and for it to flower like this.

The idea for the record was simple: take songs from my back catalogue that lend themselves to different styles of Latin Arrangements, sing them in Spanish and record acoustic musicians live.

I wanted the recording for Almas Buenas to be completely live with a whole group playing in unison as it is a romantic and dangerous thing to do and if done right then this magic translates into what is recorded. Unless you have top quality musicians this approach can end in chaos and the truth is that most records are made using a sucession of overdubs because it is simply easier to do and runs less risk.

The studio, Moebio, is a mythical place not listed on many maps or findable on the internet due to the slightly eccentric nature of the owner but is a hidden home for acoustic recordings for those in the know. It is one of the finest studio rooms in Argentina specially designed by Carlos Piriz – an acoustic engineer recognized throughout Latin America as one of the best.

Some of the greatest artists of recent times have recorded in this room, including Mercedes Sosa, the guitarist and composer Juan Falu, the guitarist Luis Salinas, the violinist, composer and conductor Antonio Agri, Soda Stereo, Fito Paez, Luis Alberto Spinetta, Charly García, La Camerata Bariloche. The historic album “200 Years of Argentina Music” by the Salta Symphony Orchestra, was also undertaken in Moebio.

The change to Autumn in Buenos Aires caught me by surprise and three days before the recording and I foolishly left a window open at night in my bedroom which saw me waking up with a cold and lots of nose gunk. Thankfully Jorge had a special remedy including Ephedrine which instantly cleared my head but it was strong stuff.

Oscar Magariños, came recommeded as a recording sound engineer for the project, by Jorge, and it was Oscar that suggested Moebio Studios to record. Oscar had prepped the room before with layouts and microphones so when we arrived things were smooth and enginnering effort invisible to the performers which is the way it should be.

The musicians arrived and gelled very quickly. The double bass player had been changed at the last minute and was replaced by the legendary Juan Pablo Navarro who, until the sessions, hadn´t worked with any of the other musicians on the songs. Juan´s calibre was such that this didn´t matter and he anchored the rhythm and the music perfectly. Carlos Corrales on bandoneon proved to be a focal point for the group due to his outstanding musicality and charisma.

Jorge Soldera conducted the arrangements in the centre of the room and for separation I sang from the control booth.

We only had the bandoneon and piano player for one day but we managed to get all six songs they featured on recorded.

As some songs had many mid frequencies to deal with from bandoneon, guitar, piano, voice and percussion it was useful that the piano in the studio had been chosen especially to have a dark tonal quality allowing it so sit alongside some of the brighter instruments. It was a ´tango piano´. Matias Chapiro, a young pianist and composer, played extremely sensitively and framed the songs with an inspired touch.

The day was finished off with an eyeball to eyeball tango performance by Carlos and myself. Jorge and I had reworked the song Blowin´ Up Tryin´ 2B Somebody (Exploto Mientras Trato Ser Alguien) into a completely new tango variant and Carlos had written a new arrangement for it. It was a great honour for me to have Carlos undertake this arrangement as he is one of the most famous bandoneon players working in the world today with performances and credits across the world. The first time I heard the new arrangement was at the session and after a trial run we managed to get synchronicity with an explosive take. One of the tricks of tango is that it is not in strict time and the performers are expected to push and pull the timing to suit the mood. One final thing about Carlos – he used to box in the same club I have been going to in Almagro. Perfecto.

Sergio Carrera the graphic artist also came down to the session to do photo studies of the musicians for his album artwork composition.

Focus was on the guitar led tracks and with only two remaining we manged to get through them fine along with one or two percussion overdubs. The track Don´t Get All Stuck (No Te Dejes Atrapar) was electrifying. There are tonnes of words for this track and during preproduction we had to move the tempo down from 115bpm to 112bpm so I could blurt them all out successfully. However during the recording the flamenco style had the musicians excited and we did a version even higher than 115bpm. Victor Piseta, on spanish guitar, dazzled with his virtuoso playing inspired by Paco de Lucia and Astor Piazzolla. Victor´s current direction is primarily folklorico with Duo Matices although he has also toured with the trio, Guitarras de Fuego, and recorded as a solo guitar artist. There are big things to come for Victor.

Vocals. Ephedrine. Honey. Lemon. Spanish language Gods were looking down on me on this day.

Trumpet track for Let the Credits Roll (Que Pasen los Créditos). This track needed a muted trumpet to give it a New Orleans funeral procession inkeeping with the sentiment of the song. I wrote this song a few years ago after my band The Good Hurt broke up.

Patricia Zania, a BsAs fashionista, took photos and video footage leading up to and during the recording. I hope to get some of it edited and translated back in London.

Thursday night was strange. My whole calendar had been focussed around this record and it was only after finishing at the studio that I realised I would be leaving in a week. The mixing will be done over the next few days and before I know it I´ll be back in London.

At least my girl and the sun will be there 🙂

Round 2 – Buenas Almas

Round 2 of pre-production for the record Almas Buenas (Good Souls) begins this week. All songs have been demo´d with new arrangements and given to the musicians. Jorge Soldera is the producer and co-arranger for this record and I couldn´t have been luckier in choosing him to mentor me through the project and music scene here. Jorge has extensive experience in most forms of Latin music and has worked with some of the big names in Argentina. Importantly, he has a big heart and great ear not to mention his list of contacts which he used to put together a great bunch of musicians which we will begin rehearsing with today. The record will be recorded live which makes the project more difficult but I hope it will give it the edge of drama I am looking for. We record on the 17th-20th of this month. Jorge is also coaching me on my singing in Spanish and his patience is the kind that people attribute to Saints. His lovely wife and family also look after me and feed me as I am never out of their place.

The artwork for Almas Buenas will be done by the rising comics star Sergio Martín Carrera who is most known for his graphic novel The Eternal City which is set in Buenos Aires. It is available on iTunes/Android and will soon be put out in a compendium print in Spanish. It is a story of a reluctant agent of Death who escorts expired Porteños (Buenos Aires folks) to the afterlife. For me Eternal City is a love story to Buenos Aires by Sergio and throws light on not only the characters of the grand city but provides the city with a face too showing the different districts, landmarks and buildings. I went out for drinks with him and his friends the other night and it was great fun and before I knew it I found myself p*ssed at 6am staggering into a cab in San Telmo. They were a smart bunch and gave me great insights and anecdotes about life in the city. The lead character in The Eternal City was based on one of Sergio´s friends who was also out drinking with us and it was odd to have a sense of accelearted familiarity with him as he talked, stood or sat in positions echoing the scenes in the novel – almost like meeting Peter Parker or Wolverine.

My boxing continues and after some rounds of anti-inflammatories my back has settled down meaning I can get through the sessions without agony in the last hour. I will miss the club when I go. Sparring exercises with people who don´t speak English always have the extra element of danger and I can see the look in their eyes saying ´Does he know what we are meant to do and is there is going to be an accident?´.

My house-disco song (When You Go You Take The) Garden With You will be complete by the end of this week and I am really happy with it. All final mixes for Garden With You have been done. There are two main mixes and two remixes. Track listing is :

  1. Main Mix by UK´s Glen Nicholls who has worked with Prodigy, Bee Gees, Depeche Mode and a host of others.
  2. Alternate Mix by Arimaka aka Manuel Jiminez from Los Angeles who has worked with the likes of Madonna.
  3. Dub Mix by Emiliano Gomez from Argentina at the DubSalon – a rising star of dub.
  4. Sleeping on the Couch Mix by Boofa. A dark electro mix by this NZ multi-media artist who is the other half of the 12000 Miles album.

The artwork is also underway which promises to be something special and hopefully a little risqué .
One singer that Jorge has inroduced me to is the legendary Argentinian singer Mercedes Sosa. Unfortunately she died last year but left a massive legacy behind. Some say that if the soil of Latin America could sing that it would have her voice and I tend to believe it. Her last album was a series of duets with some of the most famous musicians in Latin America and the record was called Cantora (a double album also featuring a documentary). The position she holds in Argentina is a little like the position that Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan holds in Pakistan which is of a statesman that helped give the country a musical, philosophical and cultural cornerstone. She was much feared by the repressive government in Argentina and many times had to flee for her life. I reccomend you check her out.

The fixit guy

Today was a full day.

Boxing as usual. The weekends excesses became evident an hour into the session. A few new faces. My back a bit sore after the session as I used mitts and not full gloves when on the bag.

Next up off to a Spanish lesson – I’m 5 mins late and blame Google instead of correctly blaming myself for not leaving enough time for the walk. I meet the teacher who has got the script that I want to do an hour of song pronunciation and an hour of conversation. We kiss and I notice that as she pulls away she has a spodge of the the coldsore cream I have been using on her cheek. Oops. The lesson is good and we spend 1 hour and 40 mins on the songs and 20 minutes on cartoons. I get homework on the differences between men and women and thankfully her hair has rubbed off most of the cream by the end of the lesson.

Next stop is a fixit guy recommended by my translator. Every record I have done abroad (India, Greece, USA, Egypt) needs a fixit guy to sort out musicians, schedules, studios and make sure I don’t get ripped off too much as a foreigner. They are a crucial Rosetta Stone when you are airdropped into a music scene. We talk for a whole two hours with his wife helping translate. He is connected and has worked on a tonne of stuff from classic bossa nova, ambient Michael Jackson Tributes right through to electronic gay tango. They are both good people and he loans me an old nylon guitar. He will get back to me once he sounds out the musicians. Hooray for some movement on personnel.

I get back to the apartment and notice that the billboard across the road, visible from my balcony, with naked calendar ladies around the piano has been replaced by a Harlem Globetrotters poster for their showbiz jaunt at Luna Park.

Some Skyping, practise songs, dinner and then do most of homework late taking a little evil pleasure in giving some controversial answers.