Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Hunter – No, Not the Gladiator!


Hello again…

Yes, I know. So soon! I wanted to share a little clip from The Forest after telling you all about it in my last post. I chose a section of the track “Hunter.” I think you can guess the general idea behind it – some predatory animal searching out its prey – but, as I said, I don’t want to say too much about what I was thinking when I wrote it. I want the music to spark your imagination!

I chose this track because it’s a good example of how I used live strings in combination with synths and virtual instruments (VIs), which is what I did on most tracks of the album. Why? The strings drive the music; underlying them, a drum pattern and various synths and VIs lend harmonic support and textural interest*. I’ll talk more about the process of creating the music and blending (or not blending, depending on what you’re going for) live musicians with electronic elements in a future blog.

The drums on this track were programmed by my brother Dan. (“You mean played, right?”) No, actually! Drum programming is where you build up the layers of beats using samples to design your own drum pattern, as opposed to using a drum synthesiser or, budget permitting, a real drummer (or drummers). Although, in this case, there are very few actual drums – but there are lots of plastic containers and interesting things. Keep an ear out for them!

Like what you hear? You can stream The Forest on Apple Music, Spotify, Deezer, Napster and many other platforms, or buy it on iTunes, Amazon, Pro Studio Masters and more!


Sam x

Friday, 13 April 2018

Long Time No (Middle) C

Hi, I know. Sorry. I’m so good at blogging that I haven’t done it in a literal age – I think the animated He-Man was still on its original airing the last time I wrote one! Anyway, I’m back and this time, I will be blogging regularly (yes, really – I mean it this time!).

I should really tell you about everything that’s happened since last *mumble*… So:

To start with, those albums I was banging on about. Well, two of them are available to buy and stream RIGHT NOW! The Forest and Cypher can both be found on all your favourite platforms. I’ll start by telling you a little about the first release, The Forest.

(Find it on iTunes/Apple Music, Spotify, Amazon, Deezer, and Google Play.)

The Forest


I blogged a little about it when I recorded the album, but let me refresh your memories. This album, released last August, was inspired by my dog walks through the local woodland. Written over the course of half a year, it’s sort of a concept album; the idea is that each track tells a story that might happen through the course of a single day (and night) in a forest. It starts at dawn and ends up at a moonlit pool, making its journey via a babbling brook and all sorts of plants and creatures going about their business. Could I be more specific about what I see in my head for each track? Yes – but I don’t want to. I want the music to do that for itself.

How it’s made

I did all the initial composition for The Forest in my studio. Then, because I wanted to create music that sounded different to anything I had done before, I went to my brother’s studio to avail myself of his synth collection (and also his skills as a producer. We often use each other as sounding boards for our respective work – more on that later!). Dan and I mucked about with a Roland Juno 6, a Roland SH-101, and an Arturia Minibrute. He also showed me how to use his Arturia Beatstep Pro to do some drum programming – which was so cool, I bought one as soon as I got back into my own studio!

The Forest was recorded at Script Studios in London. The fabulous musicians who played on it are Sara Wolstenholme, Kirsty Mangan, Laurie Anderson and Peter Gregson (with some piano and Hammond organ played by me). I was lucky enough to have Joe Rubel to engineer and mix the album and John Webber at Air Studios to master it. It sounds great – and that’s really thanks to the quality of players and to Joe and John’s amazing work. People often forget how much creativity mix and mastering engineers bring to a project, not to mention the giant leap in quality the players bring with their interpretations of your music.

So there you have it. A little about The Forest. Next time, I’ll tell you all about my second album, Cypher. But for now, TTFN.

Sam x

Monday, 28 November 2016

One of the three albums I've been banging on about.

Hello,

Last week I said there would be two announcements. I then failed to make the second as the first took over my life for a bit, so here it is right now for your reading pleasure:

ALBUM!

The album I mentioned in a previous blog that I've written using solely Spectrasonic's Keyscape has been mixed. I went to visit Dan last week to mix it (as those of you who follow me on Twitter and Instagram will know from my silly videos). It was great fun and we mixed the whole album in a day. Yes, one single day. Dan is either a mixing machine or the music is ridiculously simple. Probably a little of column A and a little of column B there...

Anyway, I can now confirm the name of the album and the track listing. The album is called Cypher and has eight tracks:

1. Tetralogy I
2. Hexad
3. Dyad
4. Quintain
5. Seofon
6. Deka
7. Eahta
8. Tetralogy II

I'm still not sure exactly when it's going to be released. Very soon, I hope. I am mastering it as I type, then I will play it to my publisher and we'll take it from there. There is a plan for a very funky bit of artwork but that is still to be confirmed, mostly because I haven't asked the artist if they're willing to do it for me yet...

Watch this space and I'll let you know when it's released (along with the other two).

Sam x

Monday, 21 November 2016

O, as the kids, M, used to say, G!

I couldn't wait until later in the week for the terrifying announcement.  I had to make it today, so here it is:

Help. I've gone insane.

For some reason I've signed up to run the Virgin Money London Marathon 2017. No, really. I have. I blame Nick Harvey. He did it this year and made it look easy. He raised loads of cash for a great cause and it inspired me to try and do the same. So I signed up and luckily got a place with the fantastic charity Pancreatic Cancer UK.

I'll be running in memory of my late uncle Cliff who, those of you who where were kind enough to sponsor me for Macmillan Cancer Support's 'Go Sober For October' will remember, died in October 2015 from pancreatic cancer. It was sudden and horrible and he was far too young so I'm really pleased to make a positive out of it and get this chance to raise (hopefully) loads of cash for a great charity.

I have to raise a minimum of £2500 but I'd love to raise as much as possible. If I could double that I'd be beyond happy. I'll have to think of something I can do if I get to £5000. Run in the buff or something. Well, not that. I wouldn't want to blind people (make of that what you will).

There's another favour I'd like to ask on top of begging for your money. PCUK are running a competition and the two fundraisers with the most money by 12:00 on 12th December 2016 will get to start from the Green Start (that's the bit with all the celebs and the posh loos). It would be great fun to be able to start from there so if you can/want to/are planning on sponsoring me please do it RIGHT NOW! Only actual donations will count, not promises of them.

To all you UK based taxpayers please Gift Aid the bobbins off those donations, it really does make a difference to the charity to get that extra slice from the tax office. It's also a perfect time to donate as November is Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month. I know money is tight at the moment but if every one of my Twitter followers donated £1 I'd raise £2436. I could almost reach the minimum in no time. So don't think you have to sponsor me thousands of pounds (although, if you can afford to that would be great). Every penny counts.

You can donate via my Virgin Money Giving page here. Your donations will spur me on, the more you give the faster I'll run. Or at least, the more you give the more likely I am to get through it.

I'll keep you all updated with how the training is going and thank you in advance for your donations and your support.

Sam x

Monday, 17 October 2016

Announcements 'n' Stuff

Hello everyone,

I've been meaning to blog for ages.  So here goes...

A quick catch up

I'm currently having the pleasure of working with Rob Manning on a project.  I'll say more when I can, but it's been a joy.  I love collaborating with other composers.  It's something I want to do more of.

I'm also doing Macmillan Cancer Support's "Go Sober for October" in memory of my late Uncle Cliff who died from pancreatic cancer last year. I'm half way through and yearning for a nice gin and tonic but I'm sure my liver is grateful for the rest.  If you'd like to sponsor me you can do here.  Any support is hugely appreciated.

Lalaland

As you may know, I'm going to be at Gallifrey One in February 2017.  Very exciting!  I can't wait, I'm incredibly excited.  Can you tell?  So if you're going, I'll see you there.  Come say hi and make me feel welcome, it's my first time in the States.

I'm also looking forward to catching up with the lovely Katy Manning, Tony Lee, Gary Russell, Scott Handcock and Richard Dinnick, most of whom I haven seen for a very long time.  I'm also hoping to fit in time to catch up with the adorable Kerry Muzzey as well as meeting up with the people at Music Sales Los Angeles and a few other things while I'm there.

Albums

You know those albums I recorded in April and finished in July. Yeah, those ones, the string quartet ones.  Well, they're not out yet.  Sorry about that.  I'm hoping they'll be released soon but we're currently talking with some people and exploring avenues for their release.  As soon as I know what's happening with them I'll shout about it on every social media outlet, street corner and multi story car park roof in the land.

In the mean time

If you can't wait for that I'm currently writing another album which I plan on self releasing, probably through iTunes, hopefully by Christmas.  It's going to be eight tracks (and I've written five of them) and I'm only using Spectrasonics' new virtual instrument Keyscape.  It's a stunning collection of keyboard instruments and I've fallen madly in love with it.  And no, I'm not being sponsored to say that (although, if you're reading this Spectrasonics I'll happily trial any future releases for you! *cough* shameless *cough*).  I find the best way to learn a new virtual instrument or library album is to sit and try to write music using it in isolation.  This time I thought I'd release the results.  Again, I'll be shouting about it as soon as it's released.

Anyway, I'd best get back to work.

Big hugs,

Sam

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

Mastering

On Monday I went to Air Studios (total squee - do people even say that anymore?) to meet John Webber and begin mastering the two albums I've been working on for what seems like an eternity.



What a place it is!  I haven't been for years.  I'd forgotten how much I love it.  I worked in Lyndhurst Hall on a number of films with George Fenton (including Valiant) and in Studio One on Doctor Who and I Want Candy with Murray Gold.  Some great memories came back, including a funny incident with a Swanee Whistle...

John is properly lovely, as is his assistant Cicely.  The set up is, unsurprisingly, rather impressive.  So much hardware to drool over.


I'm not planning vinyl releases but on seeing their vinyl cutter I was so tempted.  It just looks so cool!



I could have stayed there all day but I only popped in to give John an idea of what I wanted from the mastering and I had to get home to the dog.  Luckily he is incredibly talented and very sensitive to the music.  I have no idea what he was doing but within the space of an hour both albums had the basic sound the mastering would add. I could instantly tell that it was going to make a difference.  Because Joe Rubel had done such a great job of mixing I think John could instantly see what was needed.


Once John had an idea of what I was looking for I left him to it.  Later that evening I had an email with a link to the files!  I listened the next day and my oh my what a sound.  They sound like actual albums you'd buy in a shop.  John has just given them a little boost, opened them out and helped everything have an added space and depth.  Joe's fantastic mixes in combination with John's sensitive mastering have made them sound fantastic.  I really can't wait to release them.  I've set up a meeting with my publisher and as soon as we have a game plan I will blog about it and I'll be shouting very loudly when they are release. Very loudly.

Monday, 27 June 2016

Mixing and Stuff

Mixing


So, yeah. Hi.

I've been mixing my albums.  Finally!  And they're done.  The fabulous Joe Rubel at Pixel (who engineered the recordings) has mixed them.  We did it across four days spread across June.  Having some gaps between mixing sessions was actually really useful as it let us take a break from the mixes and then revisit and tweak them with fresh ears.  I say "we", it was all Joe.  I just said "Yeah, that sounds great" with the odd "Could the piano be a bit more present?" just to liven things up a bit.

It was a really nice experience for me.  Joe is so relaxed and cool that it made what can be, let's face it, quite a dull part of the process for us composers really fun.  It's necessary, it improves the sound of our music but it involves a person doing things that I, at least, have no comprehension of.  I'm not tech savvy, I don't really understand how mixing works.  If I mix, they're always muddy, or sound great in the studio but absolute crap everywhere else.

In the days between sessions I would listen in my studio to the mixes Joe had done, then take them out with me on dog walks and listen on various sets of headphone.  I even listened in the kitchen on my bluetooth Bose speaker.  They sound great on all of them.  I couldn't be happier.

Sadly, that doesn't mean they're ready to release...  The next step is to get them mastered.  Luckily for me, I'm able to get them mastered by John Webber at Air Studios, which is very exciting.  I know that he'll add the sparklywow (a technical term I've picked up from my sister-in-law's sister - an awesome one I'm sure you'll agree) that will be the cherry on the icing of Joe's mixes.

Once that's done I have to go for a meeting with my publisher and play them everything so that we can discuss what the next step.  They want to try and find a record label to release, we'll then have to decide if to release physical copies or just do download.  We also need to coordinate releasing the sheet music (for at least the String Quartets) along with the albums so that people can not only listen to the music put perform it.  I'd love to get some string quartets performing them in their concerts.  So any quartets out there that are interested get in touch with Music Sales about performing them.

"But when will I be able to buy the albums?" I hear you reluctantly mumble.  Well.  That's a very good question.  I won't be releasing them at the same time, I doubt.  I wouldn't want to saturate the market (yeah, right!).  I guess you'll just have to keep an eye on my blog (and Twitter, when I go back on there).


Stuff

I should remain apolitical really as this is my professional blog but stuff that.  We're in a time of transition, of uncertainty and I really need to get some things off my chest.  I doubt I'm going to say anything that hasn't already been said so I apologise for that.

Now. Yesterday I posted on Twitter that I was leaving it for a bit, which I am.  It'll probably only be for a few weeks, maybe a month.  I just need a little break from it.  I get the irony of posting this blog on Twitter having said that I'm not going to be on Twitter...  I just thought it better to leave with something a little more positive than a rant about not liking it much at the moment.  I love Twitter and the people I've met because of it but it's become quite a toxic place recently, especially post Brexit vote.  These are unsettling enough times without adding to the negative atmosphere.  The events of the last couple of weeks have really shaken me.  It has just been one thing after another both globally and within the UK and as much as I love Twitter for it's diversity and the immediacy of it I am seeing things that I don't want to.  I will still be using Snapchat (filmmusicsam) and Instagram (@i_is_sam) so you can still chat with me on those.

I feel I should say that I'm a Yorkshireman who lives in the Home Counties.  I worked in call centres and factories as a young man.  We had hard times.  We weren't rich.  I'm not rich now but I know that I am well off relative to a large number of people in this country.

I have had to begin, over the last few days, to come to terms with the fact that the UK is not the country I thought it was and that my place in it is also completely different from what I thought it was.  I am as out of touch as our politicians and now I have to work personally to change this.  We all live in our own personal bubble and in this ever smaller world, this global community in which we live we need to burst those bubbles if we are to adapt, change for the better and make this little planet an awesome place to be for every single one of it's citizens.

I was, at first, angry at Leave voters.  I still am, to an extent, but I'm mostly angry for them now. They were lied to.  We all were but there are those of us who are privileged enough to have had a good education and/or have a job which pays well, have a house, can afford to shop in a supermarket rather than rely on food banks and have the interest in politics and don't feel like the political elite don't care about us and that our vote won't matter so why bother?!  Not that all Leave voters come from this demographic, obviously, but they are the ones I feel have been most harmed by it all.  The people who have been downtrodden, alongside the people who benefit from the EU without realising it.  And they weren't told that they do because the EU has been used as a scapegoat.  It's by no means perfect, there are many problems with it and I will admit that at the start of the campaign I was on the fence.
I ended up despising the tactics of the Leave campaign, they really owned hate.  Having said that, the Remain campaign really owned fear.  So voters were placed between a rock and a hard place.

The Leave campaign have fully rescinded their promises.  They have said there won't be £350m a week extra for the NHS and that immigration won't be reduced but still have the balls to say they never promised those things (despite the former being emblazoned on a bus and on leaflets posted through millions of doors and politicians from the campaign ACTUALLY SAYING IT ON TELEVISION).  They didn't distance themselves from UKIP because it was gaining them votes. They didn't loudly point out that Farage wasn't an official Leave campaigner until he revealed that hideous poster and by then the damage was already done.

Many people have blamed the "baby boomers" for the leave result but looking at the figures there is a lot of "blame" to fall on the 18-24 year olds (probably the under 40s in truth).  They didn't come out and vote in big enough numbers.  Why?  Do they not care?  Too busy getting drunk?  Or do they feel that politics isn't for them.  I have a feeling it's the latter and that they fall into the "disenfranchised" camp.  But I obviously have no way of knowing without going out and asking everyone under 40 who didn't vote "Why not?".

It would also appear that many people didn't understand that the referendum was "advisory" (so the government don't have to implement it) and that it was being voted for under Proportional Representation (PR), something that we don't use in General Elections in this country (remember that referendum in 2011?), so people thought they could use their vote as a protest vote.  Labour Leave even tweeted that "A vote for leave is a vote against the Conservative government" (https://twitter.com/labourleave/status/743084647236653056) implying that it would be a protest vote.  Appalling!

I would love to know how many Leave voters, having seen the ramifications, the financial uncertainty, how it has had an effect across the world, and the fact that Leave have come out and said that the only thing they want to change is the lawmaking side of our relationship with the EU, would still vote to Leave.  I would also find it interesting to know if any Remain voters wish they had voted Leave.

I was shocked at how much I cared about the result.  I cried for most of Friday morning.  I'm fearful for the arts, for my job, for many things.  I'm fearful for the people of this country who migrated here and for their children.  I'm worried for my nieces and nephew.  My creativity has slumped.  I'm finding it hard to write music.  But I know this will change.  I can feel it change as my mindset is changing.

In an ideal world, I would like the referendum to be nullified on the grounds that it was fought on "facts" that are now clearly lies and that the promises made were never intended to be kept.  But that isn't democracy and that's just how political campaigns seem to be run and we have to live with that. It appears that democracy is in the act of voting not in the way the people who are there to inform us how to vote have to act.  I'm hoping this will change. We need a return to ethical politicking (if we've ever had it).  I wouldn't be upset if Scotland choose to implement their veto stopping us from leaving the EU.  I'm hoping all this turmoil triggers a general election and that a viable party comes forward and campaigns with the main points in their manifesto being a vote for them is a vote to remain in the EU (therefore being a more recent vote, a democratic way of nullifying the referendum) and that they will pass a law making it illegal for politicians to knowingly and willingly lie to the electorate.  This is tough because it's technically subjective and hard to prove that someone was purposefully lying, especially when they are a silver tongued, weaselly politician.  I also hope that we will switch to PR for all votes in the future as I believe it is must fairer that the First Past the Post system.  The question of how democratic Scotland's veto or a general election won on the promise of remaining in the EU are is one that I haven't fully comprehended yet and is probably best left to someone better educated in these matters than me.  I understand that ignoring the outcome of the referendum would cause uproar with many people who voted Leave and if it does happen that is something we will have to live with the consequences of.

I'm think I'm coming to terms with it now.  The democratic thing is to enact Article 50, that is the will of the people apparently, although I would argue that the (democratically elected) government has a (democratic) mandate to do what is in the best interest of the country regardless of whether it's a popular decision or not and it is becoming more and more clear that remaining in the EU would be best at least in the short term.  Should a narrow (very narrow) win for Leave on an advisory referendum override the fact that they are a democratically elected government?

Either way we must hunker down and make this country awesome in whatever way we have to.

I am now becoming hopeful for us, for what we can become.  I don't underestimate how hard it will be to fix the problems that have been accumulating for who knows how many years of underhand, fear based politics and lying, scaremongering newspapers blaming anyone but us and our government for our problems but I hope that with Westminster in meltdown our politicians will realise that they have lost a great many of us and that it is not something they can ignore as they may have previously thought.  I am not a Jeremy Corbyn fan but I do share the hope that we can have a kinder, gentle politics.  I also hope that we can work towards a government that will bridge the gaping chasm between wealth and poverty in this country.

I'm hopeful that politicians will work on ways of engaging the disenfranchised back into politics and into believing that this country cares for them.  Because we do.  The politicians might not, but I believe the public do.  I'm hopeful that we will defeat the far-right and we will not let this country become a small minded, introverted, hate-filled nation the likes of the sweaty faced lie factory of a man that is Nigel Farage would like to see.  Immigration is vital for this country.  I believe that the majority of us embrace it, even those who have worries over the numbers of people migrating here. And those worries are legitimate.  It doesn't make you racist to worry about the effects migration has on our public services, on housing, on schools.  But that's not the EU.  Our government has woefully underfunded the NHS for decades along with all our other public services.  Houses aren't being built because of our government.  Huge corporations aren't paying a fair amount of tax because of our government (the EU actually wants to pass a law to help reduce off shore tax havens).

So for showing our politicians that we don't want to stand for this in a very big way I applaud Leave voters.  I think it is mistimed and misjudged but it is what it is.  I believe that our politicians can no longer be self-serving, career minded egoists.  And not all of them are.  I think they now know that, quite frankly, we won't stand for their bullshit anymore.  So I'm hopeful.

I'm still uncertain what the future holds and I'm more than a little bit scared but I'm hopeful.