Oh no, everything is great!!

The mind is a bitch.

Or maybe just life is a bitch.

Whatever, I’m pretty depressed today. I don’t use the term lightly, I’m using it today because I know that I have literally nothing to be unhappy about. And I am not happy, veering between nearly murdering my cat and nearly crying at work.

I’ve recovered from a long period of being REALLY depressed, with damn good reason. 10 years ago my daughter was born, I had a great job, was married and generally feeling very happy with life. The marriage ended, redundancy visited and stayed way too long, I got into debt, wandered and suffered for along time. But 3 years ago I turned 40 and everything started to lift. I went to college, got a decent job, moved back closer to my daughter and generally got my shit together. It was hard and I did get perilously close to the bottom, but today I own a house, have an even better job, a new girlfriend of 1 year, a great car and everything is sorted.

Yet today, right now, I feel as I did in the middle of my struggles and there is no clear reason for it. So, by way of therapy I’m going to clear out my mental drawer and see what lurks.

Firstly, what did I lose in the struggle?

Well, 2 weeks after finishing college I lost my Dad. This occurrence seemed to be a catalyst for me to improve. Not least because after 7 years of poverty, there was an inheritance. Almost overnight I had no debt, moved from a borrowed car to a nice car. Channelled him to be better at work and did well because of it. Emotionally, he was a good guy and I didn’t hate him but I had weighed out his role in my life long before he went and so I don’t feel like it really cost me too much. I was sad to lose him, but that was always going to happen someday.

Also, in the midst of my troubles I turned to music to heal me. I made 5 albums that had been buried within me and that was an amazing thing to be able to realise. Unquestionably my saviour at that time, having ‘recovered’ I don’t really have much to say in terms of music anymore, so there could be a loss there. I still have music, I play in a covers band now and I love it, particularly the lack of trying to achieve something from it. We just play the songs we like and we really enjoy it. I really enjoy it.

I have this new girl, and she is a remarkable person. Strong, confident full of life and life experience. She’s been up and down, she’s drunk wine in the graveyard and tea in The Ritz. She’s a lot like me. But I do feel like I have lost my insularity. There is safety in just bashing girls from Tinder and moving on every month or so. There’s very little risk. That isn’t really a loss I think, although the trauma of my failed marriage ran off with my untroubled hard-ons. Now that is a loss! Thank heavens for Cialis. This girl is a risk, simply because we’re a year in and starting to make plans. The building of towers scares me, because I know the pain of watching them fall down before my eyes.

And then six months ago I also lost my Mum. She gave me all the things I hate about myself. She ruined all the things I wanted the most when I was young. Still, it wasn’t bitter regret I felt when she died. Neither was it terrible sadness. I’m not sure that I know how I feel about it, even now. Not too much really. She got ill when I was on holiday last year, and my immediate thought was of a time when I was ill at school. I had torn the tendons in my knees aged around 13. The doctors gave me crutches and told me to take 2 weeks off school. She balked at their advice and sent me back in the next day. It was all I could think about, faced with the possibility of having to cut our holiday short. I hadn’t even remembered that for years and years, but suddenly it was in sharp focus. I guess that sums up my relationship with my Mum.

Overwhelmingly, today I’m aware of a lack of desire. I went to the shops earlier to get food, and strolled around the Mall looking at stuff that I don’t need, hoping to find something that I wanted. But I want for nothing. I desire nothing at all on the material plain, and to be honest even the emotional plain is dry for me now. I love my girlfriend, I really do. But I could count on one hand the amount of times in the last 6 months that I really wanted to get it on. I used to be such a hound too, I even had a sketchy nickname based on my libido. I’ve disowned it now.

I have no previous experience of this feeling. I’ve always wanted something. Usually with intensity. I’m in a proper fugue at the moment. An unexplainable miasma.

The only obvious thing I can point to is that I am not getting enough sleep. Not a dangerously low amount but definitely not enough. I suppose that’s a pretty good place to start to fight this feeling, so I’m going to bed very soon.

Maybe that’ll help. It certainly can’t hurt.

 

 

 

We need to talk about 6.

I’ve been a musician forever. It seems…

Everyone loves music and everyone has their own little things that ring their bells. Accepted. There is, however, a difference between a normal person and a music lover. A normal person is fed whatever they hear on the radio at work, probably on Radio 2. They have fond memories of when they were young and got a little bit into raving or Indie clubs but otherwise they just waft along and like most stuff, and dislike other stuff.

The music lover is different. Firstly, the correct music is a matter of life and death. It’s mood management. It’s happy pills. It’s everything. Secondly, the thing they like is much more nuanced than just genres or artists, it’s types of rhythms or styles of production. Subject matter of lyrics or the presence or absence of certain instruments. It’s really deep.

As a consequence the music lover will have music in their collection that spans genre wildly. They will certainly have some music that normal people will despise. They will have an eclectic mix, and it has to be that way.

At home this is not a problem, when visiting friends… well, you choose your friends carefully! Especially ones that you visit. But we all have to work and if you’re restricted to a radio at work you’re in real trouble.

Except DAB is here, and there are extra channels with a more focussed playlist. Surely there is some harbour amongst all these extra stations? God knows there is nothing on FM for the music lover, unless you go Radio 3 of course. I can dig it, but I’m a rocker so that’ll only work for a short while. No problem they cry, there are a plethora of RAWK stations on there too! Well, yes but if I want to hear some Rock Music, ‘Smoke On The Water’ is never fucking it! And besides, as stated above I may only want to listen to a slice of Rock amongst many other things, not a whole day of ‘The Most Obvious Rock Songs Ever Made’.

Nope. The only choice for a true music lover within the full FM and DAB radio systems is BBC Radio 6 Music.

So right that they fought to save it and they succeeded. This must be the place, right? Staffed with either respectable DJs or Musicians, a very open brief it terms of genre and song choice, no advertising, very little news and sport. Just great music, all day.

Well, sort of.

I tried to explain the problem to a producer friend of mine and could only sum it up this way. You have a BBC radio station staffed by the elite of candidates for media jobs.Rightly so, maybe, but this builds in an inherent limitation. Those staffers choose a lot of the content even though all the DJs bring their own tastes to the table, there is a clunking playlist. It changes a lot but it has become horribly predictable because those staffers are all music lovers from University life. They all have a similar set of artists that they approve of. In this class-sensitive country they very often make the classic error of assuming that everyone else went to Uni and to the student union for socials and therefore has the same back catalogue of ‘classics’.

Can you tell? I didn’t.

I have lots of friends who did, and from my era they all liked Pop Will Eat Itself, Wonder Stuff, Blur, Ride, Teenage Fanclub etc etc. Indie kids were always middle class when I was young. I was from a working class town, even the rich weren’t middle class. None of us liked all that stuff, because it was made by uni kids, and uni kids loved it. We liked indie music too, but it was the stuff made by people like us.

What I’m saying is that there was always more than one type of musical purist, but 6 Music is unaware of this. They’re all Uni based indie kids with good taste in music, playing music made by people like them and they assume everyone listening  is also the same. The working class has no voice in it beyond whichever Grime artist they’ve chosen to like this month.

So, each day I have it on my radio at work. I like some of it but more often than not I find myself hissing at the thing, usually because they’re playing that Labi Siffre song that Eminem sampled AGAIN, or because they constantly play the music of their guest Artist/DJs, or because they’re just being too obvious. Too safe. Too Patronising. Too narrow a choice. Too much mainstream music from their youths.

For a true music lover, which I most certainly am, I just shouldn’t be so dissatisfied by it. But I am.

There’s this bloke…

I have to offload a little about my work colleague.

But first some context. I am an engineer, a maintenance engineer to be specific. I deal with electrical equipment, refrigeration systems, some computer equipment and some fabrication work too. It’s very ‘general’ engineering, a bit of everything and that’s why I love it. I work for a large company that ranks about 1 on the moral scale from 0-10, 10 being the most moral and pious. I won’t divulge the name because I’m not mega-proud of their work.

But morals don’t pay the bills these days, and I spent years of worthy objection to the industry that now pays my mortgage. The irony is sort of ‘cute’ to me now.

Anyway, in my job I work with another guy, Bill we’ll call him for these purposes. Bill has worked in this place for 37 years, and it shows. He’s the fix-it guy for the whole factory and his knowledge is ‘next level’. As a hint at how geeky he is, he told me used to do a lot of home programming on computers. Coding we call it now, I used to know a few guys who got into it early on, most of them starting off with Spectrums or Commodores in the early 80’s. Bill was doing it in the mid 70’s. I literally have no idea how he did this because home computers were the stuff of a mad mans dreams in the mid 70’s.

So, he’s 61 now and he’ll be retiring soon and they’ve taken me on to learn from him and to take over the mantle. Huge responsibility and loads to learn. Good job I have Bill then, coz he knows everything. Except he’s Dyslexic, probably on the spectrum and possibly Bi-polar too. They’re all challenges to deal with but interestingly it’s the Dyslexia that frustrates me the most. You see, engineering is about problem solving and one of the key tools to aid you in that is terminology. If a bolt is loose, you need to be clear about what size it is, what tool you need etc. If a pipe needs replacing you need to know what size, what kind of pipe and so on, you need to identify things precisely. A flange is a flange and a knurling is a knurling. They are not the same and knowing the difference saves a lot of time and energy for everyone. But Bill, he’s not too hot on terminology. In fact he almost never uses it.

We’ll be working in an area with approx 30 pipes of varying sizes and about 200 joins of several types and he’ll say “Check that bit of pipe is tight” pointing vaguely at the birds-nest of copper tubing and connectors. That’s very frustrating but he’s not discriminatory, he does it all the time.

The other week, he said to me: “You have to be careful that that is done up tight otherwise… thing.” And promptly walks away, never to reveal what ‘thing’ means. You see, he’s getting a bit foggy minded too. On top of everything else.

He has several immersive hobbies outside of his complex work including Archaeology, Amateur Radio, Chess and Dowsing too. He has an immensely deep knowledge of all of these disciplines  and he loves to chat about them. But he’ll spring from a detailed description of a crucial part of our job that I actually do need to know, into a lengthy speech about how he prefers to dig his trenches with a Mattock rather than a trowel as most archaeologists do, without a spare breath. Sometimes it’s a few minutes before I realise that I don’t need to be trying to remember what he’s saying because he’s veered off into another subject. He talks a lot. A whole lot. Did I mention that he repeats himself?

Constantly.

Also, he has a little problem that he has to talk about quite a lot. It’s his wife.

You see, she appears to be utterly mental. Medical diagnosis is Thyroid Depression. My guess is a bit of this has rubbed off on him. It’s no surprise that the other people who work around him have had enough of his blethering on, and have almost no tolerance for it. But I’ve only been there for 6 months and they’ve basically said to me “Off you go, follow him around and learn everything. Byeee!”

I’m hanging in there, even though we sit face to face on our downtime, there are no windows in the area we work in and I am nowhere near completing my learning just yet.

Some days it feels like all I’ve learned is how not to stab somebody who is annoying on several levels, but I suppose that’s a skill that is almost as useful as Engineering.

Almost.

x

Top 10 Most over-rated bands.

I’m very passionate about music, and I have very broad tastes in most genres. I’m most passionate about what I don’t like. I think this is basically OK. I don’t see it as a necessarily negative thing to not like stuff, I think that’s all part of the normal discourse for appreciating art.

With that in mind here’s my list of bands that LOTS of people love but I can’t stand, in no particular order. I welcome the ensuing debate…

  1. The Velvet Underground. I find everything I’ve ever heard of theirs really terribly produced and I’m a fan of interesting production. The songs are very basic at their core but with a literary pretentiousness to the lyric that has somehow managed to fool a lot of smart people. And closet fetishists. Also the singing is so fey and lazy. Ugh!
  2. Joy Division/New Order. I mean, it’s just horribly executed (no pun intended). Awful playing which I could forgive if it was just JD, but just go and watch Bernard Whateverhisnameis play guitar. After 30 plus years as a ‘professional’ musician one should at least be comfortable with ones instrument, not to say actually have got quite good at it. But no, he looks like he’s fresh out of his 3rd lesson and relying heavily on session musos and production to make it listenable.
  3. The Strokes. Just. Fuck. Off.
  4. Teenage Fanclub. Teenage strop more like. What is it with that wispy singing, barely there and propped up with harmonies. And if you see them live, they can only just manage to recreate them. Singing softly and making a trademark of a harmony vocal style over extremely basic chord sequences, you’d think they can perform them with confidence, but oh no.
  5. Blur. I mean, I could be here all day with this one. I’m already picking up a theme here. Essentially, don’t put something down in the studio that you can’t perform live with style. Damon Albarn is the prime chancer, with very little musical ability he’s been trying to con everyone for years that he’s a real musical genius. And he fucking isn’t.
  6. Patti Smith. Utter, utter pretentious art-school dog-shit. And really that whole NY art-rock scene can do one. Similarly wrong as The Velvets. Just because you call it art, doesn’t mean it is. Horses, horses, horses. So fucking what??
  7. Pete Docherty. Well, this is obvious, isn’t it? How dare you put out a record and expect people to pay good money for it when it sounds like you can barely be bothered to stand up in front of the microphone. Skaggy twat.
  8. The White Stripes/Royal Blood. Oh, look. We’re so unique we didn’t bother to get a bass player because you don’t need one. Except we’ll have an effects pedal putting in the bottom end or we’ll record bass in the studio and effect it on stage. Don’t be a prick, just hire a bass player. Anyone can play bass.
  9. The XX. This is a record you need to have, somebody once told me. No. Not if you’ve already heard the first couple of Cure albums you don’t. Away with your shite, and try finishing a song before you release it.
  10. Nirvana. Yes, that’s right. I said it. Nirvana are hideously over-rated. When they came out it was good, pretty damn good. But all the fake misery and vague imagery, nonsense lyrics and so on led me to opine at the time that the only truly great thing about that band was the drummer. And what do you know? I wish I’d had a score on Cobain topping himself because I saw it coming a mile off, only it turned out it was his wife after all.

So there you go. I feel so much better getting all that out there.

It’s like a release, spiritually.

Come take me on if you disagree, or tell me your additions.

x

A lot going on…

There’s much to talk about.

I’ll be writing about many subjects including politics, engineering, music, art and maybe even family life. Maybe not.

It’s been years since I blogged but I’m missing an outlet for my brain farts and I am so very sick of social media. Oh, so very sick of it.

Typically for me, I can feel a very contentious blog coming on. I also have a fair bit of down time at work currently, so hopefully I can be more prolific than previously.

Thingers crossed.

X