The day I met George Martin

I had the honour of meeting the late George Martin about 20 years ago, and I’ll never forget it. He was the patron of the popular music degree that I studied at the University of Salford.

One day he came in to speak to us students in the lecture theatre. After talking for a while, he turned to the students, looked at me and asked what I wanted to do when I had graduated. Quickly catching breath after an initial feeling of “oh my God, George Martin just asked me a question!” I replied that I wanted to be a rock ‘n’ roll star.

I never fulfilled that ambition, but I’m content with life, and the fact that I made George Martin smile is good enough for me.

 

Harkive: the 6 ways I heard music today

For the past couple of years I have contributed to the annual Harkive research day, sharing my listening habits during the course of one day. Last year I was even lucky enough to win a delightful bundle of music on Static Caravan Records for my efforts.

There are a number of different ways that I listen to music at the moment. I didn’t employ them all today, but I did use almost as many ways of documenting my listening as I did actually doing the listening itself.

I now realise I was a little too objective in describing my listening habits today. So I will add a bit of context now.

I’m not sure if the first one really counts. I do often wake with a song in my head, and today’s was one of my favourite songs from the new Wilful Missing album.

Listening on my way to work helps me get an early fix of music and I also find it helps to focus my mind.

I use SoundCloud like a musical Twitter at the moment. I follow various record labels and artists to find out what new music is on the horizon. That’s how I come across gems like this one:

Continue reading Harkive: the 6 ways I heard music today

2014 – my year in music

A lot changed for me in 2014 in the way I find new music. I gave up my radio show on BCB in the spring.  For 10 years doing that radio programme meant a lot of music landed on my doorstep, literally. Since the spring I’ve heard nowhere near as new music as I used to.   Seeing end of year lists, such as Sarah Lay’s favourite 100 albums of 2014, and Bleep’s top 100 tracks, made me realise just how much I didn’t hear in 2014.

Having said that, BCB invited me back for a one off show over Christmas, and I used that to air some of the tunes that did impress me during 2014. You can hear 17 of my favourites from 2014 now via Mixcloud:

I feel sure I’ve probably not yet heard some of my favourite albums of 2014. So, although I have done the obligatory top 10, I’ve only included 9, leaving space for that amazing LP I haven’t yet heard.

Favourite LPs of 2014 (alphabetical order)

A Winged Victory For The Sullen – Atomos
Aphex Twin – Syro
Goat – Commune
Grouper – Ruins
Mogwai – Rave Tapes
Sun Kil Moon – Benji
The Twilight Sad – Everybody Wants To Be Here and Nobody Wants To Leave
Sharon Van Etten – Are We There
Wildbirds & Peacedrums – Rhythm
? – ?

Favourite gig of 2014

Continue reading 2014 – my year in music

Live sessions at BCB Radio

During my 10 years presenting Eclectic Mainline on BCB I had the pleasure of recording live (largely) acoustic sessions with some wonderful artists.

BCB Sessions

After I decided to give up the programme, I wanted to re-broadcast some of my favourite session tracks before leaving.  So, in my penultimate show on BCB I played 16 session tracks from  my archives.  You can hear the full programme on my Mixcloud page:

My method of recording a live session evolved over time until I ended up with a process that got the best out of the available resources. The microphones at BCB are only really suited for speech broadcasting, and the studios are not equipped for multitrack recording. But I managed to work round these restrictions. The microphones issue was easy to overcome, as I would borrow some from Wilful Missing.

I was restriced to recording in stereo, but I would hard pan the inputs, recording the lead vocal in the left channel, and all other instruments in the right channel. This effectively created a 2-track recording that I could later mix to ensure a good level on the lead vocal. But I needed to get a good live mix of all the instruments, and this wasn’t always easy because I was in the same room as the musicians. I couldn’t monitor what was being recorded without also hearing the ambient noise of the musicians in the room. Continue reading Live sessions at BCB Radio

Record Store Day – never mind the records

This morning I started queuing at 7.26am to get into Jumbo Records. Just over two and a half hours later, I was in the shop buying some of the records on my list, and learning that others had already sold out.

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If you are familiar with Record Store Day, that may sound like a familiar experience. If not, you may be wondering why us crazy fools do this. Record Store Day is an annual event to celebrate independent record shops. Hundreds of (very) limited records are released on the day and are only available in independent record shops. Some shops also arrange live instore performances for the day.

While queuing I was interviewed by a BBC reporter, who asked “why vinyl?” I think I gave a fairly eloquent answer, but in hindsight I wish I’d given a politician’s response, and answered a different question to the one I was asked, namely “why record shops?” Record Store Day is about reminding people how important independent record shops are. It did that for me 5 years ago. Before the 2009 Record Store Day I hadn’t been paying for much new music*, and that which I did pay for I tended to mostly get online. But since 2009 I’ve bought most of my new music from Jumbo Records in Leeds, and have developed good personal friendships with the staff.

Continue reading Record Store Day – never mind the records

10 Years on the Radio

It is now 10 years since I started presenting Eclectic Mainline on BCB Radio, and what a 10 years it has been.

10 Years on BCB Radio

While preparing for my anniversary show I looked back over what I have achieved, and thought to myself…

“S**t, did I really do all that?!”

Eclectic Mainline has evolved a fair bit over my decade at BCB.  From starting to get a healthy number of new releases coming my way through 2004, I then had a frequent flow of interviewees on the programme in 2005.  The December 2005 edition of The Big Issue In The North ran an article under the title of “The Spirit of John Peel lives“.  This cited my own programme as one of several on community radio stations that had a similar ethos to that of the late Peel. Discovering that article on Boxing Day was by far the best Christmas present I got that year.

2006 was a turning point for Eclectic Mainline, as I dipped my toes into the world of live sessions, and I had several session guests a year for the next 5 years.  I would say that those sessions made the years from 2006 to 2010 my purple patch on BCB.  In 2011, Laura Rawlings and myself were up against the big boys and girls of the radio world, as our live sessions won us a Radio Academy Awards nomination. Continue reading 10 Years on the Radio