I hope y’all had a nice Christmas 2010. My present hasn’t arrived yet, but I’m getting one of these:
I’m in manchild heaven. When trying to find a picture, the top Google autosuggestion was “triceratops never existed”, which is a bit of a blow. Now I know how all those poor folks felt when I snarkily pointed out that Brontosaurus wasn’t a real dinosaur.
When I was fourteen or fifteen we got a compilation of old French songs from the Dick Institute Library (hilariously renamed ‘The Dick’ some years back) and I was first introduced to Stefane Grapelli, Django Reinhardt and of course Edith Piaf. This was the first song on the CD and it remains my favourite.
There was a thing called e-mail when I was in my mid-teens. People actually used it to talk to each other. I know, right? It seems so odd now. We’ve got social networking to invade each other’s privacy.
Back then, there was something of a craze for questionnaires. Usually nothing more than thinly-veiled attempts to get people to talk about their not-so-secret crush (oo-er), I had a blast filling them out. Every question was an opportunity to be a smartass. I always imagined that if the NME interviewed me one day, I’d be the funniest musician they’d met in years. Ah, youth.
It came to my attention that this wasn’t a new thing. In fact, Marcel Proust is known for having done the same thing in the late 19th century with a set of questions that are still popular today, unimaginatively known as the “Proust Questionnaire”. Upon reading the questions, I was struck by how much they resembled the “TELL ME YOUR DEEPEST SECRETS LOL” nature of those old e-mail forwards. So, for nostalgia’s sake (I’m all about nostalgia), I thought I’d give it a go.
The Proust Questionnaire
1. What is your favourite virtue?
The ability to know, deeply and decisively, that it’s time to shut the fuck up because you’re making no goddamn sense.
2. What are your favourite qualities in a man?
See above. They’re pretty good at lifting and moving things, if what you need is for something to be lifted and moved.
3. What are your favourite qualities in a woman?
Kurt Vonnegut said in his final book, Timequake, that he’d never get over how women were shaped, that he’d go to his grave wanting to pet their boobs and butts. I’m not that smart though, so I’ll just go with “I like how they look naked.”
4. What do you appreciate most about your friends?
That they can stand to be around me and occasionally loan me cigarettes.
5. What is your main fault?
My main fault is I have too many little ones.
6. What is your favourite occupation?
Lying in bed, not doing very much. It was once said of John Lennon: “He can sleep almost indefinitely, he is probably the laziest man in England.” Sleep well, brother, sleep well.
7. What is your idea of happiness?
Receiving a blowjob while listening to Pavarotti singing Nessun Dorma and climaxing at… well, the climax. Oh, Pavs. Your ringing high C’s are sorely missed.
8. What is your idea of misery?
Realising that when asked important questions you make cavalier jokes and reference dead guys repeatedly.
9. If not yourself, who would you be?
One of those Japanese cows that are fed beer and massaged daily.
10. Where would you like to live?
Anywhere that sells Twinkies.
11. What is your favourite colour and flower?
Green, and I don’t have a favourite. My least favourite is lilies, though. Girls love ’em, but I honestly think they smell like piss. Stale piss.
12. What is your favourite bird?
Ducks. No question. I could watch those idiots for hours.
13. Who are your favourite prose authors?
George RR Martin, Kurt Vonnegut and Isaac Asimov. I’m such a fucking nerd. I’d like to say Dostoevsky, but I’ve only read one and a quarter of his books. They were good though. I dig Russians.
14. Who are your favourite poets?
I hate poetry. There’s nothing wrong with it, I just haven’t learned to appreciate it yet, and I don’t like pretending that I give a shit.
15. Who are your favourite heroes in fiction?
Harry Paget Flashman, for half a book before the joke got old. And Rocky Balboa, I guess. For one film. Before the joke got old.
16. Who are your favourite heroines in fiction?
Ellen Ripley. She managed to kick more ass than Michael Biehn. Woah.
17. Who are your favourite painters?
I don’t have a lot of appreciation for art, mostly due to my complete lack of ability, but I like Caspar David Friedrich.
18. Who are your heroes in real life?
Patrick Stewart, for being the badass old man I could never hope to become. David Bowie, for being both unassailably cool and an absolute genius. Ernest Shackleton, for doing the impossible. I’d like to say Anatoly Karpov, but he was apparently a bit of a dick.
19. Who are your heroines in real life?
Emily Davidson, for believing in justice. Not that I’d want to emulate her final moments. And Kate Beaton, for having the immense talent required to make people laugh with nothing more than an ostensibly simple drawing.
19. What are your favourite names?
Stud Kickass. Or Flex Buffchest. I’m not picky.
20. What is your favourite food and drink?
Rebecca’s risotto and Coca-Cola. I could live off those for the rest of my life. They would go even better with her challah.
21. What do you hate most of all?
The fact that Death Note didn’t finish at episode 26 like it was supposed to, anal fissures, and everything to do with advertising, tv talent shows and the gossip industry. I’d go with something more abstract, but those are quite enough.
22. Which historical figures do you hate the most?
Gregor McGregor, for being a tit. And he has a stupid name.
23. Which military event do you admire the most?
“Every seven seconds, a German dies in Russia. Stalingrad is a mass graveyard.” I don’t know if it’s to be admired, but its importance certainly resonates with me.
24. Which reform do you admire the most?
Trick question. The fact that there needed to be a reform to give women the vote or free African slaves in the first place is deplorable.
25. Which natural talent would you like to be gifted with?
The ability to fart loudly and on command, preferably to a melody. I can safely say I would never get tired of this. Failing that, the ability to draw, because you can do it anywhere and it doesn’t make any noise, unlike music.
26. How do you wish to die?
27. What is your present state of mind?
28. For what fault do you have the most toleration?
I try to tolerate the faults of others that I can see in myself. I don’t always succeed.
29. What is your chief characteristic?
Thinking too much, but not before I speak.
30. What is your favourite motto?
“They talk of a man betraying his country, his friends, his sweetheart. There must be a moral bond first. All a man can betray is his conscience.”
“You don’t take no shit off fools, an’ you judge a person by what’s in ’em, not how they look. An’ you do the right thing. You gotta be one of the good guys, son. ‘Cause there’s way too many of the bad.”
Well, that was enlightening – looks like I still can’t help a smartass answer.
“That’s nice to know… it gives one a feeling of solidarity, almost of continuity with the past, that sort of thing.”
1. Joanna Reb and the Wee Lie Downs
2. Bingo Bango Reinhardt Django
3. The Man Who Fell Forever
4. Something Nice
I guess in some respects this could be considered my first release proper, containing as it does some material I’m a little prouder of. They represent a bit more of the kind of music I like making. The process of writing and recording it was mentally exhausting, mind. Having to compose and arrange parts for up to 8 instruments a song and then having to record and mix five songs will do that to you. It’s safe to say I won’t be listening to them again for a while.
Joanna Reb and the Wee Lie Downs has a classical feel to it, which is a throwback to my Higher composition piece at school, which was the first thing I really enjoyed composing. Maybe I’ll upload it at some point. Also, I have a thing for old American war anthems, hence the chorus. John Philip Sousa has been the background to many a night on the internet. In fact, I’m gonna go listen to Semper Fi right now.
Bingo Bango Reinhardt Django is three and a half minutes of utter bollocks which was fun to write and record. I go through these phases – phrase-phases, if you will – of jotting down nonsense phrases, such as “hey there, truth or dare”, “yes indeedy, Mike McCready”, “jazz candy” and, of course, “bingo bango, Reinhardt Django”, so rather than make a point, I decided to camp them up all over the track.
The Man Who Fell Forever is an incredibly old song that has been through a million different shapes. I like the melody, but it’s difficult to sing. I think Craig Fulton wrote the riff that comes in during after the third verse on a miniature Casio keyboard back in 2004. So, credit to him, I guess.
Something Nice is a personal favourite of mine. Are you allowed to say that about things you’ve written? I started it back in February while waiting for a shot at Call of Duty, and I’ve been waiting for a chance to let people hear it. When my brother David heard it for the first time, I commented that it reminded me of the end theme to Street Fighter II, to which he replied “Thanks for playing!”, which sent me into gales of laughter. If you’ve played a large number of video games from before 1995, you’ll get it too.
Doodah is a little acoustic ditty I wrote one night after spending too long working out the specifics of a piece I was working on. I was probably trying to figure out the exact amount of portamento to use on a synth, or how much of the bass frequencies I could roll off before it lacked oomph. Something boring like that. It was nice to go back to writing a simple song on guitar, and it contained a modulation I was pretty pleased with (note: I am shit at modulating). I remember remarking at the time that it sounded almost like gospel. I assume this was before I added the lyrics.
It was made almost entirely on my laptop, with the exception of the singing (obviously) and the acoustic guitar on Doodah, hence the electronic nature of most tracks. The fantastic cover art (inspired by the brief-but-brilliant ‘abstract pixel art’ fad) was by my brother, who completely understood that it was all a reference to old Nintendo games.
2 players A or 2 players B? Find out here.