Acoustic guitar





There's this stuff on this page, and then there's also:

COLLABORATIONS

CHUMBAWAMBA

 COMMONERS CHOIR

My latest ongoing musical project is Commoners Choir. Here's our short film and song, 'Three Boats'. There's much, much more about what we do, what we've done and our plans for the future on the Commoners Choir website. 

SINGING AT THE TATE 

Photo: David Heppingstall 

Turner Tate final MP3.mp3

Here we are, singing in front of JMW Turner's 'Snowstorm – Hannibal Crossing the Alps' at Tate Britain. Part of a project called 'Radio City', the choir was made up of the gallery's 'Sing Out!' choir and augmented by volunteers (Ramblers Caroline White and Rowan Godel, plus Rowan's Mum). An ad-hoc seat-of-the-pants fly-by-night gathering, we recorded the song partly in the rehearsal room at the Tate. You can hear the air conditioner's hum.

The song was written after a handful of us walked around the Turner galleries and observed the spectators, the paintings, and the spaces between them – spaces of politeness, reverence and historical distance. Turner was known to attack his paintings with wild brushstrokes, to re-paint whole sections whilst they were on display in galleries, to spit on them, rubbing his thumbs into the oils. Our response as an audience seems incredibly tame… like sitting down at a Sex Pistols concert. Or something like that. 

The song – let's call it the Tate Turner Song for now – ends with the line 'Hear Nine Inch Nails on a violin', one person's reply when I asked "what music could accompany these paintings?". It was performed in the gallery on January 31st, 2015. 

Many thanks to the choir and to the gallery workers who helped make it happen.

PANTHEIST ANTHEM 

Pantheist Anthem Oct 2013.mp3

"When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe."

I've been writing almost exclusively for theatre for a couple of years – apart from the odd song for other people's albums – but here's a song recorded at home for no other reason that it's been hanging around for six months and needed nailing to the floor with a big hammer before it flew away. It was inspired by the conversations I've had on long walks with John Jones and his Ramblers over the past couple of years. 

And (right) a photograph of Pantheist John Muir, whose quote headlines this paragraph.

My Mum bought a cheap Spanish acoustic guitar when I was around 15. She was going to take lessons. I don't think she ever did. The guitar ended up going to Paris and back twice, where I busked with my mates Dan and Midge on the streets around the Pompidou Centre. The drawback was that you couldn't plug it in – so when I went to Maidstone Art College in the late '70s I bought an electric guitar on the Saturday market and learnt how to play it without an amplifier. It was so cheap, the strings were about an inch from the fretboard and the electrics never worked. Like strumming an egg slicer, basically. I painted a Mondrian design on the guitar and started to write songs. 

More than three decades later and I hold firm to the idea that music and songwriting were an essential, a passion, and never a career option. Back then, while I was in Maidstone being chased by Mods for being 'a punk' or being cautioned by cops for messing around with a toy gun on the High Street, I was open to anything. Then one evening, at a concert in a dingy church hall in Kent, I fell under the thrall of Crass and simultaneously woke up that part of me that bothered about the world.

"Rock 'n' Roll: The martial music of every sideburned delinquent on the face of the earth." (Frank Sinatra)