Book contract

Earlier this month I signed a contract with Bloomsbury to write my first monograph, all about Bowie's 'late work' - The Next Day (2013), Lazarus (2015) and (2016). Very excited and quite terrified, which I have been assured by my editors are appropriate feelings to have right now.

Meanwhile I'm busily co-authoring a book with Prof Pamela Burnard (Cambridge Uni) called Doing Music, Gender and Diverse Creativities: Enacting Socially Just Education for Brill | Sense. On top of this I have my new EP Bird Rib coming out in early Feb, 2020 with Bigo & Twigetti. Check out the amazing artwork that will become the cover image kindly licensed with permission from the super talented Maurizio Bongiovanni.

Busy times! If things go a bit quiet and you wonder where I am, look for me down the bottom of the garden in the writing shed. x

Space Oddity (cover) by KUSO

My Stylophone orchestra got to record a cover of Space Oddity with Tony Visconti to help celebrate the 50th anniversary of the song, and our music video was premiered by David Bowie Official!

We filmed some of the video on the day we recorded in the studio, and the 'tin can'/green screen bits we quickly shot on our last rehearsal of the year, using a 4-pack of those 'foil emergency blankets' and the cheapest space suit costume I could find on Amazon. The wonderful Mari Dangerfield edited it together for us - you can check it out below!

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New Single: Bird Rib

It started when I accidentally loaded an old master tape of Feather Hammer into the machine backwards at work (forgot it was stored 'tails out'), and I kinda loved the sound of it. I ripped it to pro tools and took it away with me. Stretched and reflected and now strange but still completely familiar - I was so drawn to it. I set up a mic on a piano and improvised along - from this game I found the starting points for a few new pieces which will hopefully form a new EP (out in early 2020, fingers crossed).

Following this process, 'Bird Rib' is in response to a backwards half speed (7ips) version of 'DFACE (Practice this Video)'.

The piano is the one in my office - freshly tuned and miced closely with a single condenser (Bluebird SL) bang in the middle, chained through two compressors to get that blown-out tone - once I put it through a tremolo effect it took on this sticky gooey cloying effect which I really loved. It’s mostly multi-tracked and treated piano parts, with additional Volca Keys and some soft Mellotron choirs in the back. Bird Rib is a palindrome, and the music has reflective elements built into its structure; left/right, up/down, front and back.

The title Bird Rib also reminds me of a small bird’s rib cage - an impossibly intricate structure of fine bones, or the idea that my heart could be a caged bird that lives in my chest, fluttering and singing from time to time.

Take a listen to "Bird Rib" above, or find your preferred streaming source here: https://smarturl.it/BirdRib. It's the 4th single released from Bigo & Twigetti's wonderful Scale compilation. Worth listening to in full from start to finish, I promise you. -----

Save the date [23rd Nov]: The Work and Legacy of Scott Walker with Peter Walsh

This event has been a dream to organise - it's going to be so amazing! Tickets are limited, so book quickly to avoid missing out!

Kingston University's Visconti Studio and The Journal for Cultural Research present, a day exploring the art, innovative practice, cultural impact, creative musical and sonic legacy of Scott Walker, with Peter Walsh, Scott's long-term producer and collaborator.

The day focusses on Scott's late-period output from 1985's
Climate of Hunter up to his final solo LPs 2012's Bish Bosch, work with other artists such as Sunn0))) (Soused, 2014) and with filmmaker Brady Corbet. There will be a screening of Stephen Kijak's 2006 documentary 30th Century Man, and a book launch of Scott Wilson’s Scott Walker and the Song of the One-All-Alone (Bloomsbury, 2019). Listening space will be set up with sound equipment provided by Bowers & Wilkins, Chord Co. and Chord Electronics.

The evening event is an interview conversation between music critic Pete Paphides and Peter Walsh, followed by an exclusive surround mix playback by Peter Walsh of 'Duet for One Voice' from
Cocteau Voices (commissioned by the Royal Opera House, premiered in 2011).

10.30 Registration
11 am Intro (organisers’ welcome)
11.15 Rob Young
12 noon Charlie Blake and Adam Potts
2pm Matt Selway, Malte Kobel, Sabeen Chaudhry
3.30 Eimear McBride and Scott Wilson
5pm 30th Century Man – screening
7.30 Pete Paphides interview with Peter Walsh + Q&A
Duet for One Voice (multi-speaker performance of an extract from Scott Walker’s Cocteau Voices)

Get tickets here: https://www.kingston.ac.uk/events/item/3481/23-nov-2019-the-work-and-legacy-of-scott-walker-with-peter-walsh
19.267_Scott Walker poster aw-1-----

The New Woman - Kate Bush from 1977 to 1980

I wrote this essay for a book that was meant to get published, but didn't, about Kate Bush's early career and featuring wonderful photos by Gered Mankowitz. Since it's not going to see the light of day, I thought I might as well publish it here for anyone who is interested.

Part of the payment I was promised for the piece was a signed Mankowitz print (!) which did arrive, so I'm not too upset about the way things turned out!

Download the PDF



Hill of Beans

Last Summer Tony worked with Ralph McTell on his latest album in Visconti Studio, and now the wonderful end product as arrived! And what a nice thing it is to have a physical product in your hands - the smell of the ink, the new plastic. The feel of the glossy paper booklet. CD nostalgia!

I was very surprised and excited to see my name in the acknowledgements - surprised because I didn't do much at all except hang around and make tea, occasionally going to the shops to restock milk and biscuits. It was a special privilege to watch Tony and Ralph working together, some 50 years after their first collaborations on Eight Frames a Second (1968) and Not Til Tomorrow (1972). Mary Hopkin is singing backing vocals again, joined now by daughter Jess. Music history touching music present, circling around the decades.

It's an utterly beautiful record, too. Everyone who appreciates song-craft needs to treat their ears and hearts to this gem! Ralph's on tour at the moment - check out the dates here: http://www.ralphmctell.co.uk (I'll be at the RFH show on the 13th, come and say hi if you see me).





It was a chance event that led to the formation of the Kingston University Stylophone Orchestra - Dubreq, the company that makes the Stylophone, had gotten in touch with me with an offer to donate some vintage instruments to the Visconti Studio archive. This was around the same time that they were running a competition for their 50th anniversary, for which Tony was the judge so it seemed like a good idea for all of us to meet up at Visconti Studio.

They came with the vintage instruments (among the items a lovely old 350S, and the wonderful(ly bizarre) Piano-Mate), and a few boxes of standard stylophones. Tony was relaying stories of how he used to record the instrument, and fun ways to process the sound through amps and effects. At some point during the meeting I blurted out that I should 'start an orchestra' and before I really knew what it was that I had said, it was happening.

Then they sent me LOADS of stylophones. Different kinds. And batteries.

Thinking about how to arrange for these sounds, I decided to extend the ensemble to also include a theremin, omnichord, a vocal synth and some Korg Volca units. I bought a 16 channel preamp, a parametric EQ rack unit, and reverb/FX to chain the stylophones through, along with many many mini jack to 1/4" TRS cables. The idea was to massage the sound into something that could work as a pad texture, so that the band of stylos could function as a synthetic 'string section'.

I held tryouts in late 2018 and by January we had a group of brave and curious KUSO members regularly attending rehearsal, working on arrangements of Brian Eno, Robyn, Radiohead, Kraftwerk and Vangelis. Just 4 months later we had our first gig at the Stanley Picker Gallery in Kingston. In July we performed at the International Youth Arts Festival, first on an outdoor stage and then at the gala event (where we met with royalty, HRH Prince Edward).




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How awesome do we look in our sparkly capes? (New Look £7!)

In September the Stylophone Orchestra had an opportunity to record an arrangement of 'Space Oddity' in Visconti Studio, with Tony Visconti producing. Anyone who knows me knows what Bowie means to me so let me tell you I was PRETTY EXCITED. Also QUITE NERVOUS. I thought it was a good choice (other songs I was considering: T-Rex's 'Cosmic Dancer' and Bowie's 'Warszawa'). 'Space Oddity' won out in the end because it's obviously such a legendary stylophone track, and this year (2019) is its 50th anniversary. Of course Tony Visconti himself produced the original Space Oddity album in 1969… so y'know, no pressure.

Marcella and John from Dubreq came down for the day, and they made some custom T-shirts for us. They also brought a prototype of their new synth, the Gen R-8, which we used for one of the solo parts in the arrangement. Later that same day Tony asked us to perform a special arrangement for a track on his new solo album called 'Politics'. After this day I told the group that not only were we the best (only) Stylophone Orchestra on the planet, we were also the world's best (only) 'professional session Stylo ensemble', and that everyone should immediately update their LinkedIn profiles to reflect this.





Now a new academic year has started, we've welcomed 5 new members to our ranks, and I'm busy sketching out some new arrangements. I think we're going to tackle some classical music now, and more original songs written by our talented members. I can't wait to see where this weird little project takes us next.

Follow us on Instagram. Also, we're looking for cool gigs - get in touch if you'd like us to play your event!-----

The Model Citizen - RMIT Galllery, Melbourne 8/2 - 23/3

Are you a model citizen?
Meet the micro lenses of surveillance and audit culture; the algorithm of benign search engines; the political poetry of embodied dance; the veneer of the celebrity citizen; the performative monotony of routine; the bio-power of the viral robot; the ghostly noise of a thousand newsreaders speaking all at once, and the hopeful threads and fibres of participatory culture.
For this exhibition I have collaborated with Sean Redmond on an installation titled "The Unknown Celebrity". This will be a mock up on a fan's bedroom. The room, the shrine, will worship this unknown celebrity: this model citizen. Of course, the person whose room it is, is the one and same unknown celebrity who is being worshipped– a haunting mirror on their own invisibility and hungriness to be noticed. Their self-adoring room guarantees them the ubiquity of model citizenship...

The four separate components of my soundscape are designed to be experienced in various locations within the constructed environment. The sonic scenes are haunted by timbres of embedded musical memory, experience and emotion. All compositions are set to a tempo of 60BPM.

Mirror (9’20") plays with repetition, feedback, texture, mimicry and multiplicity of a single voice. Memory (8’17”) uses the aesthetics of vapourware, ambient trip hop and broken tape effects. Shrine (21’08”) is a collage of original vocal recordings, reversed, resampled and stretched. Sleep (10'32”) is an extended version of a piece originally released on the album Machines (2012), and includes cello parts performed by Catherine Saumarez.

My definition of a model citizen: My model citizen is a person who represents the shared human experience in contemporary media cultures. A person whose development is influenced and shaped by outside stimulus - preferences, ideologies and philosophies growing in the hothouse of contemporary fandom. They say there’s a spot in the human brain that has evolved to specifically process timbre, and as a result most of us can differentiate between hundreds of voices, understanding the communicative intent or emotion behind them. Our personalities, histories and collective cultural becoming is soaked through with sounds and music; it transmits feeling and intent, and allows us travel the backroads of our deepest memories. What we experience and love becomes part of who we are.