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Blackwater Echoes

So I’m back playing guitar again, and then some! It all came about with my best buddy Tony getting unceremoniously dumped from the covers band he was in. I jokingly (half anyway) said that if he was getting anything else together to give me a shout. Not many days later he announced that he had drawn together the semblance of a new band. He has drafted Mark Harding (long-time friend of ours) on lead guitar – a rather splendid wielder of the axe is has to be said and Matt Waller, the bassist from his ‘Red White and Bluesy’ blues band days – a top notch wielder of the bass. The final piece of the jigsaw for him was therefore to have myself in as rhythm guitar and backing vocals. Rather flattered to be part of such a grooving set of musicians to be honest, but I love a challenge.

It became clear that the challenge was definitely on since the chosen genre for the band is Rock and Metal covers. There is no hiding on this one, no getting away with not practising – this stuff needs work and refinement to get right and sound tight as a nun’s chuff. So many MSN conversations later the first rehearsal was planned. I think we all had a nagging thought at the back of our minds as to whether it would work or not, but we needn’t have feared anything – we all got on like a house on fire and the bonus being that the initial songs we set ourselves to learn we pretty much nailed there and then. It’s at this point I think we all realised this was going to be lots of fun, damned tight and sounding awesome.

…a band name was plucked out of digital air via MSN and so Blackwater Echoes were born. Quite a clever little name and VERY metal. 🙂

Roll forward a couple more instrumental practices and the thoughts now turned to getting a singer on board. Tony advertised and soon enough we had Gavin on board; when we first met him we can be forgiven for thinking how the hell is this guy going to go from singing Muse through to singing Audioslave. It was always going to be a tall order and an ask to have such a person. Ermm, we found him! Holy mother of God this guy can sing, from the falsetto of Muse through to the lung busting of the likes of Audioslave and Metallica. He can pretty much nail anything – and he is a pretty handy drummer too as it happens!

We had our first band meeting last week to discuss the current songs and to throw a load into the mix for us to learn in 2 songs per fortnight chunks. There is a wide variety in there, and a lot of technically challenging songs too. They are all songs that people will mostly know, but we have tried to steer clear of the cheese and the obvious – sometimes (Enter Sandman) you can’t avoid it. There are songs in amongst it all that I have always wanted to play and now we are in a cohesive and like-minded unit.

I think another month and we’ll be gig ready, and as soon as this becomes set in stone we will advise via the Facebook page. Very exciting, very cool, very LOUD .. but not TOO loud. :O)

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The Endless is Nigh

endlessriverHaving not updated this blog for a very long while it was going to take a momentous occasion to spark enough enthusiasm to do so. One thing that is likely to pique the dulled interests of this forty something is anything at all Pink Floyd related. It is fair to say that they are pretty much my most favourite band of all time (thank you Leigh for introducing me to ‘Wish You Were Here’ and weaning me off Electro) – pretty much every album they have done has something in it that I hold dear, even the pretty dreadful Piper and Saucerful albums have sparks of what was to come in them. When asked for my favourite PF album it is always difficult to answer straight away but usually will be Wish You Were Here, but that’s really the nucleus of their music – it is very much a mood thing, and all of their albums have a different yet connected feel to them. The stupendous musical voyage that is ‘Echoes’ from Meddle – the crashing final rhythm on ‘Sheep’ from Animals – the beautiful synth work on ‘Shine On’ from WYWH right up the later works where Gilmour’s solo work on ‘Poles Apart’ and ‘Lost for Words’ truly cause lumps in the throat.

It’s with complete sheep-like devotion that I pre-ordered “The Endless River” the deluxe edition of course, knowing full well that this is very likely (confirmed as ‘definite’) going to be the last time I feel the excitement of new works from my favourite old crusty musicians. I have to admit though, hearing the premise behind the album aroused a little of my famed cynicism – I mean, a wholly instrumental album of various music sketches from around the Division Bell era didn’t on paper sound all that attractive… and smacked of needing to milk that little bit more cash from us gullible punters before zimmer-frames become a requirement more than a piece of concept art!

A very nice presentation set complete with the obligatory pointless postcard type inserts and usual nonsensical photography, only, even this is a little tame to what we would expect. Anyhow, it’s the music right? The normal album comes with 18 tracks to delight the lug holes, but when you consider that a lot of these are under 2 minutes in length one already starts to feel a little cheated. Plump for the deluxe version and you get a further 3 audio tracks and 6 videos (not viewed at time of writing).

Things start of promisingly enough with the tranquil ‘Things Left Unsaid’ featuring that very odd guitar sound that Gilmour seems to now love and overuse. However, hearing Wright’s keyboard parts posthumously definitely sets the hairs on the back of one’s neck on end. Trademark barrel organs roll in ‘It’s What We Do’ that feels like a traditional early Floyd song and it’s this kind of sound I was hoping would drift throughout the album. This then falls into ‘Ebb and Flow’ which is far too sparse in content to be memorable and then onto ‘Sum’ which sounds far too much like it was written with lyrics in mind and comes across as a karaoke track as a consequence – probably not the intention! ‘Skins’ feels like it is harping on back to the really early days but never really quite succeeds in being anything other than filler and although ‘Unsung’ that follows this improves on it, it too just feels too much like filler for the sake of it.

‘Anisina’ is where the album finally gets some traction, a melancholy rich sounding track with lovely if a little brief solo work from Gilmour. The sax work on this one however leaves a little to be desired; I get the need to keep with the heritage, but at least make it sound like the Saxophonist hasn’t just dropped in from above and bluffed his way through the song. ‘The Lost Art of Conversation’ follows the same vein as ‘Skins’ and ‘Unsung’ in not actually going anywhere and feeling like it serves any purpose. ‘On Noodle Street’ is a nice jazzy style track that I would’ve liked to have been developed more, but once again is over all too quickly without truly stamping itself on the album. ‘Night Light’ once again is 1:42 of delightful sweeping keyboards and guitar spots that ultimately don’t delight in the slightest.

We then move onto ‘Allons-y’ parts 1 and 2 with ‘Autumn ’68’ sandwiched in-between. The former has a Run Like Hellesque feel to it and is much more what we are looking for from these guys. ‘Autumn ’68’ then, and despite being only 1:35 in length is my favourite track on the album – the church organ is so beautiful mixed with subtle bottle-necked guitar and synth overtones – why couldn’t this be a longer track, or the album contain more of this kind of quality? I have repeated and repeated this track, it gets me where all good music should right in the gut, heart and mind. Talkin’ Hawkin’ I’m guessing is either a continuation of ‘Keep Talking’ from the Division Bell or an alternative that was never used. It stands up as a nice track on the album, but oddly I feel the track title itself spoils things here!

So to the last four tracks on the normal edition album beginning with ‘Calling’ then merging into ‘Eyes to Pearls’ and then onto ‘Surfacing’. These three tracks feel like they should be one since they have a similar epic feel to them so much in evidence in earlier works like Shine On You Crazy Diamond. Together they work nicely and bring the album to a much needed decent close, but then… ‘Louder Than Words’ happens. Things start nicely enough, but what follows is a song that so badly sounds like the lyrics have been struggled with both in terms of content and fitting into the song. The music itself is classic Floyd, even down to the backing vocals, but I can honestly say the much publicised only vocalised song on the album is a crushing disappointment – it almost feels like the lovely guitar solo shouldn’t be allowed to sit alongside the drab and tired sounding song that it sits in.

The deluxe edition has ‘TBS9’, ‘TBS14’ and ‘Nervana’ which I was hoping would provide the musical drug for my addiction. In some respects and parts they do, but they feel exactly as they are – tacked on tracks that don’t really fit and are too raw in sound to be pleasurable. I also have to say that ‘Nervana’ sounds like a cross between a MIDI demo track and Mike Oldfield on a bad day – not good in the slightest.

If this is to be the last outing for the good ship Pink Floyd then it’s a crying shame, it serves one of its purposes to some degree in being a fitting tribute to Rick Wright and all that he done for the band – well documented that his part in it all is heavily underplayed as admitted by both Mason and Gilmour. Murmurs from certain corners that a tour may well happen abound, and I will gladly pay a shed-load of camels to go and see them once, twice and maybe more times, after all, live is where Pink Floyd are truly at their very best and who knows some of those distinctly average tracks might turn out to be complete and utter ear candy in a live play scenario. As it is though ‘The Endless River’ just doesn’t feel anywhere near like a cohesive album, however much I love, adore and respect this band. It’s not the swan song we wanted Charlie.


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Duality Reality

On Saturday 31st March, Rachel and I performed our first gig at the Rose & Crown in Bocking. Choosing this as our first gig venue gives us a certain level of safety knowing full well that the regulars will be supportive and appreciative of our efforts, but knowing we will get a royal barracking if we loused things up! What I hadn’t bargained for is the amount of additional attendees that included a fair portion of Rachel’s work colleagues and all of them arrived early enough to occupy the lower bar where we were playing. I also had a couple of people from work along for the ride, so this increased the level of putting my money where my mouth is! Have so say going into the gig I was extremely confident we would nail it, in fact I’ve never been so confident knowing that from late January through to the gig date we had both sweated blood and tears to get the 40 songs together in a presentable fashion. In fact in the three weeks leading up to the gig we practiced twice a week that also included a visit to Stag Studios in Witham to ensure all was well with PA.

The setting up of the Peavey PA proved to be a useful exercise as it reminded me how utterly woeful the out-of-the-box reverb is, and it certainly caused Rachel some concerns. Short of panic buying a £100+ dedicated reverb stomp box I decided to forgoe my electric guitar for the gig and set up the vocals to go through my Zoom g9.2tt effects unit – a decision that was to prove particularly prudent!

…and so, we were ready!

The gig itself went extremely well with Rachel belting out song after song, seemingly getting more confident after each song, and for the most part I remembered the music with referrals to the song sheets to a bare minimum. Unfortunately I fell foul to not adhering to my own practice methods and completely loused up Coldplay’s ‘Yellow’, from tuning the E string down through to the actual song itself it was a bit of train wreck, but finally got it together!! The reason – I didn’t practice it on the assumption that I’ve played it so many times I couldn’t possibly screw it up! WRONG! Needless to say, it, along with all songs we play, will be practiced in equal measure from here-on-in. Song highlights for me throughout the 2 hour long set included our truly wicked rendition of ‘Pricetag’, both Kings of Leon songs we do sounded fab (Use Somebody and Sex on Fire), Ed Sheeran’s ‘A-Team’ and our encore of Lady Gaga’s ‘Marry the Night’ capped things off perfectly (shame about the Yellow debacle also in the encore!). Hell, even my three songs a I did solo at half time went pretty well, particularly proud of Coldplay’s ‘Us Against the World’ that I had literally learnt the same day!

We now have another gig on Sunday May 6th at 3PM, supporting Beatles tribute duo ‘Words & Music’, and have just been booked to play at Benson Bar on Saturday May 12th starting at 8:30PM. Hope to see you there. :O)

In other news, I finally have all components for my Roland GR-55 guitar effects processor – once this baby is set up it will allow me to change tunings at the stomp of a pedal, so songs like Pearl Jam’s ‘Daughter’ will be featured in my solo performances and gives me the option to throw in a couple of Devin Townsend’s more calm songs! But not just that, it will turn the guitar into other instruments of my choosing, piano being one attractive patch that will allow for songs like Adele’s ‘Someone Like You’ and Coldplay’s ‘The Scientist’ – Of course I can acoustic guitar those songs up, but the ability to play it piano style would be awesome – or I could just learn them on my keyboard! Hmmm! 😉 Lastly, since it works off a pickup that monitors each of the six strings I can also have bass guitar on the bottom two strings for example and some synth strings on the top 4! It truly is awesomeness in a box – that is assuming I can work the bloody thing.

Anyway, that’s enough from me for now, keep an eye out here and also the Duality Web Page for more information on our next gigs and for media that should become available over the upcoming months. :O)

Currently permaplaying on iPod:
Rammstein – Liebe Ist Fur Alle Da : Fave track = Ich Tu Dir Weh
Bon Iver – For Emma, Forever Ago : Fave track = For Emma
Foster the People – Torches : Fave track = Houdini
Kina Grannis – Stairwells : Fave track = The One You Say Goodnight To
Florence and the Machine – Ceremonials : Fave track = Heartlines

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No Longer Stuffed!!

It is with a fair degree of sadness that I announce that Stuffed Olive are no more, deceased, no more, a dead parrot band! This happened around a month ago now, so people that are reading this probably know already, but hey, in case there is anyone out there that hangs off my every word – this is for you!! I’m of course asked the question ‘why?’ all the time, but needless to say there was a professional difference of opinion between drummer and lead singer – line drawn under it. All a bit of a shame really, and with a few gigs still to play in 2011 and a couple of private bookings for 2012, rather premature and just as we are starting to get things really going as a unit.

So, what for me now?! I am still very much up for anything that my duo More or Less can get up to, but I have a couple of other very promising irons in the fire. Firstly I am now in a duo with good friend Rachel Willis who has an absolutely fantastic voice and have always wanted to work with her but time and band commitments never really allowed for this to happen. We’re busy putting together a set list now with a view to hopefully get a gig in before Christmas, with such songs as Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep”, Amy Winehouse “Back to Black” and Muse “Time is Running Out” to name but three. Still no name for the duo, but I have a few ideas rolling around my brain cell. Rachel gets married next month so progress will nature slow because of this, but we’re hoping to be playing at a bar near you real soon.

The other project that could well come into fruition is with an old school friend of mine who is looking to start a band up which just coincided nicely with me becoming sans band. We’ll be looking to play bits of Stevie Wonder, Commitments, along with newer stuff like Maroon 5’s very addictive ‘Moves Like Jagger’, all of which suit my thirst to play funky stuff. It’s a bit of a challenge for me though as it looks like I will be the sole guitarist, something I’m not used to, but I guess it’s not a lot different from the acoustic duo stuff, just a little bit more horrendous if I screw things up! 😉

Lastly I am looking to have my mini-studio up and running so that I can start recording music again, part of which will be to produce YouTube videos of me covering stuff along with original songs. It’s high time I used the technology I have at my disposal I figure!!

Okay, that’s it for this update except to recommend a few albums that are perma-playing on my iPhone at present – take care dudes! :O)

Devin Townsend – Ghost : Fave track = Kawaii
Coldplay – Mylo Xyloto : Fave track = Us Against the World
Jean Michel Jarre – Teo and Tea : Fave track = Vintage
Daft Punk – Tron Legacy Reconfigured : Fave track = The Grid (Crystal Method remix)
Opeth – Heritage : Fave track = Folklore
Vessels – Helioscope : Fave track = All Our Ends

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Epiphone Awesomeness!!

Okay, so I still haven’t installed the strap locks, but I guess it was fate that got me there as I have recently purchased a beautiful Epiphone Gibson Les Paul from my friend Steve (used to be in Stuffed Olive band). Now, the sensible side of me was screaming not to buy it but there reasons why I pushed on regardless is that A) £200 is just so darned good a deal and B) I know he looks after his guitars extremely well so just know its condition will be pristeen. So I am now a proud Epiphone owner, the theory being I just needed a backup guitar for my Jackson at gigs, in case I break a string or just simply want a differently tuned guitar available and ready to go. I took it to band practice last night to hear it at good volume and can now proclaim it as my first choice! Fantastic sound and the sustain is just ridiculous! I’m a happy bunny.

In other news I am gradually putting together a list of cover songs that I want to iron out and upload to YouTube, the criteria being either that I’m sick of seeing seriously crap versions of great songs being murdered by other YouTubers or that I simply think will be great to play in my own style. I am also slowly (read: very) working on my album project that has been a brain resident for nearly a decade, codename: “Pigeon” as of now. :O) There are two tracks that are very old songs of mine, but will be massively re-worked to almost non-recognisable measure while the rest of the music is a combination of scrapbook ideas I’ve had over time. The benefit of playing a lot of acoustic music is that I often find passages by accident that I think will sound good in a song either in part or as a whole. Learning ‘Everlong’ by the Foos has given me the majority of one of the songs on the album for example. Get me and my drop D tuning!

Anyway, all exciting stuff at the moment, and with the band learning new songs by the month there’s a lot to be practicing. Up and coming gigs for Stuffed can be found at THIS LOCATION. :O)

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Where the feck have I been?

Thought I’d drop a quick post in here since I haven’t done so in an age and things have moved on somewhat musically in my life, although my time is somewhat reduced with the introduction of my gorgeous daughter Lucy born on November 19th 2010. :O) Anyway, since my last update Stuart and myself have formed a duo called More or Less and have done a couple of gigs. Though this isn’t our primary focus, this is very much still the band Stuffed Olive it just gives us an option to learn new songs and to play at venues that can’t accomodate a full four-piece band. The band recently done a four track demo that can be listened to either on the website or on our YouTube Page, go check it out. Also check out my own YT TheKeithEllis page where I plan to upload videos of myself and/or the duo, and you can also see what stuff I’m currently digging out there.

I am now the proud owner of a Korg Microstation keyboard that I plan (when I get any spare time whatsoever) to learn inside out and hook up to the PC with Cubase and start writing stuff again. In my usual fashion I already have an album drawn up with song titles, with only two of the songs with any vague idea of what they are going to sound like!

Finally an update wouldn’t be complete without mention of the current albums that are floating my boat right now. Check them out on YouTube, google, wherever, but make sure you do:

Amplifier – The Octopus : Fave track = Interstella
Vessels – Helioscope : Fave track = All Our Ends
The Decemberists – The King is Dead : Fave track = June Hymn
Fuck Buttons – Tarot Sport : Fave track = Lisbon Maru
White Lies – Ritual : Fave track = Strangers

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New Design

Just a quick post to explain the new design. I am currently working on a full two hour+ acoustic guitar set with a view to being able to take it to the local pubs, clubs and to generally make use of my one other talent I have in life. It will serve as a place to advertise any upcoming gigs both for my solo covers set and for Stuffed Olive, the covers band I am in. To be considered a work-in-progress, but will hopefully include links to youtube videos of my work both in covers and original music, along with band downloads, pics etc.etc.

It’s gonna rock!! :O)

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CD Collection – What to do?

Music has always been a massive part of my every day life, so it is no surprise to learn that I have in excess of 1000 CDs packed up in boxes and never played. Since the MP3 revolution, the only place I actually play CDs is in the car, and let’s be fair my 10 minute drive to the station hardly does Pink Floyd’s “The Wall” justice, with the only other journey I do regularly being the half hour trek to Rawreth for band practice.  Our house isn’t small, but it’s also not large enough to have the luxury of plush CD cabinets containing all of my collection for everyone to see (read: family who wouldn’t even give it a second glance!). Believe me, the horder and collector side of me inherited from my father would delight in having such an extravegance!

So I’m left with the altogether depressing prospect of selling them on. I have thought about putting all the boxes up in the loft, but that’s really not the nicest environment to be storing delicate CDs in. So, that leaves me online auctions, boot sales or finding somewhere that will buy the job lot. Online auctions is a fairly thankless task when dealing with music CDs, the only successes I’ve really had in the past being doing bulk offers, eg 5 CDs by the same artist in one auction. Individual auctions for each CD despite the wonders of Turbo Lister is still a frightfully tedious task, and then you have to cope with the crushing disappointment that they didn’t sell, and ironically greater disappointment when they do because you’ve then got to package the bloody things up and haul your ass to the nearest stupidly long queue in the post office!

Boot sales are all well and good but my experience of them in the past is such that everyone expects a bargain, so if you begin the day gleefully selling each CD for 50p, you will always get some jerk come along that scoffs at that price and asks if you’ll sell for 20p! I speak from bitter experience. One gets possessive about what you’re trying to sell, as not only do you know the original value of the thing, but it has also gathered personal value, making the whole 20p offer double the insult! I also detest waking up early on weekends, I do that all week – weekends are sacred! Then you get the random weather, the eejits who come to your car boot first thing in the morning like flocks of vultures seeing if they can rob you blind and then the feeling that you have actually wasted half a day of your weekend. Humph!

So, it looks like I need to sell the job lot to a company/business/individual who buys second hand media. Anyone reading this blog (haha, a laugh in itself!) that knows of such a place, please do comment here or get in touch, I have no qualms in travelling to achieve the end result so long as the entire collection ends up in good hands, and I get a nice bit of bunce for it. :O)

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