Navigation Map

Home Biography Sound Vision Gallery Contact

Social Media

Facebook LastFM MySpace SoundCloud Twitter

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

GarageBand...and Head...

Garageband! Home of the new '4-track style' recording device, or it is for me...

I have the technical ability of a knat, and the memory of a goldfish so, with these two talents combined, I have remarkably managed (with Mr. Glanville's help) to set myself up at home with a Fisher Price-esque facility that even I can get my head around.
Sometimes ideas come to you in a state of the art studio, in front of a vintage microphone, with a lovely engineer like Head(*) at the controls and the sun streaming through the windows.
Or, more often then not, the best ideas come to you on the bus, whilst you frantically hum them to yourself mantra-like on the way home, scramble up two flights of stairs (whilst looking for your keys) and then, and only then, do you try and regurgitate them into whatever home recording device you have cobbled together indoors. Twas ever thus, and twas ever thus this afternoon when this came out...
Here Is Where Love Lives 1 30.03.11 by Willis

*Head: (hed) - Definition; Wonderful recording engineer, live sound mixer, professional regaler of '(Tall) Tales From The High Seas', best known for his work with The Pyramids, PJ Harvey, Marianne Faithfull and Black Francis...


http://www.pbmanagement.co.uk/producers.php?producer_id=9

Monday, 21 March 2011

Doris Day...

I love Doris Day.
I love her films, her voice, her beautiful vocal delivery - it's easy to forget that during the 1940's she was one of the most successful big band singers around.
As with most of my appreciation for female vocalists, I saw 'Pillow Talk', a film she made with Rock Hudson, when I was little and as soon as she opened her trap I was hooked from the off.
My mis-spent youth was responsible for many obsessive rainy afternoons locked in the company of such Goddesses of the Gramophone as Ella Fitzgerald, Brenda Lee, Liza Minnelli, Karen Carpenter, Judy Garland and, the High Priestess herself, Barbra Streisand.


Day's partnership with Hudson continued for many years and, in hindsight, the two seemed to have a genuine chemistry and affection for one another that can't have been easy given the witch-hunt that would have inevitably followed should the 1950's media have discovered his homosexuality - Day herself clearly never gave a toss...
Last night I heard on the Russell Davies Radio 2 show a song of hers called  'Clap Yo' Hands' that I didn't even know, which continues 'Roly Poly's" clapping rhythm (that could be, subliminally, where I've got it from after all these years...).
Alas, I couldn't find it to post here but I have wiled away many a pleasant evening listening to Radio 2 on a Sunday night - I'm not sure where else you could hear the likes of Doris Day, George Gershwin, Hoagy Carmichael, Lena Horne, Ella Fitzgerald, The Ink Spots et all in one place. I heartily recommend Russell Davies and even the lovely David Jacobs late into the evening. Not hip but who gives a flying what-not about being hip - if you're after that, you're clearly in the wrong place anyway.
So, in honour of Doris Day, and for fellow squares everywhere, here's something else...

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Midcentury Modern...


So, to the Midcentury Modern fair at Dulwich college today - so much stunning furniture and fabric to see and be inspired by, though little to be done in the way of buying as many dealers seem to make up a number in their head (and double it) as soon as you brush past their stall.
Beautiful pieces such as these should indeed be treasured and enjoyed but prices such as they are turn them into museum pieces for which they were never intended - Ernest Race and Lucienne Day surely did not mean for their designs to be accessible to only those with show homes and exclusive bank balances to match?
Ms. Day for one believed that good design should be affordable, and in 2003 told the Scotsman newspaper that she had been "very interested in modern painting although I didn’t want to be a painter. I put my inspiration from painting into my textiles, partly, because I suppose I was very practical. I still am. I wanted the work I was doing to be seen by people and be used by people. They had been starved of interesting things for their homes in the war years, either textiles or furniture."

I did notice, however, that the wonderful Pallant House Gallery in Chichester is staging a brilliant exhibition of the work of Robin and Lucienne Day from the end of this month until June. I love this place...

http://www.pallant.org.uk/
Incidentally, many contributions for the exhibit are coming from collectors in the US - thank God for Jill A. Wiltse and H. Kirk Brown III. It seems that over the years, incredible textile designers such as Day, Jacqueline Groag and Marian Mahler were unappreciated to the extent that many examples of their work no longer exist readily in the UK, though the likes of the wonderful Margaret Howell continues to promote the work of long un-appreciated designers such as Day and Ercol by continuing to commission and sell official reproductions of their work.
These artists, many of whom were women excelling in the field of contemporary post-war design, were first ignored and instead collected overseas and now are out of reach to those of us who wish to put their fabrics to use in a way for which they were originally intended. But at £65 a metre second-hand?
Alas, they are destined to remain behind glass...

Pascal...

One of the most creative and generous multi-instrumentalists I know...

I first met Pascal Glanville about 4 years ago when I was originally looking for someone to help me master new software for solo live performance - despite everyone always telling me that a monkey could master Ableton and the like, my continued inability to tame technology remained proof that Darwin had a point...
Anyway, it soon became clear that Pascal shared my love of the musically sublime (and, occasionally ridiculous) and that it would have been a crying shame to let his talent and enthusiasm pass without trying to include him in future endeavours, be it live or otherwise.  Whilst we do not always share the same taste in music, we absolutely inspire one another in other ways, sharing anything that excites us enough to burrow a path towards new making new material together - I have often shown him a photograph, for example, to get across the mood I am trying to capture in the studio and he never, ever, looks at me like I'm a freak or imbecile for such methods. He completely gets it.
He once waxed lyrical about Emmylou Harris' 'Wrecking Ball' album even though I was insistent that I couldn't get into Daniel Lanois' production. He was right, I was a fool and it remains one of my favourite albums to date.


Talent aside, he has even fashioned equipment for me, not to mention feeding and watering me and, were it not for the fact that he lives on the route of the Devils Own Bus, the No. 30 between Marble Arch and Hackney Wick, our accquaintance would be nigh-on perfect.
A true gent if ever there was one...

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Word Up/CSI...

I can't quite believe that well over 100,000 people have checked out my version of 'Word Up' after it was used in the US TV show CSI.



What began as a funny little musical experiment has transferred in to my most requested track - I decided to record a cover version for an EP and scoured my record collection to find something that was as far away from my style as possible and thereby 'fell upon' Larry Blackmon and co.

Everyone's reasoning for doing covers is specific to them - we all know some inspired re-workings of certain tracks and also some, er...well, less inspirational.
I, personally, cannot see the point of re-recording a track that has been meticulously slaved over by another artist if you are not going to try and bring something else to the table, as it were. You want to be inspired by someone's music without, surely, blatantly re-hashing the original idea. "Make an effort!", as Pascal (my trusty collaborator extraordinaire) would say...

One of my favourite covers is Rosebud's 1977 re-working of 'Money' by Pink Floyd.



I found out a few years ago, that Larry Blackmon had indeed heard my version of ' Word Up' and that he approved. It was one of the proudest moments of my life...

Cycling...

I have begun cycling my bike again after a loooong hiatus and the realisation that some parts of the body do not, alas, exercise themselves...

Very much enjoying myself but flabbergasted by the state of the roads - were there really this many potholes in the gutter a few years ago? (Drivers - if you are wondering why cyclists are positioned firmly in the centre of Kingsland Road, here's your answer).

Please buy your bikes from decent places, with a heart and a soul, and not from some shifty git in Brick Lane - if you buy a stolen bike, never let anyone hear you complain when someone pinches yours....

Meanwhile, read my friend Cally's account of cycling from Land's End to John O'Groats on a penny farthing last year - http://www.toetohead.com/

Safety first, by the by...x

Ta-da!

Welcome to the new Willis blog site!

At last the site is ready, willing and able for me to post info about things that preoccupy, fascinate, stimulate and (probably) annoy me...

Thank you for visiting - you are most welcome to join me in the 21st Century...xxx