Gig: VeloCoustic at Black Sheep – 24 July

Next Wednesday (24 July), I will be playing a short (4-song) set at the recently moved VeloCoustic night, now at Black Sheep on Capel St.

I will be ably accompanied by a certain Mr Ger Lynch for the performance.

Things start around 20:30, as far as I know…

Castaways #2 – ‘Nobody’s In Charge’

Like the last Castaway, this was also a piece that came about during an RPM Challenge.

In this case, it was February 2009. I spent the first few days recording improvisations with various instruments. Later, I’d examine these, pick out bits I thought had potential and work them into songs – by writing things based on them or even directly sampling the improvised parts.

On this particular day (the 5th, I believe), I was tinkering with an electric guitar. I decided to resurrect one of my old Sonic Youth-esque tunings (F#F#C#C#BB – previously mentioned here) and see what happened.

I came up with two riff-based things I liked. In the secondary stage, I created song structures for them both and did “proper” recordings of them, with two guitar tracks and a bass track each.

The second of the two pieces eventually got lyrics, drums, some extra noise slathered on – and ended up being track two on the resulting album, I Am Doing This To Hurt You.

The first one went no further. It was left like this:

Given how reasonably serious and straight-faced the album ended up, it’s quite clear why this wasn’t going to find a place on it. It’s utterly ridiculous! The main riff is, frankly, quite obnoxious. It even has a shoehorned-in key-change! I don’t think I even attempted to put any words to it. Even know I can’t see how any vocal could possibly work.

Still though, there’s something about it I still like. It has a sort of circus-y feel to it or something. Actually, when I was naming the scratch recordings I’d made of those riffs, I had it in my mind to name this piece ‘Fun Fun Fun’, not the other one. I kept on meaning to swap them, too, but never got around to it.

Anyway. That’s it!

Again, if you want to do anything with it, it’s there under a Creative Commons licence.

Castaways #1 – ‘01feb’ (2007)

After hastily knocking out a couple of shambolic covers and rounding off a series of masturbatory essays on my old songs, I shall continue my vain attempt to distract from the fact that I haven’t written an original piece of music in nine-and-a-half months by raiding the vaults once again.

At least this time, I’m airing some previously unheard stuff (or stuff heard by very very few people)…

First up, a recording made on 1 February, 2007:

That was the first day of my first attempt at the RPM Challenge. It was the first recording I made with the second-hand Roland MC-303 I’d bought.

It was a one-take, mostly-improvised recording. I was reasonably pleased with it at the time and felt it had potential. But over the following days, as I came up with more ideas, it quickly became apparent that the album was going to go in a different direction – and that this wasn’t going have a place on it. (The resulting album, Secret Battle, can be heard/downloaded here.)

I had vague plans to do something with it. But, alas, I never did. And given that it has been on ice for over half a decade, I’m probably unlikely to at this stage.

If anyone else wants to have a crack, feel free! You can download via the widget above. It’s released under a Creative Commons licence. Or if you’re a hitRECorder, you can get busy with it here.

Self-Retrospect #10: ‘Hair Clip Surprise’

Welcome once again to Self-Retrospect, a collection of reflective/narcissistic posts about my own musical meanderings.

In this edition, we go back to February 2006 and arrive at what would become the tenth, final and – in this non-objective listener’s opinion – best track on the Projects compilation: A quiet and simple little song about a lady’s hair accessory…

Hair Clip Surprise - Recording

Continuing the trend of the previous two years, the beginning of 2006 would see a further decline in my musical productivity. Unlike the approach of the Leaving Cert, which seemed to put my rate of writing and recording into overdrive, the months leading up to my final university exams were almost completely devoid of music-making.

My first recordings of the year didn’t appear until the end of February. And they were very bare-bones. Indeed, I appended the word ‘demo’ in parentheses to their titles, in a (kind of) lie to myself that I would flesh them out later. Perhaps I would incorporate some of the more intricate guitar work or electronic elements I’d edged towards in the recent (or, in the case of the latter, not so recent) past.

I was probably quite dismissive of them then, because at that time, I probably put more stock in arrangements and instrumentation. And these recordings just had some basic guitar and vocals – hence, were “incomplete”.

But it didn’t take me too long to realize that one of those tracks actually didn’t need any further development. It didn’t need any bells or whistles. Because, it really was – even in its spartan configuration – a fully-formed, proper song.

What I did not appreciate at first, is that it – all modesty aside – had a really good lyric. I’ve mentioned many times that, when it comes to my attention and appreciation of songs, words almost never supersede the music. Well, it seems this also clouded my ability to assess my own work. I can now look back and see that this was, up to that point, by far the best lyric I’d written. It might still be. Hilariously enough, it was one of the easiest ones to write, too.

On 12 February, 2006, at the end of the day, I wrote an entry in the page-per-day diary I kept at the time, recounting the day’s events – and one oddly amusing/amusingly odd event in particular. I knew immediately that there was a song in it. Having run out of space on that day’s “official” page, I flipped to the back and, without much thought, wrote the song. There was no hasty scribbling-out of lines or violent corrections. It just all came out like so:

Hair Clip Surprise - Lyrics

Despite the lack of labour that went into it, the lyric came out quite well-constructed. It actually had quite a sophisticated narrative structure (certainly moreso than previous “story-song” attempts): It had a scene-setting opening, followed by an explanatory flashback; it jumped back to present day, only to be met with a sudden twist (and then a little sting in the tail).

I left it alone for a couple of weeks. I wasn’t quite sure how I was going to make music out of it. There was no melody in my head when I wrote those words. And I didn’t have any instrumental works in progress with which I could match it (as I had done many times before).

In the end, I just picked up a guitar and started slowly strumming an A chord. I began to speak/sing/speak-sing the words over it. I switched to a D. And then back to A – just alternating between the two major chords. Then I used an E to punctuate the end of the verse. Three simple, basic chords: pure beginners’ stuff. It worked, though.

The only other decisive element was the injection of some simple dynamics to match the tone of the lyrics. The first verse was soft. The second verse was harder. And the final verse was soft – then hard (and then soft and then hard again at the very end). Nothing too complicated.

In hindsight, it seems very carefully planned and thought-out. But it just happened naturally. And out popped ‘Hair Clip Surprise’:

As I said, I wasn’t beaming with pride at first. I thought it was just a rough demo. One that probably didn’t deserve any further treatment.

It never got further treatment. But not because I didn’t think it deserved any. Just  none seemed to be required. It just worked.

The song came more into its own more in a live setting. Since most of the shows I was playing were just me with an acoustic guitar, it was ideal. It seemed to get a good response each time, too. (Although perhaps that’s some kind of wishful thinking/selective memory on my part.)

Here’s me doing it as part of a short set at Sin É in Dublin in April 2010. It’s a soundboard recording, so it didn’t really pick up the audience too well. Also, there were only about 6-8 people in said audience. Nevertheless, they seemed to like it. (Or were polite enough to clap anyway…)

[audio:|titles=hair clip surprise (live at sin é)|artists=david ding][download ‘Hair Clip Surprise (Live at Sin É)’ mp3]

This post has definitely been a lot more self-congratulatory than the self-depreciating ones that preceded it. But, fuck it – I’m really proud of this song! I still think it’s one of the best things I’ve come up with.

And it marked a very important shift for me, with regards to subject matter.  The bulk of my earlier songs had been about unrequited desire, rejection and missed opportunities. Heck, that was, in many ways, a veritable treasure-trove of inspiration. I got a lot of mileage out of that kind of shit!

But after struggling to put feelings to words while still romantically entangled, I now a complete serious relationship  to draw upon – bitter end, aftermath and inevitable excruciating hindsight included.

This song paved the way for the David-somewhat-scathingly-looks-back-at-relationship-but-partially-disguises-it-as-a-pleasant-ditty sub-genre that would follow, yielding ‘Casual Trap’ and ‘Hard to Please’ – as well as this year’s ‘Requisitely Sensitive’ (which, in retrospect, now seems like a complete rip-off of this track!).  And really, where would we be without that?

Um, probably in the exact same place. But with slightly less bitterness in the world.

But anyway…