I’m guessing not many of you who have chanced across this page, or perhaps followed the link from one of our social media channels in this year of lockdowns and social distancing 2020 will have read the previous, occasional, rare posts I made in 2017, so let’s call this a new start. Silver here, guitarist, singer and songwriter with Lavender Hill. I hope you’re all keeping well in this time of isolation. In a strange way, I don’t mind it. Don’t get me wrong, I would love to get out on the road, play gigs, meet up with my fellow band members, travel….. but while I’ve been stuck here, I’ve been writing new songs, recording in my home studio, doing all the things I should have been doing over
the last three years, including the resurrection of these pages. So for those of you I haven’t met, here are the bare bones of the band. We’ve been together for five years. there have been personnel changes but the current line-up is myself, Razz Betts on drums – he’s an original member; and Robin Gwynn, our Canadian bass guitarist. He isn’t on the photo above, and we will get around to doing a photo shoot very soon. We have to, but more of that later.
What can you expect if you read these posts? Hopefully there will be a new one every Monday but don’t quote me on that. I’m the one who has been promising a new single since January, and an album for Easter. Neither went to plan but I’ll get to that in further instalments. There will be a mixture of words, music, photos and video that illustrates the band’s progress, adventures, misadventures, rare triumphs and regular disasters. Hopefully it will never descend into the depths of serious discussion and debate on weighty issues. Definitely the subject will always be music and the band. I’m not going to segue into politics. I might talk about travel from time to time whether with the band or on my own. The world is a serious place. Let’s have some fun.
In 2017 we released an EP called Lavender Hill. It had four songs on it. Feel free to give it a listen on Apple Play, Spotify, etc. Look up one of songs “Tucson to LA in 5 Hours”. It took about eight months to record. Our original bassist left us, the producer had other projects to work on, and having failed to recruit another bass guitarist I had to learn how to play an instrument I hadn’t picked up since I was 17. At the time we played a mix of original songs and covers onstage. For most of 2018 and 2019 we were joined on stage by Rod Ashford, a fabulous guitarist. We did some great gigs.
Then we decided to release our own album. Why? Life is difficult enough without making problems for yourself. Writing and performing your own material immediately slots you into another booking profile. If you’re playing some genres, like heavy metal, it’s not so difficult. Audiences are used to bands playing their own stuff. Although I’m reluctant to classify us as a mainstream rock band we did play U2, Bruce Springsteen and Stones covers, so that was the expectation from people coming to see our gigs. Generally, outside of London and the bigger cities they like to hear music they know. So to jump into an all-original repertoire is a big leap.
But we talked about it. It’s very problematic to record covers. You get into all kinds of issues around copyright, royalties, permission from the songwriter….. the list goes on. But if you want to play live you need material for promoters, and listeners. I had been writing for quite some time. Well, all my life really. So it seemed a good idea. No-one in the band told me my songs were rubbish, and we don’t pull punches. But I was to learn by hard experience that getting lyrics and melody down is one thing. Writing songs is one of those activities that can be either hellishly difficult or blindingly easy. It depends if you’re having one of those days when the inspiration hits you or not. I read a book written by a lady called Julia Cameron. It’s called ‘The Artist’s Way’ and if you are a writer, performer, visual artist… well, anyone who wants to create, you should follow the twelve-week course she has devised. She knows what she’s talking about, having written plays, musicals and movies. I discovered it through Pete Townshend’s book, ‘Who I Am’. It may not work for everybody and it can come across as very spiritual which may not appeal to everybody, but it had a brilliant effect for me. The minute writing stops being an erratic, irregular flash of inspiration followed by months, even years of inactivity and starts being a daily activity as automatic as brushing your teeth or eating breakfast, it gets easier. So there I was with 25 songs ready to go.
Writing down the melody and lyrics is important, but the journey from there to recording, mixing and releasing an album is a long, hard one. When we recorded the EP it was really old-school, right from the moment I came into the rehearsal room with a few bits of paper and an idea with chord tabs and lyrics on. But although the guys really helped to make functioning songs out of those scraps it was tough to get my ideas across to people without a point of reference. And rightly so. They can’t get into my head and hear the masterpiece I was listening to. So I determined to make a demo. The technology has moved on since I first dipped my toe into the water with a BOSS BR-600 analog recorder. While we made the EP I watched Rob Barry, our producer, work with a digital software. He had it down, but I could see it was a pretty complicated bit of kit. I decided I wanted to find out how to use it…..
NEXT TIME: Music Production: Something Completely Different