Too Old For Heroes…..

The sun’s streaming through my windows and a light breeze is billowing the curtains. I’ve just released a new album, I still have nearly two weeks off work and I have a full fridge. An ideal time to reflect, I think.

Well, I say reflect….it’s more a case of gazing through the window on part of the musical world I inhabit and glancing my reflection occasionally.

It could be said that there comes a time in people’s lives when you’re too old to have heroes. “Heroes” suggests idolatry, blind-faith, almost, and worship…never questioning or doubting. This was true of me when I was younger…an obsession with Factory Records and the personalities lying within. Now, it’s more a case of admiration and acknowledgement of the huge role they’ve played in my life. And, seriously, these, and other, characters have played a huge part in my life. They’ve informed decisions I’ve made, influenced my musical development and indirectly swayed my emotions. That’s the power of music and art, isn’t it?

So, who do I admire and acknowledge now I’m older and greying and expanding? Well, pretty much the same characters I did in my teens and twenties:

Tony Wilson, Ralph Hutter, Stanley Kubrick, Brian Eno, Connie Planck, Martin Hannett, James Ellroy, Bill Murray, Sergio Leone, etc, etc……

But there’s also another echelon of people who I’ve got massive admiration for….for what they’re doing and have done. These are names which you possibly won’t have heard of….or, if so, only because you’ve discovered them for yourselves or have read about them on my and a few other people’s socnet timelines.

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Marie Craven, my collaborator in Cwtch, has been making music, films and art for many years and I myself have known her in the virtual world for about 7 years. Throughout this time she has brought together many a musician, collaborating with them and lending her considerable vocal prowess to their music. In doing so, she created a network of artists centred around Last.fm who discovered each other purely through this network. From this, many collaborations, remixes and support networks grew. It’s easy to dismiss Last.fm (as I’ve said before) as a ‘has-been’ site; but there was a time when it was much more that just a streaming service….it was a genuine way to break new music and a forum for creativity. It may not be particularly cool now, but it was, and still is to an extent, relevant. But in Marie there is an artist who uses creativity as a tool and a way of bringing people together, not in a cynical way to get more exposure, but just for the sheer hell of it.

Matt Stevens, again as you probably already know, is a guitarist of note who uses looping technology to build massive and beautifully tuneful soundscapes. Actually “soundscapes” is probably the wrong word, as that suggests ambient compositions….Matt’s tunes are more like vignettes, creating images while compressing a wide variety of styles into self-contained tracks. Sometimes cinematic, sometimes wildly experimental, his solo music has found a large and loyal audience world-wide. He also is a founder-member of the band The Fierce And The Dead, who have likewise followed his trajectory. What is also fantastic is the way he has engaged with, and built, his audience through social networking, particularly Twitter. He did this before it became so widespread that it wasn’t important anymore, along with artists such as John Gomm, Zoe Keating and Steve Lawson. It wasn’t part of a ‘business-plan’, just the natural order of things, as Matt is a personable, relaxed and knowledgeable conversationalist who also has varied experience of the music industry and is happy to share that knowledge with other musicians. I’ve met him a couple of times and can only say that he is one of the most honest and encouraging artists I’ve met. As his success has slowly grown, it could be easy for the ego to grow disproportionately, not so in this case. A stand-up guy.

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Speaking of stand-up guys, Johnno Casson is one of those people who is able to bring people together creatively, without any histrionics or selfishness. I’ve only made his acquaintance recently, but have quickly come to appreciate the warmth he extends to other artists and the pure joy he takes in sharing music. An advocate of the DIY ‘scene’ (if there is one), he’s been on both sides of the fence: both as a signed artist (with the band Deep Joy) and as a self-releasing artist (as Johnno Casson and as Snippet). His output is prolific, varied and, dare I say it, entertaining. The thing that sets him apart from most DIY musicians is the way he actively helps musicians. Apart from just giving advice about self-releasing and getting exposure, he acts as a catalyst (not a fatalist, as my spell-checker has just suggested!) by sharing, and writing about, new music on the indispensable Fresh On The Net site. Along with the musician and broadcaster Tom Robinson (who is the main instigator behind the site and to who’s BBC radio show the site is connected), he has helped many independent bands and artists reach a wider audience.

I owe quite a lot to these people. However, find out for yourselves: download their music, follow them on Twitter, say “hi” (just don’t spam them please!).

I have a mantra, which is my ethos about music really: Make, collaborate, remix, share, support. You can’t share everyone’s stuff; besides, you may not like it, in which case it’s a waste of time…..that takes honesty (something I learned a little late regarding other people’s music! But learned nonetheless!). This comes from what the above artists have shown me.

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