Posted in SHOFT on Friday 11th June 2010 at 1:06pm
Its probably around twenty years since I tried to write about music in any sensible way. Scary numbers indeed, and even scarier to think how simple it all seemed then. I had a belief and a passion in what I was listening to which in some ways I find terribly embarrassing now - however, I miss it terribly too. So, finding myself so strangely energised about new music now, all this time later is both wonderfully exciting but also just a little bit frightening. I can't keep laughing it off as a mid-life crisis though - I need to tackle it head on and start to express some of these ideas before I go truly insane with the effort of suppressing the urge to yell at someone "you have to hear this!".
The cause of my excitement, and the reason I find myself writing again, is very much the Glasgow PodcART. My visits to Glasgow over the past decade or so have provided opportunities to see live music, and to find little nuggets of information on band's which I just don't find locally. This isn't meant to sound disparaging - it's just how things have worked out. Perhaps the distinction is best summed up by Halina Rifai's intentional use of the term 'network' rather than 'scene' to describe the situation north of the border. There is a genuine collaborative spirit in Scotland that is missing here just now. Back home it's still about old rivalries and genre dynamics, which stifles new musical enterprise in it's most formative stages. There are notable exceptions, but they struggle to thrive in a culture without the support, the venues, the outlets for their work. As at best a non-musician I've tried to offer my support in other ways to fill this gap, but in a difficult situation it's generally the messenger who gets shot. In my case, I often pulled the trigger myself - so a quiet life as a public servant beckoned, and music remained only as a guilty pleasure.
Of course the other thing which has always genuinely excited me about Scottish music is the use of the native accent and vernacular - that access to a tradition which isn't shameful or cliched like my own, and the blurring of boundaries which make the inevitable 'sounds like' review redundant. My fundamental attachment to place also comes into play here of course - I firmly believe that creative endeavours arise in some cities which just simply couldn't exist elsewhere. Musicians flourish when they find the right place to create, and that's a story which is repeated throughout the canon which I'd love to try to explain someday. The title of this confused little ramble is, like many of my attempts to express myself, also entirely stolen. This time though, from a HM Treasury strategic document. I was, of course, always going to click with an initiative called 'Total Place'.
So how am I going to grapple with this need to write, from a distance, about something which is becoming very precious to me and therefore on which I'm losing all objectivity? I think I'll take a band each week, and I'll write about them from my unique perspective. I'll try to avoid genre-terrorism, pigeonholing and lazy comparison. Ultimately, anyone who troubles to read my ramblings on a regular basis will know exactly what will come of this more intricate and evasive twaddle about me! In the sense that music is an intense and personal thing for many of us, that seems like a good place to start.
I've had a home on the web for more years than I care to remember, and a few kind souls persuade me it's worth persisting with keeping it updated. This current incarnation of the site is centred around the blog posts which began back in 1999 as 'the daylog' and continued through my travels and tribulations during the following years.
I don't get out and about nearly as much these days, but I do try to record significant events and trips for posterity. You may also have arrived here by following the trail to my former music blog Songs Heard On Fast Trains. That content is preserved here too.