angels birds fire insects literature music nonsense sea spider trees

mr knight

I am halfway or more through my new album which I won’t name yet, but I thought I’d do a quick creature head count.

1st song

a flesh hound (whatever that is)

2nd song

another hound (seems to be a bit of a theme – not intended)

3rd song

red wolf
mountain lion

4th song


5th song


6th song

tsetse fly

7th song


8th song


9th song


Eventually I’ll do a whole thesaurus of the animals, birds, fish etc. that populate the world of my song lyrics, not to mention the trees, flowers and assorted inanimate objects. When I am ill and lie abed with 2 fat wishes I’ll be fed and let the leaden moments pass each choosing singly their own path.

Instead of a basic guitar/bass/drums core the new songs are underpinned simply by 2 acoustic guitars. There is a 10th song which won’t be on the album but is a new version of an old song and this moves matters in a further fish like direction. Everton Hartley as always is the 2nd guitarist. We also recorded a dozen or so minutes of the instrumental music that we play together under the name Ashinosya. Here’s an excerpt from that to give you a flavour of the 2 guitars by themselves.


birds music

Budgies in Space

A couple of weeks ago I spent a few hours helping my friend Adrian Price to complete a video he had made with a few other people (credits at the end of the video) which was for the good of a noble cause – the Children’s Hospice in Bristol. I’m not sure of the exact story behind the knitted budgies being sent into the stratosphere but can definitely say that it is a tale of a commemoration of a life tragically ended prematurely but is contiguously an affirmation of the power of life, love and the human spirit.

My task in the enterprise was to put the Children’s Hospice logo in the top left-hand corner of the screen. What should have been something simple took many hours though most of them spent waiting for rendering to finish. It didn’t help that I edit on a Mac and the film that Ade gave me was a Windows .wmv, but by the end I realised I could have done it more quickly and easily. I wish I could have a quid for every time that’s happened.

Anyway it’s a great little video with fabulous music from Eyebrow. Paul Wigens has drummed on 2 albums with me and I love what he does with Pete Judge. I think I was at their debut gig – there weren’t many of us.

As I’m writing this I know that Adrian and his brother, Andrew and probably some others are doing another launch at Bestival. It’s a project with a lot of potential.

Adrian’s main project is Soundbeam. I’ll cover that in more detail in a later post which will have some of the great videos which illustrate that incredible product.

birds may music nonsense songwriting


In 1991 I spent a few evenings doing a recording session with my friend Andy Smith who is now manager of the PMT music shop in Bristol. Whenever I call in at the shop and see Andy he always tells me that he has no time to do any music any more, which is a shame because he is very talented. We worked on 2 songs, one which we completed which is called What Is It That You Dread? that tackled the subject of having a 2 year old daughter and an about-to-be-born son whilst the Gulf War and other atrocities seemed to be leading the human race towards Armageddon. The coda was from a radio recording that I made on the night when the US started the war with a precision-guided bombing raid on Baghdad. Now I wish I’d kept the whole of the recording, but all I have left is a very poor quality copy of the actual track. This is some of the dialogue from it

we continue to hear, er, an occasional round, er, go off in the background

they’re spurting fire into the sky, heavier calibre. I don’t know what they are but they’re more impressive than that used earlier.

Are things better today? I’m not sure when we live in a world where to some people Anders Breivik is a hero.

The other track we worked on was never finished – at least no vocals were ever added, but the recording quality was better, probably because the track was simpler and didn’t have so many added layers. I can’t remember who played what though I’m sure the drum machine programming was mostly by Andy and I think he played bass as well. I definitely would have done the rhythm guitar, but I suppose it’s the 2nd guitar that could have been me or could have been Andy. Sounds more like Andy to me, but sometimes I surprise myself.

Now, some 21 years later (my son’s age of course) I have recorded the vocals. I could do better but as usual I can’t be bothered. I have a philosophy which decrees that you shouldn’t work on things too much. If what you can do fast isn’t good enough then maybe next time it will be better. And there’s also a distorted guitar solo at the end which is another 1st take. In fact I wasn’t really thinking of it being a take at all, it was just to check the levels but once it was done it seemed adequate especially when you consider what I’ve just said above.

Compared to the serious shit I’ve described above re the other track, the lyrics to the song which I call Real are a reversion to my normal Nonsense. See the category Nonsense for further details. At times it seems like a John Cooper Clarke tribute, which is fine because I think he’s great, but there are definitely bits that are vaseyesque.


birds nonsense prose sea trees

Winter Thirst


A Short Operation


Green became tawny. Between tall spindle trees smoke rose from a cottage chimney. It hung in the air and then spilled to one side.

As Ern and Kast drew closer they heard sweet violin tones, muffled by thick limestone walls. The door was open – they knocked and Ern shoved his head inside. Both were grabbed, shaken and invited to dance by a frenzied crone, drenched with a bitter perfume. Mascara cascaded down her wrinkled cheeks. Her breath smelt strongly of onions.

The face of the violinist caused them to leap back towards the door. It resembled a metal flower – well-rusted and extremely scrappy – fit only for the junkyard.

They both ran for it, of course. Afterwards Kast said to Ern “You know, I liked very much that violin-playing.” Ern agreed that it had been astoundingly skillful. They returned to their small boat and sailed back across the channel to their homeport.

Ern’s Dream

At work, wearing new overalls he spilled a plastic cup of hot chocolate over his chest. His father emerged from behind a forklift truck. His eyes were pointed heavenwards.

“Commend my son unto thee. See he is like a whisky bottle run dry – the last drop of spirit lies unevaporated around the concave bottom. His mother passed away many years ago, since when I have used a fish in order to be faithful to her. Aye, a fish, like fisherfolk do on long sea-voyages.”

His dad was acting like a raving widower. He could not bear to see him thus transformed and went for him with a box of nails, assorted into handy sizes.

His father, with a cut eye and forehead lurched back out of what was now a chapel. A rather lively fugue was being performed on the organ. He followed the injured man out into a sunlit courtyard. Out in the open air, church bells pealed deafeningly. They were quickly surrounded by ostriches with long inquisitive beaks and necks.

He retreated to the chapel where he watched through the peephole whilst the ostriches, somewhat excited by the smell of fresh blood, perpetrated hideous disfigurements on his father’s whole body. The old chap still clung on though and, when he could, delivered stubborn kicks that winded several of the birds.

Ern was interrupted by a tug of his sleeve. “Could you sit down during the sermon, please” asked a rather presumptuous lay-worker. He sat in a central pew.

“Hells’ teeth, friends, are long, like fritters, coated in tartaric acid with the taste of rancid margarine exhumed from a dead man’s gut. Eventual Justice Will Prevail. I can’t express this too often. Some of you here today will be clawed by bird-men till you are but bleeding wrecks – raw carcasses yet still alive.”

At this point in the sermon Ern blushed, thinking of his poor old dad at the mercy of those unusually savage ostriches. Defying the lay-worker’s despising glare he hastened to the door and looked out to see his father struggling to get in, a mass of blood and feathers. Although one could not make out much of his face he seemed to cast a reproachful glance at his son through the small glass square. Ern repented. He opened the door. The lay-worker loomed up behind, slobbering with rage. Ern’s dad, now a vicious fighter, jumped on this rather pompous little individual.

At first Ern was quite amused to see this little runt take a beating, but then he noticed the scissors in his father’s hands.

“How the devil did he get those” he thought.

It was already too late – the sharp little blades had gone straight through the shirt that had been white, but was now reddening, and split the lay-worker’s abdomen open.

“You fool!” shouted the angered official.

No-one paid much attention, for meanwhile the ostriches had invaded what was now a cathedral. Some could fly and defecated on the choir and congregation from above. It grieved Ern’s heart to see such desecration.

La Flèche Sympathique

Eventually Kast and Ern never returned to their home-town.

Edgar felt lost without them. He mooned around the quayside where he had so frequently welcomed them in past years. One afternoon he sat on a backless metal bench facing a light dredger of dowdy appearance. To his left, by a rusting capstan, an unkempt mongrel was spewing up a dark red (almost russet) mixture that reminded him of something he had once seen on the floor of a Parisian public convenience.

This only added further to his irritation. Back home, his landlady would invite him to a game of chess, but both she and the game itself he found boring – he preferred to watch the dog.

“At least out here some adventure might befall me” he thought.

His wish was granted. Perhaps Ern or Kast had something to do with it, but after all, who cares – an adventure’s not to be scoffed at.

Later that evening he had returned to his apartment and was intently studying a cup of tea, when someone climbed in through his living-room window – open as it always was at this time of the year. A smartly-casual clerical type with a bulbous nose and a complete lack of eyebrows walked briskly across the room towards Edgar, seized him by the wrist and led him back to the window.

Most people would have resisted, but Edgar’s present lethargy and ennui induced him to succumb. One must admit, however, that he did begin to have serious misgivings when he found himself on a narrow ledge some thirty feet above the concrete yard at the back of the house. But there was no need to worry – they jumped and both started flying through the air.

“How peculiar” mused Edgar. It was certainly an unexpected twist to the day. They followed the widening channel and then reached the sea. As Edgar watched the beach and cliffs fade into the distance his thoughts turned to Ern and Kast – lost friends drifting in a void. Probably eating hamburgers. He, too, was hungry and rather cold by this time. He looked towards his companion for some sort of explanation, but the clerical character would not look at him. In fact, he strained his neck away, searching in the distance.

Gulls glided below complaining to the wind of the hardness of their life. Or so it seemed to Edgar. Actually he felt like complaining himself. I mean, an adventure is something, that’s true, but there must be limits, after all.

Eventually they reached another coastline. Highlands rose steeply from sea-level. A few miles inland they reached a pass between two craggy mountains. A medium-sized office block reared up on a grassy plateau. The two aviators came close to the building, hovered down and entered through a window just like his at home.

The room was a rather dreary office. At last his abductor spoke,

“You have been chosen as one of the few here in Arsanda – the few given the chance to marry the King’s daughter and rule at her side when he dies. This is a magical kingdom and the perks and benefits are unbelievable – I cannot begin to explain them to an uninitiate like you. Yours could be a life of luxury. But in order to win the Princess you must work here for forty years. She is but two years old, the King is twenty-four and has a good many years left. You must in the meantime prove yourself worthy of the Princess’s favours. You or one of the fifty like you – it matters not which.”

In The Golf Club

Scene IV

(The golf club bar. It is dingy and dimly-lit. The 4th Trombonist is acting as barman. Pious and unrelenting he pours lager over the heads of the customers. Whilst the following exchange is advancing, the customers throng, jostle and joke incessantly. Gordon and Firtree are sat on stools some ten feet from the bar. Each has his drink. The juke-box plays Amarillo Zippodder’s “Crazed ‘Bout You” as many times as necessary.)

Gordon: Nice whisky.

Firtree: You think so? Not a mixture?

Gordon: No, not on my nelly.

Firtree: Your nelly?

Gordon: That’s what I said.


Gordon: Been playing?

Firtree: Praying, actually.

Gordon: Preying?

Firtree: No. Praying. To Jesus.

Gordon: I say, really?

Firtree: Well, no, just my little joke.

Gordon: You’ll never believe what happened to me on the fourteenth. I was trouncing old Thompson, the building chappie, by a clear seven points when we were interrupted by a balloon race. One of the blighters landed on the fairway.

Firtree: Gawd, did you chase them?

Gordon: Tried to, but they turned on us with empty propane canisters. Smashed up our clubs, too. Spoiled the game completely. You know – it’s impossible to go on when you’ve been put off your stroke like that.

(A bunch of drunken young men lurch backwards knocking Gordon and Firtree off their stools.)

Gordon (still on the floor): Have care, you swine.

Firtree (rising painfully): Oh my ribs – something’s smashed.

Gordon: See what you’ve done, you bastards, my friend’s haemophiliac.

1st drunken youth: We don’t care if he’s made of delicate china or fine cut glass.

2nd drunken youth: Or built like Humpty-Dumpty. Eggshell surface – a bag of wind inside.

(The lights fade. A whistle pierces the stillness. A single beam of light returns – directed on a solitary drunk.)

Solitary Drunk (thinks): We burnt his feet, by the side of the fishpond. The wind blew backwards, rushing repeatedly through two silver tree-trunks. A renegade ice-cream van careered through the undergrowth, an ominous green light within. He staggered up, his feet peeling and blistered, and crawled off to look for his mother, on her way home from the supermarket. But she had run off with her new boyfriend – Cyclops. They had taken a taxi to the station and were already arguing.

“Do you always wear blue socks with brown shoes?”

Cyclops began to stammer an excuse, but kept silent. They passed by a huge red-brick factory which caused the very air to stink of rotting carrots discovered under one’s mattress on a winter’s night.

Then, the station. The taxi pulled up, but neither mother nor boyfriend showed any sign of stirring.

“I’m bored” said Maria (the mother, that is).

“I’m not going to cringe before you any longer, you toadthug.”

“What a cheek! You frisky cad!”

“Don’t ever ask me again. Come on, let’s get the train. Pay this citizen.”

“Don’t talk to me like that. My father was a foreman, my mother was a nurse, and I was made to swear, I’d never end up worse.”

An Only Child

Sebrana rose – she’d had enough. The kettle was left to boil as she slipped through the Judas trees, her eyelids pinned to her cheeks.

Night it was and fine, bright one too. The wind sounded like rustic pipes, blown by a dolt.

She walked head-down across the clodded meadow, pretending to be with Gordon, her imaginary lover, who whistled a tuneful waltz in her ear. They were in the desert – on a sand dune – it was jolly.

Back in the forest, as tall as trees, Sebrana sobbed on Gordon’s shoulders. Now they had grown even larger and used mountains as armchairs in their cosy apartment.

In truth she was alone. Even the little animals seemed to avoid her. If she had carried a knife in her bag she could have stuck it in her heart. Kept it there as a souvenir. Of Gordon, vanished, running into the night, lost in the forest.


Gordon eventually reached the house and entered by the conservatory. Once inside he ran upstairs into the bathroom and removed his sore eye. In the next room he could hear a hungry baby wailing for attention.

He slipped his plastic clammy fingers over the door-handle, pushed the door open and took a step inside.

One day, in the Caucasus Mountains, a goatherd had a dream :

He was in a red polystyrene beaker in a turgid canal – floating whichever way the wind blew. From this vantage-point he saw the moon, with a face, bend down and kiss a mad dog. Marching past, a military band were playing a foxtrot, but stopped and drew swords. The dog was slain. He saw tears on the eyes of the moon-face.

Back in the bottom of the beaker he found a handful of salted peanuts – and, shortly afterwards, woke up.

Back in the house, Gordon side-stepped into the corridor. The lights began to flicker incessantly in the umbrage, causing his thoughts to flash back to the freak meteorite storm that had occurred in his bedroom when he was nine years old. The next day he had found a smooth, rounded pebble in a clear mountain stream. His mind and indeed his life was full of such irrelevancies.

Suddenly he cried, “Yike!” as an enormous jellyfish, crimson with purple spots, plopped off the glass roof onto his neck. As it slipped down his shirt he sat on the foam carpet, sobbing.

Another door opened. Gadfly, the boy jockey, appeared with a handful of radishes.

“What’s up?” he queried.

“I need your help, I’ve been the victim of a vile ambush” said Gordon, opening his shirt-front to let the jellyfish slop out over his lap onto the foam. It scurried down the passageway towards the stairs.

Gadfly sniggered. “That’s Tony. He loves his little joke”

“Tee hee” thought Gordon.

birds songwriting trees

The Moment of Creation

Usually these days when I write words for a song I do so using the Voice Recorder function on my mobile phone. I record in short bursts – 1 or 2 lines at a time. Writing it all down and editing it comes later, accompanied by guitar. Tweaking the words can go on for a while after that. In fact in theory that could go on while there is still life in the old dog.

I recorded a demo of the song I wrote towards the end of 2011, RV Marche RG. Later I found that I had not yet deleted the various Voice Recordings. Before doing so I transferred them to my MacBook and strung them all together. They are the log of the act of creation. They go on for about 4 minutes. In real time of course there were gaps between Record and Stop so I was probably stumbling around the streets whilst recording/creating for about 10-15 minutes in total.

My presentation of this moment of creation is not really a thing of beauty, but I felt it was worth preserving and was prepared to front it on YouTube, possibly a mistake but what the hell. My favourite bit on the soundtrack is the call of some random bird that happened to be about at that unearthly hour. I did think about cutting that noise and introducing it with some delay or something a bit more frequently but in the end laziness prevented that innovation which I think is good because just appearing once and then not again is ultimately more rewarding/intriguing.

The film I carved together from a few oddments derived at similar late night junctures, though not on the same night and in fact from the opposite direction. Down by the dockside to be precise where late night lights flicker and dip with reflected refractions. I have done something vaguely similar though reasonably different in the past which is here. I abstracted more this time and resisted the temptation to fade the odd Hergé still subliminally into the background.

Here are the final lyrics

rv marche rg

past rows of metal boxes
with single antenna
save one for tintin street
feelers for dreams
that flow through channels
towards tintin street

save the last one
save a little bit
save some now
for tintin street
save one
for tintin street

the last gully
to simplistic gratuity
burnt into diamond shapes
that line the walls
on tintin street

save the last one…

where concrete descends
a pear tree attends
suspends and portends
with balconies around
can calculus be found?
cellared up and bound on tintin street

save the last one…

through the smoke
the buildings choked
don’t stay too long on tintin street
your lair’s right there
fair and square
you’ve made it back from tintin street

save the last one…

birds fire music

Firebird Pica Pica

Some 10 to 15 years ago I used to spend frequent evenings playing piano with my friend Dominic Black. Neither of us are particularly good piano players. Dominic could sight-read better than I could, but I was the more proficient improviser. Our most well-thumbed music book was The World Of Piano Duets which were arrangements made by Denes Agay. He wrote one hell of a lot of best-selling piano arrangements and his influence on the lives of innumerable people must have been immense. He died in 2007 – here’s an obituary.

All the pieces in the book are great, but my favourite has to be the Lullaby which is taken from a section of Stravinsky‘s Firebird Suite. Last year I downloaded MuseScore and messed about with a bit of music notation. One of the things I did was to take Mr Agay’s two piano parts and arrange them for 2 guitars instead. The plan was for me to perform the result with Everton Hartley but we still haven’t got around to doing it yet. In order to practise it I need to use my loop pedal. It would be much better to be played live with 2 guitars, and I apologise to anyone listening to it for my not having the patience to work at it a bit harder and play it better.


On the subject of Stravinsky I would like to recommend a great book which is The Apollonian Clockwork by Louis Andriessen and Elmer Schönberger. Musicologically it’s a bit over my head most of the time, but even in the middle of those sections the love at the base of the book shines through.

Here’s the last bit of the chapter that is called The Firebird as Magpie.

True renewal is only possible by the grace of tradition. But tradition is something different from convention.
‘[Conventions] differ from traditions in that they are modified rather than developed.’
In music, it is a good tradition to break conventions.

And finally a chance for me to embed an excerpt from a film of the Pina Bausch choreographed Rite of Spring. Particularly apt for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere as our patient wait for that season nears an end.

birds music

Goodwin’s Dry Rib Recipes With Added Quail

During the year my old friend Andrew Goodwin has been creating a Dry Rib blog which has featured some of my songs along with much else. When Andrew and Mike Mulholland and I used to play together in said band something very powerful was created which sadly we never really managed to replicate in the recording studio although the 10 tracks that there are go some way to recording the phenomenon if I may call it that.

Anyway Andrew is a brilliant drummer and he writes pretty well too so I would recommend checking out his blog. He’s been loading some of the songs we recorded together plus others done by the later version of Dry Rib without me in it. I think he’s reached the limit of current material there but the last thing that he uploaded was a song called Quail Seed which is on the Clockwork Records’ Dry Season ep (also 1st track on the Messthetics cd Whose Last Trickle). Some of the following information has already appeared on a blog I wrote on the Dry Rib myspace page. (On the subject of myspace I was just talking about it with some other musicians earlier on this evening. Not sure quite how something that was useful was turned so quickly into something that was useless.) But there are a couple of new nuggets floating down the stream.

  • the original title when the song was first written was The Chilean Ambassador
  • it was written in 1977 in a bedsit at 19 Oglander Road, Peckham, London
  • probably in the autumn because I can remember where I was in the room when I wrote the song – near the gas fire
  • the eventual title of the song is taken from the title of a short story by Saki
  • there is no real connection between the short story and the song
  • my favourite rock guitarist is Chris Spedding and I’d like to dedicate the solo to him
  • initially there were 4 verses and 4 choruses
  • it was Andrew’s idea to run the 1st 2 verses together and dispense with chorus 1
  • the missing chorus went like this

no bells at dawn shall clatter bright
no flares shall pierce the sky at night
the petrol pumps have all run dry
and the ambassador of chile has been shot
in the eye

…and for those that can’t be bothered to look any further for the track in question – here it is.

Quail Seed

birds music

Tattooed Brains

Further to my recent post about the Thelonious Monk biography here are some related thoughts.

Another biography I got out the library over the summer was Syd Barrett: A Very Irregular Head. Both Monk and Syd had this nut thing thrown at them and in both cases there was a definitely a reason for that, but it just begs the question as to whether madness is a requisite for true artistic endeavour. Probably not, but maybe we can say that often the very best lurk close by to the seeds of madness.

One other thing in common is that mental outlooks in both cases tended to have a retrograde effect on commercial success. This is truly some sort of madness in that we can equate madness finally with the inability to feed oneself and this sort of commercial success kamikaze turn ultimately ends up as the inability to feed oneself. In Syd’s case this probably wasn’t helped by the fact that he was able to feed himself because somehow there was always money for him.

Towards the end of Monk’s life he lost interest in playing the piano. There was a piano in Nica‘s appartment that he could have used. Barry Harris apparently often played it and sometimes Monk would leave his door open to indicate that he was listening but the desire to express himself had gone. That’s sad but in the end, why not? He’d done it all before. You can end up like a performing seal. Bring me blessed silence finally O Lord.

Vincent Van Gogh‘s another of those guys who was dipping a bit into the insanity pool. I love this segment from Kurosawa‘s Dreams (actually I love all the segments of Kurosawa’s Dreams) with Martin Scorsese playing the painter and that beautiful Prelude 15 by Chopin.

birds literature music

Dunwich Songbook

A couple of years ago I wrote a song which I called hermetic. It’s a horror song, it’s a death song and it’s also a bird song, the bird being the whip-poor-will. And as well it’s a literature song because it derives some vocabulary, atmosphere and imagery from the work of HP Lovecraft. Not that I’m a huge fan of this writer, but I did read most of his stuff when I was in my early teens.

Here is a picture of a whip-poor-will

Caprimulgus vociferusAAP065B

And here is a picture of HP Lovecraft

Here’s the track


The sound effects I picked up here and there. I have got a small archive of sound effects but I think most of the ones I used I downloaded from the web. Eventually I would like to record it properly and it cries out for a grainy black and white video in the style of Epstein‘s The Fall of the House of Usher. See below.

birds music

An Owl Revisited

A few years ago I had an idea to create some sort of low budget video to accompany my song An Owl. I’d never done a storyboard before but I knew that’s what you’re supposed to do if you’re serious about making a film. I’m not very good at drawing, but I gave it a go anyway.

A few days ago I came across the result while looking for some lyrics so here it is followed by some detailed comments and then at the bottom there’s a chance to hear a brand new recording of the song which was written over 30 years ago.

My first attempt at drawing the owl’s head was obviously not a success. I’m not sure why I thought an owl should have ears like a teddy bear’s and black holes for eyes. I then seemed to manage a decent drawing of an owl which must have either been copied from somewhere or drawn by someone else.

But by the time I came to draw the frame for the line,

by my luminous face

my attempt to superimpose the owl face on a watch face was obviously so demanding that I reverted to the stick-up ears.

I believe that I excelled myself with my representation of a withered plant, which for me has a Hokusai-like simplicity and strength.

By the time we reach the 7th frame it’s not so much stick-up ears but some sort of dent in the top of the owl’s head.

When we get to the lyric,

I swooped down on some mice

we get this frame

I can only see one mouse here. Unless the others are smaller and are hiding behind the big one. It is quite fat.

The dent in the owl’s head has cleared up but now it looks a bit like ET. The point about ET was that he was an alien but he looked friendly like a bendy, squeezy childen’s toy. But this ET owl isn’t friendly – he’s trying to look evil. The smile is malevolent and the eye on the right is looking into the distance, daydreaming about acts of depravity with a hint of Orson Welles in A Touch of Evil or possibly Robert Mitchum in The Night of the Hunter.

Further sign of laziness in the last but one frame which is supposed to be of a number of parasitical insects. After drawing a few, the word etc asks you to expand the paltry depictions of what are supposed to be bird-ticks in your mind’s eye.

And finally, here is the new recording

An Owl