Tag Archives: guitar

Friday Photo Blogging: my other echo pedal is also a Memory Man

One of the joys of being in a band that actually plays shows is that it’s a lot easier to convince yourself to spend money on new musical toys as a result. So when I was PayPal’d some cash for a big bunch of books I recently sold off, I was on eBay within five minutes purchasing this little doozy:

Stereo Memory Man with Hazarai

I already own the other Memory Man (the original Deluxe) as well; it’s true analogue, so sounds more lush, but the Hazarai here has all the handy crazy extras: tap-tempo, sweepable filters, loop recording and overdubbing, reverse delay… it’s like Pink Floyd’s entire career crammed into one small box.

Now all I have to do is learn how to use it. What a chore… 🙂

I had a bunch more stuff typed out at this point (though admittedly less than in the FPBs of old), but it appears that WordPress has decided to eat it all without storing the automatic drafts-in-progress it usually does. And I’m afraid I can’t be bothered to spend another half hour retyping it all, so you’ll just have to believe me when I say that I’m still busy and that pretty much everything is going about as well as I could expect or hope for.

Though I will just say this: go read the latest Futurismic story, “Homeostasis” by Carlos Hernandez, because it’s a good story with a zero-schmaltz happy ending, and the twenty minutes it’ll take you will be repaid by putting a smile on your face. Once that’s done, you can head off and have a good weekend; that’s certainly my intention. Hasta luego!

Friday Photo Blogging – double-headed Allen Ginsberg street-art mashup

There’s always been some graffiti and randomness in Velcro City, but it seems that this year everything’s kicking up a notch. Lots of people doing weird new guerrilla stuff like this, for example:

Have you seen him?

The Free Art Friday meme is picking  up pace as well, with a number of people I know suddenly getting into making stuff and giving it away anonymously; it’s like street art in style (well, it can be, sometimes), but it’s made to be portable, not static, and its reappropriation by the public is not only assumed but desired. I love this sort of stuff, people breaking down barriers of participation and consumption, and the wall between artist and viewer, gallery and public space. If I had the time, I’d do more of it myself[1].

Album of the Week

I’m gonna get all retro on your asses with AotW this time; Sub Pop have just released Enter The Vaselines, which is a deluxe repackaged version of 1992’s The Way Of The Vaselines, which in turn was a career retrospective that collected their two EPs and lone album recorded between 1986 and 1989. Kurt Cobain stimulated interest in this little-known Scottish indie-pop-proto-grunge band by covering “Molly’s Lips” and declaring them his favourite songwriters of all time; find out why, and indulge in a little bit of pop-cultural history. Quirky, faux-dumb clever and full of teenage sexual tension. A fascinating document (and a pleasant reminder of being fifteen, which is a rarity).

Writing about books

Well, I got the bulk of the This is Not a Game review done, and it’s now under the laser-eyes of Niall, who will doubtless point out some minor corrections and tweaks which will transform said review from the rambling thesis it is to something that people will actually be interested in reading.  The man has a talent, I tell yah.

Which leaves me with (I think) no standing deadlines on reviews… which theoretically means I have time to catch up on reading journal entries here[2].

Currently reading the Clarke Award-winning Song of Time from Ian R MacLeod, and I have to say I’m more impressed than I expected to be; I’m about half way through and he’s still throwing in new levels of weirdness and estrangement to the story.


Yep, still busy, still loads of balls in the air, none of which are close enough to completion to be worth mentioning separately. Hoping to get some of them nailed down into a final trajectory within the next couple of weeks.

The server is now up and running properly, locked up safe and secure from predatory Russian botnets and port-scanning scriptkids, serving DNS information and HTML and behaving like something close to usable. It’s been quite the learning curve, but well worth the time investment – I think it’ll pay off quite well over the course of a few years, in fact. Now it’s time to get a first few production/live sites up on there and see how she holds up to some traffic.


It’s been a good brisk week for Futurismic, traffic-wise and comments-wise, which is always good to see. I’ve also announced the forthcoming column by author and futurist Brenda Cooper; Today’s Tomorrows will be doing the same sort of thing that I do when I blog at Futurismic, but going into greater depth on single subjects. It’s going to be good, so come along for the ride, why don’tcha?

Aeroplane Attack

Little to report on this front; second gig is this coming Monday, we’ve got a practice session the night before, everyone’s feeling good about it. We’re trying not to think about the logistical nightmare of getting all our kit to the venue and back without being able to borrow a buddy with a van and a few spare hours…

Oh, and also: I can haz nu gitarr:

Gibson Les Paul Standard

Nope; can’t play it well, can’t afford it, don’t deserve it. Don’t care, either; it’s a proper Gibson Les Paul Standard, and I’m currently very much in lust with it. 🙂

Books and magazines seen

None, nada, nil, zilch, zippo. I’ve been very good, too; I’ve passed the 50p bookstore in Albert Rodeo many times this week, and manfully resisted the siren song of old damp-bent Ace and DAW paperbacks lurking among Michael Crichton and Dan Brown titles…


That’s about your lot for this week; after last week’s barrage of excitement and big news, that’s probably a sign of the universe balancing itself, if only momentarily. More weirdness will doubtless arrive, sooner rather than later, but for now I’m going to get the day’s tasks done and head out for a beer. And as it’s been a good while since the last one, I might just go grab me a Friday Curry beforehand…

Have a good weekend, people. Hasta luego!

[ 1 – Or, more likely, do a little of it and then blame it for not having the time to write fiction. Can’t say I don’t know my failings, right? ]

[ 2 – Please note my use of the word “theoretically”. ]

Friday Photo Blogging: the bag-head blues

Well, you know musicians and their propensity for keerrrrrrazy highjinx. Somehow last Sunday (for reasons now forgotten) my bandmate Phil ended up playing some evolving little riff for about ten minutes with a tote bag[1] on his head.

Jammin' those bag-head blues

I’d like to be able to claim we were using some Eno-esque oblique strategies to come up with new ideas, but it would be more honest to confess we were mostly just mucking around…

Writing about music

We’re nearly back up to full throttle at TDP, so I’ve been writing more reviews. This year so far has seen an unprecedented number of submissions from unsigned bands, which is excellent – people getting off their arses instead of waiting for a label to come knocking is great news. However, some of them would be much better off working on their music beforehand…

Those of you among the Twitterati may have noticed that I’m now contributing #SoundBytes – 140-character album reviews – to Outshine, Jetse De Vries‘ Tweetmag. This is, incidentally, my first pro (and paid!) column of any sort, so I’m rather chuffed about it! My reviews go out every Tuesday evening (European time), so do tune in.

Jetse has managed to convince no less a luminary than Lucius Shepard for the movie reviews column on the Thursday slot; that’s one hell of a name to share a masthead with, I reckon. 🙂

Album of the week

Nothing particularly award-worthy reviewed this week (though the best of the rest would be Chickenhawk‘s eponymous début of stoner-spazzcore), so I’m going to recommend an old favourite in the form of Devin Townsend‘s Terria, one of the man’s more thoughtful solo side-project efforts. Because, sometimes, all you need is a bipolar be-skulleted Canadian guitar wizard.

Townsend seems to be one of those artists you either love or hate; I’m happy to fit into the former camp, having seen him perform live both as himself (i.e. fronting The Devin Townsend Band) and as frontman for the ridiculously heavy and unhinged Strapping Young Lad. If you’re into metal and you’ve not tried his stuff before, follow those links to Last FM and have a listen. I defy you to be indifferent.

Writing about books

Ah, the magic of procrastination! Having reached a particularly tricky bit of my Mind Over Ship review, I engaged the displacement engines and battered out a little review of Ehsin Masood’s Science & Islam, a History. In summary: decent little introductory text to a subject that’s much bigger than you may realise.

A little breathing space in the reading schedule has seen me start off on Kay Kenyon’s Bright of the Sky. Enjoying it so far, though Kenyon moves POV in mid-scene from time to time – although it’s always clearly signposted, it’s not a style I encounter often, and as such it can be a bit jarring. But so far it’s a strong story with a good premise, blending a sort of Greg Bear meets Greg Egan sf future with a science fantasy world set in the dimension next door; promises to get more interesting very quickly.


The first fortnight of freelancing has been staggeringly unglamorous, largely involving clearing down a backlog of administrivia and catching up on daily tasks disrupted by my jaunt Northwards last week. But things are limbering up, and the daily schedule is starting to look a lot more manageable as I whittle away at it all. Now, if I could just mend my sleep-deprived[2] bodyclock and get up at the same time every morning, I’d be rocking in the free world…

Now there’s a bit of temporal space, I can start on a few of those ‘someday soon’ tasks that have been sat in my Remember The Milk inbox for months… things like skinning my portfolio site and making it something more than a newly-installed honey-jar for spam-bots, f’rinstance.


I’m pretty happy with things at Futurismic at the moment. The increase in output over the last few weeks (facilitated by a new approach to pre-planning posts the day before) is showing traffic dividends already, which is great news.

My interview with Bruce Sterling went up to much less fanfare than I had hoped, but seems to have been well-received by those who read it. It’ll still stand out as a golden fanboy moment for me, though… at least until the day I get to meet Sterling in person[3].

We’ve got a new story in the purchase process, too; another sober piece, but one I think folk are going to like, so keep ’em peeled. In the meantime, Marissa Lingen‘s “Erasing the Map” is short, smart and thought-provoking, so why not take a ten-minute break and read it now, eh?

Creative writing

Oooh, look, a new FPB section! As much to keep myself informed as for the benefit of you lot, I figure I’ll keep a vague record of my non-work related writing output here as well. And as such I can report that, while story writing has not yet been achieved (thanks to the aforementioned bodyclock wreckage), I’ve probably written more poetry in the last month than I did in the preceding year. That’s not to say it’s good poetry, of course, but it feels nice to get the engines turning again, and it comes a little easier every time.

I’m wondering how much it has helped that I restarted journalling at the beginning of the year – just scribbling down an account of the day in a Moleskine before I go to sleep. It seems to have the effect of making me remember the ephemera of things a little more clearly, and enables me to map my thinking-over-time a little better.

That said, it’s all banal so far (with occasional flashes where something grabs my mind and runs off with the pen); the downside is it can reveal just how much of your time you spend doing effectively nothing. Hmm. The unexamined life, and all that.

Books and magazines seen

Another mailout from the BSFA appeared last week, including the first issue of Vector not to feature a review by me for quite some time, if memory serves. Still plenty of other good stuff in there, though, most of which (along with Focus) I have yet to read the bulk of.

The last fortnight has seen the arrival of the mass-market paperback of Iain M Banks’ Matter (bringing my total to four different editions, only the promo ARC of which has actually been read), and the final bound ARC version of Toby Litt‘s generation ship story Journey Into Space (no, I still haven’t gotten round to the spiral-bound galley they sent a while back; it’s in the TBR queue).

Genuinely new titles appearing in the last fortnight include the arrival of a new title from Icon Books (literally the day after the Science & Islam review, which felt a little spooky). This one’s a lot more beefy – Atomic: the First War of Physics and the Secret History of the Atom Bomb 1939-49 by Jim Baggott.

Jim Baggott - Atomic: the First War of Physics and the Secret History of the Atom Bomb

Looks fascinating; also looks immense (550 pages plus, medium font). So many books, so little time… a sentiment that applies equally to this week’s other new arrival in the form of a limited edition (#204 of 555) ARC of China Mieville‘s new title, The City & The City:

China Mieville - The City & The City

You can all be jealous now. The time will be found to read that book very soon, I can assure you. 🙂


So, yeah; a busy fortnight that included a four-day jag to Manchester by train (miraculously avoiding any snow-based snarl-ups), the ordering of a kick-arse new computer (which has yet to arrive – guessing on Monday) and purchasing of a second-hand Wacom Bamboo tablet (cheers, Jasper), one pub quiz, two band rehearsals, one live gig (The Confederate Dead at The Cellars in Eastney; one of our better local bands), a lot of hours at the keyboard, and a distinct lack of opportunity to sit and panic about the future. Which strikes me as a pretty decent start to this whole freelance malarkey… though it is only a start, and I need to be building up momentum sooner rather than later. Onward and upwards, eh?

Anyway, the weekend’s here and I’ve got stuff to do – and I’ll bet you have, as well. So let’s bid each other a good weekend and get to it, shall we? Yeah, why not!

Take care, folks.

[ 1 – The tote bag in question is used by our bassplayer to carry his pedal board. That’s just how rock and roll we are, yo. ]

[ 2 – The ongoing upstairs neighbour issues are, er, ongoing. ]

[ 3 – This will no doubt be a horrible melange of fawning and gibbering on my part, despite my hopes that I’d be calm, erudite and incisive. Looking at how Sterling made my emailed questions sound naive without even trying to, however, I can confidently predict that, face-to-face, he’ll make me seem (and feel) about two foot tall should the opportunity ever arise. ]

Friday Photo Blogging: I CAN HAS AMPLIFIER? redux

In which I display yet another piece of recently-acquired musical kit that I can’t realistically afford and yet which I could not let pass me by. Because what aspiring rock guitarist — even one who knows he isn’t very good and never will be — hasn’t always wanted a valve-powered amp stack?

Marshall JCM2000 DSL50 all-valve guitar amp

And yes, it is very loud. Which means that now the whole street can hear how much I suck, as opposed to just the houses to either side.

Who knows — maybe next week we’ll have a picture of something from (gasp!) outside my flat.*

Writing about music

It’s been a hectic week in music, because the pre-festival season sees the industry knocking out lots of new material. Next week promises to be even busier — I have ten albums to review for 2nd June, which means my usual one-per-weekday regime would be insufficient even were I completely clear of albums released on 25th May (which I’m not, yet).

Still, in the grand scheme of things it doesn’t matter too much if I review stuff in its week of release rather than before. Better that than punishing my eyes and ears by trying to do two or three reviews a day to the detriment of other stuff, AMIRITE?

Album of the week

Hail Destroyer by Cancer Bats, no contest.

Good enough, in fact, to somewhat cool my disappointment that I had my guestlist for the gig revoked at the eleventh hour last weekend (literally about an hour after I posted FPB). 🙁

Writing about books

No solid writing, but I’m reading and taking notes on David Levy’s Love and Sex With Robots for a Vector review. I think I’m safe in saying that anyone widely read in sf isn’t going to find his core idea as shocking as the average person might. However, it’s still an interesting read (though I think I can see exactly where he’s going, and something about his writing style really bugs me beyond his heavy reliance on stats and psychology studies, both of which can be made to sing like canaries).


Fellow Fictioneer Justin Pickard has started blogging over at Futurismic this week (and how!), and the call for volunteers still stands until Sunday — so if you or someone you know fancies a crack at contributing to one of the genre scene’s most vibrant and cutting-edge webzines, jump to it!

Also finalised my first story contract and payment as Ed-in-Chief, which feels both weird and cool at once. Now, if I can just put some of Jeremy’s ideas into action … 🙂


So, masses of work for PS Publishing. I think I’m going to be able to do it quicker in future once I know the routines, but the learning curve is significant — though it’s not so much steep as it is long. Still, my legs could do with the exercise, to overextend the analogy.

And hey, I get to invoice Pete for it at the end of the month — and that’s a damn good feeling, let me tell you.

Books and magazines seen

Speaking of PS Publishing as we were, my only incomings this week have been a lovely box of titles from that esteemed establishment. And not wishing to lay it on too thick (lest I stand accused of grandstanding), anyone who has bought a PS title will back me up in saying that, as examples of books-as-desire-objects, they are very lovely indeed**.

Coda — the four-day weekend

Those of you who have been following closely may remember a false alert a little while ago when I thought I was getting a four-day weekend (thanks to the Dockyard being the nominal property of some old bird called Liz who lives up in London).

It turns out that’s this weekend — so yours truly isn’t back at the day-job until midday next Wednesday. A survey of those currently present seems to suggest that this is widely considered to be a Good Thing***.

All the more so when you consider I’ve spent most of the week with my nose to the grindstone, as it were. And that’s not a complaint – it’s great to have productive (and lucrative) things to do. But it’ll be nice to have a little breathing room in which to play catch-up (and sit-down).

And so – as is often the way – a busy week makes for a skinny FPB Coda. What can I say here?

Oh, yes — the new Red Bull cola is frighteningly addictive, allegedly contains genuine coca leaf (though only as a flavouring) and makes you feel like Henry Case after he scores the engineered amphetamine analogue on Straylight. It also appears to wreck my sleep, even when consumed around lunchtime; for this reason I may have to forbid myself from drinking it any more****.

And on the tail of that earth-shattering revelation, I guess it’s time to bring this to a close … after all, it’s time to fulfil that most sacred of rituals and genuflect with cutlery toward the Most Venerable And Esteemed Friday Curry For Great Justice And Virtuosity. And so, I bid you farewell for now.

Have a great weekend, folks — however long it may turn out to be. 🙂

[ * That sound I just heard was you all collectively holding your breath, right? No, didn’t think so. ]

[ ** Which, of course, will mean nothing to you freaks who don’t obsess about book-as-artefact. Selah; your blessing is also your curse. 😉 ]

[ *** Though given the acquisition of the amplifier, my neighbours may not be in complete concordance on this matter. ]

[**** This public service announcement has been brought to you by the British Dentistry Association — because, contrary to popular and justifiable belief, we are not sadists, and we don’t enjoy fixing molars that have been ground down to bloody stumps any more than you enjoy bringing them to us. ]

Friday Photo Blogging: the axeman’s weapon

So, last week a rather sweet deal came up on my local music forum. Now, I wasn’t really in need of a new guitar, but as any other musician (even one as half-arsed as myself) will tell you, need isn’t a factor that enters into the equation where new instruments are concerned.

Bargain prices* and extreme sexiness are, however … so I am now the rather happy owner of this:

Fender John5 HHH custom Tele

For those who like details, she’s a Fender John 5 Triple Tele Deluxe. The chrome is a bitch to keep clean (especially with my “rest the weight on your pinkie” right-hand technique), but she plays beautifully and kicks out a great signal. I have yet to name her.

Writing about music

Stop press: the oft-delayed Ginger Wildheart interview finally went through! Literally just half an hour ago, in fact.

It was a bit of a hoopla job – transatlantic mobile-to-mobile phone calls are no picnic, and the man himself was in the waiting room of a tattoo parlour (where else?) but I actually have ten minutes of audible recorded conversation! What a marathon – but well worth it, though.

Other than that, nothing untoward to report – off to Cancer Bats tomorrow with SCG and one of my bandmates from Aeroplane Attack, though.

Album of the week

Another strong week, so I’m going to call it a tie for the top spot and you can choose the one that sounds more up your street, so to speak.

You can choose between Heavy Zooo, a surreal adventure with German down-tuned stoner-doom duo Beehoover, or the simple honest small-town punk rock of Cardiff’s Bedford Falls, whose début Savings And Loan is best described as sounding like Sugar performing Alkaline Trio songs. Or maybe the other way around.

You can also choose both, if you like. I won’t mind. 🙂

Writing about books


The really astonishing thing is that once it was finished and sent off, this huge psychological weight was lifted off of my shoulders – I hadn’t realised how much of an albatross of frustration it had become for me.

It was hard work, though; the sort of book I could write a dissertation on and still not say everything I wanted to.**

The Implied Spaces review is chalked in for Sunday, as is a chunk of reading time. I’ve been very sloppy on my reading recently; the easy excuse is to say that I’ve not had much free time, but I’d imagine the lack of reading has something to do with my lack of inspiration when I sit down to write. Hmmm.

Whether that’s the case or not, I need to read more. I have review deadlines, if nothing else!


Well, there’s plenty to keep me busy, that’s for certain. A regular flow of material through the PS Publishing Newsroom means that I should have little difficulty maintaining a regular schedule over there … which can be bolstered in future with my various cunning plans! Muah-hah-hah!

There’s web development work within clear sight, and a few other things looming on the horizon which may prove to be mirages but might well be solid ground. One thing’s for certain – I need to get myself a hosting reseller account sorted sooner rather than later.

And as if I didn’t have enough to do already, I’m trying to think of a good pitch for the Clarkesworld non-fiction section – though this is more as a speculative exercise on my part rather than something I have decided I should actually commit to doing.


Business pretty much as usual over on Futurismic; I’m just getting our fiction buying contract looked over before sending it off to the first author we’re buying from with me at the helm.

Definitely going to take on more staff over there, though, as I’m struggling in the absence of two of my regular crew. So, let me reiterate the call:

If you think you’d be interested in blogging at Futurismic on a regular basis, please drop me a note using the Futurismic Contact page and let me know why you’d be good for the site.


Books and magazines seen

Big old batch of Orbit stuff today, including some fantasy stuff for my mother and yet another vampire-shagger from the queen of the vampire-shaggers (who must at least be admired for her prodigious output rate, if nothing else).

The only one that caught my sf-nal eye was Sean WilliamsAstropolis 1: Saturn Returns:

Sean Williams - Astropolis 1: Saturn Returns

The other arrival this week was the OMG-controversial ‘mundane’ issue of Interzone:

Cover art for Interzone 216

I’m curious to see if it will generate enough blogospheric hot air to raise the entire genre scene, Montgolfier-fashion, into the sky for a short period of time.

I just don’t understand why people get so upset about it. I mean, I understand the differences of opinion that lead to the upset, but all the wailing and gnashing of teeth … come on people, save it for Michael Crichton, FFS.


Well, what happened to summer? Three glorious days of sun, and now it’s all murky and overcast. I’m consoling myself with the thought that perhaps it’s a sign, and that Portsmouth will lose tomorrow, thus sparing me twelve months of PEOPLE BEING UNABLE TO SHUT THE HELL UP ABOUT FOOTBALL***.

Still, feeling a bit more on top of things this week, with the exception of my fiction writing. Progress, it seems, is being made on most fronts, and there’s not much more one can ask for, really****.

But as for now I have things to be getting on with so that I can be out of town before the crowds tomorrow … which means that I’d best high-tail it down the road and fetch the Friday Curry For Valour And Great Justice right away!

Have yourselves a good weekend, ladies and gents. Hasta luego.

[ * Bought new earlier this year for around £600, cost me a little over £300. Zing! ]

[ ** That’s not me volunteering to do so, however. I have many thoughts about The Book Of The New Sun, but I don’t ever want to wade into them again on anyone else’s time-scale but my own. ]

[ *** To be fair, they’ll carry on about the stupid game anyway, but the tedious way in which absolutely everything will be intimately related to the outcome of one particular ninety-minute interaction between twenty-two overpaid chumps and a pig’s bladder should they win will be almost unbearable. ]

[ **** Well, yes, of course there is; I mean things you can ask for and that you have some vague chance of actually receiving. ]