The End Is Near……

I know: possibly marginally over-dramatic title. As we rapidly approach the end of 2014, I have been thinking quite a lot about ending things. Please, dear reader, do not be alarmed, I do not mean “ending things“, as in, permanently. I have a problem with ending things generally. I am pretty rubbish at it! I start a great song, I have a cool and amusing narrative for the song, it’s going really well…..I have tracked all the parts, I am mixing it, and……I just don’t know how to end the bloody thing! Fade out? Arranged ending? A coda? So I usually stop, put the song to one side and start working on the next one. Only, I end up repeating the same process over again!

I am the same with writing articles, letters – yours sincerely/yours faithfully – blog posts (!) and stories. I start off really well, I am inspired, I am fist-pumping at the end of a session, but then the inevitable ending issue comes along. I am encouraged that I appear to not be alone. The composer of the theme tune to the TV game show Countdown had the same problem, as did Beethoven – he left several works unfinished, which were completed by his students, using thematic sketches the great composer left behind.

2014 for me has been a topsy-turvy kind of year. I have had good things go well, and some things go badly wrong. However, one of those things that went badly wrong has turned out to be pretty good so far. I am determined to learn lessons taught to me by this year, to end the year well, and start 2015 with a fresh vision, focus and determination, to set off well on things like my studio business, and end projects well, leaving me with happy clients who will recommend me for further work.

So, 2014 sees the end of Mr I-can’t-end-things and the renaissance of the long-forgotten Mr Determined-to-succeed, ready for 2015.

This blog post is likely to be the last one of the year. I may or may not get a quick couple out around Christmas and Hogmany. If I don’t manage it, I’d like to wish every reader a very happy Christmas and a wonderful start to 2015.

Until next time……………See youse!

Studio Makeover COMPLETE!

For those of you who don’t know, I run a project recording, mixing and mastering studio business from home. I have been running it since 2011, and just this year, we moved the studio into the back bedroom. Once in, we experimented with a couple of layouts, but nothing really worked particularly well, until we decided to start again from scratch and invest my recent birthday money into making it look and sound a huge amount more professional – which it now does!

The new layout and the big changes put in have made a massive difference! And it means that while I am working, the rest of my family can carry on with normal life without risking disturbing me or effecting the recordings, and it also means that I can properly treat the room acoustically. I mean, who wants acoustic foam up on the walls in the lounge?!

So……in today’s post, I am giving you the chance to have a guided tour of the studio, so you can see what I do and where I do it. Here it is, then! My studio Tour!

Reelin’ In The Years….

The Steely Dan song that provides the title for today’s post is one of my favourites, not least because of the exceptional lead guitar work of Elliot Randel. But, that’s not why I used it in the title of this post. Having had two weeks off my feet due to my cellulitis, I had plenty of time to think and reflect. So, I want to share some of those thoughts and reflections with you, my dear reader.

Five years ago today, I and my wife Cate were preparing ourselves for becoming a family of three, and becoming parents. We were into our final week as just a couple. My life, which had already changed beyond my wildest dreams, when I met and married Cate, was about to change again. Radically. Questions were flying through my head at a zillion miles an hour: “Can I really be a good Dad?”; “Can I handle all the requirements of a new born baby?”; “Can I give her all she needs for life and happiness?” It all seemed so daunting.

Then, on November 19th 2009, my daughter Anna was born. When she came out into the world, suddenly all those questions and doubts melted away with a huge, “YES!” the moment I saw her. Over the course of these five (almost) years, I have learned so much more of the depth of those questions, and have occasionally returned to them. It has been an extraordinary experience watching her grow up and develop. And now, suddenly, my baby girl is a school girl!

She has settled into her formal education fantastically well, and is learning loads every week. It’s just so delightful to see her skipping joyfully to school and then skipping home with the same joy, and then burying her head in her homework when she gets home. She loves to learn, and she is having lots of fun doing it. I hope and pray that this delight remains with her her whole life through.

As we approach her birthday, I regularly find myself amazed that the little baby I held in my arms five years ago has become this amazing little girl…….who already has complete mastery of sarcasm and has a bullet-fast wit.

I wonder what the next five years hold for her – and for Cate, her brother Sam and myself?? Who knows? – God does! I am very thankful the journey of parenting He has brought me on so far, and totally excited as the journey with Him, and Him with us, continues.

Happy birthday (for Wednesday), Anna! Here’s to many more Father-daughter adventures!

Weighting and Waiting

One of my favourite emotions – among many – is anticipation. Waiting for something to arrive, or something to happen, that you know is going to be GOOD. I get all excited. It becomes mostly all I talk about – which irritates my poor beloved wife NO end – until the event happens, or the thing arrives. I count down the days. I am probably very annoying.

I have another one. It’s not really a favourite exactly, but it usually follows anticipation that is not fulfilled: FRUSTRATION.

I am eagerly anticipating the completion of the studio makeover project. It has been all I talk about! However, there have been some rather annoying and frustrating hold-ups to the project, caused by new gear not being correctly delivered or not even arriving at all!

When I get frustrated, like anticipation, it becomes all I talk about and it spills over in a variety of ways, including this blog. So, if that is not your bag, can I suggest eagerly anticipating my next post in a week or so’s time?

So, my big frustration has been with anticipated deliveries not arriving on time, or even arriving at all. After LOTS of phone calls and emails – oh, and a wee rant to Royal Mail on Twitter – I have no gear, one re-send and one refund. Annoying!

So here is the low down on frustrations:

  • First frustration: I have had to order my new DAW (Digital Audio Workstation AKA music production software) via another vendor. This is the biggest frustration, because this is the one piece of gear that has NEVER actually arrived. Royal Mail LOST IT! It is the most expensive, and – for the audio geeks – after 20 years or so of using Steinberg’s Cubase, in its various incarnations, I have decided to switch to PreSonus’ Studio One. I have a full refund on this, so I will be buying it elsewhere.
  • Second frustration: I have taken delivery of new acoustic treatment (to tame the acoustics in the studio), which arrived PERFECTLY on time (NOT via Royal Mail), but I do not have the stuff ordered by which I will be mounting the foam panels and bass traps on the walls. That got returned to sender by Royal Mail! So, that part of the project is on hold.
  • Third frustration: Royal Mail v Yodel. Score line there? 1-0 to Yodel, with two RM sending offs.

So, there you have it. I am frustrated and anticipating the arrival of the mounting stuff next week and then, hopefully, Studio One by the end of that week. In between that, I have a computer to overhaul with my good friend Jonathan Simpson.

Rant over. It was cathartic. Next time, you will hear joy-filled news of the project moving forward, and I’ll post some pics.

So…..what was the “weighting” bit of the title all about? I’m attempting to lose weight.

Inspiring Discoveries

I LOVE discovering musicians and songwriters I have never heard of before. It inspires me to be creative and write new songs when I have those periods, as a songwriter myself, of struggle to get the creative juices flowing. In recent years, this methodology has been my go-to option when I struggle – go and listen to some great songs written and performed by great musicians and songwriters, which are well recorded, mixed and mastered. I almost never end up envious and saying, “why are my songs and recordings not as good as that?!” Rather, I end up inspired to go and write the best songs I can and capture the very best recordings I can.

Today, thanks to my friend Joe Gilder and his fabulous Home Studio Corner Podcast, I happened upon an artist whose music thoroughly inspired me. What was even more inspiring was that his fantastic new album “Death In Reverse” was 90% recorded and mixed in a home studio like mine! The artist is called Jeremy Casella. I very happily commend his music to you. You can go and check him out HERE.

I hope you enjoy his music as much as I have, and I hope it inspires YOUR creative juices as much as it has mine.

Until next time……See you!

Birthday Hobbles

October 9th saw me enter my final year of my Thirties. I had a really great day, full of blessings and surprises and a wonderful evening out with my wonderful wife, Cate, for a very delicious and filling dinner. The only down side of the day, and the days leading up to it has been a rather nasty and extremely painful infection in my left calf that flared up out of nowhere on the Friday before my birthday. It rendered me practically immobile and had the serious concern of a number of medics, including our GP. I was quickly prescribed some very aggressive antibiotics and hefty pain relief. These meds pretty much kept me in bed for most of the week leading up to my birthday.

By the grace of God, Cate happened to be off work on annual leave, which has helped speed up my recovery massively. As I write this, I am now able to hobble about for short periods, which is a good thing now that Cate is back at work. The antibiotics are working well and the pain meds are enabling me to hobble about keeping the kids occupied. I am still quite sore, especially at the ends of the days, but I am slowly recovering.

In other news, my studio computer is misbehaving quite annoyingly, rebooting inexplicably quite regularly, which makes working practically impossible. My good friend Jonathan Simpson has been helping me develop the website for the studio ( and has been hard at work trying to solve the computer issues. Hopefully, in the next week or two we will have it back up and running, hopefully, and I hope it will run problem free for at least another 18 months, as I cannot afford to replace it just yet.

The studio itself is undergoing a wee makeover. I will have some pics of the finished studio up here in the next week or two. I am excited about the studio business, and am confident that, once we have solved the computer problems, it will be a successful enterprise and will afford my very hardworking wife some time away from work to be with the kids and explore some adventures God has put in her heart. That’s the plan, anyway!

Those of you who pray, please pray for my studio business – that I get plenty of clients, students and session work – enough regular work that I can release Cate into some of the things God is calling her into. Those who don’t please do encourage us with your thoughts for us.

Can I please encourage all of you to visit the studio website – – and spread the word!

Until next time……..see ya!

Settling The Dust

So, September 18th was a MASSIVE day in British history. Scotland went to the polls to answer the question on whether we should be an independent country or not. Turnout was the highest ever recorded in Scottish electoral history, at close to 90%. It is the first time in my own personal electoral history that I have witness queues and votes being registered every 15 seconds at the polling station I attended. From a democratic point of view, it was simply glorious. I wish all elections and referendums in Britain were like this! It was something I will never forget.

In the evening, I attended another polling station to represent the No Thanks campaign. It was there that I encountered the dark side of politics, and specifically, of nationalism. In all my years of campaigning for the Labour Party, I have never once been verbally or physically abused, but that night, representing a cross-party campaign, all that changed. I received a large number of verbal abuses, from the laughably stupid to the highly offensive and racist kind.

Later on, that night, I was subjected to worse. I was surrounded by a group of young Yes Scotland (the pro-independence campaign) supporters, who not only attempted to intimidate me, but also physically attacked me, and then destroyed signage, which they threatened to injure me with. I stood my ground and refused to be intimidated. I did not fight back, but defended myself sufficiently to cause them to flee! The police were involved, but sadly, finding these young men has proved extremely difficult.

In the early hours of the following morning, the result was in: Scotland voted NO to independence.

What happens next? Well, somehow, the people of this great country have to figure out a way to heal a great rift within our people wrought by the last two years of referendum campaigning. We have to figure out what is right for us. 55% of us said NO to independence, which has proved to have come as a huge shock to the other 45%. That needs dealt with. We need to figure out the way forward for Scotland within the Union – the right place for us to be, in my opinion – and the way forward for the whole Union.

The United Kingdom has forever changed. It MUST modernise. Whether federalism is the answer or not, I am not completely certain of yet. We must settle the dust stirred up by the last two years. It won’t be easy, and it won’t happen overnight. It will require the people of all four Home Nations, all political parties, all community groups, ALL of us,  working together for the future of our Great Union.

And……we must defeat nationalism. It is incompatible with the 21st Century, and it MUST be destroyed, and honest, humble patriotism – pride in our heritage, history, people and potential – must be restored.

Now that this referendum is over, normal service on this blog will resume as of next post!