Friday, September 30, 2011

October 2011's calendar/wallpaper

October 2011's calendar :: 1280x800

October 2011's calendar :: iPhone4

I'm going all brass band with two different pics for this month's calendar/wallpaper... it's my way of celebrating the awesomeness of the Salvation Army's West of Scotland Divisional Youth Band who I have been privileged to photograph twice in September.

As before... the usual flavours are included below... including a 480x800 version for a friend (who will remain nameless) who has acquired a non-iPhone.



iPhone with calendar
480x800 (no calendar)

October 2011's wallpaper - Kindle3

Thursday, September 29, 2011

"Rock the Hospices" poster

Above is a poster I thought I'd share with you. A friend at work asked me to create it for the "Rock the Hospices" event that he had organised... the event that I took some photos at recently.

I've been picking up a few pieces of poster work again... and it is something I really love to do. I am currently working on a poster for the Salvation Army's West of Scotland Divisional Youth Band and hope to have it finished by the weekend.

Who knows... maybe there is something here for me?


Seven questions... with Chris Dickins aka Gurusoul

Gurusoul aka Chris Dickins creates fantastic soundscapes that bring together passionate vocals and  distinctive downtempo electronica to encapsulate the sound of now.

I met Chris on Twitter and was instantly taken with the music he shared with me... it reminded me of Spacek... so we got talking and, long story short, I invited him to answer my seven questions... this is what he had to say:


1) Who are you and what do you do?
My real name is Chris Dickins and I produce music under the name Gurusoul.
In summary, the genre is downtempo electronic music but I like to draw ideas from different genres where I can. I like the freedom electronic music production gives you to experiment and improvise; its now possible to create rhythm and melody from almost anything so I dont need to limit myself to traditional instruments the way I used to. Nowadays, if it makes a cool noise i'll record it!

I also organise and take part in Performing Arts events in my local area, collaborating with established artists and/or people wanting to get involved in Arts in the community for the first time.

2) What are you working on at the moment?
2011 has been the year for getting my music heard for the first time. My debut album "Burn My Star" has been available to download since June and im currently working on developing new songs for a live set, which I can then take to the stage next year and start gigging again. Its always a challenge for a solo artist to find ways to create an interesting live show but im looking forward to it.

I want the live experience to be an integral part of what Gurusoul is. I have a background in the Performing Arts which will hopefully come through in my shows; the social atmosphere of a live gig combined with the drama and storytelling aspect of Theatre performance is what i'm looking for.

3) Who inspires you?
- Name an artist who has inspired you.
There are a huge amount of people who inspire me to keep doing this, not all of them are artists but a recent one I've discovered is David Toop. I've been reading his books this year, starting with "Ocean of Sound" whichI cant recommend enough to any musicians or producers who might be reading this; it validated a lot of the different ways I have been thinking about music in recent years. It has also inspired me to travel more; I'm beginning to see how important travelling is for growing artists.

- Name place that has inspired you.
I must admit I havent done a great deal of travelling yet, but a few years ago I spent a week in Budapest for the Sziget festival. Any festival goer needs to get this one under the belt, i've never seen so much variety in one place and nowhere I have been since has come close. I was blown away by the band lineup originally but it was the sheer amount of different Arts available on show that makes me want to go back.

In fact, the most moving thing I saw there was "Carillon" by KITONB, an Italian Theatre company. One of the most inspiring shows I've ever seen. If I ever put on a show half as good as that i'll be happy!

- Name some "thing" that has inspired you.
The fact that in 2011, I can pick up a laptop and flesh out my musical ideas, share them with the world, organise live performances and network with other artists all over the world 24 hours a day. I know its a geeky answer but I guess what I'm saying is technology is an inspiring thing now. I can demonstrate a passion for what I do which can be seen across the world. I currently have more listeners in other countries worldwide than I do here in the UK!

4) What drives you to do what you do?
Im quite an ambitious, passionate person when it comes to this stuff, and its really just because I love the industry and all that's involved; weeks upon weeks of rehearsals where anything and everything goes wrong, waking up in the middle of the night and running to the nearest microphone/guitar to record an idea, the audience's applause (when there's an audience of course), selling the first ticket, running around town with posters and flyers, you get the idea!

In an interview for a Theatre job I was asked "What about the boring stuff? Are you ok with all that?" I told them "It's not boring."

5) What values do you wish your creativity to express?

  • Be completely honest with yourself.
  • Be a fan first and a professional, second.
  • Get stuck in; nobody's going to hold your hand.
  • There's nothing wrong with doing what you love every day.

6) What role does community play in what you do?
Music is able to form its own social groups and communities, learning about music is learning about the world so its huge for me. Im looking forward to seeing how different venues in different communities respond to me when I perform live.

As for my work in Theatre, the community is the entire focus! The creative process from planning to rehearsal to performance turns groups of total strangers into families in a matter of weeks. I don't know anywhere else that can do that.

7) What is next for what you do?
My performance company have their next show at the Stafford Gatehouse Theatre on the 7th November 2011, it's called Controlled Illusion and includes brand new Gurusoul material that will hopefully find its way onto a release next year. Im also looking forward to the very first Gurusoul gigs, i'll play literally anywhere so anyone can get in touch for a booking!

I'm going to do as much as I can to push my creativity as far as it can go and hopefully help people and small businesses in the process. You can talk about the economy and financial restrictions as much as you want; the artistic process begins and ends with people getting together and asking the big questions, celebrating life or having a pop at it. I still have plenty of things I need to ask, celebrate and moan about so im not slowing down any time soon!

You can reach me on Twitter @TheGurusoul or 'like me' on Facebook. What's more... you can download my music at

Oh and you can also see what my Company is up to at Standingtone.


Thanks Chris!

I've embedded the bandcamp player for "burn my star" below... please take some time out to listen to it and support independent music.

"Burn My Star" is available at bandcamp... pay what you want.


Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Loving... "Amaya" by Earlyguard featuring Julia Kotowski aka 'Entertainment for the Braindead'

When I read of Earlyguard's upcoming release I got very excited... because he had collaborated with Julia Kotowski aka 'Entertainment for the Braindead'... someone whose music & life-force I greatly admire. It seemed an unusual combination... a master of delicate and immersive droning ambience, and a wonderful light in lo-fi acoustic folk music... but I had the utmost faith in Earlyguard's judgement and, after a run-through of the preview copy he gave me, I feel this confidence to be entirely justified.

"Amaya" is wonderfully immersive... with bright, open and expansive drones that work with and compliment a subtle field-recording of a distant bubbling thunderstorm and the incessant pouring of rain... to create the most glorious of ambient soundscapes.

This is headphone music at it's very best... deep and engaging... delicate yet riveting... a soundscape that captivates my very soul and brightens my day.

I know it would seem wrong to consider the natural refrain of a thunderstorm or the rhythm of torrential rain to be something that could brighten my day but I feel a greater connection to the world around me through this soundscape... a feeling that comes through being party to one of the great 'shows' of creation. There is a real sense of the awesome that transcends the 'here and now'... a feeling of great wonder amid deep mystery that gives this recording an almost spiritual and meditative quality.

I maybe wrong but I think this collaboration could be Earlyguard's best work to date. That said... he'll probably bring something out in November that will blow me away. He just gets better and better... and with the inclusion of Julia Kotowski... wow. The use of her voice in such a simple and hypnotic way is brilliant. It brings a new definition to the oft used word... ethereal.

This recording is simply first class and well recommended.


"Amaya" will be released on 1st October 2011 through Earlyguard's Bandcamp page.

Monday, September 26, 2011

My photos from an overnight in Belfast

240911_ Saturday Festival #35

I've uploaded my photos from my weekend accompanying the Salvation Army's West of Scotland Division's Youth Band. You can view them here.


240911_ Saturday Festival #51

More hope for Japan... a preview

I am a big fan of the original Hope for Japan compilation and was delighted to hear that there is another album nearly ready to drop.

More details are available on their website :: More Hope for Japan :: and buy the album when it drops... this time on CD as well as download.


iPhoneography on the ferry

250911_ the Irish sea

250911_ sunset + wake

250911_ wake

250911_ sunset 2

250911_ sunset blur

On the ferry from Stranraer to Belfast, I discovered I can become seasick. On the way back I also discovered that taking photos with my iPhone really helped take my mind off the up and down and up and down of the boat. Tx

Friday, September 23, 2011

Loving... 'Beneath a tree' by Swaying Smoke

Swaying Smoke aka James Lowery is an ambient electronic artist who specialises in dark, dramatic dronescapes. He has a new album due to drop very soon on the aRew recordings netlabel entitled "Beneath a tree" and was kind enough to give me a wee preview (after I pretty much begged him on twitter).

Drones aren't for everyone but I find Lowery's soundscapes wonderfully engaging: they entice me in with their apparent simplicity then surprise me with their detail and crafted structure. He creates wonderfully immersive ambience without labouring the point... the themes he explores are not over-played nor are they given lip-service... he dives deep, makes his point and then doesn't hang around... creating tracks that last between 3 and 7 minutes... tracks that are given sufficient space to become without being over-done. I really do like that and welcome it in a genre that can labouring a point.

There is, as mentioned above, a dramatic darkness about Lowery's music... more late-night uncertainty than inherent morbidity... and it is in this darkness that Lowery explores hidden and unseen spaces.

"Proof is not enough", for example, has a film-noir quality... with an echoing motif that could be easily mistaken for a footstep reverberating within a confined tunnel... before droning synths take over. Its as if the protagonist is in hiding and the world around him is continuing... with the subtle 'nee nah nee nah' refrain floating passed that reminds me of sirens from Emergency Service vehicles... a sound that is very 'bladerunner-esque' in nature.

There is a feeling of unease that pervades the music... that 'Lovecraftian' feeling of being somewhere alien and yet it feels somehow familiar. I guess this is why I love Lowery's music and this album in particular... it is a progression from his earlier work and a welcome addition to my collection.



aRew recordings

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Vendetta & Fargo

220911_ Vendetta #2

220911_ Fargo #1

One of my colleagues at work organised a wee gig at a local Glaswegian pub in aid of 'Help the Hospices'... and asked me to create the promotional material and take some photos of the bands playing.

The top photo is of the lead singer and guitarist of 'Vendetta'... who played covers and got the crowd on their feet. Whereas the bottom photo is of 'Fargo'... who I desperately wanted to see (Iain Gillies - foreground - is a colleague) but their set was delayed and it pushed out beyond my home-time.

I didn't take any photos of my work colleagues enjoying themselves as I personally find it intrusive... so the photos of the bands are the only record from me of the evening. I hope my colleague doesn't mind?!?


Glaswegian Dream Sequence 01 - 05

220911_ Glaswegian Dream Sequence 01

220911_ Glaswegian Dream Sequence 02

220911_ Glaswegian Dream Sequence 03

220911_ Glaswegian Dream Sequence 04

220911_ Glaswegian Dream Sequence 05

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Facebook's Pirate English

I'm not the biggest fan of Facebook... but keep it in my social media arsenal because of the people I have connected on it.

This evening my daughter Dayna made it so much more valuable... when she changed the default language to "English (Pirate)". Their attention to detail is tremendous... "arr!" replaces "like" for example.

To change your language... goto the wee dropdown beside 'home' on the top right... then 'account settings'... then 'language' to change it.

I just wished they would exercise this level of attention to their privacy settings.

Thanks Dayna!


My favourite R.E.M. song...

...and I feel fine!


Thank you for your music R.E.M.

Thank you!


Loving... "Relic" by Matt Stevens

Before I discuss this album, let me be open and say that while I have been lucky enough to get a preview copy of "Relic"... I have pre-ordered the physical copy of this release. I am a huge fan of Matt, proud to support him and can not nor should not be considered "objective" in this regard.

Now... "Relic" is Matt's third 'proper' guitar album. I exclude the noodle album albeit I do love it and consider it important in the canon of his work. What's more... "Relic" comes in a post-The Fierce and The Dead world and, as such, must be view in this light.

Simply put... "Relic" is a welcomed progression from Matt's earlier work. It is a cohesive body of work that clearly demonstrates both growth in terms of mastery of craft and in terms of willingness to take risks and push forward.

In places, the album sounds more like TFATD than it does Matt's earlier work. This is not a negative. A good leader gets the right people surrounding him and Matt's partnership with Kevin Feazey is accordingly very right and very wise. Feazey's production is first class and his musical contributions, especially his bass guitar playing, truly inspired. So too is bringing in Stuart Marshall on drums... they do work well together.

There is more of a band feel to tracks such as "nightbus", "frost" and "30End". This is welcomed by me because the division of labour allows the constituent parts to excel in their own ways.

On "nightbus", for example, we hear an elegant guitar riff... a foot-tappingly funky bassline from Feazey... and an incessant breakbeat from Marshall... as well the delicate refrain from sweet wee glockenspiel. Very The Fierce and The Dead but also uniquely Matt as well.

In other places, we see Matt playing the role of a 21st century Mariachi man soloing over his well structure wall-of-sound loops... and electronic ambience. Building upon the layers to create inspiring soundscapes. "Rushden Fair" and "Up" are prime examples of this.  It's fair to say that this is a role Matt does very well.

The Mariachi man is complemented nicely on "Rusty" and "Scapegoat" by Chrissie Caulfield on violin. She really does add something special to these tracks... an expansion and a depth that may not be immediately apparent on first listen but becomes clear through greater familiarity.

As a listener, I am engaged throughout "Relic". At times I am comforted with the familiar and at others surprised with the new. There are also times I am simply blown off my feet... "Frost" being one of them.

This album is more of a progression than a radical departure... it is more "in rainbows" than "the king of limbs"... and for fans of his work as well as people coming to his work fresh I believe this will be a favoured and memorable recording... and I will go as far as saying I believe it will stand out as a highlight of 2011.

Before I go... I want to commend the photography of Paul Mockford. His work for the album cover and the promo pic (both featured above) is first class and in keeping with the album.


Relic - Released on 26th September 2011


I got Chrissie's surname wrong earlier... its Caulfield not Cauldwell. My bad. Thanks to Wolfgang for pointing it out.

Watching... 'Music From A Dry Cleaner' by Diego Stocco

This is simply fascinating.


Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Watching... 'Tokyo Slo Mo' by Alex Lee

I needed some visual stimuli this evening before heading to bed... and found this awesome video by film-maker Alex Lee.

It reminded me of some hopes I have...

  • I hope to visit Tokyo one day
  • I hope to have a camera that could shoot this kind of footage
  • I hope to be able to shoot videos like this
One day... but for today let's enjoy this video.


Loving... 'Seven Tales of the North Wind' by Rhian Sheehan

Another album I bought with my birthday money was 'Seven Tales of the North Wind' by Rhian Sheehan. I purchased it on the recommendation of Simon Cutmore who had heard Sheehan's work at the National Space Centre's We Are Astronomers exhibit (which is, according to wikipedia, a 360° Full Dome Film narrated by Doctor Who's David Tennant).

When I began listening to 'Seven Tales of the North Wind' I was instantly hooked... the soundscapes he presents are warm and inviting... on a par with Venona Pers.

The album is predominately post-classical in arrangement... with  a healthy dose of ambient electronic programming, field recordings and drones thrown in to create a breathtakingly beautiful, impressive and engaging audio experience... one reminiscent of "tras el horizonte" by EUS in that the soundscapes presented have the expansiveness of post-rock and the immersiveness of ambient.

If you are a fan of Sigur Ros' more delicate moments then you will really get this album... as I have. It's grace and elegance is a welcome addition to my collection.

$5 for download or $12 for CD + download. Have a wee listen below:


Loving... 'The Past is a Foreign Country' by Venona Pers

On my birthday I purchased "The Past is a Foreign Country" by Venona Pers ... and I've been enthralled by it ever since.

It is a wonderfully warm and immersive combination of folktronica with ambient drones... a coming-together, so-to-speak, of acoustic sounds like guitars and glockenspiel with electronic programming and processing to make a series of vibrant and vivid sound collages.

The soundscapes on the album are warm and inviting... they are presented as spaces to get lost in... where the issues of the day are to be forgotten and all that matters is the now. I guess this is why I love this album so much... it gives me space away from the ordinary... it is head music that allows me to take time out.

Jonathan Hill and Grant Weston have created something very special here and I am grateful to them for it. Have a wee listen below to see what I mean.

£5 for download or £7 for disc + immediate download. I bought the download and should have bought the disc.



Delighted with my physical copies of 'Marshall' and 'Vivian'

200911_ Marshall + Vivian 1

200911_ Marshall + Vivian 2

I was delighted to receive the physical copies of Lowercase Noise's 'Marshall' and 'Vivian'. As I tweeted earlier... I love the packaging, considering it first class. Andy Othling's attention to detail and pursuit of simple yet effective packaging is admirable. All the wording is hand-stamped in beautifully simple recycled card. The discs are presented side-by-side with neither more important than the other... this is, afterall, the first physical release of 'Marshall' as well as 'Vivian'.

All in... Andy has done an excellent job crafting an artefact of worth... and I am delighted to have this release within my collection.


Tuesday, September 13, 2011

This made me laugh... 'Lovecraftian Sketch' from Burnistoun

I am a huge fan of H. P. Lovecraft and his unique fiction. This sketch is extremely funny for anyone with even a passing interest in his writing... especially the Cthulu Mythos to which it refers.

It made me laugh!


Thanks @ska_dad.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Photographing the West of Scotland Youth Band

100911_ Youth Band at Shotts Salvation Army #26

Tonight, I was honoured to be asked to take some photos of the Salvation Army's West of Scotland Division's Youth Band as they played in Shotts. I'm not a fan of brass band music but they we're on form tonight... sounding amazing especially wonderful solos from my pals Cammy Laird, David Weir and Dean Logan.

  100911_ Youth Band at Shotts Salvation Army #19

 Chris Shanks is doing a wonder with the kids... and I am very proud of all the effort he has put in since he took the position of Band Master. An influx of 16 new players in the last year is a great sign, for example.

  100911_ Youth Band at Shotts Salvation Army #14

 The photos will be available on Flickr when the upload is complete >> go here to see them.


Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Seven questions... with Silverthorn's guitarist Robb Sutherland

((Photo used with permission))

Robb Sutherland aka @changingworship is a chap I have had the privilege to get to know over the last year or so. Last week I had a blether with him for the podcast (something beautiful podcast) I co-host... and had a really fun time.

Now... to be fair... we talked more about his role as an Anglican Priest... but his guitar playing did come up... so it made sense to feature him on my blog and ask him my wee interview. I greatly appreciate the responses Robb gave... and hope, one day, to hear his band, Silverthorn.



1) Who are you and what do you do?
I’m Robb and I am a priest working for the Church of England. I play in a band called Silverthorn – I’m the guitarist.

2) What are you working on at the moment?
We’re in the process of writing three songs. We started about six months ago writing new material and bits and pieces have come and gone but we’ve got some stuff that I found myself singing in the shower the other day. If I like it, it’ll do me.

3) Who inspires you?
- Name an artist who has inspired you.
Depends on the day. I was inspired to pick up the guitar by Slash. I was 9 years old and my dad came home with a copy of Appetite for Destruction and it changed my life. I’ve pretty much had long hair and a Les Paul ever since. The energy and raw power of that album is still amazing over two decades later! There are few debut albums that can become so internationally revered as Appetite.

- Name place that has inspired you.
Shetland. It is so remote. The sky not quite getting dark in the height of summer.

- Name some "thing" that has inspired you.
Guitar gadgets (he cheats and names several things). From my talk box to my ebow. They open up creative possibilities.

4) What drives you to do what you do?
Sheer bloody-mindedness. Playing guitar has been driven solely by me. I was given violin lessons. I was given piano lessons. I taught myself to play guitar and it is the one instrument I can actually play! 

5) What values do you wish your creativity to express?

6) What role does community play in what you do?
Without community I’m nothing. The small community that is the band enable me to play. I’m pretty pants at playing on my own. I like a drummer and bass player to riff off. I’m no use at all in a guitar shop as I’m not one of those “legend in your own bedroom” guys who’s gig is going to “the guitar shop”. Then there is all of Silverthorn’s fans. There is something about the energy of a crowd. They can will you to play out of your skin or they can make you want to cut a couple of songs and go home. Without community you may as well buy a CD.

7) What is next for what you do?
I suspect there will be a lot of song writing and learning new material as our keyboard player wants paternity leave =D That may actually be the incentive that I need to work out how to use the home recording studio I’ve built but not got around to using!!



Thanks Robb. For more... follow these links:


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