Monday, December 22, 2008

The Perfect Christmas Present: Aled Jones!

Level of conviction in own genius: 7
Amount of creative activity achieved in last 24 hours: 40 mins of carol-editing
Watching: Season 3 of 'The Wire', hallelujah!
Hair Day: Adventurous, what with my man Barry having come back from his sojourn in Blackpool. Am sporting an asymmetric tri-coloured look.

All winding down for the Christmas period, although I am already panicking about my huge Drake Music project composition, an application for the PRS Creative Producers scheme and sorting out juice's PRS funding grant which we've just been awarded in order to commission all-round new music uberking Gabriel Prokofiev to write us a big piece. We managed to get the house in order and bedeck a stout Christmas tree (topped with a pink feather boa for that irreverent touch) for our pre-Christmas soiree last night, during which I attempted a look of poise and grace which masked my fear of people getting their mucky shoes on the carpet or spilling their spiced apple/whisky/ginger wine concoctions, none of which of course happened with all of us now being grown-up. I was quite proud of my music selection, all carefully themed around the festive season and failing that anything to do with stars, cold, fire, and other tenuous links; this meant we had everything from Mariah's rousing winter warbler to a quite unabashedly awful heavy metal take on 'O Christmas Tree', to Jeff Buckley's heaven-sent version of Britten's 'Corpus Christi Carol' to Muse's 'Starlight'.

juice rounded off their successful year (national press, Purcell Room, Latitude, BFI, agent, funding grant) by popping to a slick central London studio to be interviewed for BBC Radio 3's 'The Choir' - by seasonal favourite Aled Jones, no less! It's unfortunate that he's most known for his first and last cheesy public outings: 'Walking in the Air' and this year's attempt at a Christmas No. 1 with El Tel; he turned out to be absolutely lovely, a bit naughty and a consummate professional. We recorded two live tunes and were hopefully on ebullient, girly form in our interview, which was great fun. It'll be on in January. Hurrah!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Dr Loop Lady

Level of conviction in own genius: 9
Amount of creative activity achived in last 24 hours: 1 hour
Listening: to a Radio 5 discussion on the Leonard Cohen's song 'Hallelujah' and how it's been bizarrely adopted by the X Factor. Bonkers. John Cale, Shrek, Rufus Wainwright, Kathryn Williams, that Alexandra woman: nothing can beat Jeff Buckley, obviously.
Hair Day: needs colour BADLY, help me Barry at Russo's, you are my only hope!

Saw a deliciously sumptuous gig at Union Chapel on Thursday night: Rachel Unthank and the Winterset, as Stef the pianist whom I know a wee bit as a Yorkie composer very kindly got Anna and I some freebie tickets. I saw RUATW at the Borderline earlier in the year and they basically did the same set, but it was of course transformed by the lofty dome, the dark dusty corners, the flickering candles and the beautifully reverberant acoustic. Rachel Unthank has apple-rosy cheeks and a voice as refresing as an ice-cold beck; her sister is kookier and huskier, exhaling layers of breath as she sings. They and the rest of the band are sassy, gorgeous girlies that make you happy to be a woman: they think nothing of singing unmiked in a consonant-heavy Shetland language in four-part harmony and doing a spot of very very untrendy clog-dancing. YES.

It was to Union Chapel again, rather hilariously for a solo gig two days later, for a relaxed afternoon series called Daylight Music. Hilarious mostly as there was probably about, ooo, 680 less people there for my gig than there were for the Mercury-nominated folkies. Whilst I did expect a draftier gig, it would have been nice for the promoter to have been there and possibly promoted it a bit! It was worse for the artist who played before me, a rather eccentric character called Ash Mandrake. A great musician, he wielded a rather imposing-looking double guitar thing, one normal electric, one baritone half-fretless guitar, taped together and encased in burnished dark-red leather with large stitching, plus a large dragon's tail-like strap that also held a mic. Ash sang rather mystical, medieval rock, songs about bees and pumpkin brains and knights riding out of the mists, that kind of thing, PLUS sported a different self-made hat for each number.

I was less pumpkinny than Ash and really enjoyed my set. The acoustic is sooo epic; when I sound-checked I asked the sound chap if he could possibly take the reverb off. He shook his head and wryly pointed into the air: the roomy chapel takes your voice, whisks it soaring round the dome a few times before fluttering into the corners 20 seconds later. It meant most of my set was ludicrously over the top atmospheric, and even though there were only 20 people watching me I got it all recorded and sound like about 100 slightly leftfield angels so was all worth it. Both at the Chapel and the next day at the rather cosier World's End pub in Finsbury Park for yet another Broken Toy Music night (all my bands have played there now!) I did some English folk, all twisted up naturally, (my favourite stuff to sing actually, I love telling those murky stories) some originals and everyone's favourite 'Down the The River' from 'O Brother Where Art Thou?'. Andy helped out again on guitar in the first gig which adds another tangy layer to all my loop station vocals, and I pop in a bit of melodica and glock too. Have absolutely loved doing the gigs, I feel a whole new folkstar Kerry coming blinking out into the light...