Tag Archives: Prog

Dog Moon Howl E.P. preview

Work continues on the upcoming releases.  Here’s a preview of the new Dog Moon Howl E.P. These Days in the shape of a lo-fi video (knocked together out of some under-exposed rehearsal footage) for the title track. The tune itself is perhaps a bit of departure for the band but I believe we’re all seriously pleased with it.  I know I am.

Enjoy!

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My Entirely Subjective, Flexibly Sequenced Personal Top 10 Albums of 2012 (Part 1)

I, rather idly, started writing this at the end of last year and then promptly forgot about it, so here is the hardly-timely rundown of my favourite albums of 2012.  I wouldn’t normally do this kind of thing but 2012 really seemed to be an extraordinary year for quality album releases, especially from veteran artists being all flash with their respective mojos and that.  Not that there were no disappointments or outright stinkers here and there, but let’s not dwell.  This is just me recommending some great sounds.

Of course, much of the order of this nominal ‘Top 10’ is quite arbitrary and likely to change from day-to-day, while the choices are utterly subjective.  Bearing that in mind, special mention should go to some other releases from last year that would be as likely to appear on the list below on any other day.  On top of that, due to the headphone-centric workload of the second half of the year, largely focussed on the recording and release of the Hard Times: Volume 1 EP, I’ve still to fully digest (or in some cases check out at all) releases from Willie Nelson, St. Vitus, Dave Arcari, Patti Smith, Anders Osborne and more besides …

As this threatens to be an absurdly long post, I’ll split it in two, with this first part covering numbers 10-6 plus a few other gems, and Part 2 looking at 5-1 plus highlighting standout singles/songs of the year.  First up, those Special Mentions:

Hawkwind – Onwards: A strong contemporary outing (similar in vibe to Blood Of The Earth, which I liked too), with metallic opener Seasons a real standout.

Neil Young and Crazyhorse – Americana: Still not sure what to make of this one, with a song selection that strongly hints at the piss being taken, but in the main it surely does sound glorious.  Served at least as an appetiser for Psychedelic Pill.

Paul Gilbert – Vibrato: A return to form from someone I thought had been lost to shred instrumentalism a couple of years back (something he’s very, very good at but if its not entirely your bag it can get wearing).  The album’s full of the wit and warped pop-rock sensibility typical of earlier sets like Burning Organ and Spaceship One, and if it peters out a bit towards the end, its over-generous running-time compensates.

Sleepy Eyes Nelson – Empty Pockets: JB’s blues brother, also crossing over into country territory on this wee gem of a lo-fi release.

Black Country Communion – Afterglow: Third album from the supergroup I surely had no chance of liking – on paper, ex-members of Deep Purple, Foreigner and Dream Theatre teaming up with Jo Bonamassa seemed, at least to me, positively horrific.  Three albums later, and there’s no denying the sheer class.  There’s been a certain element of ‘diminishing returns’ with each release – the first is a monster, a future classic no doubt, the second very good but not quite great.  This one stays true to form (now more prone to near-plagiarism than before with at least a couple of clear lifts from Zeppelin and Rush), but it’s still stirring stuff.

And now:

My Entirely Subjective, Flexibly Sequenced Personal Top 10 Albums of 2012 (Part 1)

10: JB Nelson – Dead Coats

Superb stuff from the other Nelson brother, featuring the customary JB Nelson mix of gothic roots-country and dark industrial electronica this time more or less stylistically split across two discs.  It’s remarkable throughout, though I can’t help favouring the first disc, home to the more explicitly ‘country’ material, and some of the very best songs ol’ JB has written, perfectly arranged with acoustic instrumentation augmented by retro electric guitar (check out My Only Friend Is The Bottle or I’m Never Gonna Be Rich).  There are a couple of covers on there too and some excellent instrumentals, recalling Ennio Morricone and early Ry Cooder.

9: Led Zeppelin – Celebration Day

Zep’s one-off reunion gig, already familiar due to numerous bootlegs, finally given the full production treatment for audio and video releases and proving worth the wait.  Plant avoids the pitfalls of reaching for the high notes by artfully rearranging the vocal parts and simply not reaching for them at all.  For the most part Page, whose live performances have always been notoriously inconsistent even at his peak, is on form here, at his best in years.  Having said all that, though, it’s John Paul Jones and Jason Bonham who really steal the show.  Whatever, it makes for a great listen.  Among the many standouts are In My Time Of Dying, No Quarter and Kashmir.

8: Soundgarden – King Animal

Classic sound, tough riffs and psychedelia are all present and correct for the big comeback, if slightly hampered by a particularly cheesy acoustic number, Halfway There, (reeking of the singer’s latter day solo career) and consistently short running-times, which feel overly constrictive for this kind of thing with only one track – excellent album closer Rowing – breaking the five minute barrier.  Other than that though?  Good stuff.

7: Gary Moore – Blues For Jimi

Moore was on fantastic form for this one-off gig celebrating Hendrix.  The first two-thirds of the album feature his regular rhythm section, and it’s great stuff, visceral and raw, with the man himself paying respect to Hendrix and staying as faithful as possible to the original arrangements and solos while still opening them up and stamping his own considerable authority all over them.  The last third-or-so of the album, a perfunctory Voodoo Chile (Slight Return) excepted, is rescued from ‘superstar jam’ awfulness by Moore himself, holding things together as the Experience Mk II’s rhythm section (Billy Cox and Mitch Mitchell) take to the stage to join him for a somewhat sloppier take on the likes of Stone Free and Hey Joe.

6: Kris Kristofferson – Feeling Mortal

I’ve been a fan of Kris Kristofferson for almost longer than I can remember; I think the first single I ever had was Jesus Was A Capricorn (I’ve still got it), most likely passed on to me by my dad.  It’s been great to see Kris’ recorded output of the past few years equalling his 1970s glory days (in the ’80s and ’90s his work, like that of many if not all of his ‘outlaw’ country contemporaries, suffered from awful over-production and glossy, keyboard saturated arrangements – a real shame as it obscured the sheer quality of a set like Repossessed in particular).

Following on from This Old Road and Closer To The Bone, Kris keeps the winning streak intact with another world-weary master-class in great lyric writing set against a raw, roots country backdrop.  It’s all highlights from the opening title track (“Wide awake and feeling mortal at this moment in the dream, That old man there in the mirror and my shaky self-esteem”) to closer Ramblin’ Jack, about Ramblin’ Jack Elliott (“I’ve got a friend named Ramblin’ Jack, he’s got a face like a tumble-down shack, been lived in too long to be torn down”); my own favourites at time of writing are archetypal country number Just Suppose and honest-to-goodness love song The One You Chose.

And there you have it.  I’ll post Part 2 of this time-wasting nonsense within the week.


Truth, Lies and Hard Times: Coming Attractions …

Following on from my last post, I seem to have found myself with a lot of projects on the go.  First up will be a new EP, Hard Times: Volume One, the first in a series of three.  Consisting of 5-6 tracks of down and dirty alt.blues/roots, it will be recorded at 16 Ohm studios, Glasgow, in early October for a November release.  The remaining volumes will be released on an as-and-when basis over 2013-2014.  The next major release for me after Hard Times: Volume One will be my second full-length album, to be recorded in April 2013, again at 16 Ohm, for a May release.

Dog Moon Howl should be on course for our first album recording and release in the middle of next year as well.  I’m already developing a scheduling headache as I type this …

I’ve been working sporadically on yet another project, something a bit prog under the working title of The Lies Behind The Truth – this grew out of some loose recordings made a few years ago, but now feels as if it could be something a bit more substantial.  However, common sense dictates that I leave the bulk of the work until later in 2013.  In the meantime there might be an EP release of those earlier demo tracks – watch this space.

Looks like I’ll also soon be playing some guitar for Scædunengan.  I did a bit of recording last year for the demo track Birdsong (check it out here) – hopefully after nigh-on a year of having my lead chops beaten back into shape playing with Dog Moon Howl, I’ll be able to come up with something more cohesive (not that I wasn’t happy with what I played then – I just feel more ‘in my stride’ as a lead player now).

All this leaves is live work, of course.  I have some dates waiting to be confirmed both solo and with Dog Moon Howl, and hope to see out this year with as much live work as possible (the rest of the year having had more than its fair share of spanners in the works).  Check the gig guides on craighughes.net and dogmoonhowl.com for dates as we have them.  Joining me for some ‘solo’ shows later in the year will be Dog Moon Howl’s very own Ally Tennick on percussion, which promises to be fun – and which keeps things nice and cyclical as Ally will also be supplying drums/percussion for the Hard Times Volume One EP.


EPs. Albums. That sort of thing.

Be warned!  This blog entry concerns itself with the business side of running a micro-label and maintaining a recording career.  Inevitably, words like ‘marketing’, ‘pricing’ and ‘packaging’ will make an appearance.   I don’t normally think in such terms, honest, but when trying to rescue your ailing business via the age old alchemy of Business Planning, you just can’t escape them.  Read on if you dare …

This past few weeks has largely found me trying to put together some kind of workable business plan for the next twelve months.  Things have changed in the four years since I started this business, most notably with my move away from film/video soundtrack and production work after a particularly poisonous experience in that field last year (recently exacerbated by further post-production bullshit), meaning that for the foreseeable future I will not actively be seeking out media work, despite it having been a cornerstone of my business – and income.  It’s unfortunate, but I have such a low tolerance for fuckwits.

My biggest concern, however, is full-length Album Number Two.  It has now – somewhat unbelievably – been slightly over two-and-a-half years since the release of Pissed Off, Bitter And Willing To Share.  That album did well for me, particularly by way of generating excellent press and airplay but since then my only significant solo release has been the mini-album Pennies On My Eyes at the tail end of 2010.  That picked up a couple of excellent online reviews and – most surprisingly – a Scottish New Music Awards nomination, but was a limited release, available as part of the Graveyard Full Of Blues split CD with Sleepy Eyes Nelson‘s Build That Coffin Of Mine, and digitally only through my websites (via Bandcamp).  Since then, I’ve been devoting quite a bit of time to Dog Moon Howl, the heavy rock band I put together with old muckers Bryan Campbell and Ally Tennick.  We recently released a demo EP, Strip-Lit Hell, which has been doing well for us.

So, now that the band is properly up-and-running, it’s time to concentrate on my solo work again.  I’ve certainly got plenty of songs in place and a strong idea for the overall vibe and look of the album and package.  Unfortunately, releasing an album can be a costly business – even when done on the comparative cheap.  All of the previous releases I have issued through my label Channel Nowhere have been to a degree experimental, trying every format (EP, single, album, mini-album, split CD, download) and level of pricing and distribution (buy-at-gigs only, full DD, limited DD, multi-buy deals, pay-what-you-want, free) as well as a variety of different packaging formats (various jewel cases, wallet packs, DVD cases, PDFs).

All of this has been done until now with the Channel Nowhere in-house duplication/printing set-up, on what is basically a modified print-on-demand basis, as per my original business plan.  This helps to keep costs down while maintaining quality at a high standard but it’s also seriously labour-intensive.  So, with another new packaging concept in place for the next album, the likelihood is that there will be at the very least some elements outsourced, particularly printing.  Which of course means expense.  Tie this in with what would be a very tight production and release schedule (both Pissed Off and Pennies were released late in their respective years which quickly made them seem a year ‘old’ when marketing them in the following months, so I know I’d be best aiming at a release date no later than September) leaving me with the inevitability that I have to delay the project until early 2013.  Which, believe me, is deeply fucking frustrating.

I’m left with the prospect of a second full year without a meaningful release under my own name.  Given that I’m also about to delete my first EP (Broke, Lonely and Guilty), the old back catalogue’s going to be looking a tad depleted too.  So, the current notion, which is flirting with the possibility of becoming a plan, is to release an E.P in September/October.  As you might have gathered by now, I put a lot of stock in the album as a format, but I also like the EP – I feel you can be a bit more ‘fast and loose’ about EPs, so their contents will likely vary to include covers, alternative versions of older tracks and likes; this will be a ‘volume one’ type-deal, with future releases in the series (main title to be confirmed) appearing on an as-and-when basis, between albums.  Also, packaging-wise the EPs will be your basic ‘cheap-and-cheerful’ (wallet pack with lyric sheet) and priced accordingly.  I’ll be doing a bit of touring around this release and should have some cool news about that soon.

The rest of the Channel Nowhere plan for the next twelve months includes – as well as lots of live work – hopefully a YouTube video-series or podcast (details to follow), an EP and album release called The Lies Behind The Truth (a bit on the prog side, that one) and an album from Dog Moon Howl.  ‘Kinell!


Gary Moore

Yesterday, Gary Moore died. He was 58.

It seems this year was all set to be a busy one for him: a live DVD from his recent Celtic-rock tour, a documentary and a new blues album were all on the way. I don’t know if the new record was actually completed – if not, that would leave 2008’s Bad For You Baby as his final album.  It’s a scorcher, full of the fire, joy and melodicism that made for the very best of the man’s work.

Generally, I wouldn’t find myself affected by the death of a famous musician.  While acknowledging the sadness of these situations, usually I can shrug them off but this one has been different.  Gary Moore meant a lot to me.  So through the night, I found myself writing the following.

Gary Moore

When I was 12, that’s when I got into rock music. There was my first love of course, rock’n’roll, old-style, Bill Haley, Chuck Berry, Elvis … but at 12, as my teenage years were calling, I started to care about Rock (yes, with a capital R). There were two bands who got me hooked – Queen and Thin Lizzy.

Queen was great of course, and was probably my favourite band until I was well into my twenties, but Lizzy was a constant, the first rock gig I ever attended being Thin Lizzy at the Glasgow Apollo in 1983 (oddly enough exactly four years to the day since my folks had taken me to my first ever gig, as a nine-year-old, Bill Haley And The Comets – at the same venue), with Jailbreak ranking as one of a handful of records that vie for the title of my Favourite Album Of All Time. My introduction to Lizzy, however was the greatest hits compilation The Adventures Of Thin Lizzy, a near perfect collection featuring each of Lizzy’s recording line-ups (more or less) to that point. Amongst the stand-out tracks were the quintessential rockers Waiting For An Alibi and Do Anything You Want To and the endearingly cheesy Sarah. Later I found these and more on the Black Rose album, the only full Thin Lizzy album to feature the incendiary guitar playing of Gary Moore.

I was 12 when I started to play the guitar. I was directly under the influence of Queen’s Greatest Hits and Lizzy’s Adventures … both albums that did the rounds at my school where there was a disproportionate number of budding guitarists and bands being formed left, right and centre.  Gradually as we all ‘analogue file-shared’ our tapes and LPs around, we all discovered a treasure-trove of great players but above them all was Gary Moore, who had just released Corridors Of Power and, really, who could compete with that? Tone for miles, technique to die for … man!

As the years went by I started to hear the other real technique monsters out there, McLaughlin, Holdsworth, Fripp … and then the shred guys started weighing in, particularly Vai and Satriani. Yet, somehow they never sounded as intimidating or untouchable as their reputations might suggest, for one simple reason – I’d heard Gary Moore.  For sure, some of those guys undoubtedly possessed more refined technique (a few of Moore’s wilder pieces on his earlier recordings have moments of glorious rough-and-ready sloppiness) but not one of them could approach him in terms of aggression, attack, or variety of touch – full of sheer joyous rage one moment and pure melodic tenderness the next.

When I was about 14 or 15, I started taking guitar lessons from Alec Pollock of prog-metal band Chasar.  I could by then play a bit of Chuck Berry, a bit of Keith Richards and thought I was getting a handle on some Hendrix (in retrospect, I wasn’t). Alec had the bar set a little higher though and my very first lesson was Moore’s guitar solo from Empty Rooms! And so it continued … I can remember stumbling through Out In The Fields and sweating blood over What Would You Rather Bee Or A Wasp.  It was worth it, mind.

As well as being heavily influenced by Gary’s recorded work (which as the years went by I found to be far more varied than the 80s metal years would have had me believe – blues, prog, fusion …), he also became one of my favourite live performers. He was never less than excellent and at his best, utterly compelling. His playing was uncompromising, raw and real. I even loved the way he would address the crowd – often fractious and profane, regularly affectionate and funny. Always keen to get on with it, to play, to throw himself into it, give it his all.

Scars (his short-lived band with members of Skunk Anansie and Primal Scream) at the Barras in Glasgow was my favourite – an absolutely stunning set in which a good album was turned into something altogether more special. I saw the same line-up playing a ‘classic rock’ set at the SECC the following year, which became the Live At The Monsters Of Rock album – definitely worth checking out. I was chuffed that my memories of the night were borne out on the untouched live recording – on the night, the solo during the Scars number Stand Up was awe-inspiring and got an appropriately ecstatic pop from the audience in response.  Happily it’s just as I remember it and has since become one of my all-time favourite solos. It’s okay, I’m a guitarist. I’m allowed to think in terms of all-time favourite solos.

Around the year 2000 I began, in my private life, to sink into a depressive state.  I managed to remain functional, turning up (well, more often than not) for the awful day-job which I’d found myself in but mentally I shut down and with that came all sorts of problems (physical health suffered, got into debt, all that daytime TV bullshit).  Around this time, Moore was coming out of a minor artistic slump with his Back To The Blues album. I’d kind of drifted away from listening to his records in the mid ’90s as my tastes had moved to more alternative fare, and anyway in those days I was concentrating on my own musical fumblings … but by 2000 I was ready to start listening again, and blues was the very music to turn to given my state of mind.

Over the following five or six years life had its ups and downs, with the latter far outweighing the former. Thankfully I could lose myself in the stream of fantastic blues and blues-based records that Moore put out in those years. The Scars project was great stuff, Power Of The Blues was crushing and Close As You Get was near perfect. I listened to them over and over again just as I’d listened to Victims Of The Future and Run For Cover as a kid. These albums helped me through some tough, dark times. I think I’d forgotten that music could do that.

When I started to get a handle on life again and made serious moves to get back into music, it’s no surprise, looking back, that blues featured so heavily. Where, as a kid, I’d been influenced by the ‘Big Rock’ Gary Moore, here I was in my thirties just as swayed by him, in a different direction. Writing this, I’ve realized that, although there are guitarists whose work I love every bit as much as his, and even though his eclecticism and prolificacy – while admirable – inevitably led to some frustrating listening experiences, Gary Moore was simply the most significant and influential guitar player in my life. I never met the man, yet on hearing of his death yesterday, I was bereft.  I’ll miss him.


The Joys Of A Cheap Guitar … Part 2: The Kind That Plugs In.

As before, guitar geeks read on – the rest of you may want to look away again, only more so as this part is even uglier than the last …

So … electric guitars.  Oddly enough considering that my main thing these days is playing solo acoustic gigs and recordings that largely reflect that, my history is as an electric guitar player, a role in which I am far more comfortable to this day.  I’ve been through at least three times as many electric guitars as acoustic (a few basses too), and the principle has stayed the same – cheap suits me.  This has been put to the test more thoroughly on the electric side of things, as I’ve owned everything from genuine ‘beginner’ instruments through a lot of mid-price stuff up to ‘proper’ wallet-rippers.

I must have gotten my first electric around 1983 I think from, bizarrely, Rumbelows in the Thistle Centre in Stirling (Rumbelows was a Dixons-type electronics and household appliances shop, as I remember).  It was a Kay, no model name, just a weird, bodiless thing, looked like a log.  Kind of cool in retrospect … sadly it was buggered and after a while was returned to the shop for repair.  In the meantime they supplied a loaner – a bog-standard Kay Les-Paul copy with fret ends so sharp the strings would catch under them.

After what seemed like forever, Rumbelows admitted defeat on the repair of the Log and took back the dodgy loaner – the refunded cash getting me a Hondo II Professional twin-cutaway Something Or Other from a guy at school, with newly installed Mighty Mite pickups.  That must surely have rocked.

From there on in I developed a lifelong habit of getting bored with what I had and trading up/down … this was the age of Van Halen, meaning whammy-bars were the order of the day … and so my next guitar was a nifty wee Aria humbucker strat-type thing, swiftly followed by an all-bells-and-whistles (locking nut!  Fine tuners!!!) Marlin Sidewinder (also featuring shitty ply-body and plastic parts … kids today, they don’t know they’re born) which was the first electric I really customised the crap out of (filed the frets down, painted and decorated the fingeboard and body, hacked into the bodywork and pickguard to fit a second humbucker  – ooh yeah, feel the metal), and then a pricier-for-the-day Washburn G-IV.

Then came a Squier Telecaster – this was around 1987 I guess, and in them days we didn’t generally differentiate between Squier and Fender.  With good reason too, as those early Japanese-built guitars were fantastic – and, if I recall correctly, the axe of choice for the discerning Prog players of the day – Marillion, Chasar and It Bites, I believe, all featured Squier Stratists.  Oh, yes.  It always comes down to the Prog.

Anyway, I loved the Tele but still needed that wiggle-stick for the glorious dive-bombs, so traded for a Squier Strat – my first Tele for my first Strat … fair enough.  It was years before I found out that the Strat was a sought after ‘JV’ model from 1982.  Thanks, the internet.  Whatever, it was my favourite and stayed with me until the end of last year.  Other Strats I’ve owned include a bunch of signature models from my brief ‘non-budget-conscious’ phase … a Jimi Hendrix tribute model (upside down lefty, cool to look at, a complete bag of arses to play), a Jimmie Vaughan signature (cool, that one, and not quite so pricey either) and a Jeff Beck model (very cool, one of the few guitars I sorta-kinda regret getting rid of).  The old ’82 Squier had them all beat for tone, hands down.  So there.

A brief attempt a few years ago to get back into a shredder mindset led me to owning my first and only ‘well over a grand’ guitar, which was a Music Man Axis (I think it was about £1350 – ‘kinell!), as well as an Ibanez RGEX and a Jackson Dinky Pro.  These were all locking-tremmed up to the tits, of course, with the latter two as pointy as a pair of pointy bastards.  The Axis was a fantastic piece of kit, to be fair – but it looked so shiny and nice, and it cost so much I just couldn’t relax with the damn thing.  One night, as I watched it bounce across my floor after falling from a badly secured wall-hanger, I decided it had to go.  For its own good.  So I traded it on for a Fender Classic series Thinline Telecaster and an Epiphone Dot – both cool, both short-lived.

The reborn-shredder phase didn’t last and finally, 20+ years after the Kay LP loaner, I dipped my toes into the world of Les Pauls and all things Gibson/Epiphone – a 70s ‘lawsuit’ era LP copy bought off of eBay and an Epiphone LP started things off nicely, followed fairly swiftly by a Les Paul copper-top Studio (or was that ‘Special’?  Oh I don’t know, whatever they call the no-frills model) … and, yes, the Epiphone gave the Gibson a serious run for its money.  Come to think of it, I had owned a white Gibson SG a couple of years earlier, which was a bit fucked and so was replaced with a Godin LG, which was completely fucked and so was replaced with a Fender Telecaster which I never did get on with …

Confused yet?  I know I am.

So.  Sold the LPs to fund the kit I needed for the solo alt.blues gigs, plus one replacement electric, an Aria Pro II Thor Sound from 1981, which is a great guitar (it can be heard on the tracks You Don’t Care At All and Well Well Well, My My My on the album Pissed Off, Bitter And Willing To Share, available here!).  The Squier JV Strat was sold earlier this year (prompting this blog) and I’m currently breaking-in a couple of budget-friendly gems: a Vintage VR100 and a Lag Jet – the latter gifted to me by an old mucker just a few days ago.

There have been a fair few other electric guitars through the years – Ibanezes, Squiers and at least one or two I can’t quite remember in detail – and a few basses (right now:  a Godin Freeway, an Ashbory Bass – weird wee thing, that – and a no-name P-bass, currently in pieces all over my living room).  There have been countless replacement pick-ups and untold pedals.  I still have my first amp – an early ’70s Selmer Zodiac  – though it’s rarely used these days – and its back-up, an early ’90s Marshall Valvestate combo.

Which amounts to way more information than anybody could possibly need.  Including me.   Maybe now I’ve written it down, I won’t have to remember it any more.

EPI(LOG)UE

A year or two ago, I saw a Kay Log hanging in the window of The Guitar Store in Glasgow … identical (as far as my memory allows) to the one I had as a kid, and the first  (only) time I’d ever seen another like it.  I think they were looking for about £90 for it, but damn if I wasn’t too light on cash … I went back for it a few weeks later but it was gone.