Thursday, September 22, 2011

Noises Off

A person asked me the other day how my new album was coming along and I said 'It's all finished, thanks, we released it back in June, although you may not have noticed because some guy called Avalanche City put out a record at about the same time and-' and she says no, not that album, the new new album. So I'm like come on, how many albums is a guy supposed to make? Christ! Et cetera. I thought I had at least until the end of the year before people would start asking me that, but OK, whatever, I'd better get to work.

So I plugged in my microphone and lit a fire under the boiler that powers the crusty old computer I use to record my music, and I blew the dust off an old cello that's sitting there in the corner of the room, tuned up a mandolin, and made a cup of tea. And I was about to lay down something sweet and a little bit awesome when this bone-curdling shrieking started up from just behind the wall in the neighbour's place and the cat leaped up, bit my leg, and hurtled into the laundry to hide in the hot water cupboard. A bad sign?
I don't believe in omens, but this was a pain in the ass. This was the sort of shrieking, grinding sound you get when you're pulling walls apart, ripping out old nails, clearing space and letting light in, settling down to some sort of serious remodeling.  From my experience living in flats with landlords who will move the walls around at the slightest whiff of an extra buck, squeezing a bedroom out of a corridor at two hundred a week or throwing up a modish island in the kitchen to attract young professionals with hard-plumbed espresso machines, I could tell that the next step would be a hellish cacophony of banging and the wailing of power tools.

Looks quiet at 6:30am - too quiet, thinks the landlord.

What followed was a hellish cacophony of banging and the wailing of power tools. Plaster dust dribbled from the ceiling and lights flickered and dimmed as current was siphoned off to the diabolical machinery behind the walls. Much thumping went on, slamming of doors, stamping of feet.  So many feet! Either these workmen had a horse in there or they were performing some sort of peasant dance, the kind with the stomping and the calling out of guttural obscenities. Plumbing began to vibrate, the water was turned off, and the cat climbed to the very highest shelf of the airing cupboard.  Clearly, there would be no recording today.

'Doom,' said the hammers; 'gloom,' said the power drills. The spanners against the copper pipes clanged on about thwarted ambition and the dry tap whispered a sermon on the futility of effort. 'Forget about it,' said the skill saw. 'Shouldn't you be at work anyway? This album is not happening; it's time you got a regular job, and if you really need a creative outlet, you could think about lurking around the railway yards painting rude words on trains.' Grim? Yes indeed, and not very subtle either. They weren’t all so unfeeling, though. 'Next time somebody asks about your next album,' said the heavy footfalls (somewhat more pragmatically), 'tell them you're working on it. Why not just read a book instead? They won't know.'  Good point, I suppose they wouldn't. 'Besides,' said the slamming of the doors, archly, 'shouldn't you write some more songs first?' Bastards. How did they know?

Obviously it was time to go outside, before I started answering back. Personifying everyday construction noises as robust critics may not be a sign of mental illness, but arguing with them definitely is, and it's important to be able to tell the difference if you want to get ahead in life. I'm not super-concerned about getting ahead in life, but I do like to avoid confrontation whenever possible, so I went for a walk around the block and wrote a song in my head. I'll record it another time, I think, and meanwhile the new album's coming along very nicely thank you.

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