Jade MayJean at O2 Academy

A few of the wonderful photos and videos I have been sent from Jade’s set at O2 Academy Islington last Thursday night, capturing a little bit of the incredible atmosphere at the show. (Big thanks especially to Jae Storer for some brilliant photography of the band onstage!)

It has been a huge privilege to spend the start of this year working on creating a live show for Jade from the songs on her 2018 album 20Sixty. I wanted to capture the cool, retro vibe of the album in the arrangements, whilst also making a visually impactful performance which grabs the audience’s attention with timecodes programmed lighting as well as a dynamic live band onstage.

Video of ‘I Cry’ from the 20Sixty album, live at O2 Academy Islington

Seeing this all come together in such a fantastic way on Thursday night last week – at a venue like O2 Academy, with a packed crowd watching the set – was an amazing feeling. I feel so proud of these performances, and I am very happy to have been able to deliver the audio and visual effect which Jade wanted from her live show.

Video of ‘Better Luck Next Time’ from the 20Sixty album, live at O2 Academy Islington

Now onwards and upwards to the next exciting performance with Jade’s live band: on the main stage of the Ipswich Music Day in Christchurch Park, on Sunday 7th July.

Lady Will You Be My Friend from On The Edge by Tony Ashman

A few months ago, I had the pleasure of recording an original song in my studio; Lady Will You Be My Friend is a song from the debut novel On The Edge by retired Norfolk GP Tony Ashman – the song appears in the text of the book, and is sung by one of the main characters at a pivotal point in the plot. Without giving too much away, the song has quite an impact on the narrative!

Because the character in the book is a guitarist and singer, I was able to ask my friend James Porter to play guitar on the session at my studio in Norfolk. I then sang the track, and mixed it.

The finished track is now available to listen to on YouTube here:

On The Edge is published by Paul Dickson Books, and is available to buy from the publisher direct or on Amazon.

Ultra ’90s at Boston Gliderdrome

Barely seems like a week ago that we were playing Ultra ’90s at the iconic Boston Gliderdrome… In fact, it was late February – and it’s now the start of April! Where does the time go?

Still, what an absolutely fantastic gig to look back on now! To play at a venue with so much history – and such an incredible atmosphere – is definitely something which stays with you.

As ever, huge thanks to everyone who came out to the show, and to our brilliant photographers who captured the totally electric feeling of the night wonderfully. So here is a selection of some of my favourite images from the Gliderdrome.

Jade MayJean Headlining Framlingham Gala Fest

Very excited that I’ll be back on drums with Jade MayJean and the 20SIXTY band in May this year, headlining the Framlingham Gala Fest on Monday 27th May with Jade’s original songs from the hugely popular 20SIXTY album which came out last year.

The festival is at the Framlingham Castle Meadow over three days from 25th – 27th May, and admission is free for all.

Sistema In Norwich Performance Project featured on Sistema Europe website

A recent article on the Sistema Europe website has put the spotlight on Sistema In Norwich’s ‘Performance Project’ – a brand new Sistema initiative for 2018-19.

Over the course of 12 concerts and just under a year and a half, Sistema in Norwich will engage with circus groups, the Norwich-based Vagaband, fellow Sistema-influenced groups and established musicians and composers from across Europe.

The project also provides the young musicians involved with the chance to compose for a variety of scenarios and formations, with pieces for soloists, ensembles, brass and wind sections all finding their way into the schedule.

The Sistema Performance Project thus increases Sistema in Norwich’s social impact, provides its students with additional performance time and accelerates their personal development, promoting self-confidence, resilience and leadership – all while building upon Sistema in Norwich’s existing connections both at home and abroad.

Sistema Europe website

The circus performance in collaboration with Lost In Translation – which took place in October of last year – was an exciting and innovative project, expanding our students’ horizons and bringing them into contact with other forms and settings of orchestral performance.

It is always gratifying to gain the recognition of the international Sistema community for our work, and it is an honour to be a part of a global musical movement with the history and pedigree of Sistema.

And with eight more Performance Project concerts scheduled throughout this year, there’ll be plenty more opportunities to check out the great work of Sistema In Norwich for yourself. Head to the NORCA & Sistema In Norwich website for full details of dates, venues, ticket prices, etc.

Ten Year Challenge

It feels like only yesterday that I wrote a ten-year retrospective, looking back on a decade of working in music. But that was, in fact, a whole two years ago!

But over on social media, the #TenYearChallenge is all the rage. Clearly, I have always been ahead of the times… But I thought I would jump on that particular bandwagon, of an evening, and see where it takes me.

It’s actually been a lot of fun, looking for photos from gigs and sessions from ten years ago – just marginally before smartphones were ubiquitous, and everybody began to photograph everything – thinking about what has changed in that time, and what has stayed the same.

I still have the t-shirt I’m wearing onstage with Witchers at the Cambridge Haymarket in 2009 (although the arm tattoo visible in the 2019 picture is a much more recent addition). The orange Premier Series kit moved on a couple of years later, when I became an official Carrera Drums Ambassador in 2011 – but I’m still rocking the unusual ‘equilateral triangle’ drum kit setup on the majority of my gigs, and I am still a proud endorser of Pellwood Drumsticks.

Playing with Cardiem was the first time I ever sang with a band – backing vocals, and then some lead vocals too. When the other guys decided that a song I had written for the band, Tongue-Tied Lullaby, should be one of the five we selected to record for our first EP – and that I should sing it – I was both flattered and extremely nervous, and I think the photo from the session in 2009 captures that.

I never intended to sing with Cardiem at all, or to write lyrics, but Jamie was insistent that every member of the band should sing and more-or-less bullied me into it.

Fast-forward ten years (although the photo above is from November 2018, as we’re only a month into this year and no photos of me on vocals currently exist), where lead vocals are a regular part of most of my gigs – and, although we haven’t gigged together since 2015, Jamie is still sending me song demos he wants me to write lyrics for – and I am very glad that he did.

A lot has changed in the last ten years. But underneath it all, everything feels the same. From the desire to keep learning, keep playing, keep singing, and keep moving forward – to the bizarre array of faces I apparently can’t stop myself making when I play the drums.

In 2009, I was still wondering whether this crazy idea of making my living from music would even work out for me at all. I dreamed of doing gigs and tours all over the country; of having my own recording studio; of having students with their own success stories.

I remember talking to seasoned pros about life in the music industry, and hearing their tales of how touring wasn’t all glamour and fun – the late nights, the bad load-outs, the travel, the food… I remember wondering how anyone could possibly complain about living the dream! These were problems I wished I had.

“God, if I can one day prop up a bar telling impressionable, wide-eyed young musicians who want what I have with every fibre of their being that gigging every night ain’t all it’s cracked up to be, then I’ll know I’ve really made it!” I thought.

A year later, in 2010, I got to see probably my favourite band of all time – The Hold Steady – live for the very first time. They were touring the UK promoting their latest studio album, Heaven Is Whenever. The fifth track on the record was the spookily apt Rock Problems.

She said I just can’t sympathize
With your rock and roll problems
Isn’t this what we wanted?
Some major rock and roll problems

The Hold Steady – Rock Problems

Ten years on – and only a few weeks out from going to my fifth The Hold Steady show – I still come back to Rock Problems any time I’m driving home late at night; or being woken up too early in a budget hotel; or tucking into yet another overpriced motorway service station sandwich; or sharing an airing cupboard-sized dressing room with eight other performers, a tarantula, a lizard and a meerkat. “Isn’t this what you wanted?” I ask myself.

Here’s to ten more years of rock and roll problems.

ButeFest 2018

Back in summer 2018, I had the pleasure of playing drums with Jade MayJean and her fantastic band at ButeFest on the Isle Of Bute, performing songs from the album 20SIXTY which debuted last year.

Despite the weather – just an hour or two after Jade’s set on the main stage, the festival site was formally closed due to high winds making it unsafe! – it was lovely to see people come out to watch the show, and to get so much brilliant feedback afterwards about Jade’s original music.

Here’s a brief video clip from Jade’s Facebook.