Categories
2020.

The Hardest Day. In The Smallest Way.

No drama. Everything’s fine. More than fine. The list of things I have to grateful for is embarrassing. Nothing even happened today. Maybe that’s the problem.

Today the government announced the extension to the lockdown. At least three more weeks. I disn’t think it bothered me. And yet today, I’ve been in the most I-Just-Can’t-Be-Arsed-To-Exist anymore kind of funk.

I thought I’d at least get some music made. I just feel so uninspired. Of course it’s uninspiring, all this. Every day is exactly the same. I miss the world. I have nothing to say, it seems.

I had what feels like a rebellious thought in this moment of ticky list, read that book, write that memoir, productivity-guilt-tripping. For a moment I thought, what if I don’t? What if I’m not inspired? What if I stop trying? Just rest. Meditate. Reflect.

It seems drastic. But it made me think. Maybe I’m trying too hard to make the best of all this. Maybe it just is. And for now, I need to make peace with whatever it is.

Stay safe xx

Categories
Disability. Technology.

Accessible Blogging!

This is just a quick post, but I was far too excited about this little discovery to not share it.

So after my last post about the trouble of accessing blogging as a medium, I felt like I was probably going to put jack this in. Lots of people suggested that voice to text would be the obvious solution for my issues with typing. But voice to text has never worked well for me, in fact it’s so bad usually that it’s not even worth my time to try.

That is… Until now! Putting my day job skills to use, I figured I’d found the problem: ambient noise. The microphones on our devices are picking up sound from all around the environment. They’re not just hearing my voice. Is this environmental sound making it harder for the devices to hear what I’m saying in the first place? Perhaps the software isn’t so bad, and it’s the audio input that’s the problem.

It seems I was right! Using my trusty Shure SM7B, which I record all my vocals with, I decided to try again with the voice to text thing. The SM7B is the beloved mic of pro podcasters – you’ll see it on Joe Rogan, amongst others. And via that is how I’m typing this right now. With a microphone that is only picking up my voice and doesn’t pick up ambient sound, going through what is admittedly quite and expensive and fancy audio interface, I’m getting crisp, professional audio into my Mac. And sure enough, it works! I’m just using the default dictation in macOS, but with the right microphone it seems that it finally works for me.

No I’m not suggesting that this is an accessible solution for everybody, for one thing it’s quite expensive. It’s just that I have these things set up all the time anyway because I make music every day. For those of you who might be interested, this is the signal chain:

SM7B > Cloudlifter > Focusrite Saffire Pro 24 audio interface

If you’re thinking that seems like overkill to get voice to text to work, you’re absolutely right. It is a faintly ridiculous solution, but it works perfectly for me. 

So I guess that’s me back to blogging.

As you were!

Categories
Uncategorized

(In)Accessible Blogging.

Access is, of course, at the centre of what I do. My work is all about making music more accessible, and yet I find myself struggling with trying not to create an access barrier with some of the things I want to do. I want to write; this blog is an outward extension of my thoughts and feelings. It exists mostly for me, but I want it to be accessible to others.

Typing is, for me, a struggle. My CP affects my hands, and makes any amount of typing, especially on touchscreen devices, very uncomfortable. Meanwhile, handwriting is much more comfortable. My most accessible route to blogging would be to write things down by hand, then scan them. 

There’s a frustrating problem here. By meeting my own access needs, I create one for others. Images aren’t compatible with screen readers, so visually impaired people would not be able to access my blog. 

Voice to text is usually the proposed solution, but it creates more problems than it solves for me. It often doesn’t run on my Mac (despite it being a fairly new and shiny one) and when it does, it often doesn’t understand me. It also presents a cognitive barrier for me; I just can’t seem to speak the way I want to write. I have a long list of cognitive barriers that I’m still trying to get to the bottom of, but are most likely linked to CP. Short version: Voice-to-text isn’t working for me. 

The advent of handwriting recognition gave me some hope, but it hasn’t delivered yet. I have an iPad Pro and Apple Pencil, and I’ve tried a few apps. Nebo is promising, but it’s still fiddly. Writing on a device is still not as comfortable as ink on paper. 

So I’m still trying. I typed this by hand, and now my hands hurt. Using a separate keyboard that I can position closer to me without bringing the screen with it helps. But it’s still uncomfortable. 

Not blogging at all is of course the most obvious outcome, but that’s a bummer. I don’t know. I’m sure technology will catch up, voice to text will get better, but for now, truly inclusive content creation is, for me, still just out of reach. 

Categories
Music.

Stay Frosty.

Here’s a new music video! I’ll explain the whys and hows in another post, but for now, here it is.

Categories
Music.

Teenage Kicks.

I don’t go in for the whole thing that the music from your teens is never bettered, but there is something really magical about albums that come out and connect with you during those years. These are my favourite albums that came out during my teenage years; each one eagerly anticipated, with no way of hearing it until you went out and bought it. What are your favourite albums to drop during your teens?

In no particular order:

Tori Amos – From The Choirgirl Hotel

Smashing Pumpkins – Adore

REM – New Adventures In Hi-Fi

Ben Folds Five – Whatever And Ever Amen

Placebo – Without You I’m Nothing

Jurassic 5 – self titled

Metallica – Load

Linkin Park – Hybrid Theory

Massive Attack – Mezzanine

Unbelievable Truth – Almost Here

Frou Frou – Details*

Bjork – Homogenic

Radiohead – OK Computer

Deftones – White Pony

Roni Size + Reprazent – In The Mode

Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – The Boatman’s Call

*strictly speaking not a teen record as I’d not long turned 20, but this was so a part of that era. There’s a funny irony to that nowadays of course…

Categories
Travel.

Visiting Kawasaki Daishi: Vlog

One of the biggest highlights of 2019 was of course my trip to Japan with Drake Music. And on that trip, one of the most important personal adventures was visiting the famous Kawasaki Daishi, a buddhist temple, some 20 miles south of Tokyo. Buddhism is a big part of my life, and so it felt like a really important use off my day off, to visit a Buddhist temple in a Buddhist country. Being a Buddhist isn’t something I make a lot of noise about; it’s kind of a private thing. Secular mindfulness is hugely popular in the West, but I’ve long had an interest to go deeper into Buddhist tradition; influenced by secular Western Buddhists like Stephen Batchelor, Robert Wright & Sharon Salzberg, I’ve attempted to study the history of buddhism beyond the Headspace craze. Visiting a temple was an amazing opportunity to go deeper.

I had an afternoon free, with a glove performance in the evening at Kawasaki Symphony Hall, so I made the trek via taxi from central Kawasaki to the Daishi. Getting a cab in Japan was an experience in itself. I spend enough time in black cabs in the UK. A Japanese taxi is usual a sedan type car, with white blankets covering the seats. They’re impossibly clean; I was scared to touch anything. The drivers wear a suit with spotless white gloves, and it all feels very polite and efficient, like a lot of things in Japan.

I got to Kawasaki Daishi via a market which you can see in the opening shot of my video. It was raining pretty heavily when I arrived, but it wasn’t unpleasant. The market was very neat, very organised, and clearly we were a bit of a novelty; people seemed intrigued to see westerners in this part of the city, and people waved at me like I was a minor celebrity. People are so nice.

I’m not sure the vlog really captures how I felt that day, but it gives you a chance to see for yourself what it was like. I didn’t film the ceremony itself, but it was truly extraordinary. Monks chanting and playing Taiko drums, burning incense; there was a real scale to it. After various readings (in Japanese of course) meditators walked around the hall, led by monks burning incense. I wondered through the temple among the gongs, drums and ancient artefacts; the whole thing utterly surreal and incredibly moving. They do this several times a day, and yet it felt like a huge, once in a lifetime event. In the best possible way, I’ve never felt further from home. I was so aware of how Western I was, but also how much I love Japan and Japanese culture.

I love the futurism of Tokyo and Kawasaki, but I like to think I’m more than a tourist getting their Blade Runner nostalgia fix, and I’m glad I saw some real history in Japan.

Categories
Thinking.

NYE.

There’s something sad about NYE. Life seems incredibly small, incredibly futile, at 00:01 on the 1st of January. The big dreams seem suddenly tiny. Like it’s all for nothing. No amount of fireworks can make it seem meaningful. I’m sure it’s just me playing to type.

But maybe not so much this time. I’m nihilistic to the core, I see nothing but absurd coincidence in our existence. We’re stuck on a rock that’s hurtling through space. There’s no big answer. It just… is.

But my attempts to grasp existentialism feel like a way out. I’m reading, I’m learning. Philosophy is my new obsession. Life seems meaningless, yes. But that’s not the end. No, it has no inherent meaning that I can see, and that used to scare me almost literally to death.

But that lack of meaning leaves a wide open space. To invent meaning. It’s a game. Be whatever you want. You have no purpose. In the nicest possible way, your life doesn’t matter. Choose your own adventure. Play the best version of yourself.

I always used to be sad at New Year. Making myself promises I know I can’t keep. But again, not so much this time. This time, I feel a shade of realistic optimism. Life IS good. I’m not about to make it good. I don’t need a New Year New Me. Nothing so vain, so desperate. I just wanna keep doing Me. I’m doing okay.

And it’s a small thing, but I’m sober. First NYE of adulthood where I’ve not tried to get even tipsy. That feels better than I could have imagined. Alcohol has not been good to me. I was scared to let it go, but I’m glad I have.

Tomorrow will be a fresher start than ever. Happy 2020. We live in the future.

Categories
Blogging. The Back Story.

2020.

Websites have become old hat. Unless you’re a dedicated writer first and foremost, you’ve probably abandoned your dot com. Most musical artists I know rely solely on social media. There is no central presence. Their biggest and best ideas are on Facebook. Musicians often have plenty to say. Seems fair; that’s where the audience is. Is that enough of a reason? 

Social media poses a problem for publishers. I suppose it poses many. It’s noisy. It’s not archived. It’s ugly. But the big problem with the big F (and most other services) is ownership. Everything you put on Facebook belongs to the service. I want to own my own bit of the internet. So this is a self hosted WordPress blog, with the modest amount of extra faff that comes with that. 

Having said that, this isn’t really my website. It’s not the shop front. It’s a blog, in a traditional sense. It’s only for writing, whatever and wherever my thoughts take me. I just want to have a bit of clear space to say whatever. I have my music website of course, where I do blog, but the music, the gloves, they all take such a centre stage that it doesn’t feel like a blog. I just want to write in an uncluttered way, and let dyskinetic.net be the shop front. 

It’s 10 years since I started blogging. I started my first proper blog on March 1, 2010. I don’t have much to show for it sadly; a major hack attempt coupled with my non-tech-savvyness meant that my blog legacy is long gone. In a sense I am relieved. No doubt there was some cringy nonsense in there. But of course, it’s a loss to the story. I’ll enjoy some creative license and attempt to retell some of those tales about how I got here. 

It feels very significant to start blogging again now, 10 years on from my first attempts. I was trying to make an album on my own in 2010. It never surfaced. I was completely lost in my attempts to define my identity. Life was very different, and I was, I now know, deeply lost and unhappy. But I was trying to put something out into the world to make sense of those feelings, and it helped. 10 years later I realise I’m not necessarily not still lost and unhappy, but it feels very different. I have a lot to be thankful for. A lot to be afraid of too. This future is a strange and scary place. Being a Disabled person in post-Brexit Tory Britain feels like a Children Of Men dystopia. 2010 was the beginning of that end, but at the turn of the decade, today’s political horrors would seem like grotesque caricature. I have so much now that I couldn’t have imagined in 2010. Nicci and I lived with her mum, I was signed off work, too fragile and in pain to hold down a job. In 2020, we own a house. We have three kids. My music puts the food on the table. I’d barely seen outside my own postcode. In the last few years, those futuristic gloves have taken me all over the world. If there’s one thing 2020-Me knows well, it’s gratitude. 

There’s much to say, and much to learn. Here begins my little corner of the www to think out loud. 

And of course, Happy New Year. Happy New Decade. Theses are strange times. The raging Twenties are upon us. 

Categories
The Back Story.

2019.

2019. You’ve been pretty incredible. Musically, the best year yet. A huge part of 2019 was of course the fact that my music took me on a lifelong dream to Japan. I’m a better version of myself for having been there, and I’ll never forget what I learned about myself and the world while I was there. At the start of the decade I couldn’t imagine playing music outside of B77. Kawasaki Symphony Hall is a long way from Tamworth Castle Grounds… 

It was also a year of amazing collaborations. Ayaka Takai, Josefa Torres and Adam “Nolly” Getgood – all artists I’ve wanted to work with for a long time. Tick, tick, tick. I’ve spent time with some of my biggest influences; having a chance to chat about the music/family balance with Justin Furstenfeld was an important moment. I’ve got to hang a little with my biggest influence as a producer, the legendary Guy Sigsworth. My long time sensei Imogen Heap has done her most ambitious performances to date this year, and I’ve been so grateful to be invited to ride along with that journey through the year. 

Arts Council England afforded me the opportunity to work on my music harder than ever, with two(!) significant Lottery funded grants this year. I’ve had the most artistically focused year of my life, taking time to refine my craft, knowing that we’d be financially secure as a family while I mostly ignored everything that wasn’t *exactly* what I wanted to do as an artist. Lucky isn’t a big enough word. 

Family life has been more complicated, as family life is. We’ve had amazing adventures, and we’re closer than ever, but it’s been tough. We went through one of the hardest things we’ve ever been through towards the end of the year, which we’re still trying to come to terms with. Some of you know: I’m not ready to be anything other than vague about it online yet. A story for another time. 

And of course, my health continues it’s slow decline, so there’s no way of knowing how long it will be before these adventures come to an end. But I’m very lucky; more and more of that bucket list gets ticked off.

If there’s one word I have for 2019, it’s gratitude. For Nicci, the kids, music, and making Pinch Me career moments the new normal. Happy New Year!