ENTRY DETAILS DATE: Fri, 08 May 2009 TIME: 1.25pm COMMENTS: One a week of these from here on in should be sufficient from me WATCH LEADER: Smally LOCATION INFORMATION FROM: Somethingelseness TOWARDS: The realisation of a seriously half-baked idea COURSE: Until we get the engine fixed it’s windwards all the way LATITUDE: That’s sideyways right? LONGITUDE: Don’t make it bad take a sad song and make it better COMPASS: Anyone know anything about stars? (Compass search continues) VESSEL INFORMATION BOAT SPEED: Comfortable BOAT PPD: Consistent ENVIRONMENTAL INFO SKY CONDITION: Temperamental WIND SPEED: Let’s wait and see what this mashed potato does shall we? WIND DIRECTION: That-a-way SEA STATE HEIGHT: It always looks the same to me, last time I’ll be filling this section in SEA STATE DIRECTION: That goes for this bit too DEPTH: The only time I’m meant to fill this bit in is when we’re sinking, right? CREW: 12 members, 6 helping sail, a couple mucking in, 3 still locked in their cabins, 1 self-confined to sick-bay hammock indefinitely.
JOURNAL #3 Glimmering Nuggets of Possibility Blinking Together in a Pan
Transcript of first telephone conversation home:
Mrs S: Hey, you sound drunk.
Me: Nah, just a couple of late nights catching up on me. Ideas you know.
Mrs S: How’s it going? Are you eating well?
Me: All we’ve been eating so far is mashed potato on its own…
Mrs S: Mashed potato on its own? You can’t eat mashed potato on its own.
Me: I know, that’s what I keep saying. Anyway, I’m working on getting us a chef… or at the very least a cooking rota. And a shrink. Any chance you could look through my old Daydream notebooks? I had the email address for a lassie that was training to be a psychotherapist.
Mrs S: Your notebooks? The one’s you keep in that cupboard in the cloud room? (laughs) No chance.
Me: How’s Pirate Pipsqueak? He missing me?
Mrs S: No, not yet.
Me: Oh well, give it time. Tell him I said hello and that the ship is still floating and that I’ll be home in 300 and something days.
Mrs S: Tell him yourself, here he is –
Me: Pirate Pipsqueak! Are you okay? Dad’s on a boat, I’ve been –
PP: Dad, can you bring me back a booberang?
Me: A what? You mean a boomerang?
PP: Yes, a booberang. (pause) Dad, bladders are green and have two funny pipe bits that stick out the top like this. Bye.
Mrs S: He’s gone.
Me: He wants me to bring him back a booberang.
Mrs S: (laughs) Yeah, he mentioned that before.
Me: It’s pretty cool here, we’ve got 12 on board already. None of us really know what we’re doing, really just making it up as it goes along, but it seems to be working.
Mrs S: (pause) When are you ever going to grow up?
Me: Eh? (laughing nervously) What do you mean?
Mrs S: I mean, it’s like your songs. They all sound exactly the same – bla bla bla, plonk plonk plonk.
Mrs S: Look, I’ve got to go.
Me: Wait – are you still there?
Mrs S: (pause) Yes I’m still here.
Me: Have you got a pen? I need you to see if you can get the following books for me and give them to Ritchie to bring out when he heads out to the ship. I need my copy of Herman Melville’s “Moby Dick” pretty desperately. Also see if you can get “The Trouble With Collaborative Fiction” by Edward G. Gnurk, and something about mass hallucination – anything really. Also some kind of sailing manual – something pretty basic like “The Penguin Beginner’s Guide To Sailing”. And some Jung if you can’t find that phone number – “Dreams” would do. Also some kind of cook book… I’m wondering if there’s something out there called “1000 Things To Spice Up Mashed Potato”… if there’s not then I’m going to write it. Hello?… Hello?… Are you still there…?
Me: Fuck’s sake, she hung up on me.
Brace yourself – this could get seriously boring and self-indulgent. Third and final recap and then I can move into the holy NOW of things and get to work. It has been an interesting first week at sea. Is the ship a hive of activity? It certainly feels like it is, but I suspect that when the novelty winds die down and we’re drifting aimlessly that that’s when the real work begins. Sponsorship money is almost gone thanks to the ping pong table, grand piano, and year-long supply of potatoes. I’ve scouted out a bargain second hand engine on the Net (in Costa Rica of all places) and the company in question have kindly offered to fly it out to us just as soon as we can figure out where the fuck we are – this may coincide with Bobby working out what he’s doing here, so the law of averages suggests we’ll be at least 27 years too late. Apparently this engine only requires minor repair work, so reading between the lines it would appear this has the potential of being a very bad decision (Me: “Could it conceivably power an imaginary Spanish galleon?”, Seller: “Que?”, Me: “A big wooden boat… could it power a big wooden boat?”, Seller: “Si… a beeg boat… si senor Smally”). For now at least drifting seems to be suiting us, so if it goes tits up, then it goes tits up and we chalk another one up on the bedpost of experience. Crew seem settled (I think), unlike Spinal Tap we’re up past 11 and I’m still hopeful that the remaining 8 invites I sent out to people who potentially have something to offer to the project eventually strike a note. Ah well, some you win, some you lose… we shall see. On a personal level I’m doing just fine (I think). Never realised how much time the day to day maintenance of running an imaginary ship would chew up, but have some ideas on how to solve this (starting with dropping the “imaginary” part… more on this at the weekend hopefully). Curious case of paranoia yesterday afternoon when I looked at my own head twenty times in a mirror to see if it really is “huge”. Stopped myself short of reaching for a measuring tape and Googling “average head size of a human being”. Internet research concerning sailing and mass hallucination was more trouble than it was worth – led me blindly down forums concerning collaborative fiction and inevitably into a world of orcs and pirate forums. This is not the direction we should be going… but then the winds are fickle things and it did cross my mind that if we can collectively survive this year-long adventure, then there’s no reason why some other time we couldn’t (A) Collectively climb a big fuck-off mountain, (B) Obviously go up into space, or even (C) Something Else.
Needless to say while all this nautical-skullduggery fills up the minutes it leaves me little to no time for any personal creative exploits. But for the few of you who are genuinely interested (and even for the few of you who aren’t but are reading this because there’s nothing better to do) then here’s what I’ve been up to:
After completing Kaleidonauts “Tigermouse” (with Kris) and The Painted Shuts “My Own Personal Summer Of Love” (with Paul Burnout) during the summer of 2008, I immersed myself back into The Daydream Generation (it generally works in waves – altruistic promotion of others followed by some therapeutic creative binge and vice versa). In November I took a day off from life and spent a day recording song ideas that had built up post-Tigermouse. It wasn’t with any fixed end product in mind, only that I wanted to produce a very minimal bare-bones recording acoustic guitar chords and voice. Running concurrently throughout the summer was an idea to put together a collection of alternative versions, cut-songs and excerpts from both “Spaniard” and “Tigermouse” under the working title “K2” (initially it was pre-“Tigermouse” and only going to be cut songs from “Spaniard”, thus in effect the second Kaleidonauts record). But noticing that the day’s recording had been done at spookily the same time the previous year as I wrote and recorded the bulk of “Spaniard”, I got it into my head that it might be an idea to see if they were usable as a third record. I sent the tracks off to Jon to see what he thought and he was positive about it but wanted us to redo them from scratch (mainly thanks to the terrible audio quality of my recording set-up) – an idea I baulked at, purely from a perspective of really not having the time to go back and do them all again. And so both “K2” (the out-take album) and this new collection (working title “A Scientific Study Of Cloud Shapes” – tracks included “We Might As Well Be Stoned”, “They Say”, “A Scientific Study Of Cloud Shapes”, “Scratches”, “Mountain Trumpet”, “Ghosts”, “Eventually”, “Little Einstein Goes Swimming”, “Mr Kite”, “I Fell Out Of An Aeroplane”, “A Patchwork Heart”, “Unlucky”, and “Igloo”) were hung out to dry on the washing line of unfinished business.
Into the winter I decided a shift in genre was needed and went back to an old book I wrote in my early twenties called “Square Orange Moon” – an autobiographical account of a failed attempt to cycle from Fife to Morocco in 1999. I got about five chapters into the thing before losing the willpower to keep going over old ground. The Daydream Generation kept me more than busy until the turn of the year before I took some time out from everything – deleted my MySpace page, finally resolved to kill off The Wheelies once and for all, and decided I would never record another song again. By the time February came around, things felt a little better and I started writing again, this time a failed attempt at a children’s book (I got three chapters into it before realising that if it was boring me as much as it did, that it was likely I’d taken a seriously wrong direction). As a writing exercise, I started work on a new experimental novel under the working title “Kaleidonaut” (now called “Zugzwang Mousetrap”). Currently having not touched it for a couple of months, I’m halfway through – in a nutshell it’s about two characters called Kolinksy and Kef, who both exist many years apart (Kolinsky exists at the tail end of the twentieth-century, Kef inhabits an alternative immediate future universe) but are actually the same person. It’s the lyrical equivalent of a Jackson Pollock painting, virtually unreadable, but there are countless story-lines and sub-plots buried within it – mainly dealing with revolution against a fascist state that govern with the help of a hallucinogenic virus. Hopefully I’ll finish it sometime this summer, but I’ll not be hurrying to recommend anyone to read it anytime soon. If anything I need to finish it for myself just to see how or if it can resolve itself.
And then inevitably I started recording again. The two Kaleidonauts records were brought in from the washing line and by now had somehow fused together into this single entity called “K2” – a combination of some of these new songs and the best of the alternative takes and out-takes. I emailed the usual suspects about helping out on it by dragging tracks up off their knees with drums and backing vocals and whatever else they could think of, and a few obliged. I think at this stage I still had it in my head that this was the last record I’d be involved in, so I wanted to have as many folk I’d worked with previously on it for posterity’s sake. Then one rare and quiet February afternoon I found myself with an afternoon to kill and for reasons I cannot quite remember I thought it might be interesting to see if I could sit down and sing the first half of the aforementioned “Zugzwang Mousetrap”. Three hours later and I had a giant melodically improvised acoustic monster of perhaps the most unbearable lo-fi proportions on my computer. From the 20 tracks I’d recorded, I later cut this down to a manageable four songs, clocking in around the 45 minute mark. This too was hung back out to dry while trying to decide what to do with it and I’ve still not decided to this day. The handful of people who have heard it have been politely optimistic (Warchalking predicted that 98% of people who hear it will “not get it” – I suspect The Wheelies were probably punching in around the 98% mark as well though so this would actually be a success, maybe even an improvement). The hardest thing is knowing what exactly it is – it sounds like the kind of experimental Wheelies album I would have made back in 1995 and it’s blatantly not a Kaleidonauts record. Soon as I figure out if it’ll ever dry, it may or may not be available for free download somewhere sometime. That’s about as definite as I can be with it.
On the back of “Zugzwang Mousetrap” I got a taste for making music again. “K2” by now was slowly but surely coming together, Jane Gilmore added vocals to a couple of songs and Paul Burnout added drums to seven of the songs, and it was even beginning to find some kind of structure in my brain. I accidentally recorded a further four tracks for it called “Maybe”, “Little Che Goes Cycling” (with The Pirate Pipsqueak band), “BP-Mixed”, and a remix of a Jane Gilmore cover during an experimental couple of weeks in March where I was recording just for the fun of it, not necessarily recording for “K2”. And that would have been that – the tracks are still with a couple of people to add finishing touches if they want, but I was now sitting on a double-album that in all honesty I felt pretty apathetic about. I think mainly it’s because I’ve been sitting on the songs for a long time, certainly longer than any record I’ve ever made before – some of the earliest alternative tracks date as far back as November 2007. While I waited patiently for my fellow Kaleidonauts to do or not do what they wanted to do, I got it into my head that it was “4 or 5 songs short” of being a proper bonafide double album a la The White Album, so I fished out my mp3 player loaded up with late-night song ideas that had been gathering since “Tigermouse”, took my second day off in a year and set about recording them. That day I finished 14 tracks including “Butterfly In A Bottle”, “On A Pillow Of Asteroid”, “Bob Fucking Dylan”, “If You Love Me”, “Sons & Daughters”, “Pink Leaves”, “Jock Stein”, “Under A Rainbow”, “The Gospel According To Jack Kerouac (first deleted version)”, “Something Worth Getting Out Of Bed For”, “Peppermint Kalashnikov”, “Crimson Tambourine”, “Rasmussen The Balloonist” and “Thanks For Fucking Up My Life”, all very lo-fi, just acoustic guitar and vocals, with minimal effects. Above all else I wanted to simplify things, get back to where I was in May 06 when I recorded “Oh Happiness”. More and more I realise that I am neither a proficient musician nor a passable audio engineer, and the more you attempt to be something you’re not, the worse it sounds. During the following week I finished six additional songs on the run, busting several guitar strings in the process, including “V3”, “Love”, “The Gospel According To Jack Kerouac (second version)”, “A Little Bit”, “Laika And The Ghosts”, and “Untitled”. At this point I was pretty sure that the bulk of these recordings would go on to form a third disc on “K2” – a collection of stripped back demos that are very different from the schizoid sounds of the first disc (“Cloud Shape” recordings) and the second (alternate takes/cut songs from early 2008). So expect this three-disc monster to be ready to go sometime in the not too distant future. I’m in no real… it can’t swim anywhere on its own after all.
Last week I unexpectedly finished a new Painted Shuts song called “Hole In The Ground” with Paul Burnout, so it looks likely that there will be a second PS record, currently called “Gargoyles In The Gutter” until we change our minds, and probably change them back again. If the first Painted Shuts record, and the original Utica Flower Co recordings are anything to go by, then it should be a relatively straightforward and fun record to make. I’ll keep the Company posted.
Then along came an imaginary boat and the rest you all know.
Painted Shuts should hopefully be finished on the high seas, and at some point in the year I’m going to make some time to get at least two of those books finished. Will “K2” be the last collection of songs I ever write from the ground up? Well quite possibly yes, but then I’ve been saying that for a while now and as long as there is a guitar (however busted) kicking around in the house then I’m going to be prone to picking it up and noodling out in search of the elusive white whale song. But that’s all somewhat irrelevant – the real reason I’m here isn’t for me, it’s because a couple of years ago I realised that there are some lovely people scattered across the globe making some truly astounding music. The Quixodelic store will be open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and I’ll be busting a gut to get people to download the records, or follow the breadcrumbs of links back to whatever you’ve all got going on out there. For the first time in a long time, thanks to this ship in progress, I’m genuinely excited about what is achievable, or what we can do next with it – it’s a little weird granted, but anything less would be ultimately same old, same old. Two years of Daydream compilations and a lot of bands and songs have passed through the net, and we are what is left – glimmering nuggets of possibility blinking together in a pan.