Friday, 30 September 2011

Rose Tinted views of the Past - (lost lyrics)

Hello friends,

I have decided to publish some of my lost lyrics in my blog, since they are just sitting on my screen taking up stickies, maybe someone would like to read one :)

This set was written while I was working my office job back at the beginning of the year, I doubt I will ever 'music' them up as I have covered the idea better in other lyrics since this.

Rose Tinted views of the Pastby Andy Jackson

Staring at the paper moon,
Collecting up the stars in a jar,
Dancing on an ancient wheel,
Fixing the bumpers of a futuristic car,

Rose tinted views of the past,
Human decency doesn’t last,
Mistakes take the same shapes through the ages,
To history pages the die is cast,

Listening to the audio books,
Softly spoken words of wisdom,
Printed on crumbling wood pulp,
A cheaper way to quash some freedom,

Rose tinted views of the past,
Human competency doesn’t last,
Mistakes take the same shapes through the ages,
In history pages it all goes so fast,

Heroes and Villains occupy the same coins,
How can you be special based on your origin loins,
The Kings got this sh*t sown up rather tight,
So many souls willing to die and fight,
To feed the needs of some overweight birth right…what pointless tripe

Rose tinted views of the past,
Human complacency doesn’t last,
Mistakes take the same shapes through the ages,
In history pages the lies reach is vast,

I love this tree :)

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Back to Busk (tales of a street performer)

Hello friends,

So busking (street performing) is a strange way to try and make money. There are lots and lots of musicians in the world, some are good, and some are very bad and can give us all a bad name. I think I fall somewhere in the middle, I am not a technical wizz capable of playing three hundred notes a second on the guitar, but I do know a bit, enough that I don't look like a total lemon when I play. My special skill is my voice, I have a pretty nice voice when I sing (I got compared to Rufus Wainwright while busking last week!). So I try to make the most of it.

In Amsterdam I had been having trouble making money in the streets, mainly because there are only certain good spots for street performing and they require some kind of amplification and a permit to play at (I had neither). I did okay in a couple of the free spots, but I would spend so long walking around trying to find a good place to play that I was usually tired before I even started playing. For a day of hard playing (interspersed with huge walks between spots) I could make about €15. You may think this isn't that bad, but for a hard days work, it really should be more. This was disheartening for me, so I tended to find excuses not to go and try. It rained a lot this summer so it wasn't hard to be persuaded to not go and play in the wet streets.

The Fongster100 playing in the streets of Utrecht
When I moved to Utrecht I got a new wind in my sails regarding performing in the streets. This mainly came about thanks to Rob Wilfong, aka The Fongster100. I don't think he was quite aware of the impact he had on me, the encouragement to hit the streets again and play for my supper. We went out busking together (playing separately) and we got good responses, in some spots at least. We tried out several spots on different days at different times to find which worked best. There were times when it was excruciatingly slow, playing for twenty minutes without even the sniff of a euro or cent, but there were other times when the cash flow was pretty nice.

Rob has an amazing little street performance amp, small enough that it can be dragged around in a little trolly bag, but powerful enough that you can make quite a noise in the streets. He also has a little mic that plugs in (see picture), and with this set up it is quite easy to make a big impression.

This was the first time I had ever used amplification in the streets, and it made a big difference to the kinds of songs I could perform. My catalogue is made up of both slow plucky songs and loud strummy songs (very technical language there!). When busking the only songs I could get away with playing before were the strummy ones, but with amplification I had to switch to my plucky ones and pull my voice back rather then belting the vocals out. This was fun for a while, but I quickly found I preferred to belt my tunes out without amplification, the main reason for this was my voice. Having to restrain my vocals to not blow the microphone was quite a challenge, and not being able to strum the guitar with a plectrum made me feel a little restrained. The amp and mic set up was perfect for Rob, for he is a blues man (an awesome one at that!) and he worked the amplification well, using it to round his songs out and make them richer sounding. It didn't seem to do that for my songs.

So, after a couple of weeks of playing in the streets with Rob, I really started to enjoy it again. Just like performance of any kind, the nerves kick in prior to beginning. When I was trying to get into it on my own, I had no one with me to encourage me, so I would have trouble starting, picking good spots etc. Going with another performer helped me to get the confidence and spirit to be able to entertain people in the streets (and take the unimpressed sighs from some of the passers by).

I now have found a favourite spot (I hope to find more) in Utrecht, it's very near the station, and just across the market square by a little bank of cash machines. I have done well there, earning about €25 for an hour (although my permit only permits 15 minutes, I tend to push this to half hour before I move).

The biggest competition here in Utrecht are Accordion players, there are loads and loads of them. When I am walking around looking for a spot, most of the good ones are always taken by an accordion player. Saturdays is the best day to make good money, but this last Saturday I was doing well until I had competition just round the corner from where I was. There was a whole flipping classical band, with 3 accordion players! 3 of them! How was I meant to compete with that. I didn't try, I gave up and let them play (knowing that as there was 5 of them they would have to split the earning so I probably made more then them individually). They were selling a CD, which is common practice for street performers. So I am now in the process of putting together my buskers CD.

Here is me performing 'Not a Job' by Elbow (one of my busking songs).

I'll write again when my CD is finished :)

Friday, 23 September 2011

The Bikeshop, Henk of the Hill and The Fongster100

So friends,

After the great open mic at Averecht, we were scheduled to go onto our next couch surfing host, Henk Van De Veen. Now, this guy has a great profile page on couchsurfing, perfect for any musician looking to make a friendly connection. He is big into 'gigswapping' and is a fantastic musician, and we have been staying with him since we decided to plop ourselves down for a while in Utrecht. He owns and runs a bike shop (see video below), and it's a great place to catch very rare acoustic gigs. I have done a couple of mini shows there now, it's great fun, the bikes hanging up make it feel like a robot surgery, with little internal bike organs found by your feet. The perfect place to be musically inspired.

On our first visit there we were met with smiles and I was told to entertain the customers with some guitar playing. So I did, and here is a bit of it...

Henk gave us keys to let ourselves in at his place, and we left the bike shop. A few hours later he came home and told us that an American was also due to arrive soon. Henk then left us to go look after his two boys and we had some food.

There was a knock on the door, and standing there (bagless!) was Robert Wilfong, aka The Fongster100, Blues master. His bags had been misplaced by the airline and were currently in the land of "unknown whereabouts". We set him up with a temporary bed until Henk could sort out one for him (we had only just arrived ourselves so were a little disorientated).

The following day, Rob played to Beauty and me in the kitchen, it was amazing, and the song 'Ever Since the World Ended' will forever be engraved in my mind.

Thankfully, Rob's luggage arrived a day later, delivered by the airline. He had several guitars in there, as well as street performance gear (amps etc.)

We would go busking together often, but that's the stuff of a blog of it's own...

With so much music around us in such a short time, it seemed like we really had to stay around here, just to give our ears what they wanted.

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Seriously (Track 12)

Hello friends,

So we reach the final track on 'in the right place'. I am well into writing the next 'in the...' right now, with 5 new songs written and a couple in semi-existance. This little song used a poem I had written back when I was working in an office. My boss always looked so serious, and that made me feel sad, because life is best taken less seriously in my opinion.

So here it is, the last track on 'in the right place', all recorded back in July in Den Haag.

Seriously by ProductsofMonkeyLove

and the youtube video version as well :)

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

The musical kiss of Utrecht (swaying us to staying)

Hello friends,

So, Amsterdam was behind us, we were now in Utrecht. It was still raining, lots and lots. The clouds were having pissing contests and we were the receivers of their golden showers. For our first full day in the lovely city, we were treated to a few hours of nice weather, so we took the opportunity to go exploring. Beauty and I found so many interesting things as we walked around, beautiful mosaics, quaint cobbled streets, low level canal spots (you can get right down by the water in Utrecht, unlike the Dam) etc.

Spot the UFO having a little chill on top of the building
Jasper and Liza (our couch surfing hosts) had shown us a list of 100 things to see/do in Utrecht. It can be found on the couch surfing website. We managed to complete a handful of them, the main one that made us chuckle was the UFO on top of a building. Both Beauty and I do love to discuss aliens and strange things in the sky, so it was a hoot to find the UFO, but, as I pointed out, it wasn't flying, so was a UO, but since it was clearly put there on purpose it was identifiable, so no 'U'. It was just an 'O', an object.

Happy that we had located the 'O', we headed back to avoid the falling sky. Jasper is a bassist in a ska band (a really good one at that!) so I took the opportunity to have a jam with him. His fingers were still sore from a marathon session of gigging, so we took it slowly. It sounded great, it was so nice to jam with a bassist.

The following day the skies did nothing but rain down, the weather menu consisted of a drizzle starter, followed by a rain salad and finally a downpour sundae to finnish. We would not be deterred from going out to the open mic night at Averecht that we had heard so much about, whatever the weather. So as evening approached, we got ready and headed out to Averecht. At half seven we left Jasper and Liza's house and wandered through the rain. I had a plastic bag over the top of my guitar, and our umbrella was doing it's best to shield us from the persistent showers. We hid under building entrances and meandered our way down the roads. We made good time, getting to Averecht by about 8pm. We stood at the entrance and were a little perplexed by how very closed it was. On the door were the opening times, and it seemed that the place wouldn't be open till half past nine. Jasper had told us to get there early as the line up filled up pretty quickly, it seemed we were a little bit too early.
Beauty in front of a beautiful wall painting in Utrecht

We wandered around Utrecht, not venturing very far from Averecht, but getting the chance to see some of the canal in the rain, the streets in the rain, the Dom church in the rain and my personal favourite, an old windmill in the rain. We could have probably appreciated these things without the rain, but there seemed to be no telling the clouds that, no matter how hard we shouted at them.

We stood in a doorway near Averecht and had a romantic moment staring out at the rain. We watched the minutes tick away until it was finally worthwhile heading back to Averecht (we had already past it a handful of times as we had wandered, each time hoping it would have opened early). As we arrived we walked in to see a handful of people, the place had literally only just opened so the sign up sheet for musicians was still empty. We spoke with the guy running the night, Dennis, and he showed me where to sign up and told us that there would be lots of musicians likely to come and play. He wasn't lying, within ten minutes the sing up sheet was full. Standing at the bar, waiting to do his first appearance at this open mic night, was an amazing musician called Rick.

Dennis playing 'Pink Moon' in Averecht, blissful
He had a smiling energy about him that made us feel warm (this would later be confirmed, he is such a nice guy). Beauty had a feeling about Dennis, that he was in some way connected to Nick Drake (one of our personal musical hero's). As Dennis kicked off the night to the very full Averecht, he opened with 'Pink Moon' by Nick Drake. Beauty swooned and smiled, "this is our place" she said. I had to agree. Dennis spoke in English for our benefit, it was such a warming atmosphere. A blues guitarist went up after Dennis, he entertained the crowd for a handful of songs, and then it was my turn. I was given a warm reception and Dennis explained to the audience that I was going to be playing my own songs that had been written around the Netherlands. I proceeded to play and I got a kick out of all the people attentively listening (something that rarely happens when busking). When I finished I was given a warm round of applause and returned to my seat. So many people came up to me to chat, it was amazing. We made so many new friends that night. Another act was Renee, she was amazing, such a beautiful voice and touching clever lyrics in her songs. She was followed by Rick, and then a couple, David and Lisa, calling themselves 'the flying transformers' played. It was their first time as well, and they were great too, quirky fun songs, keeping the mood upbeat. They were followed by Herjo (with Dennis helping out), an amazing guitarist and singer in Utrecht. They played some beautiful Simon and Garfunkle, Beatles and a great rendition of 'I could have lied' by the Red Hot Chilli Peppers.

It was a magical evening, despite the rain. We left Averecht feeling certain that we would be back there again, many times. We were going to find a way to stay in Utrecht...

Salt (Track 11)

Hello friends,

Track 11 on 'in the right place' is a little ditty song I wrote about a mix up in a restaurant. I liked the idea of a song about salt since it's a vital ingredient in many foods and maybe doesn't get the good press it deserves. I also do love to write silly little songs every now and then, can't be serious and deep all the time.

Salt by ProductsofMonkeyLove

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Count Your Blessings (track 10)

Hello friends,

Track 10 on 'in the right place' is probably my favourite one, and a great fun song to play and sing.

It is all about loving yourself in order to be able to love someone else, a very common theme in my musical explorations, but I feel I captured the idea pretty well in this one.

Count Your Blessings by ProductsofMonkeyLove

Friday, 16 September 2011

Couchsurfing to Utrecht (the next leg of the adventure)

Hello friends,

A lot has happened to me since the last update to this blog, I have relocated to a different part of the Netherlands, met a load of great new people, played music in loads of new places, and learnt lots (as always, it's good to keep learning).

At the end of August, Beauty and I were looking for somewhere to stay in Amsterdam, there were not many options available, since it was new student time and there are not many living options in Amsterdam anyway (it's a rather popular place for people who like living in houses rather then just living outside with nature). August had been an interesting month, yet again we had been hit with several days of continuous rain, or "European Summer" as it should probably be called.
It was time to move on and get on with some more creative adventuring.

We were introduced to the idea of couchsurfing by a friend while we were looking for somewhere to stay. Now, if you know nothing about couchsurfing then let me enlighten you a little. Couch surfing is an online community of travelling souls that like to meet up, have a coffee and a chat, and possibly offer up a couch for you to sleep on while you are visiting somewhere. It feels to me like a version of facebook for travellers. Search for 'couchSurfing' in google (or any other search engine) and take a look for yourself if you are interested, I can't be bothered to post a link to it.

Our little secret beauty spot in Amsterdam
Anyway, Beauty and I searched for a nice couch to crash on and some lovely people to meet in Amsterdam. It proved quite difficult as we quickly discovered that people that offer up a couch in Amsterdam receive close to two hundred trillion requests a day (give or take a couple of trillion) and have trouble even replying to tell you to find somewhere else to stay (I don't blame them, I wouldn't respond if I was them).

We met with an amazing American woman called Melissa, she is a travelling writer living in Amsterdam, and she has an amazing way of explaining things. We sat and smoked a few with her and laughed lots.

We decided to look outside Amsterdam and find somewhere else to go explore, and we settled on Utrecht. It wasn't a hard decision thanks to the great profiles the people who couch host in Utrecht have.

So on a cloudy Sunday (after a Spanish birthday party), Beauty and I attempted our first hitch hiking. We walked from Dam square to the south of the city where the big road joins it to head down to Utrecht. We didn't have all our stuff with us (of which we have far too much to be travelling, so every time we have moved location we have had to do it in two trips), but we still had my guitar and a backpack each, as well as a shopping bag full of mini supplies (cheap chocolate, crackers etc.). The rain once again decided to come pay us a visit as we were walking, so we took refuge under a bridge and ate plain crackers and watched the wet people cycling along. Once the rain cleared, we headed out towards the big main road, finding it difficult once we got off the foot path, we decided to turn back and head to the edge of town to try and collect a ride from there, rather then down on the big motorway thing (as you might be able to tell, I know next to nothing about cars and roads).

Trippy lights of Utrecht
Standing at the end of rijnstraat, we had our little 'Utrecht' sign and our smiling faces, but it was already getting quite late and darkness was starting to descend on us. The cars sat at the traffic lights were we standing by as the drivers either stared us out, or avoided making any eye contact whatsoever. After half an hour our smiles were fading and our patience and trust in our abilities to get a free ride to Utrecht were waining fast. We called up Jasper, our couchsurfing host in Utrecht, and explained that we might not be able to make it there so we will crash out for the night in Amsterdam and find a way to Utrecht in the morning. Jasper said it would be fine for us to arrive late, so we took off our defeated faces, plastered smiles back on and headed to the train station to pay for our way to Utrecht.

Ahh the trains in Amsterdam, how fun they are. We were down on the south part, so headed to the nearest station (station RAI) with the hope of getting a single train down to Utrecht. We were a little stoned at this point and our only money was a single crispy €50 note. The ticket machines at station RAI were not giving out change, so there was no way our lovely single note was going in one of them. We headed up to the platform to check out which train would get us to Utrecht. There wasn't one going from RAI to Utrecht, so we asked a Dutch couple which would be the right train to get. The informed us that they too were trying to get to Utrecht and we should get on this train with them. So we did, we got on the train and straight away were approached by the conductor (the Dutch couple had tipped him off that we were looking for Utrecht based transportation). The conductor was a scary looking bald man, someone who would look better suited to the army then train conducting (I assume he was kicked out of the army for being too mean looking). Cowering under his scarytude, I asked him which train we need to get to Utrecht. He explained that we needed to change at blad-de-blah, and then get on another train to slap-de-bak, and then get another one to Utrecht. He then turned and walked off, before I asked anything about tickets (which we didn't have!). The train reached the next station (station something or other), and fearing that we would receive the wrath of army conductor man if were to stay and be caught without tickets, we jumped off the train. He shouted at us from the train "you don't want to get off here, this is the wrong station". We stood staring at the train times, ignoring his gruff tone. The train pulled away and we breathed a sigh of relief.

Crossing the platform to the other side, we decided the best thing to do would be go back past station RAI to station Zuid and try and catch one from there. Standing on the platform (still ticket-less at this point) was a female conductor woman who looked a bit scary, AND a police woman who was assisting the conductor in busting naughty ticket dodging people like ourselves. We boarded the train when it arrived, as did the conductor and police woman. We stood ready to make our case as to why we didn't have tickets, but luckily for us, they walked the other way up the train, not coming anywhere near us. Tensions ran high for the short journey, and once we reached station Zuid we hopped off and quickly ran down to buy tickets (thanks to a small pack of curly fries from BK to split our note and give us change). We went back to the platform and relaxed, safe in the knowledge we were now un-bustable in the ticket department. The next train to Utrecht came shortly after and we were on our way.

Arriving in Utrecht rather later then originally planned, we had a quick smoke and then walked to Jasper and Liza's house, meeting them on the way and starting our couch surfing adventures properly. Jasper and Liza were amazing hosts, so friendly and open, funny and kind. We stayed with them for 3 days, in which time we quickly fell in love with Utrecht (a calmer version of Amsterdam).

The turning point was the spooky goings on at Averecht...but that's a story for another blog...

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Quiz Master (Track 9)

Hello :)

These new tracks are available on soundcloud and youtube if you visit my pages there you can hear the whole record (if you are so inclined).

Track 9 on 'in the right place' was the last track written for it, and probably the weakest (in my opinion). I will try and do more with it when I come to record a proper big version of it, maybe a studio audience or the hustle bustle of a live TV studio floor would inject some tension.

So here it is, track 9 'Quiz Master', the story of a naughty quiz show host.

Quiz Master by ProductsofMonkeyLove

and the video version with my fluffy face playing it :)