2009, the myth of process and what not to talk about.

Sorry this blog has been sparse (so far) this year. No excuses, I haven’t found reasons to write moving forward into 2009 and I’m confused about what to do and where to go next.

I started handing in my pile of new song demos. They vary between loud, quiet and odd/groovy in between. I like them all (or they wouldn’t get beyond my MacBook) and I’m extremely proud of a few of them, although the trademark ‘sound’ of Garageband is all over them, which I hope everyone relevent can “hear through”.

Left behind for now are what I’ve mostly been composing but isn’t useful or appropriate: nasty electro ideas waiting for a structure and improvised Keith Jarrett-style romantic jazz(-ish) piano. So you can tell, I’m all over the place creatively. In fact, I’ll probably hand in some of the piano impro demos at the end, and pitch that we accompany the next album with a second disc of that stuff, taped at the same time as recording the album. Would be ace fun, cheap to make and probably a strong extra record.

A funny thing with demos: I’m sure most people have the song completely written and it’s just the recording / performances that are ‘demo standard’. For me, the song itself is still at a demo stage, so incomplete or a work-in-progress. In particular, lyrics aren’t done. Jon Clayton will tell you (probably through gritted teeth), I’ve literally had to redo vocals at the final mix stage, when I’ve found a tweak in the lyrics that’s too important not to include.

Ach, I’m talking about process. See below. 

So here’s a million dollar question which I always resist asking… Do you prefer Chris T-T music loud or quiet? solo acoustic, full band or somewhere in between? or is it more an issue of content… Should I be writing more psychedelic nature / animal / love songs or keep up the commie shit? 

comments more than welcome, obviously, or I wouldn’t be asking

I know what some of my closer friends and family think but never really know what the record-buying, gig-going ‘fans’ prefer, or whether the split (if there is one) is even. 

Of all the things spoiling culture at the moment, I’m starting to pinpoint the worst as what I’ll call The Myth Of Process. This is the shift by which everyone thinks they know how it’s done, even though they don’t really. It’s the real damage inside the reality TV talent show movement but can equally be found in every area of culture and in the instant communication of those making culture. Interactive shows, Twitter, blogging or posting demos on Myspace are just as much a part of this as any celeb gossip columnist.

No (or very, very rare) communication between an artist and audience (or potential audience) is entirely truthful, simply because the artist wants the audience to increase. So as we increase the amount, intimacy (hey @wossy or @schofe on Twitter) and regularity of that communication, what we’re actually doing is increasing the spin / lying.

Even at my level, I’m mythmaking / spinning. I’m not going to tell you which artists I hate that I’m friends with because it’ll stuff my friendship with them (or worse, lose me professional opportunities ;p)

So the audience now almost always think they know how it’s done and, alongside this, becomes obsessed with the process itself, rather than the product. At the same time, us artists fall for the same myth. 

When musicians hang out, why don’t we talk about making music anymore? A few years ago, we’d sit around yacking about guitar pedals, snare drum compression, which towns had the best audiences. Now, to a much greater extent, we all yack distribution demographic this, PR that, business shit all around their mouths.

I’m guilty totally myself and, in a sense, have always been one of the worst offenders: a keen music industry gossip and process-hound, disguising myself as an aloof ‘pure’ music maker. But I don’t get it: do we now actually enjoy the business more than the music? Sounds bonkers but feels increasingly, heartbreakingly true.

I love the visual arts because I don’t know how they manage it. The mystery is still intact. When I hear a pop hit, I am aware that what I’m loving about the first 30 seconds is primarily a snare drum sound and a bunch of reverbs – and can make informed assumptions about how they achieved those. But with a brilliant classic painting, I have no idea where to begin with process – and don’t want to.

And that’s what we need to recapture, somehow. But talking about it – and especially asking your opinion – contributes to the opposite. Doh.


15 responses to “2009, the myth of process and what not to talk about.

  1. I’m gonna answer by saying that i prefer the more solo-orientated Chris tracks. Whether they are on guitar or piano (or with the odd other instrumentation such as trumpet) I don’t, i just prefer these more ‘intimate’ tracks more than the full band Hoodrats stuff.

    Although, thats not to say that i dislike the hoodrats material, I’m just more a fan of the other stuff.

  2. i’ve always preferred the acoustic songs/versions, but maybe that’s because it was how i was introduced to your music (wait, wasn’t that via rifa? ;]). i think red songs is probably my favourite of your cds, because it sounds somehow more stripped down (which i’m guessing in terms of recording it probably isn’t, right? there’s my lack of process showing). but that isn’t to say i prefer the commie shit necessarily, there’s a lot to said for animal songs (wait, aren’t they a bit commie too? ;]) and love songs. or whatever breaking ankles is about. all that. y’know :]

  3. My answer has to be that I like it when artists to go in their own direction, doing whatever they think is best at any particular time. I enjoy all your albums in different ways.

    That said, I’d love to hear more ‘London Is Sinking’/’The 253’ type stuff. Songs like ‘7 Hearts’, ‘Giraffes #1’, ‘N253’ and ‘Battersea Bridge Baptism’ are among my favourite Chris T-T songs.

  4. I love all your albums, from the popish sheen of ‘London Is Sinking’ to the more stripped down ‘9 Red Songs’. I think album wise you should go with the sound where your own creativity takes you, If an album sounds different musically from the last then that is a great thing.

    Live though I prefer you acoustic. I can hear the melody of the songs and the lyrics are easier to hear and appreciate. I think I’ve told you before that any band you play with has always been a bit too heavy for me. Melody seems to be replaced by ‘rocking out’. I would love to see you with a band that isn’t so ‘rock’ where you have a keyboard player, more acoustic guitars etc. Some songs could be rock sounding, but something like Giraffes or Seven Hearts could retain their subtlety and beauty.

    You have never made a bad album, and I really think you should create what you like.

  5. Martin’s right artists need to go in their own direction otherwise the end point would surely be music by focus group ? Or the hideous situation that occurs where studios play different endings to films to ensure the ‘most popular’ ending is used. If that sounds harsh it’s not supposed to be, I want to know what you think not the other way round.

    DW x

  6. When a magic trick is explained it loses its magic and becomes just a trick.

    About 8 years ago I started to notice more and more people – people not involved in the music biz – talking about fan bases and midweek chart positions. We all know way too much now.

    For what it’s worth, focus group shmocus group. I think you should make whatever record you want to make Chris.

  7. Just keep it real, because real is why we love you. Jim Bob’s right. Some of your loud songs are better than your quiet songs and vice versa. They’re all better than the shite in the charts. John Martyn is dead – John Martyn was a genius, a pisshead, but he’ll be loved for ever.

  8. I have no doubt that whatever you do will be bathed in genius…but personally I prefer the full band stuff.

  9. Well I like it all (Capital has really grown on me and is one of my favourites since when I posted my impressions on the demo).

    If I had to choose I probably prefer you solo live, but that’s purely down to the fact that a solo show is a lot less predictable as you can play pretty much anything, whereas a band set is somewhat constrained by what the band have rehearsed.

    Of course, the great thing about brilliant songs is they work in any form. Some of the favourite bits of the live shows was seeing the re-worked acoustic version of 4am and the rocked-up version of Giraffes. Likewise I loved the piano version of A-Z from the Xtra Mile disc.

    Would love to see a Live Tonight Vol2 with some of that stuff on.

  10. Neither nor. I don’t prefer the love songs or the commie shit. I don’t prefer the acoustic stuff or the rock stuff. I like my Chris T-T lo-fi and nasty. More stuff like “Beatverse” and the “Flirty” b-sides, plz. Might upset the Jimbob fans, mind.

  11. absolute favourites for me are bubble, open books, the shape we’re in, the english earth, giraffes no.1, 7 hearts, cull, king of england, none of them give a fuck… (no faves off 9 red songs yet, but i only got that on monday, still getting to know it, no doubt there will be some)

    that’s a pretty good cross section of politics, love, rock, acoustic, psychedelic AND animals. so far as i can see, the only thing they really have in common is you, SOoooo… yeah, just do what you do. i trust you. if you’re excited by it, odds on i will be too.

  12. thankyou, very interesting and thanks for being so nice about it as well.

    Sparked a useful conversation with Sarge about which songs go where, when, how and why. Should be interesting to see what develops over the next few weeks.

  13. Chris

    The fact that you have such variety is the only reason I listen to your records.
    I really enjoyed your 2000 trees solo performance – but if that was everything you were capable of I would get bored very quickly.
    Your Frank Turner support slots were more energetic than the capital album (which I also enjoy) , and I look forward to hearing an element of that in the future.

  14. Chris,
    I like the blog mate. During the last 18 months I have been trying to remove the masks I wear so I can really look at myself and know who I am. Regarding music, as a listener I want to listen to the heart beating. As a writer I always attempt to write something that propels me forward. As a human being and a father I always want to be as positive and truthfull as I can. To learn from my mistakes and not allow societies fears to control my thinking. I want to be man. And I guess I like you the best when You are You! Thanks for everything You have done and for all the good You are about to do my friend.

  15. Never EVER ask people “do you prefer solo or band stuff?” as everyone will ALWAYS say “solo” because a) you can hear the words b) that’s how they’ll first have heard you and liked you and then you have to feel GUILTY about it and hope the band never find out.

    Apparently. I wouldn’t know.

    As for what songs – I must admit I like your songs in the same way I like Billy Bragg, so as long as you keep a mix of the politics/loveliness/gags then it’s all good for me. Just don’t start collaborating with dead people, that way lies DAD ROCK!

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