Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Tempora's voyage part 1...

I like to contemplate gender specificity in ships; it's an intriguing quirk of the English language and a satisfying figure of speech, but there's much more to this personification for me; Tempora deserves her feminine pronouns for a multitude of reasons.

For a decade she's been a constant for me in Bristol - she's grown weed along her wind and water line, becoming unkempt whilst stagnated in the brown water but she's always been a hub and a host to a hive of activity.

To highlight a little of her history, Tempora before her current owners 'Floating Harbour Studios', had been the headquarters of the Bristol Ferry Boat Company for twenty years; she's 110 years old and registered to the port Terneuzen in The Netherlands.

When I arrived at Tempora a decade ago to begin work for the ferries, I was hoping for a job which might build on my soul and not crush it; I was ignorant and apathetic over things nautical and I wasn't expecting to imprint upon a Dutch barge:

Tempora, the people surrounding her and the sense of belonging she brought made her like a second home and a second mother.

My main source of friendship and employment for ten years, she's taught me as much as radio 4 - more than school ever did; she's launched my music career, dirtied me into a man, made me who I am.

Tempora, my kora and this book I write in; these three are the pride, my fleet, my material necessities.

Now, my role aboard Tempora has changed - I renovate and maintain, and arriving here on the dawn of her first voyage since knowing her, feeling familial and a little apprehensive, I'm not ashamed to say that on seeing three people I'd never met get intimate with her engine, turning her wheel, I felt a protectiveness kick in and had to remember not to forget myself.

Consolation quickly came on reasoning that these three men are like boat doctors;
they're professionals to whom Tempora is of a genre. That's not to say that I think that Tommy, Nigel and Mark lack passion or romanticism with regards to boats, but that their purpose was transitory and true to nautical character, in no time at all we're laughing whilst we work and feeling solid;
a crew.

There is much to get done before the old girl leaves - coffee making, the removal of shore-power and phone cables, cutting the spot-welded bolts which hold the gangplank in place, the severing of her umbilicus from the city.

The walls seem to anticipate displacement of water, and at 10:40 we're away, busied, tying bowlines to suspend fenders; the bascule of Redcliffe Bridge descends and Tempora regains the primary function of a boat: To provide passage across water. A rich thick exhaust, a cake of old oil splutters and we come to rest by Pooles Wharf with ease, having only needed support from our escort Mariner once, on the sharp bend by Redcliffe quay.

I admire Tommy Nielsen's expertise - now that Tempora is no longer carrying cargo, the majority or her 260 tons is above the water - It's so close to a hover that her wind and water line is barely halfway up the rudder and this poses a great challenge to maneuverability.

We all breakfast together and then I work on my list of tasks - tidying cables in the bald patch of her rebirth, buying batteries for torches, oil to keep her quenched and the battening down of hatches to ready us for departure on the evening tide.

We get beyond the Clifton Suspension Bridge - grinning, exhilarated, but Tommy slows to tickover and we're forced to come about as there's not enough water circulating to adequately cool her engine.

As the sun begins setting, we come back to the Cumberland basin to rest for the night, sleeping on bales of hay in the black-walled hold. There is mild confidence that the problem is solved, but the next morning after we nudge her about on the bow to head out on a level, we have that same elation, and then the disheartenment - to turn around once more, to be tugged by Mariner back into the entrance lock.

We're threatened with the involvement of the MCA, and listening to this understandably authoritarian speech, I was at pains to conceal my contempt, wilful to appear humble and subordinate, and my head span with a nightmarish saga of officious bureaucrats prodding at the hull, hemming us in.

None of us doubt we'll get there though...


Shows in October and a video from cafe Kino...

I've been sent home for a couple of days on shore leave, though being sent home on shore leave from a boat not afloat wants for a better phrase...

In October, I have some shows I'm really looking forward to:

On Saturday the 6th of October I'll be headlining at the Windmill pub with Louise Phillips live drawing. This is for the Windmill Hill arts trail...

Tuesday the 23rd of October is in the Golden Lion for the weekly night 'Live in the Lion's Den'.

Then on Halloween, the 31st of October, I'm very excited to be opening again for the captivating Diane Cluck at the Grain Barge - this year she'll be accompanied by the cellist Isabel Castellvi - have a look at a recent video of theirs below:

I had a great time in Winchester recently, playing at Ancient & Modern, and it's thanks to the Dead Rat Orchestra that I ended up there... They're incredible and I urge you to go here and watch a video.

Dan of the dead rats kindly filmed and uploaded this video of me playing in cafe Kino:

This is the poster for Diane Cluck's European tour this Autumn >>

She's selling big prints of it to help fund the tour...

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Free download of my EP...

I've made my latest recording, an E.P. called 'Winter Shed' available to download free,
just click on the download button in the top right hand corner...

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Bilge Life

Today whilst treating a chasmic expanse of rusty bilge,
I noticed each puddle of rustcon developing its own personality...

Turning lady, night pheasant,
fez-man with long beard and deep-sea fish with stripes
are now spread out over the rusty steel, becoming black with chemistry and the night. .

Monday, 2 July 2012

J-jazz radio interview and recent drawings...

My friend Rie (who is in the stunning duo Small Color and also makes music solo as Trico) has a monthly internet radio show on Jjazz.net : She interviewed me and I played a song for the show when I stayed with her and her husband Yusuke in May in Tokyo - here is a link to the show (play button at top right of the screen, the interview with me starts about 4 minutes in). The interview is in English, but if you speak Japanese, the transcription is available to read here.

Today I've been drawing: Here is a drawing of ICHI upside down near Nagoya in Japan:

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Work in progress, Yaya the lost dog and a Bristol balloon...

Louise and I set out on a sunny afternoon, via the Bristol Cider Shop (on Christmas steps, we recommend it highly - the fella keeping shop was great - he let us try all the ciders, all from within 50 miles of Bristol. They know their suppliers - we ended up with some delicious medium dry cider made by Roger in Somerset...)

We took our cider to Leigh Woods, climbed an old scots pine and enjoyed the sun... Lou filmed some songs I'm working on...

In the next tree, not a tea tree but known to me as the tea tree from tea drinking there with Neil long ago, we somehow managed to distract a dog from it's owner and ended up spending an hour with Yaya, a hyperactive black labrador who we eventually managed to calm enough  to make sit and read the owner's phone number and the name on it's collar... So Yaya lends his name to this previously untitled instrumental I'm working on... 

On our way out of the woods, me had a conversation with the people flying this balloon...

"Alright up there"


"Nice day for it!"


Only in Bristol... 

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Not a dead bird, the 'Sexual Ben' version and the rest of our household...

My friend and housemate 'Sexual Ben' has covered my song 'Not a dead bird'...
I really love it and you can listen here:

He has a myspace where you can find more of his music:

He's also half of Marathon Tuxedo with another friend and housemate Leon Welchman:

and seeing as I'm talking about housemates now, here is a great Leon version of Satie's Gnossienne no.1:

Leon is also the lead guitarist in the band 'Von Bartha' : http://vonbartha.bandcamp.com/

and here is the final member of our household, artist Louise Phillips, singing 'Love me or leave me':

It's a happy house :-)

Friday, 1 June 2012

DIY is all you need preview, opening tonight!

DIY is all you need at utrophia on 120-122 deptford high street starts tonight!

Artwork from Francois of Francois and the atlas mountains, Rachael dadd, Louise kelly phillips, alessi's ark, Kate stables of this is the kit, ben meschko, Carrie Hitchcock, Rozi plain (who has also made a swing boat!), Anika mottershaw, Jonathan Farr and myself. It's looking beautiful...
Tonight utrophia opens at 7, there's live music for the opening and Stephen will be selling smoothies outside on his custom built tricycle.
Don't miss it, the exhibition runs til the 14th of June...

Here are some preview photos...

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Circle festival, Fukuoka, 19.05.12...

Will Newsome`s EP, Winter Shed, is available on iTunes and amazon...

Circle festival at umi no nakamichi kohen in Fukuoka had a brilliant lineup - i feel very privileged to have played alongside these musicians...

Aside from playing with harada ikuko (above), whose songs i now have on constant repeat in my mind, standing out for me was the music of UA with her raw, soulful voice and passionate anti-nuclear stance:

Salyu Salyu with their brilliant vocal arrangements reminiscent of the dirty projectors collaboration with bjork and the 'le fil' days of camille:

And akiko yano, an incredible pianist and singer:

Now back in England, on the train to Bristol after this unexpectedly long trip away, excited about seeing my friends and thinking about getting prints ready for the utrophia exhibition and recording a couple of covers of Harada's songs...

Monday, 14 May 2012

Pinon-Pinon and the happiness it brings part 2... (04/05/12 - 09/05/12)

Will Newsome`s EP, Winter Shed, is available on iTunes and amazon...

This time at pinon-pinon,

a different role...

Niwashigoto, pruning trees,

piano practice in the gallery.

More experiments with filming the kora;

I`m fascinated by how the frame-rate of my camera captures the movement in strings and shows them undulating like a sine wave.

It feels like there`s a lot of maths in motion here, a happy instance where the artificial inadvertently exposes a fundamental; an underlying system like the phi in feathers, the fibonacci in a fern...

Recently, since seeing Yanokami at Roppongi Hills,
I can`t get this song out of my head - 
Rei Harakami died unexpectedly last year but he left us with some beautiful music...
This song, `owari no kisetsu` - (the end of the season?) is a cover of a Japanese folk song;
listen loud, get lost in it:

Sunday, 13 May 2012

ノット・ア・デッド・バード / Not a dead bird

My friend Jun (喜多村 純) at Pinon-Pinon in Tsuruga has translated the lyrics to my song `not a dead bird` -







(original lyrics here)

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Playing kora with 原田郁子 (Harada Ikuko) 03.05.12 @ J-waves 'TokyoM.A.P.S', Roppongi Hills, Tokyo.

I first met Harada Ikuko at Kichimu in Kichijoji when we played a show there at the beginning of April - her set with Tonchi was beautiful and fascinating...

I ran out of CDs on the night, so a week or two later I posted her a copy of my new E.P, telling her how much I loved her set. Happily, she felt the same of mine and invited me to stay in Japan a few weeks longer to play a couple more shows - one in Tokyo and one in Fukuoka at circle festival on the 19th... (massive thanks to Eiichi-kun and Naoto-San for taking phonecalls, writing emails and interpreting...gomen nasai, yoroshiku onegaishimasu!)

So here I am, sat in cafe yugue in Kyoto for the 4th time this trip, reminiscing (reminiscing might sound exaggerated for casting the mind back a mere week, but that is one of the wonders of yugue, it has such a contemplative, timeless atmosphere, it could amplify any mundane yesterday into a cherished memory.) I'll have another of Dai-chan's delicious bagels and drink a cup of chai...

I was worried about communication at the beginning of our rehearsal on the 2nd of may, but by the end of the day, Harada, Tonchi and I had three songs ready to play together - ginga (milky way), ao I Yama (the blue darkness) and ai no kodomo (child of love?)

There's a lot of deep feeling and expression in these songs, and the third one we played, Ginga, is intended to be like a bridge between the people here now and the people lost in the earthquake and tsunami last year. So many people's hearts are broken by what happened and this new version of the song is upbeat, reflecting the necessity for (and inevitability of) onwards movement and aiming towards reconciliation of sadness with the spirit and memory of the victims which lives on inside people; now, as I write this, something clicks and it occurs to me that in describing, there's a symbiosis between my learning and this song going on, in that through it's sentiment, it might have enlightened me a little on the essence of two words I was introduced to a couple of days ago, and these words, ripe with meaning and defiant of direct translation, may have enlightened me a little on the song in the context of its native tongue:

"setsunai" (loosely - heartrending, trying, painful)


"mujou" (a Buddhist concept which, naturally, there is much to - but loosely - of mutability and transience; of everything without exception being in a constant state of flux).

If you're a fluent bilingual JapEnglish speaker, please tell me if I'm misconstruing (or enlighten me further).
It's a deep-seated sentiment and a beautiful song:

The original of this song is by Kiyoshiro Imawano, a Japanese Rock musician who died of cancer in 2009. He was much a much loved artist and a powerful force in campaigning against the construction of nuclear power plants.    

Harada's a great pianist and inspired me to try and play my piano pieces again with more feeling and less restraint... Here's one I recorded a few days ago:

Massive thanks to Matsumi-san for putting me up in her flat and taking me out drinking with Mitsuru Tajika... I might never have experienced the down-town tokyo drinks of choju with hoppy and Ume-boshi Chu-hi otherwise! Tanoshkata.

If you're a Kyushu dweller or fancy a trip down south, don't miss the show in Fukuoka on the 19th at circle festival!

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Matsue show at carre, 31.04.12...

Takashi runs a bakery named `carre` in the gentle, airy town of Matsue, and we played in the yard behind his shop - see the people grinning ear to ear at Naoto's guitar wit...

After the show we headed over to a friends house overlooking the river - a beautiful and very traditional Japanese house - here we drank shochu and ate dinner whilst me and the amazing Noguchi Atushi took it in turns on the guitar. He's got a beautiful voice and he's a great guitarist - naoto filmed this video of us playing Diane Cluck's song 'dilapidalliance'... If you're not aware of Diane's song of the week subscription project, join up or have a read about it: it's a really inspiring and innovative idea, both from the perspective of being a big fan of hers and from myself being a musician aiming towards a subsistence lifestyle through music...

It's a shame I didn't get any film of Noguchi's songs but I'll post one up here soon...

This show marked the end of me and Naoto's tour together, we were up at 5 the next morning to drive back to Kyoto, choto futsukayoi (a little hungover...) We have one more show together on the 12th, a house show in Kyoto; I'm happy it's not too final...

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Nokonoshima and noconico cafe, 30.04.12

I've been really excited about returning to nokonoshima for ages and it's boyish, but a large amount of my excitement was about going on the ferry and getting to ride on the back of shibata-san's pickup truck again...

Noconico cafe is a great little outdoor cafe next to nokonoshima's ferry landing, selling delicious drinks like vodka with blood orange and banana rum smoothies. They've got a kind of souvenir shop which sells music by friends of the owners and people who've played in the cafe, postcards by local artists and a few quirky nokonoshima souvenirs like flatpack cardboard ferry boats...

Naoto's great at coming up with unusual or innovative ideas for live performance and the concept this time was based on there being a market outside the cafe on this day...thinking of a market in a traditional sense - as not just a place to buy and sell but a place to meet people and exchange ideas.

So people sold their goods and we played our music in a relaxed fashion, stopping to chat when people were inquisitive and attracting passers-by on their way to and from the ferry...

Photos from the day below...