Cover photo courtesy of Finn Roff-Marsh. Finn is one of my nephews and is showing all the makings of a photographer/artist, with some great shots in his portfolio already. I chose this one as it shows an image that has synergy with the theme on several levels. Watchers came out fast too.
This not having a normal job and being stressed, but having lots of time business is actually pretty good for creativity. I have to admit that to some extent I had lost some of my conscious connection with my roots as an artist. I have gotten much better at the rules in the last few years; they almost make sense and I can work out why some notes just seem wrong or right. Downside is that I have felt a bit like making music has become a technical process. I say to myself, “what am I going to write today”. Or at least that is what I thought I was doing.
Art has a strong history in helping people work out their stuff. The imbalances that stop life flowing. My life stopped flowing when I lost just about everything that society says is living. I kept trying to get back on the horse but the horse kept stopped me from even getting a leg over. That sucks.
I kept wondering what it was I should be doing and I went back to my “I don’t care what job I do so long as I have a boss who understands and wants me”. It worked once before. Here’s how this record and theme came to be: I got a sale from my Metal EP “Penance”, the first in 22 years! The purchaser is another musician and he added a few comments (every musician loves those) including that if the audio quality was brought up to date I may even find a place in alternative Metal circles today. First thought was that my Metalling days were done. Then I wondered if in fact it was life offering me an opportunity, so I set out to write a new DCD track. What came out was slow and Doom laden but I felt I had to build it with strings. I needed a title to post it on Soundcloud to ask for feedback. “Watcher 01” was the first thing that came. I had the idea of Nephilim in my mind but knew that wasn’t quite right but the Watchers as seen in the Noah (Russell Crowe) movie were right. Feedback was that this was more like Vangelis than Cathedral. Bummer, life still doesn’t want me to become a Metal God – so cruel.
I already had a deliberately Vangelis Blade Runner styled track called “Hunting Electric Men” that I made for a competition, not really thinking of it as ever being an album track. But the pattern findingng part of me couldn’t help but realize that there was a pattern; The Watchers of the Bible were here to look after us, Deckard in “Blade Runner” was also protecting humanity. I had a theme – not even thinking about how I was lost, as I hadn’t quite admitted that.
I set about writing and researching about legends & stories of the beings who protect us. I didn’t want to stay only with the obvious ones like Angels, I needed to include the unexpected characters like Judge Dredd and the Terminator, who generally wouldn’t be included in such high company as winged Angels. because life isn’t choosy. To the Buddhists, a Bodhisattva is anyone who steps into the role of caring for other creatures so it only seemed right that I do the same. It was when I encountered “the Wounded Healer” in some online videos about dealing with Narcissists that I knew I had to investigate that archetype. That of course led straight to the Astrological Chiron and even a poem called “Prayer To Chiron”. The prayer bit is important as that is what reminded me that the music I am writing is really me using music to work out my stuff. My life issues.
This leads me back to the start. A day or so after writing Chiron (and thinking about what it means) I got a call from my Mother asking me to go live with her again. Again as she has raised this over the last month or so and I have resisted: 45, single, unemployed and lives with Mother. Not a good look. Only this time Mother sold it to me like a job. Here was that “job doing anything for a boss who understands and wants me”. Canny old lady. Art is clever.
The human brain makes art as ways to work stuff out – that is exactly what the next book I picked up is all about – The Art of Healing by Bernie Siegel. I may have read this before but the Lieberry put it back in my hands right now. Life is sneaky and helpful if you give it the opportunity. I give you the album Watchers:
- Walking The Wolf’s Trail – The Wolf is a common theme in several cultures. Sometimes the Wolf is a slavering beat like a Werewolf but commonly the Wolf is a caring (if somewhat aloof) protector. The image in this piece is the North American Indian idea of the Milky Way as the Wolf’s tail and walking the tail is getting closer to our true self (or spirituality if you prefer that horrid and misleading term). This starts the album by asking you to step out of your normal and see what the universe has to offer.
- Chamuel of Gevurah – Don’t be upset as many Angels have different versions of their names from one culture and time to another. What’s in a name as the story remains the same. Chamuel is the tough love Angel who helps us face the facts and make the right decisions. Some things have to go to allow space for new things.
- Guanyin Bodhisattva – Guanyin has many names. I like this aspect best as she listens to the pains of all beings and won’t give up till we hare all saved from ourselves. Guanyin will soothe all who allow.
- Call to Chiron 2060 – This title is deliberately a bit clever. I did actually consider Prayer to Chiron but that was taken by that poem – besides prayer seems a bit too religious for me. It then amused me greatly when I realized that Chiron (the planetoid) has an “object number” like all the asteroids I already wrote about. So it is a call going out to the healer at address 2060 in the Solar System. Help me find my way.
- Eye of the Illuminati – Some people may be opposed to this as they think that if (and it is an if) the Illumiati exist they are here to screw us. Pfft. If you are that good then you realize already that evil is a losing proposition. Anyway, stop being paranoid and enjoy the nice big melody. Helpers help, even if you don’t understand them at the time.
- Ozymandias – This isn’t the first time I have played to the Oz Man (no not Ozzy Osbourne). “The Standing Man” from the “The Flowers of Technology” was about Ozy as was “The Last Journey of Ramesses” (can’t remember the album title). Ozy may also seem a strange choice but he makes sense to me as a he is now just a watcher. I figure that if he watches then he must care. If not he just watches and does no harm by that. Sometimes we all have downtime and best not to fight it – relax.
- Azazel The Watcher – This is not an easy piece. It is the one that started as a Doom Metal piece. It deliberately relies on a lot of close changes of notes that with all the (digital) amp distortion makes for some jarring moments. The Watchers were the Angels that God set to look after us here on Earth. They weren’t supposed to interfere, just watch over us (against what I wonder?). But of course they meddled (and gave birth to the Nephilim). Azazel was the Watcher who taught us about war. Well done.
- T-800 Model 101 V2 – If you know your movies then you know this is the version of the Arnie character in Terminator II, the Terminator who goes on to protect John Connor. Yet in reality Arnie is saving the whole human race. Sometimes the thing we start out fighting is the very thing we should be fighting for.
- Dredd – Continuing on the modern theme, I have always liked the idea of Judge Dredd (despite not liking the comic). I have long yearned for the idea of the Street Judge as the ultimate Wild West Lawman, delivering swift natural justice to ensure the world stays on-track for us all. I think that after a certain point letting someone attack people again is a failing on the “good” man’s part.
- Hunting Electric Men – This was deliberately written to emulate some of the sound and feel of Vangelis’ pieces from Blade Runner. Like the Terminator, Deckard is a modern protector of life. He stops the Replicants who are bad but attempts to save Rachael, who is also synthetic. He has no reason to see her “retired” so has to save her even though it is against the rules, because she represents a return to life and love.
- Sparrows of the Day’s End – It used to be a common belief that birds carried the soul to heaven after death. This seems largely forgotten except for Stephen King’s “The Dark Half”. People I spoke to about this idea seemed decidedly uncomfortable with it. I doubt anyone ever suggested that this was literally the case but birds do have a habit of appearing at the time people pass. It is a timely reminder that sometimes the things beneath our notice are the very signs we need.
- Night Light – This is perhaps the oddest entry here (yet for many very comforting) as a night light is completely inanimate. A bulb. yet a night light does protect us from the darkness. It is the little reminder that there will be a new day and that till then we can be safe from the monsters (in our minds).
- Mr Grey of Pleiades – “Mr Grey, Mr Grey, tell me are you here to stay?” Johnny Warman from the “Walking Into Mirrors” album. This piece was intended to be an out-take but it sneaked in there at the end after “Night Light” – as I guess Mr Grey does. The title was really a joke and play on the desire to believe in aliens both good and bad as being our saviors. They may have some great advice for us but if they are mortal then they are no better off than us. This reminds us to listen to those around us but ultimately to make our own decisions about what is right for own own life.
There was also an non-album single which is an instrumental cover of the Alan Parsons Projects’s “Eye In The Sky”. In many ways I didn’t meant to make this but I had some spare time when I wasn’t ready to make another proper track and this idea arrived. I’m glad I did it though as it has always been such a special track to me.