September 14th, 2016

It’s been a while, and then some. After a number of line-up changes over the last few years and a shed-load of work on my part and the parts of a number of other wonderful people, we are finally at the point of playing our first “official” gig. We have been dipping our toes the last while, getting some stage experience, tweaking arrangements, sometimes unplugged, sometimes down a member or two, but always pushing onwards. The songs have evolved and rather than going for a note for note recreation of the recordings previously done, we have approached it from the point of view of letting people play to their strengths and it has worked out. We sound like a band, and that is something. At last, at last we are here. And where are we?

 

The Gypsy Rose 5 Aston Quay, Dublin 2 on October 15th

 

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Tiny Telephone Exchange: The Elephant and the Astronaut 

February 26th, 2014

trial by ordeal - a primitive method of determining a person’s guilt or innocence by subjecting the accused person to dangerous or painful tests believed to be under divine control; escape was usually taken as a sign of innocence

 

… or how we made our first album. Jesus. Fucking. Christ. The plan was a simple one, roping the songs we had already done piecemeal together with some new ones to make a cohesive, coherent album. We just need to rerecord some of the instruments for the older tracks and do a bunch of newer tracks from scratch …

 

Here we are some 16 months later. Two things, number one, it’s done, and, number two, we are happy with it. No small feat.

 

The wheels are being set in motion for the assembly of the live ensemble. Watch this space.

November 25th, 2012

Walking home from the studio at 6 am on a Monday morning. People going home from work, people going to work, people just going home. I wonder how those who have been up all night look fresher than those just up, deliveries, a stir or activity, a strange time, I’m not sure where I fit into all of this. The fact that the sun is up and the day has most clearly begun lends the whole thing an air of the surreal, a partially abandoned city. Adrenalised, hyper-wakeful, my head still on fire with work. It’s going to be another hour or so before I have wound down enough to get to sleep, in fact I feel so good I consider not going to bed at all, this would be a mistake…

Famous last words, almost. I wrote these sometime in the summer but never got around to posting them. The goalposts got moved. We had been working on songs piecemeal, some new ones nearly even finished, then the opportunity came to do an album proper. The rabbit hole is proving deeper than expected, but May of next year has been set as a deadline. This is an appointment I intend to keep.

June 24th, 2012

Sunday morning, praise the dawning
It’s just a restless feeling by my side
Early dawning, Sunday morning
It’s just the wasted years so close behind

 

Sunday Morning – The Velvet Underground

 

Sunday, the day of rest, though for those of us tending to our music on the edge of a working week it is more often than not anything but restful. The restless feeling and the wasted years, most Sundays these are like an itch that can’t be scratched, but today we are back in the studio.

June 6th, 2012

Our progress still has that slow but inevitable feeling blah blah blah How often can this theme turn up in blog posts? Well, the answer is quite often. Making music is a lot like any other kind of work most of the time, as in it feels like work. That’s a good thing.

Patti Smith and The Smiths, apt adopted title and craft. The physical aspect of creation, fashioning, shaping with a hammer. Songs, something crafted as opposed to just spontaneously coming into being.

March 31st, 2012

This post has taken a long time to get around to, though I guess that’s a good sign. We’ve been busy. And in particular I’ve been busy, obsessing over the details large and small of our new tracks, not necessarily making a huge amount of progress, but taking great comfort out of at least trying to make progress. It feels more like becoming familiar with problems as opposed to actually solving them, and though I know that I’m possibly not the one who the solutions will come to in the end, seeing as I was the one who started all this I feel obliged to at least try.

Regardless, things are coming together slowly but surely. I say slowly when in fact the pace has picked up quite a bit compared to when we first started recording together. A couple of factors have contributed to this. Firstly, I’ve really had to make an effort to improve over the last couple of years, mainly because the standard of the people I am working with is quite high. Having to fight for my place at the table has taught me a lot.

Otherwise, I am meddling less. I have accepted that other people are a lot better at some stuff than I will probably ever be, so now I just let them get on with it. When I first started I had some notion of myself being an auteur. I’m not. In hindsight this idea actually seems pretty farcical. You work with people who are good enough and they don’t need anything other than just being allowed to do their thing. This is the first time I’ve found myself in this situation. This is a good situation to be in.

And what does this all mean for TTE? Well, it feels like we are moving forward.

Feb 21st, 2012

I didn’t think songwriting would be so hard until I tried to do it myself. I had always just presumed that all those songs that I loved, that sounded so right, that sounded like the way they were was the only way they could be, that they had just materialised fully formed to whoever it was that wrote them.

I discovered that that isn’t how it works, for me at least. You see quotes from various people saying “the best songs come quickly”, and sometimes things do develop relatively quickly, but most of the time they don’t, or if they do develop quickly they do so up until about three quarters of the way through before coming to an unceremonious halt.

It gets to feeling like you are edging your way around a cluttered room in the dark looking for something, and you’re not even sure what it is that that something is supposed to be. And this is where collaboration comes into play. When working with Tiny Telephone Exchange I have felt like sometimes I was in that darkened room, on my knees trying to locate a book of matches that I thought had fallen from my pocket so that I might for a second get my bearings, when one of the others has thrown open a window or even knocked a door where previously there hadn’t been one thus flooding the room with light.

February 9th, 2012

So it begins again. Somehow in the months since we were last in the studio I forgot how much work was involved, I forgot that this is, in many ways, the most difficult thing I have ever done.

The judgements are severe. People don’t care how much time or lifeblood has gone into something, all that matters is what they are hearing and how it makes them feel. In the past I have spent obscene amounts of time on things which even as I was doing them I knew they weren’t good enough. There is something both terrible and great about working for 26 or 27 hours straight through only to realise that every single bit of what you have done is not fit for the purpose intended.

You ask yourself if what you are doing is really what you should be doing? There have been times I have wished that music didn’t exist, that I could have gone through life ignorant of its magic, that I could have been happy doing something else, something where I could go home in the evening and not have this thing exerting an irresistible influence over me.

And every time I came out the other side of one of those endurance sessions, I felt like I was being cast by my own shadow, like the universe was teaching me a lesson, that if I wanted to do this, it had to be done without ego.

And that is what I hear when I listen to our music. The absence of individual ego, our commitment as a group of people to trying to make something great, great for the sake of making it great, so that when it’s finished we know that we did right by it. And sometimes this takes time. Sometimes it feels like you are barely moving. But then there are other times when things move in ways unexpected and wonderful, and those are the times you tend to remember, the times that make you forget all the hard work.

February 1st, 2012

It’s been just over a week since the digital release of our first single. How do I feel? Empty.

My old life didn’t explode apart, I still go to work every day, doing all the same things as I did before.

I wasn’t really expecting things to change, but it would have been nice if they had. I wouldn’t mind, but I saw this anti-climax coming. Sometimes though, knowing something is coming doesn’t mean it can be avoided.

The making of the EP was such an all consuming process, moving fitfully, as the other stuff in life and money stuff dictated the where and the how. I think it’s natural to feel that at the end of something there should should be an actual end instead of more beginnings or things continuing to edge along their current trajectories.

And what’s the lesson in all this?  Life is rarely like a compelling narrative in which the peaks and troughs fall where they should for maximum dramatic impact. And sometimes all you can do is ask to be shown the next card. And that’s what we are doing, going back into the studio again this weekend.

I’d like to say that I have a really solid plan, but I don’t. I have some sketches which I have a good feeling about, and I have faith in the ability of the other members of TTE to surprise and humble me at every turn with their greatness as both people and musicians.

About Me

I dream of music. I don’t think this holds any significance beyond that I spend a lot of time thinking about music when I am awake.

Sometimes I am playing with a fluency that I don’t possess when awake. Mostly I hear completed songs, sometimes played by other people, sometimes played by us. I used to wake up and scramble for a instrument trying to remember what I could before it was lost. Now I just accept this loss, but am grateful for the part of me that lives in dreams having left a smouldering footprint in the snow between sleeping and waking. This is the first reason Tiny Telephone Exchange exists, the literal realisation of dreams.

Image courtesy of and © David G Kelly

One of my earliest memories is hearing Johnny Cash for the first time. The tape which belonged to my father had been stashed away somewhere for some reason and now for equally unknown reasons it was brought out again. When Ring of Fire started up I could sense its authority, its authenticity, the musicians’ authority and authenticity, the sparks pouring off them even at a distance of more than 20 years and thousands of miles. This has stayed with me, a moment where the world shifted a notch, where there was a tangible feeling of one moment of my life collapsing into another. This is the second reason Tiny Telephone Exchange exists, the need to feel that feeling again.

Another early memory that stands out is one of being read the story of Pinocchio; there is one particular part at the beginning where Geppetto, when asked what he is doing after having fallen, replies that he is “teaching the ants their ABCs”, I remember the thrill of this line, I remember the anticipation of hearing it read to me, the shape of the cadences as they fell, language revealing its power to communicate something abstract and wonderful.  This is the third reason that Tiny Telephone Exchange exists, the desire to tell some kind of story, one that speaks for us in our absence.

I don’t want to miss a thing

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