Blood & Treasure

For the last few months I feel I have been a bit like a Regent’s Park Zoo baboon: cooped up, scratching my head a lot, occasionally venturing out to perform……… recording, and most lately ruining a Burns Evening for people following a disagreement with Glenmorangie……..

“Blood & Treasure” has been all consuming for many months now, but the new record is finally done. I have put my complete heart, soul and the pithy remains of my increasingly thinning pockets into it and whatever happens, I am incredibly proud of what we have produced. For those of you who kindly bought my last EP “Farewell to Arms” (FTA…..), there is more artistry and maturity to the writing and production.  Over the months of writing prep, 8 days of recording in Harrogate and 1 in London, my overriding thoughts extended to wanting to create music that had vibe; something with a real sense of identity and instrumental and lyrical integrity to make it stand on its own as a piece of art.  I’ve worked pretty hard with some amazing people to make it so, but as ever, the jury commences when I release the EP independently in April.

“Blood & Treasure”, started it’s growth in a Fulham art studio in October 2012 before I’d even recorded the first EP.  I was on a period of leave, and my friend and artist Freddy Paske met up at his friend’s studio to do a bit of painting and writing, and discuss artistic ideas for FTA. Before long the topic drifted to the War in Afghanistan.  We lamented our expectation of political disengagement from that campaign in readiness for the next UK election, the missed opportunities for a settlement, referring to the age-old poetic expression of vast expense of blood and treasure to the nation, or put more simply, lives and money. “You should write something about ‘Blood and Treasure'”, said Freddy, casually applying careful brush strokes to a canvas of an Afghan soldier being treated on a helicopter. “Catchy title and has a lot of meaning”.

At the time, I was unwittingly writing the bluesy riff that opens the title track of this new EP whilst we chatted, not really concentrating on what my fingers were doing, but just jamming away semi-consciously while we exchanged thoughts and ideas.  When I left the studio later that day, I knew I had something and parked it away for the time being. It was not until I went away to Laos in March 2013 and re-visited the idea, that it properly started to take shape.

When I look back now, that period of travel was a remarkable time. I waited 4 or 5 days from setting off from England before putting pen to paper, initially noting down figurative ideas, before finding whole songs born in the most haphazard of places. From shacked rest stops to bohemian indo-chine cafés, to muddy banks and charming guesthouses on the upper reaches of the Nam Ou River, I was akin to a passing stranger absorbing every smell, sight and sound, seeking to unlock thought and reflection in the most earnest way I could.  It wasn’t until I got to Bali’s upper South-West coast though, that what I was writing really started to excite me. The isolation there was the captain of my mind, binding together gentle solitude with its earthly, unspoilt beauty and my heavy reading list that aided and abetted a flourish of pieces that now make up half the EP. Of the songs, “Barricades”, is a nod to both Jack Kerouac’s, “On the Road”, and Hermann Hesse’s, “The Wandering”, (given to me by a friend and is a great read) and both these connected with my wanderer’s mindset. “The Whipping Tail”, originally a poem of 11 verses now cut down for the EP, was later written on Gilli Meno. My girlfriend, who joined me for my last two weeks, took a photo of me writing the latter without me knowing, so engrossed I was in the sudden explosion of thoughts I had.  Though it has now been shortened, what you will eventually hear are the exact lyrics I wrote last May on those sands; I have found no reason to edit them.

Gigging in Streatham

Gigging in Streatham

The rest of 2013 seems now to have passed in a flash. It was a great summer and autumn of writing, but aftermath of the first EP launch was a professionally trying period. Hundreds of magazines, bloggers, labels were written to with personal notes and CDs to accompany, but the interest back from the music industry was frustrating.  I still had no money coming in and was doing a lot of scratching…… What does one do then? You go and create something ten times better and this is what I have done.

I have a lot of people to thank who have helped keep me focused and to whom without, the next EP probably wouldn’t have been made. My parents firstly, for their amazing positivity and continuing support; my sister Chiara; my flatmates Chips and Bryony for your generosity and sense of humour(!); James Ottignon, Giles Rolls & Mike Tench, for your wise words; Rory Gill, for your taste in literature; Freddy Paske, my friend, artist and for sowing the seed for the EP title;  Laurence & Jenny Whittingham for putting me up during recording, Harry Hood for the mattress, Paul Gamwell for a bed in the Sergeants’ Mess; Dan Mizen for your sofa (!) and incredible talent in the studio; Miriam Wakeling, for your beautiful cello playing; Frank Mizen, for your genius; Dave Dunn-Birch, for your lungs (!); George Stewart-Lockhart my graphic designer; the QRLads, the Titans and anyone who has ever come to see me perform, I thank you; and lastly H, because you are my constant inspiration.

In the meantime, I will leave you with a teaser of what’s to come…………Teaser: Blood & Treasure

Much love,

AR x

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Aside

Latest on the “Grand Plan”………

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You feel like you’re climbing a wall and just when you feel like you’re getting to the top of it, some bastard lays another line of bricks.”

Dan Mizen

It seems strange to think that my EP launch gig was just over two months ago.  The golden summer of 2013 was still in full flow, the underground, a sweatbox at the best of times, was a constant furnace I feared whenever I ventured down there, and barely a day went by when I wasn’t in shorts and flipflops. Now the ominous sign of yellow leaves lazily dusting the streets and pavements is everywhere. Autumn is here with a vengeance, Winter is pressing and that wonderful summer is now a fading memory.  As I walked home yesterday with the wind biting, the night sky darkening and my eyes tiring, I reflected on the months since the gig and more pertinent to that evening, my earnings after an hour’s busking on the Southbank: 1 pound.  And so I then bought a tin of chopped tomatoes………

Despite that meagre profit from street performing, there is plenty to be pleased about. The EP initially hit 12 on the iTunes singer/songwriter chart, the artwork (by my pal Freddy Paske-look him up!) is fantastic, visually evocative and completely hit the nail on the head of what I wanted.  I’ve also managed to get some plays on local radio, BFBS Radio and on a BBC Radio 6 Introducing Show , which is great, but they have limited ceiling of exposure for the moment. The aftermath however, has felt a little frustrating: I feel there is more I could have done, but yet I’m at loss to pinpoint exactly what.  People are kind to say I should be pleased with what I have achieved (re the EP), but in the age where the daily uptake on Facebook inevitably includes someone posting about a new house, their dog, engagement, pregnancies, new bambinos, career acceleration etc, I feel the acceleration of time catching up to achieve greatness/idolatry/security blahblah, as a I approach the age of dare I say it 29…….err maybe err 30……….

Laying down a demo for future recordings...

Laying down a demo for future recordings…

And so trying to figure out what to do next is proving tricky.  Not that I didn’t expect it to and indeed it would be boring it there wasn’t a challenge, that’s part of the excitement in taking risk. I’ve spent more time recently combing the social media waves than I do playing my guitar annoyingly, sending stuff off to the industry and researching until well gone midnight.  The modern musician has to be more than just a guy/girl playing a guitar in club sadly because there is so much music out there, too much, I even heard a prominent radio DJ say recently on an online seminar.  Each day often feels like a mix between trying to win the lottery and applying for a job; to the hundreds of journos, record labels, radio producers who just don’t get back to you.

This then leads you in to thinking several things; either the music is not quite good enough, perhaps they are unexcited by the whole ex-army thing, or anything I send them was wedged and lost amongst the thousand other pretenders.  I suspect it is a mix of all three, but much as though I wouldn’t like to admit it, it perhaps lies for heavily with the former.   I am never going to write pastiche pop, something that is immediately accessible for the industry dons, but if I am going to make it, someone is going to need to get behind what I’m trying to do. And this is the bugger: finding the bastard………

98% of commercial radio music comes from a database and to get on that database, you need to have a decent mainstream radio producer or DJ on board.  To get to that producer or DJ, unless you have an amazing contact who will help you out, you usually need a radio plugger, and for a good one these bastards usually charge between £3-5000, but, there is no guarantee it gets on air.  For the big labels this is ishmish money, but to a small independent artist like myself it is currently out of reach.  So, I’m trying to work outside the box to get to these “DJs/Producers/god-like beings” and whilst I’ve managed to get some reasonable contacts, so far most has been to no avail.  It can unsurprisingly be a little deflating when you have worked so hard on something, poured so much of your own money into it, and the industry is just not interested.  For example, a while back I’d emailed a couple of songs to a guy who managed a serious mainstream artist; he said they were ok but to come back again when I had something more.  When it was ready, I sent him “Silhouettes”, to which his reply read, “to be quite frank, disappointing”.   I sat with my lips pursed, in pretentious contemplation, feeling like a rebuked schoolboy wondering how he could possibly be disappointed with a song that has the ‘nouse’ to subtly reference Shakespeare? “Who else does this?” I was shouting angrily at my laptop.  When I came down off my high perch, I realised maybe he didn’t notice or even care, but quite probably, just didn’t rate it as a song.

It feels now more than ever like being a small fish in in sea of sharks, and yes, no-one likes getting nibbled, but to quote that paragon of stubborn, pig-headed resilience Winston Churchill, I’ve got to “keep buggering on”. If I want it as much as I say I do.  So, I acknowledge mistakes made (there were plenty), I knuckle down, keep plugging the EP where I can, get better and bring out better music.  It is a hard business, and like any tough venture, you have to be thick-skinned to surpass all the shit and hope that inevitably a good slice of luck will come your way.

Studio time is now booked for a week at the end of November to record the next EP and I’m currently trying to decide which songs to put on it. The shortlist is about 10 and the aim is to continue the next EP in the same vain with Freddy again doing the artwork.  I’m also looking to put out a live album of the St Pancras gig, so for those that were there in August and wish to hear it again, I’m hoping it will be ready in time for Christmas. I’m also hoping to do some sort of UK tour in the New Year before the next release.

So, if you’re reading this and wish to help my cause,  spread the music among friends http://www.soundcloud.com/antonyraine (to stream) https://itunes.apple.com/gb/album/farewell-to-arms-ep/id687330213 (to buy) or if you really feel like jumping on board, come and say hello at my facebook page http://www.facebook.com/AntonyRaine.uk 

Yours aye,

Antony

P.S If anyone would like to be involved in any way, whether it’s offering PR ideas, interesting places to play on my tour, or who knows any eccentric, philanthropic person who might wish to sponsor my crazy dream, please drop me a line at antonyraine@hotmail.co.uk Maybe I can write you a song in return 🙂

FREE DOWNLOAD: https://soundcloud.com/antonyraine/silhouettes

My song of the week: Aretha Franklin   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pxb-9p5hdRY

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