In previous weeks this blog has concerned itself with the mechanics of recording. The how - not the why. And that’s a question I find I increasingly ask myself…
I went to the pub this week. Fairly unusual in itself these days, but it was a special occasion - to celebrate the birthday of one of my oldest friends. Also a musician, but completely removed from the world of prog.
He’d recently decided to call an end to his long-standing band project. “I just can’t do it anymore,” he said. “The last album sold very little, and it just takes too much out of me for so little reward.” He wasn’t talking about money - though clearly that would have been nice. He was talking about sending his babies out into the void to universal indifference.
Now this is a guy with tremendous get up and go. Whose very being drips music. He once specially recorded a ska version of the Rush classic Jacob’s Ladder because he knew I loved the band and hated the genre! The album in question is without doubt his most polished and accomplished work. The world is truly a better place for it being in it. But he’d had enough. He’d promoted it as best he could, got a great live band together and gigged as heavily as possible. And all he had to show for it probably wouldn’t cover the cost of the guitar strings he’d used.
And I knew exactly what he meant.
My album’s at that stage where the end is now closer than the beginning. But there’ still so much to do, and, seemingly, never enough time to do it.
Unlike my friend I have the benefit of a profile built on the legacy of my previous work. My songs will be heard - by a few people at least. Some, undoubtedly, will buy them. But I increasingly wonder if that’s really enough to justify the financial and emotional cost that an album demands, not just from me, but my family as well.
My first ‘proper’ album (with Pallas) has just turned 30. The world of residential studios, major-label deals and endless tours that it was made in has all but disappeared except for a few of the most successful artists.
Most music in our genre is made by people who don’t make a full time living from it (or not much of one), but put in the hours of love and pure bloody-mindedness to make real the noises they hear in their heads. Frankly, we can’t help ourselves. We’re lone voices in the dark hoping someone might just hear what we’re saying and answer. But increasingly it seems the answers are fewer and further between.
If this is all a bit,’ long, dark teatime of the soul’ then so be it. Self-doubt is part of the creative process. But somehow the world has changed and perhaps I have to change with it.
I’m determined to finish this album. I’m determined to get out and gig it the best I possibly can. But I know it’s going to be harder work this time. Just like the last time was harder than the time before. The audience and the opportunities are dwindling. But still I feel the need to carry on.
But like my friend, I’m not sure I’ll do it again.