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Last update: February 2024

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I make music. These days, I make lots of music in all sorts of different genres. My latest release is a collection of instrumental tracks I recorded at home in December 2023 and January 2024. My new Geddy Lee signature Fender Jazz Bass features as prominently in the music as it does on the cover; as it's a J-bass, the album is called Jaywalking. As always, the new album is available for streaming and download at Bandcamp, where you can also explore my extensive discography of older material.

SOLAR POWERED BLOG

It took a bit longer than expected to get things connected (which was not the company's fault; the weather here for the past ten days or so has been absolutely atrocious. There are large puddles in what's left of the front garden and the back lawn is like a swamp) but everything is up and running and I'm writing this blog entry using a computer that is being powered by nothing more than sunlight.

The current phase of work on the house is finished, the scaffolding has been taken down, and despite it being rather overcast outside right now, the photovoltaic panels on my roof are producing more than a kilowatt of electricity, which is more than sufficient to fulfil my electricity needs inside with some left over to charge the new storage cell in the garage, which as I write this is just under half full. Yesterday at noon when the Sun came out I was getting more than 5 kW from the system.

This week I'll be switching to an energy supplier who will pay me for any excess power that I can export back to the grid, but even after 48 hours I can see just how big a dent all this work will be making to my energy bills. And it feels very good to know I'm doing my bit to help the environment.

I don't think the garage has looked this tidy since I moved here, almost twenty-nine years ago. The storage cell is the size of an average fridge so I had to make room for it by getting rid of an awful lot of the crap in there that I've been hanging on to by telling myself "this might come in useful one day." The same applies to the loft; now that I can get up there safely and without exerting myself, I've been sorting through what's up there and getting rid of large amounts of product packaging and general rubbish. Last Thursday, I put out nearly three cubic metres of cardboard for the recycling team.

So I really feel like I've achieved stuff this month. All the same, I'm looking forward to a few weeks where I don't have to get up at 7am each morning to get things ready for the day's work to begin. I'd forgotten what that was like, and I'm very glad I don't do that on a regular basis any more...

MORE THAN ALMOST THERE

With all the comings-and-goings I've been somewhat distracted, as the gap in blog entries below clearly testifies. I've not felt like I was in the right frame of mind for making music very much, although I did take the "When life gives you lemons" approach to my muse and wrote a song that features recordings of the construction noise that was a regular part of the proceedings called If you build it, they will come and people found it funny (which was my intention).

As of right now, I have thirteen songs listed on my FAWM profile but I have another two pieces that I'm working on with other FAWMers in the process of being written. Today I'll do another few ambient pieces to relax and unwind from the disruption of the past two weeks, and that will take me comfortably over the finish line well before the site stops accepting new songs at noon on Friday.

And it's nice working on music knowing that I am quite literally Working On Sunshine.

GETTING THINGS DONE

Where did the last week go? I've not had time to fire up NetBeans and do a blog update, for which I apologise. I've got a number of projects on the go and blogging has rather taken a back seat.

For a start, there have been home improvements. Polyfilla was involved. And so were drills and my trusty jigsaw. Tomorrow, I'm having a fitted wardrobe and shelves built in the guest room and that has meant moving the ancient bed in there out of the way and taking down the existing shelves, which I put up shortly after I moved here. They were made from MDF and after the best part of thirty years they were really starting to sag. With the bedroom clear of its usual clutter (which is currently spread around the dining room) I was able to give the room a thorough deep clean, for which it was long overdue. I didn't have dust bunnies under the bed; I had dust sheep.

As I had my toolbox ready I also finally got round to putting a second tier of shelves back in the airing cupboard after they were taken down when I had the new hot water system installed. That meant that the pile of towels that has been sitting in my bedroom for the past month and a half is now back where it should be. I reckon I did a good job on all of this, and it's another example of giving my self-esteem a little boost by showing myself that I can actually achieve little things like this instead of putting them off and then beating myself up about not getting them done. The roots of that particular aspect of my psychology go back to my childhood and run very deep indeed. One task that I still need to address is upgrading this website so that it uses secure protocols rather than its current vintage, plain old http. That's in progress, but it will probably be March before I get round to sorting everything out. I'm too involved with other things right now.

January was a bust for more mundane domestic work, too. So today the washing machine is busy and at some point I will have to tackle the large pile of ironing that has accumulated on one of the armchairs in the living room. I think ironing is my least favourite household chore, largely because when I worked in Bristol I would have to wear a shirt and tie every day and I hate ironing shirts.

By close of play tomorrow, the house will be covered in scaffolding. On Monday, work begins on converting the house to run as much as possible on electricity generated by arrays of PV panels on the roof of the house (and on the garage roof as well, which apparently pushes the amount of electricity I could supply back to the grid over a threshold that involves more paperwork, because of course it does). I'm told that the work will take about a week, and I'm expecting a certain amount of disruption to things.

But I'm really looking forward to the end results of all this work, particularly if it means having my energy supplier owing me money instead of the other way around...

FIVE DOWN

On Friday I collected my Roland Juno-60 and JX-3P from the synthesizer doctor and over the weekend they were both pressed into service to lend a suitably retro feel to the prog stylings I've been recording for this year's FAWM challenge. I've been making good progress and have already recorded three songs and two instrumentals, so I'm well ahead of where I should be for hitting the target of fourteen songs by the end of the month. I intend spending today making more music, too.

But unfortunately the Juno-60 seems to have failed on me again. Not surprisingly, forty-year-old synths need plenty of TLC to keep them at match fitness and after taking things easy for the best part of a year, I guess that playing a full ninety minutes was too much for a vital component inside it somewhere. It worked fine for my first couple of recording sessions but now, although it powers up and its LEDs and lights come on, I can't get a peep out of it. So that will be going back to Puretech when I collect my Juno-106, which should be fitted with a new set of voice chips in the very near future.

Nevertheless (hastily touches wood) the JX-3P is back from the dead, now fully restored and sounding as glorious as ever. I even managed to find the old Memorex C-90 cassette I'd backed its user presets up to at some point in the early 1980s, and I was utterly astonished to discover that—once I'd consulted its operating manual to remind myself what to do—I was able to restore these to the appropriate slots in its memory. Which is just as well; although I programmed the sounds without needing the synth's optional PG-200 programmer, I prefer knob twiddling these days. But a second-hand PG-200 changes hands these days for more than I paid for the JX-3P when it was new!

OUCHIE

But I've been doing all of this while a bunch of kidney stones have been making things most uncomfortable. Yesterday in particular the pain was very nearly at the "I'm gonna throw up" level, and trust me: if you've never been there, count yourself very lucky indeed. But all my activity yesterday seems to have shifted things slightly and they're nowhere near as stabby today. I hope they stay that way.

NOT ENOUGH HOURS IN THE DAY

There aren't. Seriously.

It's the first of February which means that FAWM is under way, with the site opening its doors for songs to be posted from noon GMT onwards. But it's now the afternoon, and I haven't even had a chance to open the curtains in my bedroom studio yet. I've been doing all sorts of other administrative and largely non-creative things all morning and I thought that the idea of being retired was that you would have plenty of time to devote to the things you like doing. Is that not the case, then?

Okay, to be fair one of the things I've already done today is launch my new album, whose cover graces the top of this page. The album is called Jaywalking and I'm very proud of it. And if you want to get yourself a copy, it's Bandcamp Friday again tomorrow, just sayin'.

But I'm already itching to start making music again, particularly as my new Korg Wavestate MkII and Midas mixer have arrived, and they have both been successfully integrated into my studio set-up. Last night I bedded them in with a solo jam session using the Korg M3, Opsix, and Wavestate Mk2, just improvising and seeing how well they would play together. Very well indeed, it turned out. One of the joys of digital synthesizers is being able to set the tempo of things like arpeggiators and sequencers to incredibly specific values and once they've been set, they stay set; they don't drift out of synch like old analogue synths do! In fact things went so well last night that I found it difficult to switch everything off and go to bed, but I knew I had a lot of things to do today before I could start FAWMing, so I needed an early night. "Early" turned out to be 11:30 or so, and I was still wide awake at 1 am. So it goes...

Tomorrow's going to be another busy day, but I'm looking forwards to putting the results to good use. Hopefully next week will be a little less frenetic and I will be more able to focus on getting a few songs under my belt on my FAWM profile page. All will become clearer on the pages of the blog before too long, so stay tuned...