More of that Pointless Blog Stuff

Chris's Blog Archive: March 2022

Another tough month. I was expecting to crash pretty hard after pushing myself to break my FAWM songwriting record but even so, the last half of the month saw me at a particularly low ebb—as you can see by the way my blog post rate drops off. Doing a bit of spring cleaning lifted the gloom temporarily, but it didn't last.

But I had fun resurrecting a microphone that is as old as I am and using it in the studio...

I make music. In fact, I make lots of music. And the results of all that music making are available for you to listen to. My latest release is called By The Numbers. It comprises fourteen tracks in a weird selection of time signatures which range from a waltz to 19/16, and you can even hear me singing in 7/8 time. Once again, it's a name your price deal, so you can get it for free. Go!


Okay, I seem to have moved from "a fair amount" of discomfort that I mentioned in my last post to "considerable". It now takes me around three hours to get to sleep at night because I can't settle. And if I inadvertently move the wrong way once I've actually managed to fall asleep, the pain wakes me up again. I feel exhausted, I'm still having flashback issues, and I have no motivation to do anything much at the moment because it feels like I'm getting absolutely nowhere with any of it.

It's grim.

But as I said on my stream last week, giving up on making music isn't something that I'd ever contemplate. The fundamental reason why I make music is so I can hear what happens. I don't do it for financial gain, or in order to win the approval of others. I just enjoy being able to walk in to a room here in the house, work in there for a few hours, and then walk back out with a new piece of music that didn't previously exist. To me, that's pretty much magic. It's also more or less all that's keeping me going at the moment.


There's a section about the microphones that I use in the studio on my music page, and there's a photo of the Reslo RBL that my father used to use with his Ferrograph tape recorder back in the day. Last year I gave a demo of it during one of my Twitch shows by plugging the gigantic old quarter-inch jack plug fitted to it into my mixer. It sounded terrible. It is such a low-gain mic that I had to wind the mixer's gain up as high as it would go just to hear anything, and most of what we all heard was hiss.

But last weekend I took the jack plug off it and soldered on a Neutrik XLR connector instead. That meant that I could use it with my FetHead microphone preamplifier, a nifty little gadget that adds 29dB of gain to dynamic or ribbon mics, which I use with my Shure SM7B.

And oh boy, what a difference the FetHead makes. Rather than being bathed in a sea of white noise, I got a rich and bright sound out of the Reslo. I ended up being quite tempted to just use it for live streams from now on, because it's a lot better at picking up my voice when I move further away from the mic. It doesn't have the same lush proximity effect that the SM7B does, although you'd need to be listening on a decent system to hear the Reslo's shortcomings. At high mids and high frequencies it leaves a dynamic mic in the dust.

They say a bad craftsman blames his tools, and perhaps there's a grain of truth in that. But in most cases, having the right tools is what makes all the difference.


This week the weather has been so warm that on several days I've kept the windows open for most of the afternoon. It's blown much of the winter fug away, even if the brain fog I mentioned in my last blog entry ten days ago is still very much in evidence. Stepping away from music making for a while means I can spend my time doing other things and while my default activity has been to catch up on my reading, over the last couple of weeks I have also been doing a fair amount of tidying up. In an extremely uncharacteristic burst of activity I gave the house a bit of a spring clean. The living room now looks tidier than it has done in months; there isn't a single item of unopened mail in the house. Everything has been sorted out and has been either acted upon and filed, shredded, or put into the recycling. Not only have I disposed of a pile of paperwork nearly a foot high, I have also cleared the dining table of several items that required DIY or soldering, and this has further helped to lift my mood. Addressing tasks like this—and in some cases I had been avoiding getting round to them for nearly a year—is a great way of fighting a depressive episode. It's hard to explain the inertia that can descend on you at times like this, and only fellow sufferers really know how hard it can be to address even the most trivial of tasks. There are plenty of other things awaiting my attention, of course. But the list of things to do is much smaller than it was last month.

I'm experiencing a fair amount of discomfort from my kidneys at the moment, though. My right side is particularly sore. Even so, I found enough energy and enthusiasm to go for a walk around the village earlier in the week, and that has also helped to lift my mood.


Over the last couple of days my principal activity has been sleeping. The runner-up has been taking naps. I feel utterly drained.

Yesterday I couldn't even muster up enough intellectual firepower to listen to music, let alone make any of my own. I guess this is to be expected, given that I've spent most of the last two years making music on what's been an almost daily basis. But the brain fog has most emphatically descended, and not even my regular large vat of morning coffee has been able to shift it. I don't think I'm suffering from proper burnout, per se, but it feels close enough that I'm not going to risk pushing through it and ending up with the real thing. I'm just going to take things easy for a while and let my batteries recharge.

Last night I was in bed by half-past nine, but I didn't get the ideal night's sleep I was hoping for, because just as I began to drift off to sleep, the local police helicopter arrived directly overhead and it spent most of the next hour shining its spotlight down on the Manor Lane area of the village...


I've just discovered that I now have over a thousand followers on Twitter! If you'd like to join them, you can follow me here.


On Wednesday night Juha and I did a last episode of FAWMtalk to wrap up February Album Writing Month for this year. We were joined by two very special guests, Sapient and Gordon, who between them somehow managed to write 160 songs during the last month...

We had lots to talk about and lots of music to play so it probably won't come as much of a surprise to learn that we overran by an entire hour.

We played the following pieces of music from our fellow FAWMers:

Too Much Baggage by tuneslayer
Unlikely Conversation On The Internet by tcelliott
Dust by taracraig and kahlo2013
Entfremdung by alonetogether and gardeningangel1
CAUGHT FEELINS by evinwolverton
Rodent by dreamscuba and spazsquatch
1 more night by wolfkier, kahlo2013, katestantonsings, sunnymae, and ferry0123
Daffodils by wobbiewobbit
I've never been to Ireland by pearlmanhattan

I've had so much fun doing these shows. Over the last fortnight in particular they have become part of my early-evening routine on a daily basis (although I did manage to take Tuesdays off). I have learned an awful lot about the creative processes that people have discovered which enable them to write fourteen or more songs in twenty-eight days. It's been brilliant to put faces to the names of FAWMers with whom I have interacted online in some cases for more than a decade. But for someone who rarely leaves the house these days, they've also been a godsend in allowing me to participate in some form of social activity, even if it only takes place virtually.

And all our guests have been lovely people, which is something to be treasured these days.


I will now be returning to my regular schedule of streaming on Thursday and Sunday evenings at 7:30 pm GMT over on Twitch. Sunday's show will be a post-FAWM retrospective where I talk about what I've learned this year, play a couple of my favourite compositions, and decide which of my new toys deserves the title of MVP.

I think it will take me a while to switch back to my usual routine, however. I'm still really tired at the moment, but I'm working on increasing the amount of exercise I get each day. Spending most of the last month sitting in the studio for hours at a time hasn't done my physical fitness any favours at all, even if I have somehow managed to lose weight (I suspect that happened partly because I've forgotten to eat on several occasions, but mainly because my alcohol intake has dropped to zero.)

Things in the wider world continue to be anything but normal, however. I'm trying to avoid doing too much doomscrolling on social media and I've given up watching the TV news. Instead, I've been playing with this rather excellent emulation of the Access Virus B/C synthesizer from the late 1990s, which was sending me into raptures on last night's Twitch stream.


February Album Writing Month, a songwriting challenge that sets you the task of writing an album's worth of music—fourteen songs—in the month of February, is over for another year. At the moment there are 12,792 songs posted on the site, and although that figure is likely to drop a little bit over the next month, it means that we've comfortably achieved FAWM escape velocity, which means that if you sat down to listen to every song created at midnight on Febrary 1st and didn't stop to sleep or take any breaks whatsoever, you'd still have songs left to hear by the time midnight on March 1st arrived. FAWM is a staggeringly fertile nexus of creativity and invention and every year I'm amazed by just how good the music is that gets posted there.

And despite saying that I wasn't going to attempt it because I'd stress myself out and drive myself mad trying, I ended up achieving a treble FAWM. By midnight last night I'd got 3 x 14 = 42 songs posted on my FAWM profile page. That figure is (of course) in honour of Douglas Adams, who would be 70 years old on March 11th, so I have dedicated my efforts this year to his memory.

I absolutely smashed my previous record of 32 songs, which I only set last year. Even though I'm ill and operating at nothing near my best, I have still managed to have a whale of a time doing FAWM. Making music and sharing it with other people has sustained me through some very dark times of late. I count myself lucky that I'm able to focus on being creative; it has helped to take my mind off other things and even provides a distraction from the discomfort that I'm in these days. Making so much music over the past eighteen months has also improved my skill set; the overall quality of stuff I'm producing is gradually but noticeably creeping up, and while all the songs on my profile page are first drafts (and should be listened to in that context), a few of them sound really promising. It feels like I'm getting somewhere.

But this morning I've taken my foot off the gas for the first time in four weeks and I'm really feeling it. I feel really groggy, I have a headache, and my energy levels (and general inclination to do anything very much) have dropped through the floor. Once the final FAWMtalk show concludes tomorrow night, I'll be taking things a bit easier for a while. I'm knackered.


I amazed myself by having enough time spare from making all those songs to continue acting as co-host of the FAWMtalk show on YouTube and since the last blog update Juha and I have done another three shows!

On Friday we were joined all the way from Canada by Alex Klages, a.k.a. Metalfoot. If you think that I've had a productive FAWM, you need to check out Alex's output: he managed to write and record eighty songs this year (and that includes a collaboration with yours truly.)

It was another fun show, and Alex revealed just how he can manage to sing like Axl Rose!

We played the following pieces of music from our fellow FAWMers:

Remorseful Love by ajna1960 and davidtaro
When the sun turns blue by mikeskliar
Living in clouds by karlsburg25
Aurora by jacobeverettwallace

Juha and I were right back the following evening with another show and another special guest from Canada. This time we were joined by Sean McGaughey, who is ductapeguy on FAWM.

It was another great show and Sean told some beautiful stories of his adventures as a music teacher. He gets his class to listen to the songs written by his fellow FAWMers and the class's comments are dutifully passed on to the artists. I am honoured to say that more than one of my songs has been played to the class and the comments I've received have been lovely—and very much appreciated!

We played the following pieces of music from our fellow FAWMers:

It's Love by adnama17, ampersandman, jamkar, and brownium
Wanderer Above the Sea of Fog by robynmackenzie
the right stations by cairobraga
Second Heart by ayehahmur

Last night Juha and I had the show to ourselves, but even so we still managed to run over by nearly half an hour. We got sidetracked a lot.

We played the following pieces of music from our fellow FAWMers:

Returns by berty38
I Don’t Think I’m Ready by carpeliam
Just Be My Maggie Mae by raspberry33
The Witness by kenmattsson

Even though you can no longer submit new songs to the FAWM site, we're not done with the show just yet; Juha and I will be back tomorrow night with a "FAWM is over" show, complete with not one but two special guests. It'll be a must-see event, so make sure you join us!