Five o'clock Blog

Chris's Blog Archive: November 2021

I have to admit that this month has been a real struggle. I seemed to be sick for most of it and the long nights triggered another bout of depression, making it very hard to do even simple things like get up in the mornings. Add to that the passing of one of my great heroes, Emmett Chapman, and this month is one that I won't be even slightly sorry to see the back of.

I'm still releasing albums on Bandcamp as pay-what-you-want deals, (and that continues to include free, because I know times are still hard for a lot of people right now.) The latest—the tenth full length album I've released in the last twelve months—includes songs written for this year's Fifty/Ninety songwriting challenge as well as brand new material. It's called Misdirection. This time around you get fifty-five minutes of music in fourteen eclectic tracks as I explore a variety of genres and even end up sounding like Tom Waits. I hope you'll enjoy listening to it.

My most recent commercial album Oneiric Tulpas is available on Bandcamp! You can also check it out on Spotify, Amazon Music, Apple Music, Tidal and all your other favourite streaming services. My previous album Beyond is also on Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon Music, Tidal and the rest as well.

My earlier albums Generator and Fort are also available at Bandcamp, together with a large collection of other music from me.


Restless isn't the half of it. Last night I had the worst night's sleep I've had since I started tracking it with the sensors in my watch a couple of years ago. I only managed to grab 18% of restorative, NREM sleep (on a good night these days, I have been getting between 45 and 50%) and I woke up at least four times. I'm not feeling too bright this morning. In fact I feel miserable.

And the reason? I have come down with the first proper cold I've had since the pandemic started. Clogged sinuses, runny nose, aches and pains, and plummeting energy levels. Last night I just could not get comfortable and I went through three handkerchiefs in attempting to clear my nose enough to be able to breathe through it.

Thing is, these are not times in which I can tell myself that "it's just a cold," so I have just taken a lateral flow test and I'm now waiting the required thirty minutes to see what result I get.


Actually, I suspect that my current sorry state isn't Covid at all, but instead is linked with the ear infection which I've been suffering from for the past couple of weeks. I still can't hear properly in my right ear, although that hasn't stopped me making some more music this week. Indeed, aside from the album that I will be releasing for Bandcamp Friday this week, I now have two other albums of instrumental music under way, each with its own theme.

Since I rebuilt my home recording studio a year ago, I've been pushing myself to attempt pieces of music that are way beyond my old comfort zone of I-IV-V blues progressions, but even so the music that I've been working on lately is taking me into unexplored territory. I'm starting to employ loops and samples for the first time, a side of the Komplete 13 Ultimate collection from Native Instruments that I've pretty much ignored in the past. My Komplete Kontrol S88 keyboard lets me access those loops and "one-shots" easily and intuitively and if I have the technology to hand, why not see what I can do with it?

While I don't trust my hearing enough right now to start creating with them, what I can do is RTFM and find out how they are best put to use. So I will be spending this enforced downtime poring over my ever-growing collection of user guides and pdfs of software manuals.

Fun times, eh?



So the reason for me feeling like crap today is non-Covid related. Which is good, I guess.


I have bad dreams pretty regularly. And by "bad" I mean the sort of nightmare that just gets worse and worse and you don't realise that you're dreaming because the horror overwhelms you and there seems to be no way out of the situation; when you do finally wake, the relief that what you've just been through wasn't real is tempered by the trauma that your own mind just inflicted on you. Last night's example was one of the most protracted dreams of the type that I can remember having, and it seemed to go on for hours. It's fading now (as such dreams always do) but the sense of dread and disgust and powerlessness that pervaded it is still lingering.

They're feelings I'm very familiar with, and closely linked with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD. I no longer have any doubt at all that I suffer from the condition. C'mon, after the childhood I had, I don't see any possibility that I haven't been left profoundly traumatised. PTSD is not just about having flashbacks, although I get those too, up to and including memories of coming out of anaesthetic while I was still on the operating table. Did you know that regularly having nightmares is also a recognised symptom of PTSD, along with fun stuff like hyperarousal (insomnia, irritability, feelings of anger, inability to focus on tasks), as well as anxiety, depression, isolation, withdrawal, and all sorts of other unpleasant mental and physical problems? I can tick an awful lot of the boxes on the NHS's site I linked to above, although thankfully I've managed to avoid substance abuse or alcoholism. But even the fact that these days I spend most of my waking hours working on making music turns out to be a behavioural trait that is recognised in PTSD sufferers, because it's a way of creating a distraction from intrusive thoughts and memories.

My phone reckoned I woke up seven times last night, and my fitness app was tutting sternly at me when I checked it this morning. Even after a large mug of coffee I still feel wrecked, although the effects of Thursday's COVID booster shot (this time around I was Pfizered) finally seem to be wearing off. It clobbered me all weekend—a very different reaction to the AstraZeneca shots I had earlier in the year. I breezed through both of my earlier vaccinations without so much as a headache. After Thursday's shot I've had horrible brain fog for the last three days. I couldn't concentrate at all, and even watching television felt like it required far too much effort. I was in no state to make music, let alone live stream from the studio, and believe me, I tried. I sat in front of my system several times staring at the screens for ten minutes before giving up and switching everything back off again.

But that was also partly down to the ear infection that has rendered me almost deaf for the last fortnight. This morning it finally seems to be clearing up, and I can hear in partial stereo for the first time in a couple of weeks. I hope it goes away soon, as not being able to make music (or even listen to music properly) has made life miserable.


I switched the central heating back to automatic this morning, beating the record I set back in 2015 for the latest date I've done so by just one day. The heating's on right now, in fact. The temperature outside only dropped to -1°C last night, but the wind's from the north and it sucked the warmth out of the house surprisingly quickly last night. That might have been a contributing factor in my restlessness, although I did take a hot water bottle to bed with me. It didn't seem to help. The long-release painkillers I took at bedtime weren't of much use either.

Even at midday, the temperature had struggled to top 5°C outside and the forecast for this week suggests that things will get even colder. I think winter is finally beginning to make its presence felt.


It turns out that the reason I have been feeling rubbish over the last few days is that I've got an ear infection. Again. I can hear all right on the left side, but very little on the right.

And that's annoying, because it seriously compromises my ability to record music. And it's also annoying because I'm off out to a gig tomorrow—my first since the pandemic started.


It's the end of the week and I remain very glad that I'm not in full time employment any more, because this morning it feels like my mental and physical faculties are barely functioning. And that's after I got a relatively good night's sleep. I really struggled through my live stream last night and I was all over the place throughout. It does include me talking about and demonstrating a couple of the free VST synths that I've returned to using recently, including Matt Tytel's Helm and Leslie Sanford's Cobalt, both of which are excellent.

The latest track I've been working on got an airing, and it features a saxophone part. No, I haven't acquired a sax of my own; they are much too loud an instrument to play at home (and I say this as someone who has a full Marshall Stack set up in his studio). Instead, I was using the Korg M3, which does a splendid job of providing sampled instruments. Since I installed Komplete 13 (and then acquired Komplete 13 Ultimate) I'd been neglecting my hardware synths. I am sorry to report that my JX-3P is still dead, which hasn't helped matters, but in the last month I have been firing up the M3 when I start working on music, and it's been used on several tracks.

But today my tank is empty; I feel completely wiped out. I'm going to take things easy, because I don't think I can manage to do anything else.


As you can see at the top of the page, I have a new album out today on Bandcamp.


As usual, it's a "name your price" deal. You'll get just over fifty-five minutes of music that I've written and recorded over the last couple of months, including a couple of instrumentals that you'll only have heard if you watch my live streams on Twitch.

This album is the tenth full-length release from me since December last year. Giving my studio an extensive makeover has worked wonders for my productivity. Getting your creative workspace right has huge benefits. But on a deeper level I seem to be getting a coherent style together where I've found particular sounds that I find inspiring. The bass on this track Gumption Shortage is a good example. My venerable old Jaydee bass is plugged in to a Phil Jones Bass Briefcase Ultimate amp, DI'd in to my mixing desk, and then buffed up with Waves's Bass Rider and MondoMod chorus plugins.

The results sound pretty slick, if I do say so myself...

EMMETT CHAPMAN 1936 - 2021

This week I received news that Emmett Chapman, the inventor of the Chapman Stick, had passed away after a long battle with cancer. My social media timeline has been full of tributes to him ever since.

The Stick-playing community is small, but it's tightly knit. Being a part of it feels more like being in a hugely extended family and even though I never met him, Emmett's passing feels like I've lost a member of my own clan. And looking at Facebook and Instagram it's clear that I wasn't the only one feeling like that this week.

My sincere condolences go to Yuta and the rest of Emmett's own family.


I slept like a log last night. My watch tells me that for more than forty percent of the time I was in deep NREM sleep. I've been wondering whether the temperature of the bedroom had anything to do with things, because last night we got a proper taste of winter here. The outside temperature fell to -3°C and the bedroom dropped down to the mid teens; I was very tempted to just stay under the duvet when I woke up this morning, because it felt cold out there.

I've got the central heating on right now which has taken the edge off things, but even after my customary breakfast coffee I feel groggy and sniffly, so maybe the reason that I slept so well is that I'm coming down with a cold.


I have already consumed my habitual large latté this morning. I don't know what I'd do without it. I now buy 1 kg bags of roasted beans in multiples of six, because I really don't want to face the day without an infusion of caffeine. It has already worked its magic, and I'm ready to face the day... staying indoors and taking things easy. I've been in quite a lot of discomfort recently and as you'll read below, yesterday I only made things worse for myself.


So today I'm just going to continue noodling away in the studio. The track that I'm working on at the moment is coming along nicely, but after listening to it on headphones last night I think I'm going to change a couple of the guitar parts so that they follow the synth lead line that I added yesterday.

The CPU on the studio PC isn't running anywhere near as hard with all my instrument and plugin libraries running off a solid state drive. Ableton is noticeably less glitchy, too.


I needed the coffee to warm me up this morning. The central heating has yet to be set to automatic but it's been on for the last hour, because I was rather surprised to discover ice on the conservatory roof when I got up this morning. The temperature in the back garden last night dropped to -1°C and there was still frost in the shadows on people's roofs at 9 am.

That's pretty much the same as last year, when the first frost arrived on Bonfire night. As I observed in that blog entry twelve months ago, all the aches and pains I suffer from these days really make their presence felt when the weather turns cold. I didn't help matters yesterday by doing some strenuous vacuuming (I had to empty the thing four times, as it had been rather a long time since I last went round the house with it). I worked up quite a sweat moving furniture to dust underneath it so this morning I'm feeling rather sore. I got a "bad" depth of sleep score from my watch as a result; waking up three times during the night didn't help matters either.

It's now two whole months since my GP discovered that the NHS had forgotten about getting my kidney stones treated. Have I heard anything at all since then? Of course not. It's not easy feeling either cheerful or positive in such circumstances.


November's here, and it's been making its presence felt enthusiastically. I fell asleep last night listening to the rain. It was quite a blustery night, even if there's blue sky and sunshine out there once again this morning. But yesterday the weather was playing havoc with travel. It has yet to be established that the weather was to blame but last night a train heading for Cardiff from Southampton collided with a train heading for Honiton. Thankfully nobody appears to have been seriously injured.

Heavy rain has been responsible for causing landslides in Wales, and they're still mopping up in Cumbria after more severe flooding.

Meanwhile, the great and the good are driving around in enormous parades of gas-guzzling limousines on their way to the conference on climate change which is taking place this week. I think that's what's known as sending mixed messages.


It has taken me more than two years to recover any sort of mental or physical equilibrium after I left my last job. I am not prepared to put myself in a position where I end up in that sort of state ever again. And it seems that thanks to their experiences during the pandemic, an awful lot of other people are feeling the same way. So many people are quitting their jobs at the moment that journalists have started calling it the Great Resignation.


Growth in pay and conditions for the average employee has been stagnant since Reaganomics kicked in back in the 1980s and people fell for the con pulled on them: the idea that trickle down economics worked. It didn't then, and it doesn't to this day. Meanwhile, upper management have been doing very nicely, thank you; CEOs now earn hundreds of times more than their workforce does. The asymmetry of compensation for work is shocking, so I'm gratified to see people beginning to recognise this in large numbers. It's already prompting calls for changes in average pay and conditions to be made, as they are in the Guardian article.

Trust me on this: life is too short to make yourself ill working hard just so somebody else—not you—can get rich.