Follow
Download
Twisted City by Chris Singleton - album sleeve

Just enter your details below to get a copy of Chris Singleton's first album, 'Twisted City', entirely free.

Your name *  
Your email *

Postcode (County if Ireland) *


By signing up you accept
the
terms and conditions.

Sign up to the blog

Enter your email address below to receive Chris Singleton's blog in your inbox. You can also subscribe via RSS (using Feedburner).

Facebook
Monday
Jun252007

Facebook - the new Myspace?

Facebook - the new Myspace?
Facebook really seems to be 'on the up' at the moment. People I know who would never have set up a Myspace page now have a page on Facebook (including, incredibly, my girlfriend). Why is this?

I think there are four main reasons, to do with the new 'acceptibility' of social networking, Facebook's interface, its general trendiness right now and the rise of broadband.

Acceptibility of Social Networking
Until fairly recently, I think that most people approached sites like Myspace and Facebook with a degree of trepidation - either because they perceived them as being havens for weirdos (and lets face it, they are) or internet dating sites (which have less of a stigma attached to them these days, but a lot of people still don't want to be seen resorting to to the net to find love). Increasingly however, social networking sites have become part of the internet mainstream, and people are less scared to use them. Facebook seems to have come along at just the right time in this respect - it's the new kid on the block just when social networking has been deemed by society as an acceptable thing to engage in.

Facebook's interface
Facebook's interface probably also has a lot to do with the sudden explosion in its popularity. Firstly, Facebook pages are arguably less 'threatening' than Myspace pages, because they are not (yet) so customisable. A lot of people personalise their Myspace pages to the extent that they become offputting, either due to the nature of the content or the fact that the content (multiple images, videos, tracks) takes so long to download. Secondly, the Facebook system makes it extremely easy for people to scan their address books for people they know who already use Facebook; consequently, more and more people start using Facebook to communicate with their friends, in the process generating a reason to return to it.

Facebook is trendy
As mentioned above, Facebook is the new kid on the block, and new kids on the block usually get a lot of interest - for five minutes at least! Facebook is, quite simply, trendy; and when you combine trendiness with the "viralness" of the whole social networking medium, you have a potent formula for success.

Broadband
More and more people are getting broadband - at last count 55% of UK households had broadband access (and this is a figure that's rising). People now have the capability and desire to upload and share large content (videos, songs, images) in a way that was hitherto impossible or very difficult - and social networking sites provide an ideal medium for this. Again, Facebook is in the right place at the right time - it's the social networking site du choix at a time when more and more people are signing up to broadband.

Which is better, though?
I think that given all the above, it's easy to see why Facebook is on the up: it's a good product and trendy, operating in a 'viral' medium at a time when social networking and broadband usage are on the up - a bit of a no-brainer. But is it better than Myspace?

If I had my musician's hat on, I'd say no. Myspace is currently better for musicians for two main reasons - the song player is dead easy use, and probably more importantly, Myspace is associated more with new music. Consequently, a lot of music industry people use it to search for new acts, and music fans use it to 'try before they buy.' Also, whilst the level of customisation that Myspace offers can lead to some terrible, terrible pages, it is nice to have that facility - I can, for example, 'brand' my site in a way that matches my website and other marketing material. The key thing is to be sensible about customisation - don't overload the user with so much content that they can't access the page.

Also, from a 'selling stuff' point of view, Myspace is arguably better - because Myspace lets its users put lines of HTML code into their pages, organisations can encourage their 'friends' to put banner ads for products and services directly into their pages - at no cost. This arguably works better for the not-for-profit sector than big business, because people are more likely to identify with a cause than a particular product (and consequently want to promote it). The two main types of banners that I've seen on Myspace which individuals have put on their pages are ads for charities and for bands, both of which tend to evoke stronger feelings and affiliations than say, Fairy Liquid.

But as a social networking user, I'd argue that Facebook has more to offer. It's generally simpler to operate, and the news feeds that it provides let you 'keep tabs' on what your friends are up to. An example of this is the nice little 'status update' feature - a one-liner that you can broadcast to your friends, telling them what mood you're in, whether you've just had a cup of tea etc. I suppose this has a slightly sinister side to it too - your privacy goes out the window a bit, although in theory you can choose what exactly you share with people. In practice however, it's a godsend for the obsessed...and the site hasn't earned the nickname 'Stalkbook' for nothing. But it is fun.

For me though, there's one thing which makes me infinitely prefer Facebook to Myspace: it isn't owned by Rupert Murdoch. Yet.

Chris Singleton now has a Facebook group at http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=2348827711. Feel free to join it.

Subscribe to this blog
To subscribe to this blog via email, just click here.

Wednesday
Jun202007

Green Friday. Or, synesthesia.

I never used to think that believing Monday was orange, that Wednesdays were yellow or that the number 2 was a female was particularly unusual, until my girlfriend brought home a copy of a paper with a big feature about 'synesthesia' in it. Or, as Wikipedia, the font of all dubious knowledge, puts it, "a neurological condition in which two or more bodily senses are coupled."

Synesthesia is an odd condition, and manifests itself in lots of ways. For synesthesia 'sufferers', letters or numbers can be associated with colours; days of the week or months can take on personalities; musical notes can have a gender.

Here's some more examples of how I interpret the world:

Friday is dark green.
The number two is a strong-willed female.
The chord of E is also a strong-willed female.
The number seven is a bit of a fey man.
The month of May is white in colour, and female.
The letter Z is female.

It happens with songs too. For example, even though it's sung by a man, I perceive 'Yesterday' by the Beatles as being a female song, whereas their 'Don't Let Me Down' is a male song. I perceive the first song as a grey-ish green; the latter as browny-red.

The more I write these associations down, the more odd this all seems. The links seem completely arbitrary, but you could ask me a question about any letter, number, day or month and I could tell you what colour it is, what sex it is, and what kind of personality it has (and these descriptions wouldn't change, even if you asked me the same question a year later).

The Wikipedia explanations of synesthesia make the mind boggle a bit - particularly at this hour of the night - but regardless of why I have it, I have to say I like having it. It's a nice feeling, and I like being able to assign little personalities and colours to everyday things that quite frankly don't "really" have them.

Besides which, famous synesthisiacs include Beethoven, John Lennon and Jimi Hendrix - so I'm in good company. And the number seven IS a fey man.

Thursday
Jun072007

A World Turned Up

It was when going to the toilet became difficult that I knew I really had to do something about it. The sound of a flush was, for me, as loud as standing beside somebody drilling a hole in concrete, and extremely painful. Other pain-inducing noises included showers, telephone ringtones, espresso machines, badly-oiled car brakes, the beeps before tube doors shut, and a certain friend of mine who has a rather high-pitched voice. These sounds might irritate most people; for me they hurt. This was my world turned up: for nearly two years, I heard everyday sounds at incredibly loud volumes. And, being a musician and songwriter, this nearly put an end to all hopes of career in music.

The problems all started when I started to feel a strange 'fullness' in my left ear. It felt a bit like when you get water in your ear in a swimming pool. At first I didn't think much of it, attributing to an infection, but then I started to notice that the fullness seemed to get worse every time I heard a 'loud' noise. In my case, the loud noise was usually the sound of my own voice, coming out of a pair of speakers in a studio. Most musicians love the sound of their own voices; mine was starting to cause me distress.

The first port of call was my local GP. He had a look at my left ear and said I had a small hole in my eardrum, and gave me some antibiotics to treat it. A couple of weeks later I returned, and apparently it had healed. But by now something else was happening: I was starting to find certain noises, particularly high-pitched ones, painful – and not just in my left ear; my right ear was behaving strangely too.

This started to have a subtle effect on my behaviour. When getting on a train, I would always look for the loudspeakers which announced the station names, and find a seat as far from them as possible; when going to a café I would distance myself from the coffee machines. Needless to say, social situations started to become really difficult. Bars and clubs became a no-go area without the aid of earplugs, and wearing them drew unwanted attention, one friend even going so far to ask if my earplugs were a fashion accessory. Obviously, I frowned at him. Gradually I became more and more dependent on earplugs, and wore them not only in bars and clubs, but in just about every situation.

And of all the noises that caused me difficulties, music was the worst. I was in the middle of recording "Twisted City" and was spending a lot of time in the studio, trying to mix it, a lot of the time in considerable pain. This problem was having a disastrous effect on the album. I would turn the volume down and try to mix at daftly low levels, or I would mix with foam earplugs in. Both approaches to mixing the album had predictable results: it sounded rotten. With repeated trips to my GP (each at 50 Euros – £30 – we don't have free GP visits in Ireland) came reassurances that nothing was wrong with my ears, and that my hearing was fine. Eventually, I was referred to a specialist – the first of several.

I walked out of the consultant's office 150 Euros (£100) worse off, and no wiser. The rather stern chap, who wore a dickie bow (this was the only redeeming feature of the appointment), gave me a hearing test and told me I was fine. He referred me to another clinic where I could get a more in-depth one 'just to put my mind at ease,' which like an idiot, I did. Another 60 Euros.

By now two things were happening: first, I was moving to London to pursue a rock career and a relationship – and second, my ear condition was getting worse. What had started out as weird was really starting to affect me; I became very depressed about how this allergy to sound was affecting my attempts to 'make it' as a musician. It's hard enough plugging your musical wares around London without having the additional worry of your music causing you physical distress. I also became extremely irritable, and a complete nightmare to live with; my relationship with my girlfriend suffered considerably as a result of me being on constant edge around any everyday sound. It got so bad that she started worrying about sounds herself, and was reduced to tiptoeing around the house whenever I was around. It lead to a series of rows where both of us had to whisper at each other – shouting was entirely out of the question. Neither the music career or the relationship seemed to be working out.

Hitherto the health profession hadn't explained what on earth was going on – so, reluctantly, I turned to the internet. I finally found a description of a condition which, based on the symptoms I had, seemed to be what I was suffering from: hyperacusis, "an increased sensitivity to the sounds that most people are able to tolerate".

The problem was that all these websites on which I'd found references to hyperacusis seemed to differ in their approach to what it was, how it was treated, and whether it was something permanent. It was time to reapproach the health professionals; this time I thought, with a diagnosis of sorts, maybe I can get some treatment. I went to an NHS doctor and asked if he could put me on a four-month waiting list to see a consultant.

By this point, and faced with a long wait, I was really panicking, and I decided (against my pinko-liberal instincts) and for the sake of my career, to see a private consultant.

£250 later I walked out of the consultant's room. He had spent five unfriendly minutes with me, told me I had got the diagnosis right, and had given me a prescription. I was elated about the prospect of taking a pill to remove the pain, until I googled the name of the drug prescribed, Clonazepam. It was an anti-anxietal drug, with strong side effects, some of which could actually cause hyperacusis. More googling led me to the Tinnitus and Hyperacusis Centre in London; I rang them up and they informed me that you couldn't cure hyperacusis with a tablet, and that in fact they had told that very consultant in a recent seminar that prescribing Clonazepam was a bad idea! The centre offered treatment by desensitisation (where hyperacusis sufferers are played white/pink noise at gradually increasing volumes to readjust their ears to everyday volumes), but it was very expensive and, not having health insurance (or even a job), at this point I couldn't really afford any more private treatment. I gradually got more and more stressed about it all, and the more I got stressed, the worse the hyperacusis got, and the more I wore my earplugs to block out the sounds around me. Which, unbeknownst to me, was part of the problem.

The last resort was the NHS appointment. I waited the four months before it came round, and to be honest I wasn't expecting much from it, as at this point nobody seemed to have been able to help. But I was surprised. Instead of giving me hearing tests, prescribing dodgy drugs, or charging me thousands of pounds to go through a desensitisation programme, they gave me "hearing therapy". I was skeptical at first, because I didn't equate an ear problem with a need for a hearing shrink. Fortunately though I wasn't subjected to hearing psychobabble, but practical and sound advice.

First, I had to stop using earplugs in everyday scenarios. This is one of the worst things a hyperacusis sufferer can do, as when the earplugs are taken out, the brain perceives everyday noises as far louder than they actually are. It reinforces the hypersensitivity to sound. Earplugs – but special, expensive ones (they cost about £170) – were still to be used in loud, musical contexts, but they were to be taken out at regular intervals. Secondly, I was told I had to stop worrying about sound, and to stop being 'afraid' of it. The more I worried about sound, the more I had been focussing on it, and the more I tried to avoid it. A reassurance from the hearing therapist that I had not permanently damaged my ears really helped in this regard, as did some simple suggestions on how to relax. Eventually, I learnt to go out and about without earplugs, and experience noise the way everybody else did again. And crucially, I was able to remix "Twisted City" at a reasonable level.

By the time I felt my hearing was back to normal I had spent approximately £760, and seen three GPs, three consultants, three nurses, two trainee hearing therapists and a hearing therapist. The emotional cost had been huge too: I had nearly given up on my music and my girlfriend. Eventually I got very good help from the medical profession, but if there was more knowledge within it about hyperacusis I am sure I could have finished my album far quicker, and avoided those whispered fights with my girlfriend. But ultimately I think the whole thing was good for me; I'm extremely careful these days when it comes to mixing music at high volumes – the cause of the problem, I'm sure – and I don't do things which are effectively bad for my ears, like wear earplugs in restaurants. Except of course, when I'm in need of a fashion accessory. I'd recommend the big yellow ones.

For more information about hyperacusis, you can refer to the Action on Hearing Loss fact sheet (PDF download) on the condition, which provides very useful advice and suggestions for treatment.

After all that, here's how the album eventually turned out...
For a limited time, you can download my 'Twisted City' album entirely for free at www.singletonmusic.com/freealbum/

Wednesday
Jun062007

Desert Island Discs

As you know, I'm currently writing and recording a lot of new material at the moment, and as a consequence, I'm listening to a lot of music, looking for stuff to rip off - I mean influence me.

In the midst of all this I've been thinking about what my Desert Island albums would be - the ten albums I couldn't live without on a er, desert island. And since this is the naughties, I thought I'd post them up here for people to comment on (or ridicule me with). It's impossibly hard to come up with a list. Having made one, I already want to change it (and probably will...)

Anyway, in no particular order:

Pink Floyd - Dark Side of the Moon
Well, this is on most of those greatest albums of all time lists...and I'm not going to dispute its greatness. It's got very dark themes but it's bloody funny at times - particularly when the guy singing 'Money' decides he needs a football team.

The Stone Roses - The Stone Roses
At times it sounds like it was recorded in a shed but I love it. My favourite track is 'Sugar Spun Sister'. What a melody.

The Beatles - Abbey Road
This doesn't sound like it was recorded in a shed. It sounds like it was recorded in Abbey Road. I prefer side 2 to side 1, and it contains my favourite Beatles track, 'You Never Give Me Your Money' - a poignant description of the band breaking up.

David Bowie - Ziggy Stardust
Hard call whether tp put this on my top ten list or 'Hunky Dory' but I opted for this one because of the lyrics in 'Five Years'. They are hilarious, particularly the one that goes

I think I saw you in an ice-cream parlour, drinking milk shakes cold and long / Smiling and waving and looking so fine, don't think you knew you were in this song

and the one about the cop kissing the feet of a priest and a gay guy getting sick at the sight of that.

The Stranglers - Rattus Norvegicus
This album is what I call 'chunky', with big fat drums and dirty guitars mixed with sublime organ playing. And it was recorded by the most musical punks ever. I don't think they were punks at all, I reckon they were just pretending because it was cool to be a punk back in 1977.

Paul McCartney - Band on the Run
The first of my 'uncool' choices, but it was a great return to form in terms of melodies and production for Paul McCartney, even if the lyrics about Sailor Sam leave a slightly yucky taste in the mouth. 'Mrs Vandebilt' is probably my favourite track, followed by '1985'.
Lou Reed - TransformerOkay, I'm cool again. Bit of Lou is always good for the cool stakes. Although this album is more camp than cool. I probably listen to this album more than most records...don't know why exactly, it just always seems to suit my mood. Which, given what I've written above, probably makes me out to be camp. Anyway, darlings, this is a great record and it's got Bowie and Ronson production all over it. Lovely.

John Lennon - Walls and Bridges
Despite being a massive Beatles fan, I only got a copy of this album last year. And it's great...sounds fantastic. A load of great session guys making John Lennon go funky. Favourite tracks are 'You Don't Know What You Got' and 'Nobody Loves You When You're Down and Out'. Infinitely prefer this record it to 'Imagine'.

The Seahorses - Do it Yourself
This record was slated when it came out, which I guess makes it the second of my 'uncool' choices. I think everybody slagged it because they were pissed off that John Squire had left the Stone Roses. Admittedly, it does have some daft lyrics on it (about giant squids and Weetabix) but it's also got Squire's fantastic playing all over it, and it's produced by Tony Visconti (Bowie, Bolan et al). What's not to like?

Supergrass - Supergrass
In my estimation this is their best album - it's got some fantastic 70s sounds on it and it's slightly darker than some of their other stuff. Whilst I like Supergrass' sense of humour, sometimes they overdo it a bit and things get a bit silly. That's not to say the record lacks a bit of healthy silliness - that song about Jesus coming from outer space travelling in a second-hand car provides all that. But most importantly the album has some fantastic melodies on it. And big sideburns - you can hear them on most of the songs.

Thursday
May242007

The Starting Point

Starting a blog about my work fills me with trepidation. Er, for a start, I've already called what I do 'work'. It's alright (I suppose) when critics call your music 'work' - as long as they don't mean that listening to it is arduous - but when you start describing your songs as "work" yourself, you can't help but feel like a bit of well, a wanker.

The other problem with writing a blog is that you want it to be good. The thing with the whole blogging / social networking thing is that there's a hell of a lot of online vanity publishing going on. Everybody can put their thoughts to well, keys, and to some degree, have an audience for it. Which is fine, but it results in 2% good stuff and 98% twaddle. And my fear is that this blog may well fall into the latter category.

Well, having outlined my concerns about blogs, onto the music.

When I was recording my first album, 'Twisted City' (which was really my second, but I'll get on to that), I did it on my own - a bit of a Mike Oldfield job. This meant recording one instrument, then rewinding, then playing along with it on another instrument, and so on, until we had what is known in the industry as 'a song'. There's a famous album by former Chieftains harpist Derek Bell, where he did the same thing. In fact, it's got my favourite album title of all time: 'Derek Bell plays with himself'. Classic.

The main difference between what I'm working on now and 'Twisted City' is that this time, I have the luxury of a band. And what a band. I can't do that thing right now like at the end of a gig where they all play a solo and get introduced cheesily - so I'll do it in text. The band are:

Stelios Kalisperides - a guitar god. Seriously.
JC (Joe Caddy) - fabulous drummer (although he doesn't like Ringo)
John Gibbons - my backing vocalist, and a fantastic artist in his own right. My mate Dominic calls his voice 'liquid gold'.
Zane Maertens - possibly the best bass player I have ever met.
Andy Fleet - amazing pianist. Whatever he does on my tracks, it always sounds perfect.

We've been playing together now for 2-3 years. It's been great. We haven't recorded a huge amount, but that is hopefully going to change over the summer, when I convince them that this album is going to sell in copious quantities and that they will see a cut. What we have recorded is below. The starting point.









Page 1 ... 28 29 30 31 32