I Am Andrew Autumn!

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‘My accent is, to my ears, rather plainly dull, but Tom assured me that the tone was right for the project he had in mind.’ A guest blog by Andrew Coulson (follow him on Twitter) who provides the voice of Grasslands lead Character: Andrew Autumn.


It was back in 2002, working part time for a shitty cheap warehouse store called Bewise, whilst studying at Aberystwyth University when I met Tom. Bewise basically paid for my beer money. If you have listened to Tom’s earlier stuff you will be aware that in Planting Broadleaves on Destroy All Conifers, his illustrious time in Aberystwyth and at Bewise is mentioned quite comically.

 

Tom in terrible Bewise colours (2002)

Tom in terrible Bewise colours (2002)

Tom and I got on well so well that eventually we ended up being neighbours in a little hamlet called Abermad which literally consisted of us and our respective partners, an ageing farmer and a strange old people’s home set up in a decrepit and greying Victorian house. Over time I learnt many things about Tom most of which came whilst chatting, drinking beer and if not attending a local pub quiz shooting random aliens in Xbox’s Halo in late night games marathons. I’m pretty sure it was during one of these late night marathons that Tom proposed the idea that one day he would like to use my voice for something he was planning…

Abermad near Aberystwyth (Ceredigion, Wales)

Abermad near Aberystwyth (Ceredigion, Wales)

My accent is a mish-mash of being born in Yorkshire, brought up in Derbyshire and a journey into adulthood living in a Welsh stronghold in West Wales so sounds, to my ears, rather plainly dull. But Tom assured me that the tone was right for the project he had in mind.

Over this time Tom shared his music with me regularly, burning CDs of early renditions of tracks such as Walking Without a Mule and probably one of my personal favourites See You on the Other Side.

 

As he produced more and more in his little home studio I would be lucky enough to sample the makings of what you now know as Grasslands. Even when I left Aberystwyth for pastures new Tom would email me links to tracks like There’s a Light and other experimental works.

 

As the internet grew in strength and Tom’s skills flourished he was even able to share with me, via Soundcloud, the epic robotic inspired continuous mix – Days of Robo-Apocalypse Past, which I loved, and that’s when it came. In May 2014 Tom sent me an email outlining his plan for My folks prefer the clone a musical tale about Andrew Autumn and, ultimately, his replacement in life: the clone. By this time I was living in Australia and so there was no way I could just visit Tom and record the voice of Andrew Autumn for Track 7 of this EP and promo for the forthcoming EP3: Small Town Justice. However, Tom had the answers and they were found in technology.

 

Using an iPad I downloaded Garage Band and under Tom’s instructions experimented recording my voice at different times of the day, in different rooms and when in different moods. Tom had asked that I use no effects saying “You are the voice of the lead character (Andrew Autumn) who has just had a proper shitty time (his clone has just killed his family) – so there’s your motivation”. Pretty strong motivation, hey! Recording the script Tom had sent me in full and also line by line I even did a few takes after a gym session when my voice was hoarse and tired. Eventually when I was happy the Garage Band files I had collected were shared with Tom over the 12,000 odd miles using Dropbox.

Then with Tom’s magic, Track 7 of the new EP, Grasslands introduces Andrew Autumn and welcomes the listener to what’s to come (Listen below):

 

It was fun being part of this project. I now sit eagerly in my home awaiting the Australian Summer to kick in knowing that sometime soon I will have helped bring a character to life, for I am Andrew Autumn and one day soon I will have to take the blame and I’ll have to run…

…and run

…and run


Grasslands EP2: My Folks Prefer The Clone is now available to purchase in all major digital stores including iTunesAmazon and Google Play, plus free streaming on Spotify. Get it cheaper in the Grasslands Music Store.

Grasslands Q&A Part 1: What’s it all about?

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“It’s part James and the Giant Peach and part Donnie Darko

Purplequince (follow her on twitter here) spends some time asking Tom Haynes about Grasslands and the recently released EP2: My Folks Prefer The Clone.


PQ: It sounds like these songs your recording are telling some kind of story. What’s it all about?

TH: I was bored of writing individual songs so, Grassland’s tells a story track by track from EP1 onwards. The songs are written around key scenes in the story.

PQ: For those who haven’t listened to the songs yet, can you give us a summary of what the story in your songs is about?

TH: I haven’t really made the story explicit anywhere. I think part of the fun is trying to work it out, like a murder mystery. I remember listening to Pink Floyd’s The Wall and having next to no clue what it was about. Reading up about The Wall explained the story, but it also took away some of the mystery. I like to ask people what they think it’s about.

PQ: When did you first decide to turn your story into music?

TH: It must have been around 2003. I can’t remember why. I think I was drunk.

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PQ: Which came first, story writing or writing music?

TH: I was writing stories long before I picked up a guitar, but picking up a guitar stopped me writing stories for years. I am just starting to write again.

PQ: Where did the ideas behind the story come from?

TH: Aberystwyth was a heavy influence on the story, Hayao Miyazaki too. I would say that the story is part James and The Giant Peach and part Donnie Darko. Ha! Bet that’s got you thinking.

PQ: How long has this story been in your head? And do the EPs match up to what you wanted them to be when you first envisioned them?

TH: I planned to write a story called ‘Grasslands’ for years, I could never settle on what it was going to be about. I think I wrote some notes for it around 2001. I think the plot firmed up a few years later, maybe 2004.

As for what I envisioned, I never planned for the songs to come out as EPs. I did it this way because I didn’t have enough time to record a whole album. I think for the most part the songs are what I wanted them to be. I use to just play my guitar until I thought something sounded good, with these songs I am pretty stubborn about keeping to what I originally planned to do.

PQ: Tonally both ‘Time to Think’ and the new EP: ‘My folks Prefer The Clone’ are quite different. How intentional was this?

TH: I think that My Folks Prefer The Clone is probably more consistent than the previous EP. Time To Think had a mixture of sounds with some pop songs, some math-rock stuff and some electronic bits, but I think there is more of a solid sound to the new EP. The drums have helped glue everything together.

Grasslands EP2: My Folks Prefer The Clone is now available to purchase in all major digital stores including iTunes, Amazon and Google Play, plus free streaming on Spotify. Get it cheaper in the Grasslands Music Store.

 

Album reviews: Battles – Mirrored

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Here you find my thoughts on some of the music I’m currently listening to. You can find the music I’m currently listening to on my Spotify Page (Click Here).

Battles – Mirrored (2007)

Battles are an experimental rock band hailing from New York.

Mirrored was Battles first LP and there is some amazing musicianship is on display. Warped whistling, layered effects over vocals, out of tune strings, slowing tempos. Clever beats. The drumming is very impressive. You would believe ther are two drummers hard at work.

There are very few clear lyrics on the album, with voices used more as instruments, which gives the album a strong identity. The effects used are similar to those by Rustie on Glass Sword (that comment might either attract or put you off).

This is an album I think I will come back to again and again and discover new things within the musical swirl.

I will look forward to listening to Battles other releases.

On Track: Me And My Steam Robot

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In this ongoing series of articles looking at the development of the tracks found across the Grasslands EPs we look at track 3 from ‘My Folks Prefer The Clone’: ‘Me And My Steam Robot’. Pre-Order the EP here: (Click Here)

Song writing
‘Me And My Steam Robot’ was written around 2006 in Plymouth. The song was developed on the acoustic guitar and many attempts were made to transfer it onto electric guitar, but I always thought that it lacked some of the nice warm tones that the acoustic provided. It is one of Grasslands more structurally complicated songs with a few changes in tempo and some awkward time signatures.

Drum Challenges
The main challenge for recording this song was always going to be the drum track. I had attempted to layer drums over a song with a complicated structure on the first EP (This Is The Way I Rationalise), but I didn’t think this would work on this track.

I met up with my friend (and former band mate) Sam Armitage to jam with the track and see if we could get a feel for what the drums would be like. I soon realised that writing awkwardly structured songs is all well and good, but they take a lot longer to learn. Sam is a busy chap and I didn’t really want to force him through a drawn out recording session, so I started to wonder whether I could try and do the drums myself.

With Sam’s help I managed to get my head around the type of drum sequence I wanted and set to work recording the drum track to a metronome and a guide guitar track.

Awkward timing
The most difficult section of the song to develop drums for was the heavy section in the middle of the song (3:08). The timing makes barely any sense and both me and Sam struggled to get anyting to work. In the end I relied on a rather simple drum sequence using the crash symbol, which I was happy with.

Guitar rehearsals
Most of the summer of 2013 I rehearsed the guitar sections for the song (including over Sam’s stag do weekend) until I knew my fingers were strong enough to get through the full guitar sequence in one take for the recording. I played it on both electric and acoustic guitar.

Recording Software
‘Me And My Steam Robot’ was first recorded in Sonar Home Studio 7, but was shifted over to Logic X on the iMac for final mixing. I was a bit worried about doing this due to all the tempo changes in the song, but Logic X proved up to the job and after a few tweaks everything was sounding okay.

Mixing
As stated earlier, I opted for a cleaner final mix with crunchy electric guitars, but still with the acoustics punching through. This was probably the most challenging final mix on the EP, but I am pleased with the final result.

Have a listen to ‘Me And My Steam Robot’ here:

Remember that the full EP is released on 20th October (Click Here)

On Track: The Ball Starts To Move

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This is the first of a set of articles that will look at the development of the tracks found across the Grasslands EPs. Today we look at the fourth track taken from the soon to be released ‘My Folks Prefer The Clone’: The Ball Starts To Move.

Writing The Ball Starts To Move
The Ball Starts To Move was written in 2012 and was always envisaged as a point in the narrative where things starts to happen (as the title suggests). The song was always going to require a powerful rhythm to truly reflect the titular ball rolling along.

The first thing you hear in the track is a raspy retro synth belting out a powerful jittery rhythm. This was the first aspect of the song recorded and Kate Bush was responsible.

A Nod To The Past
The sample used is from the groundbreaking Fairlight CMI. This was a machine I became quite interested in while researching its use by Kate Bush and Peter Gabriel. Kate Bush’s ‘Hounds of Love‘ uses the Fairlight extensively, as does Gabriel’s ‘Melt‘. A more recent use of the Fairlight synthesiser was on the brilliant concept album by former Savage Garden front man Darren Hayes. His double album ‘This Delicate Thing We’ve Made‘ is a truly amazing left-field pop record. Lots of nostalgic imagery and interesting sound scapes and lyrics. Darren Hayes uses the Fairlight on each track and the work that went into his album spawned an ipad app emulation of the synthesiser called Peter Vogel CMI. The Peter Vogel CMI is a brilliant app that holds the nostalgia of this synth in high regard including loading times and common errors. The image at the top of the page is taken from this app. My first few sessions playing with the synth brought about the main riff for The Ball Starts To Move.

Other Synths
Other synthesiser parts were built around my go to synth: Sytrus. I then played drums over the synths and built up guitar sections.

The original version had a very different hook, which was much higher and sounded like a game show. This was soon discarded and the current version written.

Mixing
The Ball Starts To Move was a pig to mix. An early version of the mix was created in 2012 on Sonar. I have since moved to Logic X on iMac and there is now a brand new, much clearer mix available on the EP.

Listen to the track here:

For those interested in comparing mixes, why don’t you listen to the version above and then listen to the 2012 mix on Reverbnation (Click Here). Can you tell the difference?

Best Bit
Matching the guitar notes to the synthesiser at the end of the song. I love the lyrics too.

Grasslands New EP will be launched on 20th October

After two years of recording, Grasslands new EP ‘My Folks Prefer The Clone’ will be released on the 20th October 2014.

The EP is available to pre-order now on our digital store (Click Here). Pre-ordering gives you access to a free track and you will receive the EP before anyone else. The EP features six songs and two preview tracks and will be made available across all major digital platforms including iTunes and Spotify.

My Folks Prefer The Clone (Cover)

‘My Folks Prefer The Clone’ follows on from 2011’s ‘Time To Think’ with a mix of electronic and rock influenced tracks and the odd bit of awkward timing. Tracks include ‘Me And My Steam Robot’, a six minute-long rock epic with a strong Biffy Clyro influence, and ‘The Ball Starts To Move’ a synth driven rock track that is frequently popping into Reverbnation’s Newbury Chart.

‘My Folks Prefer The Clone’ was recorded in Newbury and Swindon and was written, performed and recorded by Tom Haynes. Tom learnt to play the drums over the past two years so he could record the songs with trickier structures on the EP.

‘My Folks Prefer The Clone’ marks the halfway point in the story of Grasslands, with two further EPs planned for release to complete the story.

Visit www.grasslandsmusic.wordpress.com for track previews in the coming days and further news and updates.

Here is a preview of the Pre-Order Track: The Ball Starts To Move

Oh look!!! Just what I didn’t ask for: a U2 album

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“While you were out, we packed your fridge full of chicken nuggets, you didn’t mind, did you?” – U2 and Apple try new marketing manoeuvres with creepy undertones.

Isn’t it funny how one little thing can change your attitude to the way you live your life? Apple and U2 have just done this for me.

U2 released their 13th studio album this week at this years big Apple press conference and they had something special planned. The two money making engines colluded to give all apple users U2′s 13th effort for free.

Sounds like a nice gift doesn’t it? In fact it reflects real gifts very well, you know what i mean… when your Nan knits you a woolly cardigan you don’t want and thrusts it into your hands. You just fake a smile as best as possible and accept that you will palm it off to someone later on.

It is a little creepier though, isn’t it? This album is automatically added to your apple music library. To return to Nan’s gift: It is more like your Nan telling you that you’re already wearing her woolly cardigan (queue screaming in self realisation).

Some people might be happy about this, but it made me look at my music library and wonder who it actually belongs to. I have spent so much money on music and built this quite obsessively organised library. I get quite picky about artwork and track edits. To think that Apple have decided that it is acceptable practice to thrust this album into my music library seems like a strange action (from a company currently being scrutinised about security on celebrity icloud accounts).

This is about privacy. I built my music library over years. It includes CD rips, itunes files and purchased mp3s from elsewhere. I paid for all of it. Have I foolishly believed that I own this system and have control over it? This veneer is now washing away. The moment Apple decides they can extend their influence by integrating U2 freebees (I don’t want) into my music library is the moment I wonder whether Apple (and others) have too much control over my life.

Ironically, this news comes as I am researching different means of digitally distributing my own Grasslands music. How amusing it is for me to be worrying about who has control over my own music, while other peoples music is forced into my life.

U2 probably see it as a friendly gesture and a nice promotion for their inevitably profitable gigs, but it just seems like a strange bending of economics to me. Is the advertising industry getting so desperate that they will literally just force things into our hands and onto our PCs? Just think of the same situation in another economic medium: “While you were out, we packed your fridge full of chicken nuggets, you didn’t mind, did you?” This is not ‘supply and demand’, this is ‘establish a demand via bombardment’.

Apple might want to think about retaining a trusting relationship with their customers and not abusing it. We are individuals. We like different things. We use Apple services in different ways. We don’t all want a U2 album. We certainly don’t want to be reminded of how little control we have over this music we have collected for years.

And as for U2… I wonder if the band will be happy if I creep into their houses at night and install my Grasslands EPs on their ipods?

Aberystwyth, Hills and Grasslands

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Aberystwyth is integral to the story of Grasslands. The general idea for the story was established while I was drunk in the Castle Hotel. This drunken discussion took place long before I decided to record music for the story instead of actually writing it.

Some of my own experiences of living in Aber also colour some of the songs. There is more than a hint of my experiences working in Safeway/Morrisons in the song Ambient Groceries.

It is always nice to return to Aberystwyth to see old friends (including old band mates from my former band The Small Dog Club).

It was particularly interesting to return so soon after finishing the recording of my second EP. My thoughts of the story were still quite heavy on my mind and I couldn’t help but see why I have spent so much time writing about hills through these songs.

Most people that visit or live in Aberystwyth know that Constitution Hill is one of the more famous hills in the area. It is located on the northern edge of Aberystwyth and includes a Victorian funicular railway. Although it is in easy reach of the town, it is quite difficult to see from most of Aberystwyth. Not like Pen Dinas.

Pen Dinas is found on the southern edge of the town and dominates the landscape. The flattened top of Pen Dinas is indicative of a complex history of hill fort structures that stood over the valleys from the Iron Age onwards (for more info click here).

This was the sight I was met with most mornings. Looking through the window and seeing this hill looking down at me. The Wellington Monument standing prominent in the centre. Although the monument isn’t really described within the story, I can now see that without Pen Dinas there would be very few tracks on Grasslands. It is referenced in one song on Time To Think. It is also referenced in at least three songs on my new EP: My Folks Prefer The Clone.

I had the opportunity while staying in a B&B to relive why I wrote the song ‘The Things I See Outside My Window’.

 

Coming Soon in 2014: My Folks Prefer The Clone EP

Things don’t always go to plan. When I finished recording EP1 in 2011 I thought I would leap straight into recording EP2, but life and saltmarshes generally got in the way.

My Folks Prefer The Clone (Cover)

Now having learnt to play the drums over the past 12 months, and had some moral support with developing drums from a certain Mr Armitage, I can happily say that all six tracks of EP2: My Folks Prefer the Clone are now recorded.

I now have the rather dull job of mixing the tracks and trying to get them to compete with modern super-loud CD mixes. So please hold on for a little longer.

While preparing for the eventual release of the EP, I have decided to take down all the preview tracks I have uploaded so far. This will allow me to sort out a more consistent mix for all the tracks.

To make up for the delay I have a few surprises…

The first is… tah dah!!! my redesigned blog which will allow me to keep you updated with proceedings and allow me to post random thoughts, inspirations and add some pictures. Please do subscribe.

The next surprise is a limited period preview of the opening track: First True Sight. This track is a chilled out bit of electronic goodness, that foreshadows some of the narrative stages to come in the proceeding songs (he winks to his writing friends).

Here it is (edit – not anymore. The limited time offer is over!)

Last but not least is the exciting news that I am also 6-7 tracks through recording a new album as part of a new electronic band called No Side Effects. Just incase you couldn’t get enough blogging action – No Side Effects also has a new blog. Check it out: nosideeffectsmusic.wordpress.com

- He wipes the sweat from his brow -

So I hope you all enjoy the new track and please, please share the link and help me out getting my music ‘out there’. The digital world is a tough one after all.

Speak soon

Tom