Coming soon in 2015

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This site has been rather quiet since the promotion for ‘My Folks Prefer The Clone’ ended. But fear not, there is lots going on in the Grasslands camp at the moment. Here is an update:


No Side Effects

Since October 2013 I have been busy collaborating with Ade of Two Short Planks on our new Album under the moniker ‘No Side Effects’. We are both so chuffed with the album and we can’t wait to share it with everyone. For the moment you will have to cope with the rather rough mix of the preview:


Drums!!!

Ade kindly asked me to put down some drums for his next Two Short Planks album, so looking forward to carrying on work with this. His new song is a killer. I love it!! Listen to his previous album here:


What’s next for Grasslands in 2015?

Yes, I will be putting some new stuff out this year. I am working on it at the moment, but I don’t want to give too much away. All I am willing to give three hints at this stage:

It will be a freebee. There is no way I can charge for it (I do not have the the powerful solicitors required).

It follows a format I have worked in before.

This image:

Kaku Ranger


Grasslands EP3: Small Town Justice

Most of the songs are written and ready to record, but I am yet to press ‘record’. It will happen, but I don’t want to set a date just yet. I imagine No Side Effects will appear before the next EP.


So I hope that’s enough to look forward to. Feel free to get in touch if you want to know anymore.

Bye for now

Tom

Grasslands Q&A Part 3: Song writing

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“Biffy Clyro were a pretty major influence”

Purplequince (follow her on twitter here) concludes her interview with Tom Haynes about Grasslands and the recently released EP: My Folks Prefer The Clone and how he wrote the songs.


PQ: Within your music there are some very strong images, for example, ‘The Ball Starts To Move’, ‘Me And My Steam Robot’ and ‘My Folks Prefer The Clone’. Are any aspects within these images that are taken from real life or is it all fictional?

TH: I honestly have no clue where these ideas came from. I know that The Ball Starts To Move was heavily influenced by Pen Dinas hillfort towering over Aberystwyth. Me And My Steam Robot says everything that it needs to about me as a kid. As for the clones… who knows, there’s some dark stuff there. I suppose I could blame comics.

PQ: Which song have you most enjoyed producing?

TH: I remember My Folks Prefer The Clone came together quite smoothly. All of the work on the EP was easier once I shifted platforms from Sonar Home studio 7 on Windows to Logic X on iMac.

PQ: What would you say has been your greatest influences in your music as a whole?

TH: Biffy Clyro were a pretty major influence on the Grasslands EPs. The Flaming Lips and Super Furry Animals too.

PQ: Do you have a favourite song?

TH: Off the EPs I am probably most impressed with The Ball Starts To Move and I am very pleased with how Ambient Groceries turned out on EP1: Time To Think. Ambient Groceries really drew a line through some bad memories.

Other peoples songs… hmmmm… right now I would say I am very envious of Homosapian by PVT.

 

PQ: In your blogs you mention having to learn the drums in order to play some of the difficult parts of the songs, are there any songs that were particularly difficult to finish?

TH: Me And My Steam Robot was a very tricky song to record. So many tempo changes. I am really pleased with how it came out though. There is a similarly structured song that needs recording on EP3, which I am daunting.

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PQ: Do you think you will use this lyrical format to tell other stories?

TH: I’m not too sure, I think I’m looking forward to doing something different, so it probably won’t be quite the same way next time. I think I might keep the idea of musical themes and communicating things in interesting ways, but who knows.

PQ: Having just finished your second EP and with another two to follow, we’re all wondering, what can we expect from your next EPs?

Most of the songs are already written for the next two EPs. EP3 has a bit of a Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein vibe, with the rock songs from EP2 still prominent, but this will fade as the next EP progresses. As for EP4… well…I think it will be quite different to the others.

PQ: Do you have any other music planned?

Me and my Mate, Ade from Two Short Planks have been working on an album together for the past few months. It is pretty different to Grasslands. It’s an electronica album. I’m really looking forward to releasing that. Check it out at http://www.nosideeffectsmusic.wordpress.com. I want to do another DJ Mix and I was thinking about doing something else, but I’ll keep that quiet for the moment.


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.

 

Grasslands Q&A Part 2: The story in the music

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“So much happens in the story at this point”

Purplequince (follow her on twitter here) continues her interview with Tom Haynes about Grasslands and the recently released EP: My Folks Prefer The Clone and the story behind the music.


PQ: If someone had never heard your music before, which song would you recommend that they listen to?

TH: It depends on their musical taste a bit. If they were into mainstream stuff I would go with First True Sight or There’s a Light, but if they can cope with some distorted guitars I would go with My Folks Prefer The Clone or Me And My Steam Robot. If they like it heavy, I would go with Killing Spree.

PQ: Do you ever think the story that your EPs follow will be written, or will it always remain solely as music?

TH: A tricky question… I think I will have closure on this story once I release the fourth EP, I don’t think I would feel the need to go back, but you never know.

PQ: Do you find it easier to produce a song to fit a story or do you prefer to just write a song without it having to fit into a bigger picture?

TH: Writing music this way helps focus the mind. It helps generate ideas. The Ball Starts To Move, for example, had to have something to drive the tune, something repetitive to represent the rolling. In the future, it would be nice to write some songs without making them fit into a common narrative.

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PQ: Was it easy to divide your story into different songs?

TH: Not really. I have the plot line planned out and each song needs to represent key points or scenes in the story. Sometimes the songs change or new songs are added. On EP1: Time To Think, the opening track This Is The Way I Rationalise was added quite late into development and replaced There’s a Light as the opener. The new EP was trickier, so much happens in the story at this point.

PQ: Are there any aspects of your characters that you feel are overlooked by placing their story into a lyrical format?

TH: You don’t have the opportunity to develop the characters in the same way as you would in a novel, but you have to find other ways. My mate, Andrew Coulson, provides the voice of the lead character (Andrew Autumn) on this EP, he might pop up again in the future. The Steam Robot also speaks on EP1 on the last track. At the time I made that EP1 no one would have understood the significance of that (the robot character is introduced in the new EP).


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.

 

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?