It’s a bit cooler in Berlin today, the last week has been stinking hot. Just saying.

The Tempodrom on a hot summer night.

The Tempodrom on a hot summer night. 

On Tuesday night we went to see Patti Smith and her band perform her seminal album Horses and by the end of the show the Tempodrom was like a sauna. At the healthy age of 68, her voice and personality have lost none of their edge or power. Soft and ethereal at times, vicious and violent at others, her performance seems to be unaffected by the 40 years that have passed since Horses was released. (If it has, in fact, been dimmed, then lord knows how crazy a Patti Smith show must have been in the 1970’s). There must also be very few peformers who can admonish any parents in the audience who might have brought their children to the show without giving them earplugs and then later tear the strings out of her guitar in a wail of anti-establishment feedback. At times it was transcendent, almost religious. Basically, Patti Smith still rocks harder then just about anyone.

(Thanks to Esther for the video 🙂 )

Leanne and me preparing to lay it down. (Pic nicked from Phil's facebook)

Leanne and me preparing to lay it down. (Pic nicked from Phil’s facebook)

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Phil and me on the balcony of Esther’s new flat.

In general news, Phil was here for a week and Leanne has also arrived from Joburg and is staying with Rebecca – so things have been very homelike. We’ve just been wondering around, eating, drinking beer and playing table tennis (if we can find a public table with isn’t being dominated by the hardcore locals).

I’ve also been giving a lot of thought to my plans for the next year and a half or so and after having a bunch of chats with various people and some really helpful emails from Julien (my PR guy), I think I have settled on a basic plan:

In terms of touring, I will come back  to Europe in November for a tour that will take in Germany, Switzerland, France, Belgium, The Netherlands and my first show in Poland (I have booked a lot of this tour already).  After that, in April next year, I will try tour Italy, southern France and Spain (mostly places I have not been to before); then come back to Europe again in the summer if I am lucky enough to find some festival bookings; and then come back again in September/October for another round of Germany/France/etc. Concurrently, I want to try have a new album done by April with a crowd funding campaign leading up to it.

Beyond all this, it seems that a good general idea to follow for the next few years would be to a) revisit places often enough to allow a relationship with the venues and the audience to develop (that is one or twice a year), b) make sure that my set is always developing and/or that I have new releases to promote in order to make those return shows as attractive as possible, c) find new places to play and, finally, d) keep an eye out for potential opportunities to work with people on the business side of things (e.g. labels, bookers, etc).

(Just as an aside, I see that final point as being a bit different from the others. The first three are things that I can really work at myself and put a lot of direct effort into, while finding a label (and the right label at that) or a booker or whathaveyou would only be achieved indirectly as a result of getting the first three right – and might possibly be something that I don’t, or perhaps even don’t need to, ever achieve).

I go back Joburg on Monday. Weird.

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1 Recording + 2 Silly Things

Last nights recording went mostly pretty well. The couple of things that did not go well were entirely of my doing but the recording itself went off without a hitch.

The Culture Container, as established by its founder, owner and general manager, Franz Rodeck, is a purpose-built live recording set up. It is essentially a small but very comfortable venue/theatre space which is set up to record whomever performs there. You book the venue, pay an incredibly reasonable fee and receive a quality live recording and video. Franz is friendly and open and takes a lot of pride in making the experience as satisfactory as possible. Basically, if you are in Berlin and looking to record a live album, a promo video or just a record of your current show, the Culture Container should be on top of your list of options.

A view of the Culture Container. That's Franz in the foreground.

A view of the Culture Container. That’s Franz in the foreground.

For my part, I did two silly things:

The first was that I got a blister on the tip of the middle finger of my left hand when trying to move the braai we were grilling on at Tempelhof yesterday afternoon. Dumb.Ass.Thing.To.Do. I had to walk around the block a couple times with my finger in an ice-cream before I could stop berating myself. In the end it turned out that the calluses I have from guitar playing saved the day and the blister ended up being just out of the way of any real trouble but it was still a really unnecessary stress.

Me and the braai, pre-follishness.

Me (and Esther and her sister Jana) and the braai, pre-foolishness.

The second thing was that I totally forgot that when you are recording anything, even if it is just at home, the stress and worry about making mistakes is on a  different level. I make mistakes just about every time I play live but it has become quite easy to either move on from them mentally (because usually they are insignificant and I am really the only one who will notice) or (if the mistakes are a little more severe) have a total internal freakout while trying to keep a straight face about it all and then just get on with the show. Last night, however, every time I made a little mistake I would automatically start thinking about how that would sound on the recording which would distract me even more and lead to another mistake which would lead to more stress and disheartenment. So that was quite annoying. If I could just have thought about it before and got myself into a better headspace I think I would have enjoyed the show more.

As it is, by general accounts the show went really well. Everyone had a good time (I could even see some feet tapping and shuffling during the show which cheered me up quite a bit!) and the bits of the recording that Franz played me afterwards sounded great. It’s just the funny experience of having a tough time even though things are coming out fine. I will go collect the recording on Wednesday and then put it all together when I get back to Joburg.

Berlin sunset from the Culture Container. (all pics in this post by Phil, btw)

Berlin sunset from the Culture Container. (all pics in this post by Phil, btw)

And so, this marks the official end of this tour. It has been a really great experience and I have learned a ton and gained a lot of confidence. I now have a week left in Berlin which will be taken up by hanging out in the summer heat and doing nice summery things (and going to see Patti Smith tomorrow!!) before heading back to Joburg for an anticipated three months of working on new martial and figuring out what to do next!

Second last…and first!

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Mr Phil Alves, looking good at Tempelhof.

Last night I played at Madame Claude, the penultimate show of my trip. It was a really good show and it has left me with a nice feeling heading into the recording at Culture Container tomorrow. The audience was small to begin with but the room filled up throughout the gig and by the end, even through Madame Claude’s performance space is two levels below the street and quite removed from the summer heat, it was quite a hot and sweaty affair on stage (which, good vibes aside, also led to a couple salty-eyed and sweaty-handed moments of things-nearly-going-quite-wrong). I got some really nice comments after the show and one in particular made me feel pretty good: Madame Claude’s sound guy, who has also been there for my last couple shows at the venue, said that he really liked the show, that it has improved a lot and that he especially liked one song which isn’t on Dolorous (I gave him a copy last time I played there) – which means that he had already actually listened to my album and knew the songs!! Cooool!!! Haha.

Also on the lineup last night was the beautiful and delicate folk of Rey Villalobos aka House Of Wolves. What a super sweet guy and great musician! We got to chat a bit before the show and I (as politely as possible) picked his brain about touring in Europe, which he has been doing for years.

Phil had arrived on Thursday afternoon and we had spent all of yesterday cycling around the city so the night ended shortly after the show. Today has also been pretty lazy with breakfast around the corner, a trip to the supermarket for general home supplies and then lazing under a tree by the canal. I did, however, receive the first video for my live-concert-by-cellphone concept from someone who I didn’t know before the show. So awesome! (Thanks Cat Secretário! You are the best!).

And, I got a new hat. 

Weird Circle Completions, and some tunes.

Random pic of a Nik Kershaw album cover (complete with braille labelling) that I found pinned to the wall of the toilet at Cafe Grenzenlos in Cottbus.

Random pic of a Nik Kershaw album cover (complete with braille labelling) that I found pinned to the wall of the toilet at Cafe Grenzenlos in Cottbus.

Yesterday was one of those days which was kind of quiet and also kind of busy. We were at home most of the day, moving stuff around and emptying boxes in Esther’s new flat and then in the evening I went to have dinner (a super tasty risotto) with my friends Becky, Hinnerk, Cheri and Matse. We had a great evening together with long chats which included a discussion about the blogging habits and motives of musicians and the various levels of sharing of personal information. The details are not really that important but, as Becky says she reads my blog, mentioning it here feels like it completes some sort of weird circle. So ya, do with that what you will. (Also, hi Becky!)

Aside from that, I thought I’d just take the chance to mention some music (not mine) that is floating about and that I have recently been in contact with:

One is the newest album by my newest pal, Ann Jangle. Ann is a Cape Townian musucian who I met recently thought Lee Thompson and who has also arrived in Berlin (along with her infectious personality). She has just released the album Kicking Sawdust and if you think that some growly rock & roll laced with ska horns could brighten up your day then go and download the thing right a flippen way.

The other is a folk singer named Paulette Wright from Reims in France. I was turned onto her by a venue in Reims (L’Excalibur) where I am trying to book a show for my tour in December. They need me to find someone local to share the bill with and recommended I get in touch with Paulette. She can’t make the gig (she is on tour with a theatre group at the time) but if you like a pretty voice and ethereal vibes then grab one of these tunes over your cup of tea.

And that is that about that. 🙂

Last Night at the Ofen Bar (and An Idea!)

Me at the Ofen Bar

Me at the Ofen Bar. This photo was taken from the back row. Jokes, it was from about the second or third  row from the back.

I played a super cool gig at a super cool little bar last night. The place is called Ofen Bar (Misu&Musi) and I think it is the smallest and cosiest place I have ever played. The capacity must be about 15 people but the atmosphere and audience are awesome. Also on the lineup was the Italian blues/folkster Matteo Tambussi who has some great tunes that he played on an overdriven twelve-string acoustic and he has a voice that reminds me of Freddy Mercury in his lower ranges.

I’ve also come up with a great idea! Because my show has quite a regular structure (with all my gear, etc, it kind of needs to be that way so that I can remember everything) I think it would be possible to make a live video over the next few months by asking the audience at each show to film short video clips on their phones which they can email to me and which I can then splice into one long video. I will also have the live recording which I will be making this Sunday at the Culture Container to use at the basic sound track. What do you think of that?!  I think it will be awesome!!!

The Omniversal Earkestra

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The Omniversal Earkestra

Last night we went to watch my good friend Lee Thomson play a show with the Omniversal Earkestra at the Zukunft Kino. Lee is a trumpet player, club owner, organiser and general stalwart of the Cape Town live scene and we got to know each other during the Armchair days when he rented some office space from me. While we have seen each other sporadically since then we managed to get in some quality time while he has been holidaying in Berlin. What a treat! Lee is a such a great guy and we have spent the past couple weeks wondering about the place, geeking out about loopstations, life and finding our ways in the music world. And as an added bonus, the past few days have included the presence of Sean Ou Tim, Motheo Moleko and Jamie Faull who are on tour with Jeremy Loops. Good times!

Lee and Sean at Tempelhofer Feld

Lee and Sean at Tempelhofer Feld

Time flies…

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All of a sudden there are only a couple weeks and some spare change left of my three months in Berlin. I feel like this has been a successful trip but, mostly, I feel like I have reached then end of the beginning of my mission to make a career for myself as a musician. Six years ago I could barely play a song on the guitar (let alone write a song or sing in public) and now I have organised and completed my first European tour, my album is receiving some nice reviews and my show is at the point where it seems to be well received whenever and wherever I play. And I have two general feelings about all of this:

The first, obviously, is that I feel quite good about having gotten this far. For most of my life I never allowed myself to to even contemplate such an undertaking. I did everything to be as close as possible to the music but I could never allow myself to take the leap as an artist…and now that ball is rolling.

The second feeling is that I am suddenly a little daunted and overwhelmed by the question of what to do next. I am in the classic metaphor of having reached the top of the first mountain only to discover the rest of the range spreading out into the distance. Which mountain is next? In which direction? Which will take me closer to my goal and which further away? Will I just end up going round in circles? This is where I am right now. My thoughts are constantly circling all these options and more, trying and waiting to find some concrete idea on which to land.

So without knowing exactly what I should be doing next, I am going to do two things. The first thing is that I am going to repeat what I just did: organise another tour and then, hopefully, record another album, and then, go on another tour and then another tour and then maybe another tour (which should all take me through to the end of 2016). If recording and performing are the cornerstones of a music career then it makes sense that I aim to be able to do those things properly and I am pretty sure (or, at least, I need to remind myself) that I didn’t learn everything the first time. Progression by repetition, ya know.

The second thing that I am going to do spend some time reading and researching and thinking about what sort of direction I should be heading in for the medium-to-long term. Do I tour the same places or different places? Do I focus on club gigs or should I be looking for festival bookings? Is it worth putting in the time to try and find a label or am I ok on my own for now? That sort of stuff. (Ok? Ok!)

But before all that I have my last three Berlin gigs coming up this week, one of which is a live recording that I am very happy to be doing because it means I can a) save my current live show for posterity and b) have some updated material to send around when I look for shows.

Also, I have two weeks of summer left to enjoy, my great friends Phil and Leanne are arriving for a visit, we have tickets to see Patti Smith and all the other good things that will happen that I don’t know about yet.

So ya, that is all that about that. Thanks for reading 🙂