Guitarist – Singer-songwriter – Author – Traveller – Physics Teacher
Books and music were magic portals to other worlds, wormholes to the strange dimensions of other people’s lives, crowbars for ripping up the floorboards of the mind. A light bulb moment reading Zen And The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance made me realise that the creative process turns you into a portal, a wormhole, a crowbar, that the journey was more important than the destination, that creativity is what it’s all about. I had to participate! I had to go fishing on the antipodean shores of my own subconscious, a shore lapped by the ocean of common experience. So I bought a guitar. And I started writing.
I had lessons, briefly. Everything else is magpie self-learning, finding my own vocabulary, letting my fingers work out their own style and finding harmonic narratives to suit the journey. A million hours in a shed with a 4-track was how I learned my craft. I admire the songwriters who defy convention to make one-off pieces of magic. Jimmy Webb (Wichita Lineman and By The Time I Get to Phoenix). Tom Waits (list too long to mention). The Bee Gees (seriously – their chord journeys are unique). And the major 7th chord will always have a special place in my heart.
I left my life for 18 months in my early twenties and was subsumed by the mystery of what music is, where it came from, what’s it for, what does it mean!!! Inspired by a description of transcendence by music in Herman Hesse’s Glass Bead Game and the example set by my musical guru, Goong, I embarked on a journey of discovery that took me to every corner of the globe, deep into history and through the looking glass of fact and fiction. Stumbling crazy-eyed out the other side I had a book. The Musician.
I’ve studied the craft of writing until I’m blue in the literary face. Musical creation is often BOOM, like a fast chemical reaction, and suddenly the song is in the room and you have it by the tail. You just have to catch it and tame it and neaten it up. Sometimes it needs to be flattened out a bit and narrated. Sometimes they change over the years to accommodate transitions. But writing fiction is like rust, slowly accumulating, changing shape. Layers accrete upon layers as you dig deep, look sideways and uncover the work like a fossil hunter carefully blowing away the dirt to dig up the bones. Unpublished novels include SoulStreamers and Shattering Jacks.
The Meanderings series of travelogues take oblique perspectives on the genre of travel writing. Lovelorn and Rudderless describes the various misadventures involved in not coming home, rather than going away. Sequels in the pipeline include Uncharted Territory which combines motorbiking through jungles with accounts of people, including myself who went ‘off the map’. Snowflakes is an account of a one week silent meditation retreat that draws on my experience of living in the mountains of Bhutan for a year. Travel is not always outward and geographical.
In 2016 I raised £5000 to record my debut album, Unsteady On Our Feet, with Gaz Williams producing and a raft of incredible musicians wrapping it up with musical loveliness. The process was inspiring and wonderful, blending old school values of ‘albumness’ with super high tech fancy techniques for breathing life into the music. The album explores the hypertrophic romantic idealism that took me flying into wonderful adventures. And out of them again. Sometimes we fall in love with ideas. Or with something ephemeral that exists between two people but is unsustainable and set to self-destruct. The album is upbeat, poppy, folky and fun with a raw and tender underbelly of authenticity. We wanted it to be honest and amazing.
In 2017 I tie it all together. The Musician was originally published in 2006 by Bluechrome as Music of Maninjau but they disappeared shortly after, whereabouts still unknown. It’s taken 10 years and 3 more books worth of experience to rewrite it as The Musician. The album is ready to go. The book is finished. At Shambhala Festival my talk entitled A Meander Through the Metaphysics of Music will fuse the living breathing listening music with physics, mathematics, all the research and the thrill of the adventure that birthed it all. Exciting times.