I’ve freelanced for a decade. Been a musician for three and a half. The two have combined a couple of times with two podcast jingle commissions. But mostly I write for the web.
Rewind to 1978/9. Caught the punk/new wave bug. Got my first electric guitar at 16. Formed my first band, Khartomb, at 18. A John Peel Session, a minor cult single and a few gigs later and in 86 (when indie music really came of age) the dream fizzled out.
But if music’s in your blood it stays there. Since 86 I’ve recorded solo stuff on my Tascam 4-track and my Mac. Worked with several singers. Formed another band in the mid-90s (Heart of Voh, if you must know)… Coulda. Woulda. Shoulda.
Then out of the blue. About a year or so ago. Singer/songwriter Caroline Khartomb facebooks me. Before you know it we’re creating our first new track for 27 years using smartphone audio and music software. Not long and we’re rehearsing. The creative chemical soup bubbling away again…
Nine months later… We’ve got an 11-song set of old, re-worked and new songs. Had an interview on Brooklyn internet radio station, Newtown Radio in July (DJ Harris Smith played our single on NYC station East Village Radio several years ago). We’re planning a recording studio session. Gigs are a serious possibility too.
So how did we get this far? There were several factors even though we had work, partners and family commitments (Particularly for Caroline with a 13 and 8-year-old and doing a part-time course):
Initially via Facebook and Email. Now regular Thursday lunchtime telephone catch ups to arrange rehearsals and discuss next steps.
I tried and failed to work with other singers in the last 2 years. Hopeless.
Yet Caroline and I have produced new material (“Really good”, said Harris Smith, Newtown Radio) like nobody’s business. What that chemistry is, is hard to pinpoint. But any creative person knows when you find it. Or rediscover it.
We both still loved music. We’d both carried on producing our own material before we got back together. But joining forces has rekindled that passion for new music and amplified it to the same decibel level of the mid-80s.
Partly physical. Partly mental. But it’s crucial for any creative project, especially if it’s a side project. The 3 C’s above fuel this energy
On 2 fronts
Rehearsals. No mean feat as Caroline’s up in Lincolnshire and only occasionally in Hertfordshire (I’m in Beds). There’s scope for some online collaboration but you can’t beat face-to-face.
Promotion. Self-promoting music nowadays means managing Twitter, Facebook, Bandcamp, Youtube, E-newsletters, PRSforMusic registrations. The latter especially if you’re doing live performances. Next is a website (which I’ve worked on this weekend). And I’m booked onto a Guardian Masterclass about Self-releasing music on Sept 23.
It’s heaps to do. But with the drive and belief in your project you find the time, and energy to keep it all ticking.
Eg I was on a short break in Somerset recently. But managed to remix a new Khartomb track “Cabbages and Kings” on my laptop. Emailed it to Caroline for ‘sign off’. Uploaded to Bandcamp and posted on Facebook & Twitter. A laptop and a so-so wi-fi connection (and that energy) was all I needed.
Ironically both Caroline and I are incredibly ‘time poor’. We didn’t appreciate how much spare time we had in our student and early work years. But this realisation helps to make our rehearsals ultra productive.
And OK, Khartomb is my side project. But the more I’ve immersed myself into the band, the more it’s dawned on me that, if it could be, it would be my main project.
Why? Probably cos I get the biggest buzz from creating songs. Partly cos I love the process of creating new songs from a melody or guitar riff. And partly cos music touches people on a deeper and more emotional level than possibly any other art form.
(…a debate for another blog or forum. But here’s what Beethoven had to say on the subject: Music is a higher revelation than all wisdom and philosophy.”)
Plus it’s the best when someone big ups your music. Just a few weeks ago ‘Very listenable – some truly great music” was posted on our new Facebook Page”
I don’t have any illusions or delusions about making a living from music in 2014. It’s way way harder than it was for ‘Khartomb Mark I’. It’s super easy to get your stuff online but there’s buckets of background noise. Getting noticed is an enormous challenge.
Despite all the pitfalls, Khartomb prevails. Seeking that next milestone: recording studio session, national radio airplay, licensing deal (film/TV soundtrack), live performance(s), a viral moment. (maybe). OK, we’ve done several of those before but not in this decade and the desire to succeed is still there.
I think with any side project us creatives need a perfect storm of (that) desire, energy, planning and positive reinforcement courtesy of friends, colleagues, supporters and especially fans to keep on keeping on.
Me? I’m anticipating the masterclass, the studio sesh, our first live gig for donkeys and the next random episode. Sidestepper or hopeless romantic? You decide…