Baby Dynamite

The iRig2 seems to be a good piece of kit. It at least does what it's supposed to in the recording stakes but you could spend a fortune inside the app adding effects. It would be easy to go down that road but that also sounds like wasting time when all I'm looking for is a way to record first drafts of songs. This week I'll be switching from their own apps to see how it fares with GarageBand - where I at least know which buttons are worth pressing. 

However... I found another use for this solid little piece of kit: 

Stuck in a tape deck here, because it's the safest place for it, is a tape of a tape of a tape - probably seventh generation - that has seen many better days that plays host to a Baby Dynamite four track demo from 1992. Baby Dynamite is of course, my band from what has very quickly become a 'few years back'. This is the first batch of songs we recorded. Somewhere out there is a second tape with another four tracks on it but I have hidden it so safely, I haven't a clue where that is. 

Thus, out of interest and for anybody trawling the internet for proof such a thing really did happen, I'm posting them here in all their detiorated glory. These were all recorded in a bedroom home studio pushing the tech we had as far as it would go with the intention of handing record companies a demo product so good, they would hand us bags of cash safe in the knowledge we would spend it wisely and come up with something like Hysteria that would make superstars of us all... or at least make us enough money that there would be something different for dinner other than cream cheese and Space Raiders inside a bread roll.

In hindsight, we were at gentle war with each other. Pete - whose studio it was had very set ideas about how we should sound and so, that's how it sounded. He's a great producer and I think might still be somewhere out there. Nate, my drummer, blood brother and housemate had similar tastes in music, so the multi layers were fine with him too. I don't recall Lee, our bass player having much of a say in anything because Pete was a control freak and recorded all the bass parts himself - but in fairness (so far as I know) Lee is the only one of us still out there regularly playing 25 years later, so he obviously didn't take it to heart... and at the only gig this particular line-up of the band ever played, he was the only one of us that didn't mess up.

For what it's worth, my fuck up was the worst. I misjudged how high my heels were and fell off the stage into a stack of amps, blowing all of the power in the building. Funny now. Not so much on the night.

Anyway, I was just pleased to be writing these songs, getting them out of my head onto tape and didn't think much about such things. We were riding a wave of self belief - no matter how misguided. The goal was to become a slick, well oiled machine of a band that outgunned the American wave of glam rock back then... and in hindsight it wasn't a bad shot at the target.

Then Nirvana came along and that was pretty much the end of the story for a bunch of guys living just outside of Liverpool with no cash.

Let me talk you through it:

WHITE KNUCKLE RIDE

Pete had some old riffs lying around and I came up with the lyrics for this while he was out walking his dog. This was to be the 'statement' of what we were about and it even had an intro you could walk on stage to based on the WWF Legion of Doom's catchphrase "What A Rush". Sadly this one has suffered most on the tape just because it's first...

CREATURE FEATURE

I wrote this song for Alice Cooper. True fact. Maybe I should have sent it to him. If White Knuckle Ride was a showcase for Pete being a guitarist, this was my showcase for hooks and lyrics. I loved this song and still do. It simply is what it is and yes, somewhere in there is a lyric about nuclear war which I stole from Duran Duran. If it was good enough for them and all that...

HOT CHERIE

This is an odd one. Back in the mid 80s I used to trade tapes with some guys out in California and I came into possession of one by a band called Brunette and because I was running a fanzine at the time, had some correspondence with Johnny Law from the band. A later tape from the band contained this song and Brunette disappeared from the face of the earth. For the record, they were a great band and all these demos can now be found as an album on Apple Music - and more than likely Spotify as well. 

Anyway, Pete wanted to cover a song to see how we stacked up against the real world. I was dead against it but submitted this to him as a great song from a band nobody would ever hear from again... and thus, people would think it was our own unless they looked really closely...  

Who could have known that the very same year, the guys from Brunette would get together with some guys from Journey (yeah, that Journey) to form Hardline and release an album on which this also appeared. 

Still, it was good fun to sing this... it pushed me right out of my comfort zone. 

Whatever you think of this version, it's a great song and if you like such things, the Hardline version is on their album Double Eclipse... but I still think the Brunette version is the best.  

The other song we recorded sucks diesel. I hated it then and I hate it even more now. You know when you get to the end of an album and you turn it off because the band had obviously run out of ideas? That's what this other song is like - it doesn't even have a good title, something I was massively insistent on then as much as I am now. 

The other tape had some much better material on it - I really found a groove after this batch. It had/has a couple of songs on it I'd love to hear again. One was called Paperhouse and the other, Naked With Jezebel. If you happen to be passing and own such a demo, I'd love to hear from you.

After these sessions, we took a break to write some more songs, do some other things and never quite got it back on track. For my part, I wandered off in a solo direction and put a project together called SPIRITWALKER which was about as far removed from this as I could get. Maybe I'll post those songs here later this week - I was a lot more careful about looking after those. 

One final thing on this. Back then, it was hard getting your music heard. Nobody gave a damn and every band had a demo of some kind. So far as I can see, since then, the whole world went digital but nothing much has changed. I know lots of bands that had a record deal that went on to do nothing and I know lots of bands who never even got close that should have. There were more opportunities to play locally but there were less opportunities to connect and do something on a larger scale. Such is the music business then and now.

You get what the previous generation left you.

Which means it's a lot like writing. You do it because you love it and not because you 'might get somewhere'. You make music or write because it's what you do.

The world owes you some water and some oxygen and that's about all. End of story.

A Hard Day's Night

Jesus. It's a few days into July already. How did that happen? I put the next issue of Skin Deep to bed this afternoon but it only seems like a week since I strapped a rocket to the last one. The 300th issue will be knocking on the door before I know it. This one was #279, so in the real world, I guess we still have a couple of years before that happens, but still... it sounds pretty close from where I'm standing.

I won't be taking my eye off the ball. 

Anyway, with that off the desk, I shall be turning my attention to other things for a few days, namely, songwriting.

Last weekend, I messed around with some different ideas for a logo and settled quite wholly on this. I've looked at it for a few days now and it sits well, so it can stay:

Then I bought myself an iRig2 for simple, on the spot recording. I haven't road tested it yet but that's on the cards for tonight just as soon as I've finished this post.

It had better do what it's supposed to. I have high expectations and lots of material to pull together before I go anywhere near a studio. I haven't been in a recording studio for so long, they have likely changed beyond all recognition... but that's OK. That's why I have friends who know what they're doing - but that's way down the line.

I am not averse however to loading up demo material here when it's ready. If I tell you up front that what you'll get on that front will be more like Marc Bolan messing around at home in 1973 than Def Leppard making Hysteria with $100m at their disposal, you won't be too disappointed.

Or maybe you will. 

Mostly though, it feels good. You know that thing you do when time disappears because you're so preoccupied it loses all meaning? That's how this feels. Not sure what took me so long to come back to it but I'm here and pressing on regardless.


On my quest to waste nobody's time but my own watching great crime shows in the darkest hours of the night, I've stumbled upon a fantastic beast. It's called The Night Of and if you're in the UK, it's skulking around somewhere on SKY/NOWTV. A brief synopsis would go something like: 'Imagine you borrowed your old man's car for a few hours in the middle of the night... and then everything that could ever go wrong, did'

That pretty much sums it up. I'm hooked. It's a slow boiler though, so if you like you're drama edited like an MTV video from 1990, you'll be out of luck here, but if you have the attention span for shows like The Killing, it's might be right up your street...

The Great Outdoors

As something of an appendix to the last post about dropping material on Medium, my buddy Mr Wayne Simmons has also taken up residence there and made his first post about his workspace. I'm reasonably sure I've dropped some things on here before about where I like to work but no harm in rolling through it again.

Some of the time, I work at the kitchen/dining room table which is nothing special. Just a flat piece of wood with four legs. Unlike Mr Simmons, I have no man cave, no posters, no action figures, no paraphernalia at all and with good reason. I get distracted easily. Thus, in front of me sits a blank wall. I even moved all of the pictures that were on it to the wall behind me so I couldn't see them.

Which all sounds a bit dull... unless you've mastered the dark art of using the wall like a screen on which you project the film running in your head - which I do. It's a little more complicated than that, but that's all you're getting on that front.

However, the rest of the time, I write using a pen and notebook and I like to work here:

...or somewhere close by. There are many places to sit, write and watch your dog run free. There are also buzzards, hares, ravens and occasionally (sadly) other people with dogs but you can't have everything.

Believe it or not, I can get a lot of work done here. Words flow and that's what counts. It's a good feeling too because it never feels like work but neither am I averse to writing on trains, in the car... I guess the point I'm trying to make is I don't mind where I write, so it may as well be pretty. How disabling to have be in a certain place before you can get any work done. Thus, I have learned to be ready because it comes when it comes.

So there you have it. That's my day. If you're looking for pictures of sexy desks and workspaces - much like this one occupied by Bruce Springsteen - you're shit out of luck...

But this below - featuring Al Gore - is my idea of absolute hell. How can you focus and get anything done somewhere like this:

Where's the blank canvas to be filled? From the look of all this stuff, it looks to me like it's already been completed by other people, which is pretty much the story of Al Gore - apart from An Inconvenient Truth which is excellent and obviously made before he collected all this crap.

Seeds Of Decades

A whole week with no posts = busy.

The first thing to happen was that I recognised one of the holes in my life was that I missed writing about music so I figured I would do something about that. Not being of a mindset to launch anything as complex as a magazine right now - one is quite enough to look after thanks - I had a look around The Place (aka: the internet) to find a good place to do such a thing and made a call. You can't say jack on twitter, even less on instagram, I could post them all here but that wasn't really the point, tumblr has less attention span than both of my kids and the dog put together (which is a shame), which just left Medium to try out.

I have a love/hate thing with Medium but it seemed like a good a place as any online and so far so good. If you take a look here, you'll see that I branded it with my dearly beloved Burn logo - hey, it wasn't doing much else aside from lying around in a folder - and is populated with the album reviews I pulled together this week. As more weeks pass by, my plan is to press on with three or four a week... and that is the total extent of my plan with it for now. 

Let's see what happens. If you're in for the long haul with me, there's a BURN link up top in the navigation bar.

For the record, this first week features Cheap Trick, Nickelback, Uncle Sam and Mark Lanegan.


I finished my Father's Day present this afternoon. It looked like this and I loved it very much. As they say in places like Paris and Rome, it was "fucking excellent". The only reason I didn't finish it sooner was because I had too much work to do...

If music is the rock you stand on and you were born between 1960-ish and you can remember Live Aid first hand, you'll relate somewhere along the line, I promise.

I sat in Mark Ellen's office once with my proto-mag, Rock n Roll Babylon, when I was trying to bravado my way into EMAP on a wing and a prayer. He was very nice and encouraging about the whole thing and after reading this, I can see why.

We all stand on the shoulders of giants at some time.

Anyway, I've now moved onto this...

...which has had some good write ups around The Place and so far, is living up to the quotes on the cover. I have lot's of work still on the desk this week but I plan on tearing through it pretty swiftly all the same. 


Meanwhile, work continues on various projects and my feet are getting itchy for another road trip. Must do something to rectify that. 

Fast.

The Line Of Duty

This morning I began to pull together an interview with one of my favourite tattoo artists in the world: Noon. You can find his blog here but for the sake of getting this post off to a good looking start, here's one of his recent pieces:

It always surprises me that almost 100 issues on (just 15 more to go) from when I started, I can still find great things to talk about. Or at least I can when my co-conspirator is still passionate when it comes to their end of the bargain. Noon is one of those guys. I'm hoping it will be every bit as good as I want it to be when I'm done. 

File under pending... for a couple of weeks.


Aside from magazine things, this week I've been pounding the keys on a script that I believe has legs. Another couple of days and I'll be done with the second draft... writing such a thing (one day I'd like to be able to point you back to this post with hindsight as my friend) has left me with a lot of off-cuts. There's so much on the cutting-room floor, if I'm still feeling uber-positive about the whole thing after the weekend (because these things have a tendency to back you into a corner) I might carry on into next week and see where those bits might take me because what I really need right now is another project to stare at me and ask when I'm going to pay it some more attention... honest it is.


Earlier this evening, my mother sent me a text. One of those mysterious ones out of the blue that suggests the whole thing would become much clearer if you had been in the room with her while she wrote it. This has happened a lot more than it used to since she got an iPhone. 

The content of the message went like this:

"You will look like Billy Connolly when you get old"

My best guess is that he happened to be on TV at the time. I did see something a couple of days ago about some paintings of him that had turned up in Glasgow (I think) so I'll assume that was the trigger... but I haven't seen a pic of Billy for a long time - so I went to find one.

So first, Robert Plant (as detailed here) and now Billy Connolly. I'm starting to see a pattern of hair + beard emerging.

Billy is 74. I could live with that look. It's coming down the line regardless. My mother knows me well.


Items Of Interest From Other People Whose Work I Dig:

I saw today that Jonathan Carroll has a new book out in August - this has jettisoned itself to the top of the wish list with ease. If you're not familiar with his work, he posts regularly on Medium and it's always worth the trip.

But... you don't have to wait if you're intrigued. The man has a huge backlist and never disappoints. If you're looking for something new to help pass the evenings under the quilt with a torch, this is a good place to be.


On the music front, I tried to be adventurous at the start of the week and listened to the new Katy Perry album for some reason and wished I hadn't then diverted myself back to more familiar territory. There's a new Goo Goo Dolls EP on the racks but when I had finished with it (twice), I couldn't remember a thing about it. Putting music out because you can and not because you have something to say is wrong in every way you can think of.

Then a bird came into the kitchen, knocked a box of dog snacks off the shelf and I remembered Cheap Trick have an album out... it's not all out yet, but there are some advance tracks strutting their stuff. It looks like this:

But while I was hunting down that album cover, I saw there was also an album out last year which had totally passed me by in every way you can think of... and it's all there. Cheap Trick have lost nothing over the years. Nothing at all. That one looks like this:

Life is good when Cheap Trick are around.

A Flying Dog

To begin: a flying dog. I have a flying dog and he rocks...

Got up stupidly early this morning and wiped out a stack of day-job work that was hanging around which left me with a free morning (kinda)... so I wrote a short story. It had been bubbling under for a while and this morning it fell out of my hand almost fully formed. Typed up, I'll let it swim in its own juice for a while and see how it looks at the end of the week. Then (and only then) will I look for a home for it but mostly, it's good to have wrapped something up again. 

Then, I got a bee in my head about a song that had been unfinished for far too long, so I wrapped up the lyrics for that too and tonight I am Home Alone which is a good opportunity to piece it all together. It's called Cry Baby Ridge - and I did not rhyme 'ridge' with 'fridge'. That Alicia Keys song is pretty good until it gets to that part. Somebody should have pointed that out in the studio but it's out there now and you can't take it back. 

I guess pretty soon I'll have to record something and post it for public consumption.


There's a news story on BBC today about Patty Jenkins (the director of Wonder Woman) being a woman and breaking box office records for being a woman and doing so. While this is great - and I really loved the movie for all the right reasons - surely such stories aren't helpful in levelling the playing field of gender when it comes to... well, anything. There is never specifically 'man' news about box office records, so why point out this one? 

The world has gone nuts. A director is a director is a director and you either did a good job or you didn't. She did a great job. Wiped the floor with the other DC super-hero movies too but equality means you did what you did and then you move on to doing something else, doing what you do some more.

Gender roles should only be pointed out when it either involves childbirth or being able to piss standing up. Normally I would say it must be a slow news day, but in today's climate, that would be an outright lie.


A Bear Rescue update: I can take a few knocks. The black Bear Rescue tee-shirts that were meant to top up the bear fund fell hard on their face and died a death from not meeting the minimum print number requirement... set-up costs and all that. The white variant by Hannah Willison is still up and doing great though. Funny because when they were white, people wanted black but the black didn't sell and the white one is rolling just fine. 

Go figure.

It's been an easier ride to point people at the Just Giving page and equally as profitable. 


Finally, in the hand for reading this week, is this new collection of shorts - Men Without Women - from Murakami. I would say how good it was, but I don't need to. It's the law.

The Bear Necessities

This was taken a few short days ago and I post it here because... I don't remember it being taken at all. For a pretty close-up shot, how could I not know this was happening? Unless the guy was using a paparazi lens from 100 feet away, surely I should have been aware of such a thing - the man is right in front of my face.

Pic Credit: Marc Wainwright

Pic Credit: Marc Wainwright


Today is the last day you can pick up any of the three designs in the Big Bear Rescue store. I think it wraps itself up about 10pm tonight, so if you're in, get it on because I'm archiving these forever and ever after tonight... never ever to be seen again on a shirt. Forever ever.

Thanks for all your support with this if you bought one along the way, it's been very much appreciated... and the other shirt in the store, the white one from Hannah, that will be around for a good few weeks yet.

Do what thou wilt. Swiftly.


I was beginning to despair in the extreme that there was nothing new to listen to this week that would keep my attention beyond a few minutes and just as I was about to hang up my ears on the world, I saw this had sneaked under my radar - and holy mother, is it ever good. It plays like a Real Album from the mid seventies. For maximum enjoyment, it really needs that volume tweaking some. 

...and then this evening, I have part three of the monks laying waste to the planet in Doctor Who followed by a late night showing of Wonder Woman - which finally looks like a DC movie worth going out of the house to see.

Right now though, I'm going to play that guitar until its frets bleed all over my fingers. Practice, practice , practice... that's the way forward.

Sion Smith
Welcome To The Party

I hear there's a general election around the corner. They always confuse the hell out of me because all parties promise something 'better', but they never mean 'better for everybody', no matter what side of the fence you may be standing on.

What baffles me most is just how many people there are in the ball pool and what they all hope to gain from it. One would suspect money, kudos and power for the most part.

I'd like to propose a little something. I have no idea if it would work or not but I'll float it anyway.

What if, there were just three people in 'power'. For the sake of argument, let's say Mrs May, Mr Corbyn and er... another one (you choose - their names escape me). Surely three intelligent people - and we must assume they all are intelligent no matter what your fingers tell you to type on social media - could fix things quickly and easily?

Three people around a table.

"We have a problem with the NHS..."

Cue whiteboard. Somebody is handed a whiteboard marker and stands next to it.

"What are these problems?"

Between the three, they list all of these items on the whiteboard... and between the three, they come up with the answer that some of the solution is more money, some of the solution is to change things and some of the solution is to let the public know that fixing this is going to cost money.

And between the three, they decide where that money will come from, what those changes will be and in a very short amount of time, together they come up with a plan to fix things and put it into operation. 

All of those donations to party politics, all that driving around of buses, all of that time spent on TV (or not)... that's all time those few people could spend doing things instead of telling people what they're going to do and inevitably not end up doing because they didn't 'win'. Maybe all of the other people milling about could be useful in collating figures and making charts of where attention is most needed. I don't know... there's most likely lots of work to do behind the scenes. 

I know it's not the same thing at all, but if I spent as much (comparative) time editing the mag as they do on all those things, I would produce a single issue a year if I was lucky. 

Is this such a dumb idea? I've seen Conservative governments and Labour governments in my lifetime and all that ever happens is this: those in power at the time make things happen and the other people say they're wrong - regardless of which side you're on, that's exactly what happens year in, year out. Later, when the roles are reversed, they just blame each other for the mistakes.

But all of these people can't be wrong all the time.

If they are, why are they running the country? 

The NHS is good example because everybody can relate to it. How come every single person in the country can't afford an extra £1 a month/a week when we can all afford Netflix, phone contracts and coffee at £4 a go? An extra £1 a month/£12 a year from the entire adult population would be er..... £753,114,000 which is a lot of cash from such a small amount. This is based on a loose population search which is currently 62,759,500 - I think my maths are solid. 

If you went for it and called in an extra £1 a week (the price of a fat-boy Snickers bar at the moment) you could crank that up to umm... 32,634,94000 ... I can't get my commas in the right place for this one, but I think it's around £32 billion... or is it £3 billion? You could fix a lot of things in that year regardless of which answer is correct... and that's on top of whatever is going on now.

It could just be 'fixing money'.

I am no politician - as is probably obvious to anybody reading this who does have a clue - but a small country such as ours shouldn't be hard to run in the civilised world. A few people - of varying sex, age and ethnicity - can make things work. Of this I'm convinced. Put your ego away, look at the facts, agree on them and stop fucking fighting just to prove you have a place at the table. People would love you... and you would have all the kudos, money and power you ever wanted.

...or is that the script from the last couple of weeks of Doctor Who?

Maybe it's not a fix for everything and some things, like the Trident question would be difficult, I don't get why it costs whatever it costs - do we rent it? It would however get most things done quickly, smartly and sounds like a 'step in the right direction'.

Let's face it though, most people don't care about the reality of the world. Just their own little corner of it. If you never take a train, you could care less about train politics. If you don't have kids, you don't care about childcare problems. The list is endless. 

Hmmm. The more I write, the more I see how little I know and when I don't know anything about something I tend to shut my mouth. Maybe I should just move to Copenhagen or somewhere in Switzerland....

Back to Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers.

Sion Smith