Adventuring by the book.
I wrote an album in the summer of 1991, just before I got married, called Tropical Thunder. It was called this, I think, because the imprint I ‘released’ recordings under at that time was called Rainforest.
Rainforest Studios was a shed in my parents’ garden. It still just about stands there now, ravaged by an unkind, obviously temperate climate under a decidedly deciduous beech tree. While I continue to muck about with and daydream about making electronic musical epics in another, slightly more robust, shed in my own garden.
The point in mentioning it is not to get thinking about the very very old days or to wonder where my four-track is now or why I still don’t seem to own a decent piano or where in the hell twenty years went in the blink of a bleedin’ red LED, but merely to say that I have now actually heard tropical thunder.
And probably that, twenty years on, I’m not sure what practical advice I’d give that young daydreamer in a shed. The plan hasn’t, ah, well hasn’t much fleshed out from there. Really. Apparently.
Tropical thunder, I should say incidentally, sounds pretty much like thunder anywhere else. Except you’re almost certainly sweating more when you hear it.
I’ve been interviewed a couple of times in the last couple of weeks and each time is an opportunity for me to refine Momo’s elevator statement – the neat summation of all that you do in an easy, insightful, pithy moment in a lift. ..Should some weirdo ask you when the doors close what you like to do between floors.
When I get to hear or see the two most recent interviews in question, I wonder whether they will sound like the same person? If you ignore the sound of the obvious guffawing hoorayer doing the actual tedious talking, you understand – that idiot turns up everywhere. But the point is that the job description seems to sound different every time it comes out of his yawning great trap.
I think both nice journalists, Lenka and Jen, understood that I was claiming to be a music artist of some kind. Jen even called me out and told me, on mic, to compose a tune on the ruddy spot. I inched up to the keys, hands arthritic-lookingly tentative, played a Cmaj chord with a bum note and promptly ended the composition there, adding that the idea might need tidying up but that we could fix it in post. Or something.
The problem is my mouth. It lets slip anything in order to keep flow or to be funny. Sort of useful in broadcasting in a way, and sort of disastrous. No, I never actually let slip Anglo-Saxon profanities, even when they’d be the most precisely funny thing to say, though I did have to retake the odd ‘arse’ or ‘ruddy’. But the main problem is sticking to story. The bits of it that should sound cohesive if carefully said together.
When Jen said to me something like: “So what have you been working on lately?” I blurted out: “I’ve just come back from Bali.”
She blinked and said: “..Really? Doing what? An exotic musical commission?”
To which I replied: “No, no. >honking chuckle< I always do those from a shed in Southbourne. No, I was running an event for a petrochemical company."
..You see? How do I build a cohesive audience with that?
Well, I mean it’s all part of Momo’s remit, isn’t it? Freedom. Or something. The reason I haven’t taken on a permanent team and gone hunting for big game – the freedom to take on random creative work, join other people’s worlds for a bit, and still be able to come home to a shed in the garden and scribble feverishly in a book of grand musical concepts and make electronic keyboard tunes like a twenty-year-old enthusiast.
Sounds quite good put like that, I guess. And it certainly doesn’t sound harsh to say that I have been working in a five-star resort on the Indonesian island paradise of Bali, either. I can see that.
The point is probably something to do with being fully wherever you are needed in any given moment. Would that I was frequently needed to do good work with great mates for a client it feels a little honouring to be working with in an exotic setting. Obviously. I mean, just obviously.
I would point out, though, that this particular creative assignment still illustrated an ignoble truth of my work – namely, that there is no conceivable setting, or hour of the day, or place on earth in which I may not be expected to interact with a rollerbanner. Hashtag: livingthecreativedream. Glamour has never given to me with both hands. If she ever does to anyone, of course.
It’s the issue of service that is always the most pertinent one for any creative gunslinger – are you being the practical use your client needs you to be, despite the background notion dawning on you as you look up from your To Do list that you’re wearing a suit on a humid beach front resort under palm trees to the sound of gently shushing waves and warmly ringing evening cicadas in the warm glow of a postcard sunset? The challenge is always the same, even if the eventual sunburn – ah – the brief, isn’t. Or the cost of drinks.
It is a challenge.
I’ve long felt that Momo, even before it was Momo, may be a little ship – one small enough that breaking out the emergency oars and pulling for all you’re worth can still make a difference in a high sea – but that it’s with little ships that people travel the world. And found the New World. You can cover a great distance in a little ship, and discover some great things.
Of course, it helps if you have some great mates who are nice enough slash damn-fool enough to invite you on a great gig – and I owe an alarming number of these to the generosity of one of the oldest of friends, Julian. I think I still owe him for room service too.
The point may be, after all, that setting out on an adventure is not about getting from A–B. It’s usually about surviving from A–Z. Your little ship will have to put into all sorts of unexpected ports and perhaps even get washed up on some very unexpected beaches. It doesn’t necessarily mean that your story has veered off course. Even if chapters of it don’t seem to fit the narrative you set out to explore. I’m sure the eponymous Odysseus would have something to say along these lines.
And so would a bloke called Homer, who compiled / made up most of Odysseus’ epic adventures from the equivalent of a shed in Smyrna.
In fact, I think I’ve always instinctively known that, for many of us, it’s the book of daydreams that inspires us to even try getting back in the boat each morning. Attempting to navigate. Hoping to survive. Fooling ourselves into trying to make it somewhere.
From behind her little video camera, Lenka asked me: “What are you doing next?”
Feeling a little adventurous twinkle in the corner of my eye, I said: “I’m starting a new album. And I’m SO excited – I’ve been daydreaming about it for, like, ages – I have this book of scribbles and…”