Friday, 24 July 2015

There's No Business Like Show Business

What do you think of when someone says “London's West End”? Do you think of the shopping? The night life? The museums?

Or, do those three words conquer up images of bright lights, grease paint and old theatres?

The West End plays host to nearly fifty theatres, with names like the Adelphi, the Vaudeville, and the Lyceum to pique the imagination. Tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of people have walked the boards of some of these historic buildings and it would take several lifetimes to work through all the different productions.

There's a magic to this part of London, one that I've never experienced in any other theatre district. The draw of the lights and the sound of the music coupled with elegant old buildings and beautiful costumes have left a mark on the city. And while the shows may have changed from Vaudeville to musicals there are some things that have stayed the same.

One of those is the musical side of the shows and it's something that London does well. Recent years have seen a rise in musicals about... musicians. From Queen's “We Will Rock You” to Carole King's “Beautiful” to the Beatles “Let It Be”. They're shows that we revel in, lapping them up, singing along and, ultimately, lining up for repeat shows. “We Will Rock You” opened in London in 2002 and ran up until 2014. It's played in nearly twenty countries, including a year long run at the Paris Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas and a current tour on board the Royal Caribbean cruise ship, Anthem of the Seas.

So why have we fallen in love with musicals about musicians? For me, it's a mix of nostalgia and the love of music. I wasn't born when Beatlemania swept the world. I was too young to remember when Queen took over the Live Aid stage. Carole King, thankfully, has a much more prominent place in my memories thanks to my parents love of her “Tapestries” album (as do both the Beatles and Queen. Both bands were played to us extensively when we were young and my brothers and myself have a love for them.).

For people of my generation, and younger, the shows are a chance to see the bands our parents grew up to. It's a moment when we can see the songs performed by a live band (albeit not the band) and sing along. Normally in the company of our parents. It's a chance for us to bond and talk and find a common thread in a life that can be so fractured and lonely. The music brings us together and helps us find a language that we all speak.

There needs to be more of these musicals about musicians. We love them. We love the artistry and the performances. We love the stories they tell and we love to sing along with songs that we thought had been forgotten. It's good for the heart, it's good for the soul, and it's good for the world.

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

Mordark - Spain's Dark Metal Secret

One of the things I love about being a writer is that I get to meet some truly wonderful people. Whether it's on the bus or via social media, the friendships that have been formed are ones that going to last a long time. And one of the common bonding subjects is music.

The members of Mordark are one such group of friends. They've recently put out a new CD and they're one of the hardest working metal bands I've ever met. They took time out from their busy schduele to drop by and answer some questions.

Hi, guys! Please introduce yourselves.
Hi, I'm founder guitarrist of the band. I'm at the voices too, by now.
Hello, Im Raul González, vocals and bassist of the band.
Hi, I'm Dyna, I'm the drummer.
Hi, I’m Sandy and I play keyboard.

Your band is Mördark. How long have you been playing together and where did you form?

Henryk: as a guitarist and creator of my own band I've been for fifteen years in the band, Dyna is here since 2007, and Raul is here since 2012.

Describe your music to us in five words.

Beasts, madness, blood, darkness, and paganism.

Where does the name Mördark come from and what does it mean?

Mördark name come from a legend created by me (Henryk), Mördark was an ancient warrior who was betrayed, in middle age, dark age. He came from the other side searching a revenge.

You have a really great classic metal sound to your music. Who, or what, inspires you? Where do you draw the inspiration for your songs from?

Wow! Thank you, Rae! Well, we find inspiration in old black metal school, power metal, thrash metal, and old legends came from ancient people from Europe.

What do you think of the metal scene at the moment?

Dyna: well, new rising of pagan metal and extreme metal, it’s awesome, is nice to hear songs about Viking gods, but much of new bands don’t have any personality. Same riffs all the time, and, no guitar solo? No way.

Raul: I think they have potential but they don’t have that essence from 80`s or 90's, they try to get it but they don’t have an own personality, as Dyna said.

Henryk: actually, there are very good new bands, but most of new bands repeating same, kids of today don’t know to listen to music, you only have to switch on the TV and you will know what I mean.

Sandy: I dunno, I guess there are lots of promising new bands coming out but not really any Metallicas or Iron Maidens. Maybe it’s because metal is quite old now (about 45 years?). I guess it’ll never be big again like it was in the 70s and 80s but it’s important for new bands to form and up and coming bands to keep trying. New bands are always good.

How do you find the reception to Mördark in your home country? Is there a lot of interest in you? What's the Spanish metal scene like?

Well, I have to speak truth, I have to say we don’t have any support. All is “we don’t like black” or
“your band sounds poorly” well, we don’t have money to go to a studio, we make all that we can,
if they don’t appreciate our band, also, we'll have to give to other people like you to enjoy. Very few people in Spain helped us, we want to thanks to them the only support we have in our country.

Who would be your perfect line up be?

Well, our formation is perfect now, but we need another guitarist. Someone like, but Abbath from Immortal would be awesome!

A lot of people are interested in the instruments you use as well as the recording process. Where did you record your current album and who mixed it? What gear do you use?

Well, we recorded the album at home, with our pc, our gear is a Jackson Kelly guitar, a Daytona bass with double pickups, a Marshall 100watts guitar amps, a single drum set, a Mustaine Zoom pedal, a distortion pedal for guitar, and the software, Adobe Audition, VST plug-in as amplitube metal, ampeg, VST powerdrumkit, that last its free, and amazing. Oh, and keyboards, Sandy used her keyboard.

Where can we find you, and your music, online?

You guys can find us in youtube, in this link is our channel! And on Find us on facebook, too.

Finally, do you have anything to say to anyone who wants to break into the music industry?

Patience, don’t give up, and have a good time, enjoy the music, guys! 


Sunday, 19 July 2015

When The Candle Burns Out

Your skin feels as though it's been sliced open and salt poured into the wounds. You alternate between wanting to sleep and being wide awake. You wake up at 5am but want to go back to bed at 10am. Your stomach can't hold anything. You feel... hopeless, a failure, a person who's not fit for the world.

Yet this is the reality for some people who suffer from mental health issues. I refuse to call it a “problem” because I don't let it stand in the way. For me, it's another mountain to conquer. It doesn't define me, nor will I let its label be the one thing people know me by. I'm a daughter, sister, friend, author, photographer, impromptu comedian and sometimes poker dealer (For the record, I deal blackjack better than I do poker). At the moment I'm also having a love affair with my bed (some things never change!).

But I'm still learning to live in this brand new body. My energy levels are still all over the charts, as is my concentration. I can go for weeks without having a problem before having a run of bad days. And it's learning how to deal with those bad days that's the hard part.

When the sickness began to rise a couple of weeks ago, I put it down to the heat and the high humidity. It was the same with the almost constant exhaustion and need to sleep. Ditto with the refusal to eat and drink. And then when I did get to bed, I couldn't sleep. Too hot to do anything.

Then I began noticing other things. I couldn't settle in to any one task. Work of any kind was becoming an impossibility. I'd get up to fetch something only to get halfway across the room and forget what I'd gone for. The sheer frustration was making me cry.

Slowly it dawned on me. What I was feeling wasn't a direct result of the weather (although some of it was. I'm not great with British summers. Other summers, yeah, bring it on. But British summers with their unpredictable weather and high pollen counts can be a nightmare). What I'd most likely done was use one little word way too often.


I'd say “yes” to this project and “yes” to that project. I'd said “yes” to one idea and “yes” to another. In amid it all I'd forgotten that I now need to regulate myself. Suddenly I couldn't burn the candle at both ends and run at a million miles an hour. Suddenly I needed to take time out and relax. I was horrified. But I know that I have to do it in order to build up the strength for some of the projects I want to work on. Even if it's napping on the sofa with the cat, I have to stop and listen to my own body because, if I don't, then I'll be right back to square one. And that's a frightening prospect.

One day I know I'll be able to run at a million miles an hour. One day I know I'll be able to light the candle at both ends. But first I've got to learn how to do it again.

Sunday, 12 July 2015

A Place Called Home

When I started this blog I wanted to be only about writing. Books, the creative process, the publishing industry; that's what I wanted it to be about. But there are a million and one blogs and websites out there who can talk about this far better than I ever will.

Slowly it evolved in to what it is today. I wanted a place where people felt at home, somewhere they felt at ease talking about themselves or their work. I didn't want them to feel under pressure to buy books or leave reviews. I wanted a home, not a just house, a place for everyone who passed through to feel comfortable and welcomed.

I'm very blessed in that many people share their lives with me and I want to return that favour. If you so choose, I want you to know the ups and downs of my life. I want to share the battles I've been through, both personally and professionally. I want you to feel like you have a place to talk about what's happening and not feel judged. And this, hopefully, is that place. No matter who you are and no matter what your background, you're welcome here.

There may be subject matter on this blog that some people feel uncomfortable with and that's perfectly fine. What's happened to me may not be for everyone. As a warning, I'll let you know that there are posts about drug addiction and recovery. But there are also many happy posts, including interviews and photographs of people who've inspired me.

I thank you for visiting and thank you for sharing this little space with me.

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

On Being A Bipolar Writer

Being an unmedicated, bipolar writer is interesting. I make the distinction between medicated and unmedicated because, for me, there has been a huge difference. When I was medicated, I stuck to a schedule. I could churn out 1000+ words without drawing breath. I instinctively knew where a story was going and I rarely stopped to think how I was wording sentences.

Being unmedicated, for me, has been a whole other kettle of fish. It's only been recently, within the past month, that I've actually managed to get back on any kind of track. I've been in a kind of limbo since the drugs cleared my system back in March, desperately trying to get my creative brain back on track.

And it's not been easy. Some days I've managed to write something. Others I've stared idly at the screen, wondering what to put down. None of it was helped by the muscle seizures caused by the medication withdrawal, ones which made it difficult (up until last week, anyway) for me to handwrite more than a few words. I enjoy sitting down with a notebook, pen, and tea and just scribbling ideas down on to paper, something that's a little more difficult when it comes to using a computer. Typing, or dictating, notes to my phone just doesn't have the same appeal as choosing a new notebook and pen.

In the past two weeks, I've cleared something like 10,000 words over several different projects. It's an achievement and something I'm extremely proud of. It's proof, to myself, that I can do this even if I'm struggling in other areas of my life. It's a spark of hope that life without medication can be somewhere within the realms of “normal”.

Writing without the meds is... interesting. I find myself analysing what I'm writing, far more than I did when I was medicated. I can spend a day hunting for a specific word or phrase to make a sentence sound right. Sometimes inspiration fails me completely, as it did for all of June. I knew what I wanted to write. I just found that I couldn't. Even now, as I'm facing some big changes in my life, I've managed to rediscover the joy and excitement of getting stuck into a good project. It's a feeling that's been missing for the past few months and I'm so glad it's back. I can't wait to see what the future holds.