Can’t do right for doing wrong, are there any winners here?

I’ve had a few gig offers come in now and obviously these aren’t quite how they used to be. They are 200 seater venues limited to 40 tickets or 70 if you hold it outside in October, with free streaming or ticketed streaming which has problems or streaming with donations which is hard to budget for etc all with a take home pay way below what it used to be. But what they all are is good people doing their best to keep an industry afloat. Trying exhaustively to get events on for people who need that connection to music to lift their understandably ailing spirits and help back to performing the people whose raison d’etre has been all but obliterated. Not to mention keep venues from shutting and staff who relied on furlough something to exist on at all.

So should I do them? If we’re all brutally honest, despite all these best intentions none of this quite works well enough for anyone. Some venues have opened with limited ticketing but many tickets bought were not redeemed on the night. Those audience members are judged a little for not turning up but those who did are judged a bit for fraternising during a pandemic, the venue is judged for holding events but judged for not holding them as artists, crew and the industry need them. Artists are judged for ‘going about like everything’s normal’ or judged for not supporting themselves, each other and the industry etc etc. “where is all this judgement coming from?” you ask and well, let’s face it, from ourselves mainly. We are all questioning whether or not the thing we are doing is proactive enough, supportive enough, safe enough, advisable, sensible.. the list of worries goes on and on doesn’t it. None of it makes enough money for anyone involved so what’s the point in it all? But hang on thats an awfully pessimistic sentence and I don’t mean that as a conclusion.

There are a few examples of how this has been made to work lucratively in a few exceptional cases (so don’t @ me about those) I’m not criticising anyone and yes I know that Folk on Foot raised 50k but there is a finite appetite for streaming so it’s not an option for every single venue or festival that would manage in ‘normal’ times gone by.

My intention here is not run down any of the efforts people are making, I mean the opposite really. I mean it’s hard to know how to be a force for good at the moment, how to be sensible AND supportive. How to make the right decisions and what I want to say to you (and myself) is. You already are. You’re asking yourself the questions, you’re trying and thinking, taking an action and correcting it when it doesn’t yield the right result. Navigating a constantly changing terrain, and existing optimistically within it, as best you can. That’s enough. Thank you for caring to consider it all and try.

So I didn’t fly to Germany to record a radio show, that didn’t feel right and maybe I’ll go next month or next year, I’ll see. Maybe I will play a socially distanced gig to 40 people at some point, I’m just weighing it up. Attempting to balance the risk and benefit as best I can. Consider each decision with its own unique context is all you can do in the circumstance.

So try to be easier on yourself. I hope to see you all soon, however soon that will be, we’ll get there x

The Only Bit That Matters

So I’ve got together 13.5 songs for a new album, I’ve demo’d them up on Garageband, I think they’re pretty darn great and I’m almost ready to think about recording them properly. Having made tonnes of albums over the years, in loads of different ways, I know how this is done and as always, I’ve got the songs.

But it’s also different this time. I’ve made many mistakes in the past and I’m simply not making them again. I’d say the biggest one was undervaluing my work (or rather allowing others to undervalue it) This time I know, I’ve got the only bit that matters.

In the creative industries, ideas are the real currency and people with none can steal them, buy them or licence them. They cannot manufacture them. For that they need the people who make things out of nothing. So what shall I do with this something of nothing?

Well, currently it belongs 100% to me, I used to be tied, it used to belong to someone else before it was made, before it was even conceived of.

I had to work to get to this point, to sever the ties and release myself from the many binds you find yourself in when you’re the one that has the only bit that matters. I lost things in that process but what I retained I get to keep and I need to be more careful with it.

I’m not going to give it to Rough Trade Records again for all the zeros they wouldn’t offer, I’d sooner bin it. I want it to be treated with care like I would myself or a person I cared about. My creativity is not a bottomless well of expendable ideas people can sift through and take for nothing.

I know I’m going to produce it myself, partly because I’m tired of being called ‘aggressive’ for insisting “my guitar tone is exactly how I want it, I know because I made it that way and please don’t make me tell you these are my songs, this is my album, I’m paying you and I’m in charge” a bit that, but mostly because I can, I know what I want and I know now that I’ve always been making those key decisions. My ears are clever, my taste is discerning and I know how to use music to make a song speak to you.

So I’m going to make it and I’m going to make it good. But this time I’m going to treat it with care and respect and demand others do too, like a thing that matters. I’ll put it on Bandcamp and you can buy it and listen to it and I’ll come and play some of it to you. To me, as always, that’s the only bit that matters

Just a couple of quick things before I go, 1) it’s not a ‘Lockdown’ album this is me guys and 2) bet you can’t guess what it’s called… no it’s not that, that would be too obvious, once again, it’s me, you won’t work it out!

why i’m not live streaming

Several people have asked me about it and frankly ive fobbed you off a bit, sorry about that but no is currently where I’m at.

Obviously no offence to anyone who is, these are difficult times for the industry and people must do what they must do, it just feels unlikely to be the fix for me.

First and foremost – it’s nothing like a gig, sorry but it isn’t, I’ve always been of the opinion that good gigs are testiment to the quality of the audience rather than performer. There’s a specific alchemy that can only happen in that room together. As the audience you’ve got a job to do, you’re not passive, you’re not watching telly. The performer offers you something and unless you take it up, it falls, the songs have to land somewhere, you have to catch them. Like a weird emotion tennis! It isn’t possible to do that on screen even live so it may as well be, rehearsed, recorded and edited, a one sided offering.

I need to see you, I need to feel your presence in the room, no amount of encouraging facebook comments will be the same, they’ll simply be distracting. So for the foreseeable future I have no plans to stream you things, but that is not to say that I’ve forgotten you, I’ve thought about it and come up with something I can stand by, something more me, my own unique solution.

An archive collection of song sketches and early demos, 53 songs, 85 minutes of previously unheard rarities

I miss you all, so much

Jx

Goodbye 2010-2019

I always feel a pressure to say something at this time of year, I spend all year using words in a particular order to sum it all up and come to conclusions. This is harder than other years as we approach an entire new decade, we need to put the last one finally to rest.

Well for the good and the bad, I do feel like I’m ready to say to goodbye to it.

Goodbye to a decade long career in one seemingly inalterable duo form, to its beauty, to the success of it, to the power it had, to the dissonance of that and his resentment, to his thanklessness, to its positivity vacuum, its growing toxicity, to how painful it had become to sustain. It will never be undone. That work is there forever. A testament to talent and hard work, to my strength and endurance; and proof that however hard the lesson I can learn it. Sometimes the winning move is to give up playing entirely and leave the table with your head held high, in the knowledge you did all you could with what you had.

And so let it be buried at Sea

And any time we truly find the answers they’ll have concluded us

This year I began my new decade early by recording and releasing ‘In All Weather’ as a solo artist again. Brave and true as I have always been, prepared for failure but pleased to fly. That is how I intend to continue.

You know me, always got plenty of ideas, always planning a few moves ahead. So I have some small and some big plans ready for next year, professionally and personally, I’m excited to try them all out…

“Underestimate Josienne Clarke at your peril.” – No Depression Magazine

From now on it’s nothing but Poise, Poetry & Pride for me

Anything else can do one. Be nice or be gone, art is not a competitive sport, my love is not finite but it is precious and you can’t have it if you don’t acknowledge its value.

And finally… my Resolution with the poise of poetry and the pride to share it with you even though it’s rubbish

#Poem 9
I do not speak subtext anymore 
No longer do I wrangle with the entangled communication 
If you have something to say, just say it 

However unkind. 
I promise not to mind more for your honesty 

But don’t try to blind me with your offensive defensibility 
The trick you stick with is the cruelest of slights 
The slow trickle of truth from a sewn mouth
The barbed knife,

Insidious insinuation device

Regardless the work is all mine, to refuse to find the hidden messages 
To change my ears and the way that I hear things 
And what I take to heart. 

A place of limited space must not have an open gate policy 

I must finally learn that all must earn their time

For a kingdom of carefully crafted kindness 

it will be as if you never existed…

I spent the afternoon rescuing these rare Formication Cd’s. Some of which is here on Spotify the red ‘Icons for a New Religion’ jewel case you can see isn’t on there so it was worth saving. Once these are gone it could all but disappear. Formication is the electronic industrial noise duo of my Alec Bowman and Kingsley Ravenscroft formed in 2003

I had to individually wipe the dust and mud!?! off between 50-100 copies. They had been shoved in an attic or garage, some dank corner somewhere. Hidden away like a guilty or inconvenient truth. Alec had let them be and he needs to change that.

If you love someone you should take care of the things they care about. Artistic endeavour is so often a difficult one for those that do not make things to appreciate and handle with care. But your dreams are your dreams and you’re entitled to them however unprofitable and time consuming they may be.

These creations are no less a documentation of your life and times than a collection of photographs would be.

You get what you’re willing to accept in life, some people always seem come out of things on top, none of their dreams ever end up in the garage, and that’s because they will not accept less than that. They’ve got an idea of what they’re worth. So if you allow your dreams to be consigned to the basement you carry some responsibility for whether or not they ever happen.

If you neglect things they will perish and may leave you forever.

‘If I Didn’t Mind’ – The Reasons That I Do Mind And Why I Need To…

If you’re the kind of person that just likes to listen and decide for yourself what a song is about, or you don’t care about lyrics and you don’t care to know, then I suggest you don’t read on. This is for those of you who pour over lyric books and have questions about “why this line says this”.

My intention here is to provide a bit of wider context for this song but it’s not for the faint hearted…

 Lyrics:

You’ve got your problems
But I’m the one that needs to change
You’re so angry
But I’m the one that’s acting strangely
You don’t speak clearly
But I’m not hearing you right
And I’m the only person fighting in this fight

 
It would all be fine
If I didn’t mind
Everything would be alright
If I didn’t mind
If I just didn’t mind
 
You say you’ve got feelings
But you don’t want to talk
You’ll only concede
When you know I’m gonna walk
I’ve never known frustration like this in my life
Cos only you use silence like others use a knife
 
It would all be fine
If I didn’t mind
Everything would be alright
If I didn’t mind
If I just didn’t mind
 
You won’t give me words that I could use to feel ok
You’d rather swallow them all than give any away
I know you’re going to starve me until I waste away
You’ve always pushed me further to try to make me stay
 
It would all be fine
If I didn’t mind
Everything would be alright
If I didn’t mind
If I just didn’t mind

This song is about emotional and psychological abuse by gaslighting and passive aggression. It’s about the distortion of reality and how the blame is shifted on to the victim silently and seemingly imperceptibly. Realising this is key to escaping it and being able to articulate clearly what it is that’s happening goes some way to resolving it internally.

The nature of passive aggression is such that its difficulty to pinpoint gives it a deniability. Complaining about the virtually imperceptible micro-aggressions makes you look crazy, as each one taken on their own looks innocuous. And you cannot prove the absence of something, the absence of kindness, approval or encouragement.

It is a slow death by a thousand slights, a crushing, cloying, cold and suffocating strangling in silence.

You’re led to believe that your response to this behaviour is the issue, that your reaction comes from nowhere, an anger with no basis in the other persons action.

I thought for a good few years that I must be negative, paranoid, too highly strung and with an anger management problem. It turned out as soon as I ceased interacting with this person my anger and confusion receded and has all but disappeared now he isn’t in my life.

This song is my documentation of a toxic and dysfunctional dynamic. To redefine the hijacked narrative because its power is its silence.

Lyrically it started life as a poem I began to write as an attempt to explain what was happening to me, the first line I had for this song came from this section of the poem

I have tried to leave this house 
So many times
I have nudged every window 
Climbed down the drainpipe 
Only to find you in the garden brandishing a silent knife 
Ready to twist my words to mince
 

The image of the ‘silent knife’ became – ‘Only you use silence like others use a knife’ . The rest grew out from there. The title/chorus ‘If I Didn’t Mind’ hinges on the idea that it is my reaction being characterised as the only problem. My attempt to refute muttered slights, or confront disparaging subtext was seen as confrontational, combative trouble making. Many times being accused of making something out of nothing but it didn’t feel like nothing to me, it wasn’t nothing to me, it wasn’t meant to be nothing to me, it was specifically intended to hurt me. To wound me and erode my confidence so I wouldn’t be strong enough to leave. The verse is made up of pairs of conflicting statements which encapsulates the psychological technique of gaslighting, where the antagonist projects their bad behaviour, anger and deception onto the protagonist invisibly.

You don’t speak clearly but I’m not hearing you right…’

My hope in writing this song was that I could define what was happening to me. I could give a concrete reality to myself amidst all the mythology I was being made complicit in. To take a mirror to my gaslighter and say “this is what you’re doing to me, it’s real, I can see it, I can explain it, so now it exists and you cannot convince me that it doesn’t anymore, fuck you, goodbye.”

So I did warn you! Thanks for making it this far, sorry it’s been a bit heavy but you know, it was. Don’t worry about me though I’m ok now, I lived to tell the tale and that’s what I’m doing.

If you’ve enjoyed this wider context I’ll be releasing a lyric book with extra info for each song (not all as dark as this one) with the ‘In All Weather’ album. It will be available to preorder on Bandcamp soon. Preorder the album here

The Once In A Lifetime Offer: A Treatise On The Industry Myth

As an artist you HAVE to believe that your body of work has an Intrinsic value in the face of figures and paperwork to the contrary. It is so hard to approach meetings, offers and negotiations knowing that nothing on paper apparently supports this notion.

It’s a struggle and I struggle with it but if you yourself can’t retain the notion that your entire life’s work has a value and potential to grow beyond its humble position it will simply be impossible to convince a prospective investor that it does.

Remember that YOU have been investing in it for years and at the point you wish to decline an offer in the hope of better you will almost certainly be told by someone that this is risky. It is risky but so is ploughing every ounce of your time, energy and available funds into it. You’ve already done that bit, the hard bit, this is simply holding your nerve.

Half the industry runs on that fear, that this is the best you can expect out of it, so stick, don’t twist and don’t shout. Not everyone is trying to drive down price in concern of nothing but the bottom line. But EVERYONE will tell you they are in it for the music, this will only be true in certain cases and you have to get good at spotting bullshit when you see it.

I’ve never believed in the elusive and intangible “x-factor” nor do I believe that you get your “one moment”. This is the weaponisation of fear, if you’re talented and worked hard enough to earn an opportunity the chances are that isn’t the only opportunity you’ll ever be offered, it doesn’t work like that. If you haven’t had any yet well then there are likely to be a few around the corner or down the line or along the road or whatever your favourite analogy is. 

People in this industry predominantly back a winning horse, most wait for it to be within a hair’s breadth of the finish line before lending their support to it. This is the most infuriating bind of the whole thing in my opinion. That the universal perception of your imminent winning then makes it all the more inevitable and conversely the widespread perception that you are still many yards from the line makes it all the more so.

You kind of need that one influential person to inadvertently misread the figures and correctly or incorrectly (not a distinction worth making) identify you as this year’s grand national favourite to win and thus it may well be so.

The only winning tactics are perseverance and self belief as I can see it. The rest is time and luck, neither of which can be controlled or circumvented. So you can go to a million masterclasses on social media strategy and all the workshops on co-writing, collaboration and creative collectives but it’s a waiting game. Like most things in life what you really need is confidence, hope and patience.

So it’s a thanks but no thanks this time from me, I’m waiting for a better offer than that…

Jx