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The Bird has wings…

8 April, 2016 Leave a comment

I know I said this was over and done with… But I have reason to return!

For those of you who follow(ed) this blog and hoped to hear what became of the lyrics written during this process then I have a pleasant surprise for you. Having left Morpheus Rising almost 5 years ago I was unsure what would happen with the lyrics I’d written and some of the musical ideas I had. I quickly decided I wanted to continue to write the songs, I wanted them heard, but I wanted to do them justice.

Five years later and I’m finally in the place I need to be to start working on these again and, hopefully, do them justice. Of course, they’ll sound nothing like I first envisaged, I wrote them with the guitars/style of Pete and Daymo in mind and I’m now working on them with my own guitar style with contributions from across the UK and beyond.

It’s coming together! Slowly, but there’s definitely movement.

Over the last few years I’ve had little or nothing to do with any bands, or music in general, other than as a voracious listener of all styles and genres. At least that’s the public face of it. In actual fact I’ve been slowly working away on my own songs, writing notes and lyrics, sketching musical ideas, teaching myself mixing and recording techniques, learning how to improve my ability to play the guitar (after a fashion) and generally keeping my toes in the water so to speak.

I’m now at the point where I have sufficient ideas and, perhaps more importantly, the promise of more free time which will allow me to focus more on actually working towards getting these ideas in to some form fit for public consumption. I’ve spoken to a few musicians I respect regarding contributing their talents to some of the tracks and, thankfully, they’ve agreed to assist me in fulfilling my aim.

The first of these collaborations was actually completed some time ago. As a first step I wrote, and recorded, the music for the Birdsong lyrics while I was in Kenya and recorded some basic tracks myself. I contacted my longtime friend Craig Hughes, a well respected solo musician and founding member of Dog Moon Howl, to ask him if he fancied writing some lead guitar parts. He got a bit carried away! I ended up with three additional guitar parts and a couple of stunning solos to add to the mix.

You can hear the work in progress version of the song on my new SoundCloud page, but be warned, there are still some rough edges to knock off. I hope you like it and please, if you do (or even if you don’t!), do share it any which way you fancy… The more people that hear it the merrier ;o)

In the coming weeks and months I’ll be writing on the blog on the new Scaedunengan site. I’ll pop back and update you once this has been set up and it’s all systems go.

In the meantime, I hope you like the track…

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Swan Song, Part Two.

14 April, 2011 1 comment

Wow! Can’t things turn on their head in a whistle!

When I wrote Part One of this it was destined to end in a completely different manner… And, to be honest, I think that may have been easier.

Welcome to my Swan Song, Part Two.

You may have gathered that the job I have currently is not, to my mind, the one I signed up for. It certainly isn’t under the same Terms & Conditions as I signed up to and, due to various legal ‘get out’ clauses in the numerous Acts of Parliament, White Papers etc you’d normally use to fight your corner, there is sod all I can do about it.

It was for these reasons, and the impending changes to pension, salary etc and the possibillity of redundancy, that I had made up my mind that I would be leaving this form of employment.

I had decided that life was now for living, for my family, and that the life of a Service family would not fall into either of those categories. It pains me to say it, I always raised my eyebrows at those who do, but this isn’t the Army I joined.

And then… BAM!

Well. Not quite. More of a quiet ‘ding’ as the email arrived in my inbox. They sent me a list of job opportunities to choose from for my next post, and this on the day I’d just told my boss I was ‘off’. There were the usual bottom of the barrel options involving the revolving doors or training, training some more then deploying followed by a little rest then training, training some more then… But, right there, at the bottom of the list was the golden ticket. I made a couple of quick phone calls, one to confirm the email, one to my wife, and I was off to Willie Wonka’s factory!

Due to the changes in budgets etc one of the British overseas training areas is being redeuced and, as a result, another is being expanded. As part of this expansion there is a requirement for a new management role to oversee all the IT. And they’ve offered it to me. In Kenya.

I can’t believe my luck! I love the country, I’ve only just come back from a self-drive safari last month. The opportunities of experience for my wife and children are immeasurable and I could never even consider not giving them those chances. The whole package is beyond belief, it’s a challenging role, it’s a new role, it’s an exciting one. My children will only grow from the experiences they will have, my wife will get the rest she so definitely deserves and we will have two years as a family. What more could a husband and father ask for?

There is, of course, a downside. Well, not quite, but it’s definitely a negative. I will be leaving Morpheus Rising. I’ve written my thoughts about this on my personal blog and won’t go into it further here, but it seems strange that, after creating this blog and going through my writing process in the public eye that none of that knew material will see the light of day. At least not in its current form.

So. Rather than being an announcement that I am leaving my job this has become an announcement that I’m leaving the band I sing with! It’s a strange world, isn’t it?

Categories: Music, Personal, Writing

Lest We Forget…

10 November, 2010 1 comment
The Cenotaph at Whitehall is a memorial to mem...

Image via Wikipedia

I must first apologise to those few of you who read this blog. I  had intended to write much sooner after my return from R&R but circumstances haven’t been favourable for various reasons.

I don’t know when I’ll get to post this, suffice to say I’m writing it the Sunday prior to Remembrance Day and Op Minimise has been in force since 7AM. It’s been a sombre day with yet another British soldier being injured. This time I know the cause, and the injuries, and I’m appalled.

It’s at times like these that I question this life, not in the personal, suicidal tense but with regards to being a member of the Armed Forces as a career. Many people when confronted with a service person questioning their employment in this time of conflict ask “well, isn’t it what you signed up for?” In many cases this is an innocent, if naive, question, on others it is meant to draw debate. I know it’s not why I joined up, yes there was the awareness of the risk it may occur, but at the time I joined the Northern Ireland Peace Process was under way (albeit in its infancy) and Bosnia was beginning to ease its burden on our forces. By the time I’d completed training I found myself in Kosovo, since then there has been a constant stream of conflicts drawing us further afield, stretching us further and increasing the toll of dead and wounded each Remembrance Day.

It’s been said that with great power comes great responsibility but that’s just it; those who are out here do not have any great power, they are simply dedicated to a task which has fallen to them for whatever reason. They are no different to you or your neighbours, friends and family and yet the Nation expects them to face what no man should be asked to. Teenagers are forced to face their mortality, and their mates, on a daily basis, and all those who support them face the knowledge that the incessant procession of helicopters approaching Nightingale mean more of us have come closer, or too close, than any ordinary man should be asked to.

In 2008 when Morpheus Rising released An Ordinary Man in aid of HELP for HEROES I was criticised by fellow servicemen for the lyrics. Their argument was that we are anything but ordinary, we were a special breed, a breed apart. They missed the point. We are not extraordinary individuals, we do not have extraordinary powers, but we do face extraordinary situations and dig deep enough within ourselves to find the strength of character with which to face those situations. It’s a matter of camaraderie, fellowship and a common bond of respect for those whom have gone before which enable us to do what we do, whatever we do.

He’s an ordinary man
Why should he find himself doing these things
No ordinary man should be asked to do
He’s an ordinary man
just trying to do these things no one else can
He’s an ordinary man

The full lyric for An Ordinary Man can be found here. The song is currently available on the re-released single Fighting Man and can be purchased from iTunes and most online music stores as well as in CD format from Amazon UK and Morpheus Rising’s own store. Proceeds from the single are being donated to HELP for HEROES and the Royal British Legion‘s Poppy Appeal.

The personal impact however, is a different matter. What happens in this conflict and those things people see have an effect, a different one on each individual, but they will have an effect.

I remember speaking to a young Royal Anglian in hospital who explained that, despite having only served 4 years in the Army, he was leaving once he returned home. His reason? Not the fact that he had lost friends, nor the fact that he was lying in the hospital bed opposite mine having been injured by shrapnel from an RPG. His reason was the fact that he had joined the Army to be a sniper and he was out here doing just that. As far as he was concerned he had nothing left to achieve. He had joined the Army with a goal and that goal had been reached. Time to leave.

There are others who go home with a desire to return, they relish the challenge, they crave the adrenalin, they want to avenge their friends.

There are those who return home physically intact but shadows of the men they once were. PTSD, or shell shock as it was once known, is now widely accepted as a serious condition which needs treatment and care. In years gone by it has been ?? as cowardice, madness or an excuse. It is not. It is a reaction to something which has been seen, been done, even heard, which that individual’s character has decided is too much to deal with head on. It manifests itself in a different wat with each person who suffers. It is prevalent and it needs to be dealt with.

In reality everyone questions there involvement in a conflict such as this. Whether the reason is religious, moral or ethical, at some point every man jack will question the validity of the decisions made in the heat of conflict or the peaceful corridors of power. It is this journey of self discovery which will determine the type of person we are. It is the revelations we become aware of through that process which will determine the people we will become.

They ask me where I’ve been,
And what I’ve done and seen.
But what can I reply
Who know it wasn’t I,
But someone just like me,
Who went across the sea
And with my head and hands
Killed men in foreign lands…
Though I must bear the blame,
Because he bore my name.
‘Back’, Wilfred Gibs

On Thursday November 11th at 11AM I hope you will all observe two minutes silence. Not just for those who have already paid the ultimate sacrifice, or those who find themselves at Headley Court, but also for all those Fathers, Sons, Daughter and wives, girlfriends, boyfriends, relatives and mates who find themselves out here doing their job. After all, it’s what they joined up for isn’t?

P.S. Since I wrote this we’ve been on Op Minimise continuously…

3’s A Charm

20 October, 2010 2 comments

I wasn’t going to do this while I was home… but those who know me must have known I wouldn’t be able to resist ;o)

It’s been a few days since I returned to the fold, and they’ve been bliss. Family and friends, music and looking forward to more of the same over the remaining week.

Why am I posting then? Well, having been away I haven’t been able to pay as much attention to new music as I’d like so, over the last few days, I’ve taken the opportunity to give some new releases the attention they deserve. There have been many, and some I’ve yet to listen to, but 3 in particular have been given the full treatment, lights off, volume up, AKGs on…

I had one of them sent to me in Afghanistan but I wasn’t able to give it the attention it deserved (and believe me, it needs attention!) out there, the other two were waiting patiently on my desk when I returned home.

First up, ‘The Big Red Spark‘ from the world’s smallest progressive rock band, Tinyfish. This is a hard one. Despite knowing one of the members I’d heard very little of Tinyfish’s previous material and so had no bar against which to measure. Perhaps this is a good thing as I doubt anything that’s gone before could have been compared to this. A concept album in every way ‘The Big Red Spark‘ can, in my opinion at least, only ever be listened to in its entirety (discounting the 4 extra tracks on the bonus DVD in the version I received).

Cover art from Tinyfish's The Big Red Spark

The Big Red Spark

There’s a flow to the album which demands that you follow the curve, to jump into ‘I’m Not Crashing‘ without having heard the previous 18 minutes or so would diminish the experience to the point of negating the whole thing. With this in mind I find myself drawing comparisons between ‘The Big Red Spark‘ and another concept album I have to listen to in its entirety, Marillion‘s Brave. Now, I’m not saying that Tinyfish are similar to Marillion by any means (although the influence of Mr Rothery is more than apparent in the guitar playing of Jim Sanders), I just feel that there is a similar impetus to the album. Both are dark concepts however Tinyfish manage to portray the darkness and concern of the ‘doomsday’ machine while retaining a levity to the music. It’s this juxtaposition of concept and performance which I find most intriguing, and it’s this which makes it works so well.

Next up was an album I’ve been waiting on since I heard of its release very early this year. Alter Bridge have already released an album which is up there in my favourites, 2007’s Blackbird, and expectations for this, their 3rd release, were high. I’d heard a couple of tracks from AB III

Cover art from Alter Bridge's AB III

AB III

prior to it’s release, the single ‘Isolation‘ which was available to stream from the Roadrunner website  and the ‘Words Darker Than Their Wings‘ which was available as a free download for 24 hours from the same site prior to the album’s release. I must admit to being somewhat disappointed on my first listen, but then perhaps day 1 of R&R wasn’t the right time to try it out… but then I listened again and felt the same. Oh dear! Not one to jump to conclusions I waited a couple of days and set myself down in a quiet room with my headphones and tried again. This time it clicked, the power of Mark Tremonti‘s riffs is dumbfounding, the dynamics, the breaks, the arrangements are outstanding and Myles Kennedy‘s voice is, as ever, quite simply staggering. In retrospect I think the difficulty I had at first was that I was expecting a Blackbird II, or at the very least something which resembled a mixture of One Day Remains and Blackbird, but ‘AB III‘ is something completely different. As stated by the band the subject matter of this album is for more introspective and, as a result, it also smacks of a darkness not found in the previous offerings. Highlights for me would include the opening couplet of ‘Slip Into The Void‘ and ‘Isolation‘ along with ‘All Hope Is Gone‘ and the storming ‘I Know It Hurts‘, but to pick these out is an injustice to what is, finally, a tour de force in the catalogue of what is fast becoming one of my favourite rock bands of the new millennium.

And now for something completely different…

It may come as a surprise to many that, despite my various links to the band, and my predilection for the style of music they play, I have never owned an original release by Mostly Autumn. Shocking I know, but it’s the truth! Yes, I’ve seen them live on several occasions and yes, I know several of the current members very well (not least Andy Smith who plays bass in Morpheus Rising!) but I quite simply have never purchased anything they’ve released.

Well, I’m glad to say that’s now all changed. I’m one of the individuals who pre-ordered ‘Go Well Diamond Heart‘, Mostly Autumn’s first album with Liv Sparnenn as lead vocalist.

Cover art from Go Well Diamond Heart

Go Well Diamond Heart

I had no choice really, Liv collared me at one of the Morpheus Rising gigs earlier this year and ordered me to buy it as some of the content would ‘mean’ something to me? And she wasn’t wrong. ‘Go Well Diamond Heart‘ has a theme running through it, not a concept as such, merely a common thread to several of the lyrics interspersed with some of the band’s more usual ethereal fair. The title track is dedicated to Ben Parkinson, a member of 7 RHA, who was caught in a landmine explosion in Afghanistan while ‘And Now The War Is Over…‘ could have been written for any serving member of the Armed Forces who have served in any conflict. The album has something for every kind of MA fan, there’s the acoustic folky feel to tracks such as ‘Violet Skies‘ and ‘Deep in Borrowdale‘, the straight forward rock of  ‘Something Better‘ to the grandiose of the title track and ‘Ice‘ (included on the 2nd CD only available with the pre-order). Knowing members of the band I’m only too aware of the amount of work which was involved in producing this album and the end result is a testament to every minute of it. Emerging from 13 years with Heather Findlay as the lead female vocalist this album could have been lost somewhere in the ‘in between years’ while the band found their feet. I’m glad it hasn’t, and I’m glad I broke the cycle and bought this album, it’s a diamond.

3 great albums which will each rate highly in my 2010 rankings, but 3 very different experiences.

Wasted Days…

6 October, 2010 Leave a comment

The whole reason for this blog was to document the writing process for material for the band I sing with, Morpheus Rising, while on tour in Afghanistan. As with all things it seems to have grown legs and formed a life of its own. I always intended to write about songs I listened to as well, and various aspects of life out here, but it seems to have been so much more than that so far. And today is more of the same.

One aspect of this life I have never been able to reconcile with my role as husband and father is the amount of time I spend away, missing birthdays, anniversaries, Christmas and other holidays. and this time is no different. I’m due to miss Christmas and New Year (again), my eldest daughter’s 18th (not that she’d want me cramping her style!), my younger daughter’s 13th and today… Well, today is the birthday of the most important person in my life and, yet again, I wasn’t there to celebrate and make her feel as special as she deserves.

When I was younger I used to listen to songs which meant something to me as they seemed to echo my experiences at the time. There were loads of them, some were up beat and full of life, others not so much. Through the years many of them have continued to have meaning and I usually find one to fit my mood, forcing me further into despair (in an effort to shake myself out of it), or lifting my spirits to a point where nothing else matters. Not so today.

So, today, I found myself trying to find something to voice my thoughts, air my concerns, but instead I found myself making up my own. As with ‘Another Life’ which I wrote earlier on this tour, I’ve written something which may not fit within the Morpheus Rising stable, but nevertheless I think it belongs on this blog which has become so much more than a diary of an album’s lyrics.

Special Days

Another one passes by
Did I say goodbye?
Should I?
What am I doing here?
Telling myself it’s for the greater good
Looking out over the sands of time
Who’s watching over you
That labour should be mine

Time seems to fly
Did it really go by?
But I
I shouldn’t be here
Telling myself it’s for the greater good
Leaving all of you behind
I should watch over you
More of the time

These special days will never return
These special days should be the greater good
Making up under cover of cold dark nights
Time spent together putting the world to rights
These days we’re wasting should all be special days

Little boys cry
Girls starting to drive
Flying by
I should be there
Telling myself it’s for the greater good
Looking out for all that’s mine
I should be there
More of the time

These special days will never return
These special days should be the greater good
Making up under cover of cold dark nights
Time spent together putting the world to rights
These days we’re wasting should all be special days

To Rose, and my three beautiful children, I’ll see you soon.

North of Nowhere

24 September, 2010 Leave a comment

I wrote in the previous entry of my recent trip and the Danes that I met there. I talked of the traits I saw in them. One I didn’t mention was their renowned fierceness as warriors. History has proven the Danes to be great warriors and their involvement in this current conflict is doing nothing to harm that reputation.

I also mentioned an ‘interesting’ flight home after my visit and said I would write of it in this entry…

Once my work was done it was time for me to return to the safe confines of our desert bastion. On arriving at the departure point I was met by the normal rag-tag individuals heading onwards to their journey home and people going back to their base after a visit for whatever reason. There was also, on this occasion, a group of Danes with enough kit between them to finish the war!*

The LPC advised that these modern vikings were to board first with the rest of following on, we’d then be ferried ‘home’ before they were forwarded to their final destination.

All that changed as soon as the ride landed and the LPC spoke to the loadie, we were bustled on first, including the working dog on his way home for a medal, ann were followed on closely by the squad of tooled up Scandinavians all grunting, back slapping and showing each other the Devil‘s Horns (a la Ronnie James Dio \m/). The lights went out, the rotors changes tone and we lifted into the moonlit night…

I don’t know where we went, I do know it was vaguely North, and after an indeterminate length of time (it’s best to snooze on these journeys) we touched down, and waited…

The rotors surged again and we were once again lifted into the moonwashed skies and heading North(ish). This leg was slightly longer and I tried, once again to doze, to no avail… Even behind closed lids the brightness of the defensive flares are blindingly bright. Given the fact they have to divert attention await from the heat of the turbine engines keeping this thing in the air I can understand it, but it was a bloody rude awakening! After watching through the domes perspex window as the pale grey landscape rushed by not too far below I drifted of into slumberland once more. I was rudely awakened by the sound of weapons, more grunts and back slapping and shouts of ‘two minutes!’ as these guys readied themselves to disembark God only knows where… I must admit to being a tad concerned when one turned to my mate and, with two fingers held in a Churchill manner, shouted ‘two minutes!; at him and looked at the two of us! (Not bloody likely was both our initial responses.)

By this time we could feel the bird dropping fairly quickly and I glanced out the window again to see… nothing. There was a huge vista of  pale grey with light and dark patches here and there but no light, no activity, and more importantly to my defensive mind, no cover.

As we pulled a hand-brake turn (I don’t know how else to describe it) and  touched down they launched themselves into the great unknown (although I’m sure they knew where they were!) and dispersed themselves into defensive positions. We them lifted off and headed back from whence we came. This leg of the journey was far less eventful with little or no chaff or flares and a far greater height being reached. Having embarked on a 15 minute ride on a Chinook I arrived back safely over 80 minutes later.

I mentioned last night that this flight had spawned some lyrical musings. Here’s the bare bones…

Day’s over, the job’s all done
High time now to hightail it home
Light of day in dark of night
Full moon’s overhead

We’re not alone, there’s more to come
For some work’s just begun
Light’s out, head down
All Hell’s gonna let loose soon

Dark of night, flares so bright
We’re headed North of Nowhere
All tooled up, let’s stir it up
We’re headed North of Nowhere

Moon rides high, light’s up the sky
Washing sand and village white
Signs of life show down below
Dropping down, it’s time to go

Dark of night, flares so bright
We’re headed North of Nowhere
All tooled up, let’s stir it up
We’re headed North of Nowhere

* I know we’re not at war, but I hope you’ll allow a little poetic license!

Lords of the North (The Vikings are here!)

23 September, 2010 1 comment

Three years ago I found myself the guest of the Danish Battalion (DanBat) deployed to Afghanistan. Having moved forward from Kandahar before it was actually achievable we found ourselves without any of the life support necessary to accommodate a Squadron Headquarters and, to their credit, the Danes went out of their way to put us up the best they could. We had a roof over our heads and beds to lie on and that was about it. There was no aircon or other comforts and that continued until we managed to wedge ourselves into the camp of a British infantry battlegroup.

My memory of the Danes from that period is of a group of very tall, very calm and very likeable individuals. Nothing seemed to ruffle them, they were industrious, determined and, in our case, very welcoming. They seemed to epitomise my vision of the Scandinavians and only strengthened my opinion that the people of Northern Europe are how we should all hope one day to be, polite, focussed and proud.

Fast forward three years and I’ve walked into a well established rear location which allows a Squadron Headquarters to function in what many out here would consider luxurious conditions. Air conditioning, a ‘real’ office environment for work, and salubrious accommodation for sleeping in.

From this gilded tower I flew (slightly) North a day or so ago to touch base with one of our detachments. And once again I was to find myself a guest of the Danes.  The last 24 hours have been one hell of an education for me.

The DanBat are responsible for an expansive and important swathe of land in this area and yet, in the safe confines of my everyday environment, despite knowing the equipment I had deployed and the work our guys were having to do to maintain the existing infrastructure and their efforts to accommodate the plans for expansion I had no idea just how dependant they were on our assistance. It’s nice to know that, in some small way, I am able to repay their benevolence of three years ago. Promises of effort, and little advances in their aspirations, resulted in genuine platitudes which initially seemed slightly overdone until it was explained just how dependant on these they actually were.

This visit has done nothing but cement my opinion of three years ago, but it has also added a new dimension to it. As well as the traits they showed before I now know how much they deserve the respect they so rightly have earned. Despite their equipment shortcomings, and their dependence on our help they as forging on, punching above their weight, in a fashion reminiscent of the Danes we came to know as Vikings. And their countenance does nothing but reinforce that image. Tall, blonde, muscular and square featured describes more than a majority of these proud warriors (and more than a few had the obligatory beard!). Towering men, statuesque women, who carry themselves in a manner which portrays strength and pride.

Three Nations mourn... Flags at half mast in Afghanistan

A mark of respect.

The day I arrived the Danes had lost one of their soldiers and the flags in camp were flying at half mast when I arrived, they were still flying at half mast as I left.

I’m glad they’re on our side.

I’m now safe at ‘home’ despite an interesting flight back*, I think I’ve found inspiration for the next new lyric, but in the meantime one of the lyrics from Morpheus Rising‘s back catalogue seems more than fitting. To the ‘Lords of the North’:

Born of these Northern lands,
Tracing the line back to the time when the Gods of old still roamed
They’ve come here before, they’ll come here again
With an iron hand

Destined to rule these lands
The blood in my veins is the blood of kings
I’ve come here before, I’ll come here again
With an iron hand

Out of the mist they came,
Sailing across the sea from the land where the Gods of old still roamed
They’ve come here before, they’ll come here again
With an iron hand

Leaving the land in flames
Riding across the plains to the place that I call home
They’ve come here before, they’ll come here again
With an iron hand

I am a Lord of the North
I am a Lord of the North

This land will always belong to me
This land will always be free
It will always be free

This land will always belong to me
This land will always be free
It will always be free

I am a Lord of the North
I am a Lord of the North

I am a Lord of the North
I am a Lord of the North

Lord of the North
with an iron hand, Lord of the North
Lord of the North
I’ve been here before, Lord of the North

Written & Arranged by Harwood/Tennick  © 2008

* I’ll write about the flight ‘home’ the next time, just now I need to get some notes down for the lyric…