Thinking Metal : News

Last updated : 20-Jun-24

17-Jun-24 : Doing it Old School

About fifteen months ago, and not long after I had a fairly novel encounter with the Grim Reaper, I dragged my wannabe corpse down to Organik in Whitley Bay to see Chop5 and, well, it was brilliant. Long, long contiguous tracks that seemed linked and interlinked, and modern too. I came away inspired.

I've often toyed with the idea of doing a dance / trance / techno album but always made an excuse along the lines of I don't have the chops, the technique or the soundset to do it properly. However, suitably motivated by my encounter with the Guy in the Long Black Cloak carrying a Sythe, I went to work. And I had me some fun.

Skip forward to the start of June 2024 and with Dance Like Eno starting to take shape, I figured that now would be a good time to unleash the Monster. Except that... we've been here before and the results have been less than spectacular. Trying to market anything through Facebook is a monumental waste of time. Worse, thanks to Google and their shitty pay or die algorithm, web pages are no longer the draw that they used to be. And I absolutely refuse to put my stuff out through Spotify. What do I do?

The solution is obvious. We do it the way we did it the first time, which means giving friends a copy of the EP by way of a link to this web page and by listening to what they have to say. Word of mouth will do the rest.

Personally speaking, that approach has been very, very rewarding. Dance like Eno has enjoyed a lot of love in the last fortnight and that means a lot. But word of mouth isn't going to make this EP a success. So where next?

The next step is... local media outlets, magazines like NARC, NE Volume and The Crack, radio shows (and not just my own...), newspapers and, where possible, local TV. They have a major audience. Ignore them at your peril.

After that, gigs. I've already performed two of the tracks from Dances at our local EMOM event and they went down well. I'm now looking for promoters who will offer us a support slot over the summer and into the autumn.

This REALLY is the only way to do it, by getting out there, by doing gigs, talking to fans, making contacts, building relationships, working hard at the personal stuff. I'm sad that Social Media has failed us or we failed it, I just don't know. Whatever social media has morphed into, it plainly isn't working as a tool to build relationships.

In fact, I now feel that anyone who is still banging away on Facebook, Instagram or Twatter and is somehow expecting a result just isn't serious.

So, finally... The response so far means that I'll finish Dance like Eno and then get it out there sooner rather than later.

17-Jun-24 : Relections by Ion

Another new video from Ion was released over the weekend. Reflections 01-03 is an updated and slimmed down version of the original that I released last month. As with Nocturne, this piece isn't taken from the new album and is simply intended to showcase the work I've been doing with AI-generated content.

There's a huge push against all things AI at the moment but, like it or not, AI is here to stay and we, as creatives, had better get used to it as a means of generating new content or we risk getting left behind. This problem is not going to just magically go away overnight. This is no time to be an Ostrich with your head in the sand.

To my mind, AI is just another toolset in exactly the same way that the arrival of desktop MIDI studios pretty much got rid of multi-track tape. I can create content with AI tools that I couldn't create otherwise. For instance, I can generate movies in Leonardo that I couldn't realise any other way. Maybe I could create something similar using Unreal or Blender but I don't have the time for their learning curves right now.

There's lots I would do to change this video. Some of the characters don't look anything like real human beings. Indeed, one or two of them look like grotesques from the 15th century and I'm presently looking at improving their appearance in Leonardo. Similarly, I've yet to get to grips with the eyes in Leonardo. Sometimes they come out fine but sadly, they mostly don't and my cutting room floor is overflowing with lousy renders. But that's the thing with AI-generators. We're getting used to version 01-00. For better or for worse, the toolset will improve as time goes on.

The difference is... I have always felt that it's better to make something with a dodgy tool and work around the faults and issues that said tool causes than to sit back and wait for the tool to be perfected. Except perhaps where Cubase is/was concerned. Maybe I should have just bought something else instead.

There is one important question - how far are you willing to go with an AI toolset? If the computer generated a lump of music under your direction, is it still really yours? Did you really write it? That's a discussion for another day, I think. It's question of morals. To AI or not to AI?

Let's be open and honest here. I wrote an EP of piano-based pieces influenced by Ludivico Einaudio. When I say "I wrote...", I didn't actually write them. I gave the AI engine a collection of cues and prompts, and then curated the output, choosing one option over another, shaping and blending the sections together, and whilst the results were very promising (and I actually liked them), Jules was not fooled for a nanosecond. The tunes seem hollow, empty. There's that feeling of The Uncanny Valley. Humans are very good at working out what's real and what isn't. seems to be the tool of choice for generating realistic songs. As an experiment, I put together a Depeche Mode clone and a Bush rip off, and neither was very convincing.

I also used AI to put together two spoof rock songs for Radio Northumberland although the less said about them, the better. They made people laugh but I'd hate to be remembered for those two gnarly creations.

Anyway, enjoy Reflections. What's it about? Guess. Not sure? Why not make your own story up.

18-Apr-24 : Nocturne by Ion

Ion have released another new video, Nocturne, and whilst this one isn't taken from the new album, it does show how their work with AI generated content is progressing.

Like Secrets, Nocturne was generated in the package. The music was also generated by an AI, in this instance,, which was given the job of generating an ambient piano track in the style of Ludovico Einaudi.

"In this instance, we've been experimenting with different rendering methods to create new and interesting lens effects," said David Hughes, who is still at the helm of the Ion project.

"Of all of these so-called AI music generators, I like udio the best because it doesn't just give you a finished piece of music. The interface gives you an opportunity to test different ideas, discard those that don't work or don't match the brief, and you can extend the song as much as you want up to a maximum of around four and a half minutes. We've used udio on a couple of projects, basically to see what the technology is capable of doing right now. We've also used it as a guide to the writing process as we build up towards a new album release."

11-Apr-24 : Secrets by Ion

Here's something interesting...

Ion have released a new video, Secrets, to illutrate the work in progress on their new album, which is as yet, still untitled.

Secrets was generated in the package and we think it looks pretty good.

What do you think?

08-Apr-24 : EMOm @ The Ship Isis, Sunderland

I did a gig. Okay, just a short gig - a fifteen minute slot for the Electronic Music Open Mike event on 4th April 2024 at the Ship Isis in Sunderland. I played three pieces - the trance reworking of Ion's Flying Over Blue Waters, a new piece, Another Grey Day and a reworked version of Waving At Mono by SKinMechanix, which is my go-to track for live performances (because it's actually quite difficult to play).

All in all, it was a success. I had some problems with the volume on the Argon-8 synth but otherwise it sounded fine. Maybe too much on backing, perhaps? Yeah, I think so. I’ll fix that next time around.

Next time around? Really?

Yeah, there will be a next time and that’s because this was probably the first gig in nearly thirty years where I came off stage and immediately wanted to go back on and do another set. Maybe it was because the set was so short and over so quickly? Maybe stage nerves are not the problem they used to be? I don’t know but, right now, I have two more gigs in the pipeline and another confirmed for early November.

The next step is to re-record Thursday’s show and use that to let other promoters know that we’re available. After that, I'll expand on the basic fifteen minute set so that it’s say, twenty minutes and then thirty minutes. After that, let’s not jump ahead of ourselves. Maybe an hour long show is a little optimistic at this stage.

Anyway, I had some fun and the audience seemed to enjoy the set even if it wasn’t quite what they were expecting.

09-Jan-24 : Synchronicity Restoration

Ion's Synchronicity has been restored to its former glory. Lexicon was removed because its original name was the subject of a copyright claim / cease and desist way back in 2022 and, since I've heard nothing more from that camp in two years, I judged it safe to restore the album in full. It's available over on Bandcamp.

I also updated the artwork, correcting a bunch of typos and ensuring that the album reference number was consistent throughout. Give it some love...

07-Jan-24 : Dealing with failure

I released a new video last week, Tesla Squared, and I really was optimistic that it would do well because I genuinely thought it was good. Not brilliant but good. Alas, three days after its release, the video had enjoyed a thoroughly miserable ten views (yes, count 'em) and I think six of those were just me having a look to see how the video was doing.

Puzzled, I wanted to know why it had performed so badly.

Initially, I posted the link to the video on Facebook, just as I usually do. I checked three hours later and I was surprised that nobody in my immediate family had responded. I asked around. None of them had seen the link. Not even Jenny. Together, Jenny and I checked her Facebook notifications and, nope, no sign of it. I also asked a couple of close friends. They hadn't seen it either. So it does look like Facebook squashed the post because their business model is so utterly dependent upon hoarding data that they really don't want punters going outside of their fragile eco-system.

Figures, I guess.

It should come as no surprise therefore that exactly the same pattern happened on Instagram. Even my backup account didn't see the link.

Which leaves YouTube? I'm just not sure what went wrong. Maybe I didn't use the right keywords or I uploaded it at the wrong time or perhaps audiences are more than a bit tired of AI generated art but... It tanked. And that makes me sad because I put a lot of work into it.

That said, I didn't get into this game to become popular. I'm on this path because I want to get back into releasing music and how many views a video enjoys isn't massively important right now. Part of me looks at the miserable viewing figures and says 'So maybe it wasn't that good. Maybe I'm too close to the problem. Maybe I need to step away and figure out what's right and what's wrong with the video.'

Maybe I just need to write better music.

That sounds like a better idea than running off with a sulky face... :)

03-Jan-24 : A staggering discovery

Last month, CD Baby celebrated something of an anniversary - 25 years of helping musicians reach a wider audience.

Hurrah. Wonderful. Good for them.

And, by way of a Thank you for our continued support, they sent us a small payment for a small number of lost licenses that they had discovered in the course of one of their tidying up operations. In other words, someone used our music and CD Baby were not able to collect a royalty payment. I don't know how that happened. I don't know who was responsible. I'm guessing that someone inside YouTube dropped a ball...

I went through the usual statements and... Err... what? How many? CD Baby had miraculously discovered around fifty four thousand unpaid usages. Read that back slowly. Fifty four thousand. Wow. That's a lot of dropped balls, there...

How much did we earn for those fifty four thousand unpaid usages? Just seven dollars. Yeah, seven dollars.

Do you get the impression that there's something wrong with the streaming model?

11-Dec-23 : Electronic Music Open Mike Night at The Ship Isis

I'd been offered at slot at the Electronic Music Open Mike Night at The Ship Isis pub in Sunderland last week but decided against appearing. Nothing wrong with the group or the venue. I just decided that the music I'd planned on playing wasn't ready for a public performance. It wasn't good enough.

Nearly everything I've done for the last eight years has been written in-the-box using softsynths and plug-in effects, and whilst this approach does serve up a huge sonic banquet, a performance featuring just a guy and a laptop isn't (for me, at least) all that exciting. It's a personal thing, I guess. I like to see real musicians playing real instruments delivering a real performance.

Instead, I went along with my camera, took some pictures and just listened.

And there's always next month... But first, I need to work out a set with some proper kit...

10-Dec-23 : Psychosis Series

Eagle-eyed readers may have spotted that I've started releasing music again. The Psychosis series are a set of on-going experiments available on Youtube and intended to get my creative juices flowing again after an extended period away from both live performance and actual releases.

Whilst many of these pieces are a bit basic and definitely very minimal, they represent various compositions as Work-in-Progress items. They are NOT the definitive article. That said, I still kinda like them.

Psychosis 1 did well with around 200 plays, probably because it sounds a little like Vangelis on an off-day. Psychosis 2 did less well but Psychosis 3 keeps on growing. I'm optimistic that as the quality of the compositions improve then the audience will grow. My goal at this point isn't a huge audience. I'm just trying to find a new set of tools, a new workflow.

07-Aug-23 : Open Music Night at Independent

Thursday night - I took punt and went along to the Electronic Music Open Night at Independent in Sunderland. Umpteen acts, largely unknowns with one notable exception - Ian Boddy.

This was glorious. No flash. No pomp. No introductions. The whole set-up was anything but polished but... this was fun. This is the way music ought to be. Hear something new. Hear something fresh. Instead of the listening to the same old, same old, take a chance. Maybe something will start the creative clock ticking. Maybe the experience will get you back into the studio. It’s an approach I tried a couple of months ago with Organic in Whitley Bay and that ended up re-igniting the whole Uranium Saints project, which had stalled badly.

I stuck around to the end and, even though the last act was very difficult to get into, I shared his pain when nothing, absolutely nothing, seemed to work in his favour. I did smile when the poor guy just lay down on the floor and waited until his penultimate piece had played out. I've flopped (utterly) on stage a few times in the past so... yeah. I know how it feels to die in front of a crowd. At least this guy didn't go scream at the sound guy.

So, it’s an Open Music Night. Turn up. Set up. Play. Anyone can join in.

Sixty four million dollar question - will I?

Come along and find out.

I won’t be posting any more updates on the subject until after the performance and neither will the set be uploaded later. This will be a once-only performance. All the information you need will be available here. Nowhere else.