Archive for April, 2009

Stereo

“Oh listen to me,

I’m on the stereo.

Ster-e-o-o”

From “Stereo” by Pavement.

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This week a friend passed me a CD version of the only E.P. I ever recorded in a proper recording studio.  It’s been funny listening to it after all these years.  Fond memories of the sounds of a different period of my life.

In 1991 whilst at Uni, I met someone who has become like a brother to me ever since.  We were two long haired guys who shared a love of music (everything at that stage from All About Eve to Pop Will Eat Itself, Ned’s Atomic Dustbin, Wonder Stuff, NMA, The Mission, Nirvana, The Pixies, Mudhoney, etc) and who also shared a Christian faith.  We wanted to push the boundaries and harness that power of music and message and take it into the pubs and clubs.

It was a dream I have had since a very young age.  We played very loud music and tried to challenge preconceptions wherever we went between 1991 and 1994.  We recorded one EP and also have a couple of decent quality videos of us playing live.  The highlight was touring with Eden Burning on half of their UK tour in 1992.

It was such a laugh lugging our gear around the country, playing in student unions, music venues and churches, sleeping on floors and loving the music and the scene.  I have really fond memories of those days.  Our long hair, big boots, walls of feedback.

Here’s a review from Cross Rhythms magazine that someone emailed to me a few months back:

Tuesday 1st June 1993

  
STYLE: Rock
RATING 7 7 7 7 7 7 7
OUR PRODUCT CODE: 22107-
DISTRIBUTION: Independent
FORMAT:Cassette EP

This product is currently not available from Cross Rhythms Direct

Reviewed by Tony CummingsAn EP from an Aberdeen team who toured with Eden Burning on about half of their Vinegar And Brown Paper tour and despite the relative production crudity of this 4-song EP a band definitely to tip for the top. They possess in Kathy Garden a distinctive lead vocalist while the band show a nice line in ringing some changes out of all those recycled indie riffs. Not sure if the band have truly settled on a distinctive style yet both “Home”, a song about Kathy’s homeland of Orkney, and “The Search”, a song of righteous anger and conviction would be great with a big studio production. So the grassroots scene is still throwing up bags of talent. Encouraging, isn’t it? 
My wife was smiling to herself a while back in church when she thought about those times whilst myself and Missing Jane’s old guitarist lead the worship time.  The truth is, I used to always think playing in church and “worship” music was so second rate to gigging.  More recently I’ve found myself blessed enough to be in  a place where I can lead the music section of the service from behind my drums, share stories and thoughts and try to be relevant in a post-post-modern day.  To try to create time and space for people to reflect on life, God and how close or how far apart those things can seem at any given point in time.

I am so lucky, if that’s the right word, to have a fluid group of like minded folks around me.  Those who want to lose themselves in music and expression and who don’t want music to get in the way.  Those who don’t want to be on a stage or performing, but who want to make a glorious sound.  Those who don’t get hung up on quavers and semi-crochets.  Those who see something much bigger.  Rock ‘n’ roll and amazing grace…

Yet, despite all of that I am wondering if that particular season is coming to an end for me…

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The Times They Are A Changin’

“As the present now will later be past,
The order is rapidly fadin’.
And the first one now will later be last,
For the times they are a-changin'”.

From “The Times They are A Changin'” by Bob Dylan. 

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I have these beautiful snapshot memories of crisp early morning car rides along gritted rural roads with shards of sunshine penetrating the densely planted bare trees either side.  This would give way to the thrill of arriving in other-worldy Scottish ski resorts ready for a day of pushing myself and being rewarded with hot chocolate, chips, aching leg muscles and sore feet.  It seemed we could go there pretty much every weekend between December and April.  24 years on and the Scottish Ski industry is barely viable.

22 years ago a report from the United Nations World Commission on Environment and Development produced a document called “Our Common Future”.  It placed environmental issues firmly on the political agenda and aimed to discuss the environment and development as a single issue.

17 years ago the first Earth Summit convened and this was largely built upon “Our Common Future” and the work of the World Commission on Environment and Development.  This lead to the adoption of the Commission on Sustainable Development.

15 years ago I read “Our Common Future” and the outcome of The Earth Summit as part of a module I was studying at University.  It pressed upon me the urgency of the environmental agenda, albeit I found it hard to think of what a 20 or 50 year timeframe could look like.  I also couldn’t really see how it would fit into the career I was studying for other than in personal lifestyle choices.  Back then I thought that amounted to aspiring to buying deodorant from The Body Shop and not using CFC spray cans.

14 years ago I started my first post University job.  I would attend lunchtime Continuing Professional Development (CPD) seminars which were all firmly focused upon the key building blocks of the profession.  These tended to address mathematical models, market analysis, planning or legislative changes.  This past week alone, I spent 3.5 hours at CPD events focused specifically upon climate change despite my area of work having not altered particularly since 1995.

13 years ago someone in my church posed the question as to why we always looked for Christian equivalents to things rather than, say, joining a Greenpeace march with a banner for our church in order to make a stand and show that we want to be involved in the debate?   I think it was met with mixed responses and some concern of what we would be aligning ourselves with and whether Greenpeace was really something that all of the congregation felt comfortable being associated with.  As we now look to reorganising our congregation around missional expressions, the first suggestion is one such cluster loosely connected around social justice issues.  Surely this will incorporate environmental concerns. 

9 years ago I chose a Land Rover Freelander as a company car.  I loved having a 4×4.  It felt safe to drive in an elevated position.  I felt that it said something about our lifestyle – the ability to chuck snowboards, our bikes or a drum kit in the back.  6 years ago the Government changed the way in which company cars are taxed, essentially with part of the tax burden linked to the Co2 emissions of the car.  My annual take home pay was significantly reduced as the Freelander was a particularly bad offender.  It was enough to change my behaviour, to give up the car and swap it for a surplus company car which looked boring in comparison.  6 years on, I can’t believe I was so ignorant.

9 years ago some would say that Al Gore was elected as President of The United States of America.  George W Bush took residency in the Oval Office.  3 years ago Al Gore released a book and film entitled “An Inconvenient Truth” which has probably been one of the single most powerful resources in educating my generation and the ones above and below mine.  How different might the world have looked if the Florida seat count had been determined differently in 2000?

Last week the UK government declared that no new coal powered power stations would be built unless Carbon Capture and Storage technology is Incorporated.  This basically means collecting carbon emissions, transporting them to sea and burying them in former oil or gas fields where we have already extracted mineral resources and fossil fuels.  In a strange state of play Ministers, Environmentalists and Power Companies seems to have embraced the decision.  Greenpeace, whilst supportive, have raised various concerns about existing plants or the situation should the new technology not work.

6 years from now the first such new power stations may be operational in the UK.  These will be the first new power stations to be constructed in 30 years.  The suggested locations are the Thames Gateway, on the rivers Humber and Tees and in the Firth of Forth. They will have to be capable of burying 25% of the carbon they produce.

16 years from now any of these new power stations must be capable of burying 100% of the carbon they produce.

41 years from now the net UK carbon account for all six Kyoto greenhouse gases is to be at least 80% lower than the 1990 baseline by reference to the Climate Change Act 2008 which aims to enable the UK to become a low-carbon economy and gives ministers powers to introduce the measures necessary to achieve a range of greenhouse gas reduction targets.

The times they are a changin’.

Poison

“My old man always swore that hell would have no flames.
Just a front row seat to watch you true love pack her things and drive away.”

From “Poison” by Pedro The Lion.

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How much great art, film and music has been inspired by the notion of love? 

Ask someone to describe what love feels like and either a stream of metaphors and pictures ensue or there is a pregnant pause whilst we try to grasp the language to capture something so huge.  At our core we were all made for relationship and we long to be loved.  When we listen to songs about love breaking down,  it pains us at times because most of us have been there at one point or another.  None of us want to lose something so special, to acknowledge that feelings change, to recognise a thrill has gone or to feel rejected.

The lyrics above come from a desperately sad song about the breakdown of a relationship and the failure to cope in the aftermath.  This week I have watched it unfold in the lives of two people I hold dear.  It seems to be beyond being able to fix and I see them cancelling their wedding arrangements and dealing with who owns what and who keeps the house they have spent the last few years rennovating. 

How do I offer more than trite concern?  How do I offer support, understanding, love and hope?  I feel helpless and insufficient and a deep sadness for my friends.

“It’s finished” sounds so final.  So bleak.  So empty.  So devoid of purpose.

Someone else cried “It is finished” and they accomplished something that gives me a hope and a purpose no matter how tired of life I feel at times. 

How do I convey that to my friends whilst one smiles and jokes with me safe in the knowledge I know what is going on and whilst the other forces a smile through pursed lips and wet eyes?  How do I reach out as their relationship disintegrates in front of us all and they and I feel so broken inside?

Fitter, Happier

“Fitter, happier, more productive,
comfortable,
not drinking too much,
regular exercise at the gym
(3 days a week),
getting on better with your associate employee contemporaries ,
at ease,
eating well
(no more microwave dinners and saturated fats)”
From “Fitter, Happier” by Radiohead.

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In a podcast I listened to recently Rob Bell said he had vowed to ask himself about every journey he was making – could he walk it and, if not, could he cycle it?  He said it has transformed his life.  He saw parts of his city that he’d never noticed before, he found time to contemplate things.  He suggested such an approach would save time that many of us make driving to the gym, being there and driving back and reclaim some of our evenings.  He said “It’s hard to consider the lilies at 70 miles per hour”.  It makes a lot of sense to me.

I’m not there yet, but I find myself increasingly considering whether a drive constitutes a non-essential car journey and can be replaced with a walk or ride.  Cycling to work has left me feeling fitter, more focussed and happier and has simply involved better utilising time I would ordinarily have been sat behind my steering wheel.  Twice this week I’ve caught up with a friend on their cycle into work and we’ve had the chance to have a really good chat whilst riding to work. 

I can enjoy life in the slow lane or I can go like stink with the wind in my hair and a smile on my face. Tonight, for the first time, I rode part of the way home with my four year old.  It was one of those snapshot moments streamed full of sunshine and happiness.

It’s true you see the world differently from a saddle.  If you’ve not seen the clip below, then I trust you’ll enjoy Edinburgh from a different perspective.

This Is Not The End

“Open up your heart – just one more time for me
before we turn to face reality.
Don’t stop to think this perfect chance may never come again.
This is not the end.

Let me use your ears – just for a little while 
I’ve got to find a way to make you smile”.

From “This Is Not The End” by Agent Orange.

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So we took down our “Art of Joy” art exhibition on Sunday.  It was a happy/sad thing to do. 

We have a tendency to critique things and, yet, I reckon that people’s interaction with art can achieve a million invisible things that we’ll never see or know.  So what did we set out to achieve and did we do it?

1)  We recognised that there is a lot of bad news out there.  We wanted to inhabit a physical space and create a sanctuary.  A place where people might encounter some joy through art, through space, through workshops, through music, through conversation, through random acts of kindness. 

2)  We wanted to encourage and affirm people who are trying to explore and convey what they are learning in life through creative arts.  We just wanted to recognise the good in those things and spur people on in continuing in their various forms of creativity.  If Christians are involved in those arenas then surely something of the joy and wrestling of life should emerge and, maybe, that demonstrates authenticity and relevance to those who would never darken the doors of a church?  If non-Christians are also involved, then hopefully it shows our belief in them as people and in what they create and what they have to say too.

3)  We wanted to raise some money that we could just give away to the Grassmarket Mission who support the marginalised and vulnerable of this great city we call home and love so much.

I am hugely encouraged that a small group of people caught a little vision of what this could look like and ran with it.  We all have different backgrounds and skills and certainly aren’t all involved in “the arts”.  Yet, everyone got stuck in and we worked as a team.  I’m really proud of what we achieved and, yet, I don’t want to inflate our role or become full of pride.  I’m just grateful for what I have experienced through it all.  Some of the conversations I have had and the joy I have felt will stick with me for a long time.  The ability to encorage, bless and affirm a whole bunch of people has been an honour.

Where do we go with this next?  I don’t know, but as a group we are looking closely at the whole idea of what we are terming missional expressions – actively living out loud what we believe in the ways we are wired.  In some shape or form trying to be a faith community without walls and barriers – bringing joy and good news in the places where people are at.  I have a strong feeling that, whilst it may not necessarily look the same, this is not the end…

Words

“Too many words.

Too many words”

From “Words” by Low.

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We throw a lot of words around in our daily conversation.  We de-construct them at times or try to figure out how to apply the concepts they are associated with.

A friend and I were talking of how he is sending his daughter to Edinburgh’s only Gaelic speaking nursery.  She is only spoken to in Gaelic in the hope that a process of immersion will help her pick it up.  He hopes it will assist her in learning other languages in later life – particularly French as his family spend two months a year overseas instructing snowboarding.  Neither of us know any Gaelic, but there is something nice about trying to preserve something of our nation’s heritage and tradition.  Another friend recently commented that the Gaelic word for “butterfly” is “an dealan de” which literally translates as “a glimpse(or glimmer) of God.”  How beautiful is that?

I’ve really enjoyed reading a couple of posts by another friend this week exploring two other words I am grappeling with at present – “Missional” and “Sabbath”.  I’d really encourage you to check out this and this.

Son Of Everyone

“You are there and you are not silent.

So, say something useful.

Don’t say that sequence is not important

and that you live and move in slow motion.”

From “Son Of Everyone” by calamateur.

As our little experiment in facilitating a creative arts project nears an end we were treated to a truly special evening of music and comedy on Monday night.  Personally, it is one of those nights I will cherish and hold onto and remember with a huge sense of delight for years to come.

As well as the music, there was just joy in the little, seemingly invisible, things.  The happiness of just being able to buy some drinks for people I have held dearer than they know for most of my days in Edinburgh, the conversations and funny little connections of realising that somebody knows somebody who knows someone and the recognition of what a small world it is.  The sense of bringing together people from different ages and stages in life and different backgrounds and being captivated as the songs and stories unfolded. To witness authenticity rather than religion.  I’ve been chuckling to myself in recent days observing in real life some of the observations noted in Fiona Stewart’s stand up comedy slot.

A huge indebtedness is owed to everyone who gave up time and energy so willingly.  It was a joy to see DLDown for my first time.  The variation of arrangements and the noteworthy delivery of a Lies Damned Lies number accapella and the looped arrangements of “Icarus” were highlights for me.

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As for Calamateur, I’d gladly pay money to see them play live every night of the week – so it was a huge pleasure to witness their set in a space where everyone was attentive.

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If you were there and enjoyed the music (or if you weren’t but are intrigued), then you can download music at DLDown’s website or at calamateur’s site.  You can also download the exceptional “Jesus Is For Losers” album for free here.  There is an option to donate and I would strongly encourage you to do so given that this is essentially a livelihood – in exchange you’ll get some additional tracks and remixes that are worth having.

Thanks to everyone who has shown me something of the joy of art and the art of joy this past little while.

If you’ve not managed to see the art exhibition yet, then you can still do so by visiting the Bistro at The Lot, 2-4 Grassmarket, Edinburgh between now and Sunday afternoon.  30% of any sales proceeds from artwork will go directly to the Grassmarket Mission.


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"The priest in the booth had a photographic memory for all he had heard. He took all of my sins and he wrote a pocket novel called "The State That I'm In"". From "The State I Am In" by Belle and Sebastian
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