Shaker Maker

We at Candi’s Dog are delighted to be blogging again, but Daniel did have a minor complaint at our last entry
“Haven’t you already written a blog about your bass? Can you not write about something else?”

I was, I admit, a little put out. The other article was about a different bass, and after all, the bass is surely the backbone of any band. That people might not be interested, especially a fellow musician (well, a drummer), came as a bit of a shock to me. This point was rammed home to me a couple of days later when I watched a repeat of the marvellous game show Pointless, the theme of one particular round being ‘Famous Bass Players’.

The public knoweldge of these vital members of society was woeful with just 80% of people  aware that Paul McCartney was the bass player in ‘most-famous-band-of-all-time’ The Beatles. Predictably enough then, only a minority showed any knowledge of John Entwistle, Geddy Lee, Flea, John Paul Jones etc. Perhaps host Alexander Armstrong summed up the general attitude to bass players and our craft when he said. “You’d miss it if it wasn’t there, but you don’t always notice it”.

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Daniel recording with one of his other shakers. We posed this shot, but I don’t think you can tell.

So, I thought it was time I devoted a little attention to the instruments of my bandmates, especially as I am not the only member of Candi’s Dog to perform with a homemade instrument. Admittedly Daniel’s shaker wasn’t made in his own home, rather in his brother’s house as toy for his, then 2 year old, nephew. Nevertheless it’s as much a part of the Candi’s Dog sound as any bass instrument providing that percussive, scratchy, rustling sound we all know and love, and very occasionally, when his Daniel’s hands are bit sweaty, flying at unsuspecting front row audience members. You can check it out here, or, if you can wait a couple of days, hear it on our NEW EP titled Trees!

If that inspires you and you want to replicate the shaker, here’s how it was done:

  1. Take an empty plastic Cherry Coke bottle.
  2. Fill it with around 90g (3oz) of white long grain rice.
  3. Put the lid back on.

That’s it; as simple as that. You could say it’s as easy as taking candy from a baby; or stealing a shaker from a two year old.

All About The Bass

I keep getting reminded that it’s been seven months since our last blog post.  I could think of all kinds of genuine excuses and fabricate more, but the simple reason is we’ve had a bit of a blockage. Time after time I’ve sat down with my laptop, waiting for something to happen, but nothing comes. The strain has been enormous, but all I’ve produced is hot air. So how better to get things moving again than to get our teeth into the questions we are regularly asked at gigs.

One such question I am asked is…

“What’s that funny little bass thing you are playing?”  (see video below)

Well, Candi’s Dog are an acoustic band and I’ve never like the twangy modern sounding acoustic bass guitars. The clear answer would be to play double (upright bass), but as a little chap I struggled with its enormousness, and as a lead vocalist I found it too immobile and distracting*. True to form when faced with such obstacles I eschewed the obvious solution (stop being lazy and just practice) and decided “I’ll just make something myself”.

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Thumb rest from a Walls Magmum ice cream, attached with Blu Tack.

I have great admiration for the hands on, self-sufficient man, but unfortunately, as my stunted slug eaten vegetable garden, stodgy brick like bread, and gaffer taped cardboard instrument cases will testify, I share none of his skills. After a few false starts (a bass banjo, which sounded terrible) I ended up with a converted ¾ size acoustic with ukulele bass strings on it. It’s flimsy, never entirely in tune and has a quality of finish a Neanderthal working with stone tools would be ashamed of, but I think has a certain kind of charm to it.

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Access hole for the strings crudely hacked open with a craft knife.

And why not, the DIY element has been in music since the beginnings of time through to more recent skiffle and jug bands, and as Candi’s Dog lay down tracks for our upcoming EP lack of money means we are doing it ourselves too. As we labour away with a frustrating lack of skills, access to professional musicians and orchestras and producers we try to remember that a lack of these things can force us to be more creative and inventive and that such adversity has not stopped others producing great sounding music. And while modern technology has made it easier than ever to get a professional sounding product our new EP will inevitably be a bit rustic; but we’d like to think it’s performed with passion and feeling.

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Nut carved from a bit of UPVC left over from when we had a new window fitted.

Still we’ll let you decide that for yourselves as it will be released in just a few days!!!!!!!!!.  In the meantime, with this blog, I’m just glad to have got something out; expect more regular movements on this page in the future!

*I am fully aware that countless proper musicians/vocalists have mastered this.

 

Once Upon A Time In The Car

Candi’s Dog have had a busy few months gigging around the UK, and we’re glad to have a little time to put our feet up and enjoy the summer weather. Naturally we put a lot of work into preparing for these gigs, but increasingly these days it seems we spend more and more time preparing the playlists which we listen to on our travels. In the beginning, we just kept it simple; “Pick ten songs each”, but these days to make it more interesting one of us picks a theme for the playlist which we all have to follow. Now, rather than getting a good night’s sleep before a long journey to a gig, we are up late trying to think of songs to fit the playlist theme, impress our fellow band-mates and stop us from falling asleep at the wheel because we spent all night looking for songs to stop us falling asleep at the wheel.

Regular readers will know that ever since I couldn’t think of anything to write about one week in October (see A Place In The Song and Took A Short Diversion) I have had a keen interest in place names in songs. So, when my turn came to pick the playlist theme, I jumped at the chance and picked ‘Songs with a place name in the title’ as our theme. By strange coincidence we were debuting our new ‘place name in the title’ song, Sailing For Hobart that very evening and you can see us warming up with it backstage at Manchester Academy in the video below.


We ended up with a very enjoyable playlist that helped the miles fly by.  Some controversy was created by Daniel’s choice of Once Upon A Time in the West by Dire Straits on the highly tenuous grounds that the nearby village of West Auckland is known just as ‘West’ to locals. We’ll forgive his blatant abuse of the rules, however, for choosing what I think is the best song of the playlist, Simon and Garfunkel’s gorgeous The Only Living Boy in New York. If you don’t already know this song, I would encourage you to check it out, along with the full playlist below.

View from Midtown Manhattan, facing toward Lower Manhattan
New York, New York (So good it features in 4 of our song choices)

If you’ve any ideas for our future playlists, we’d love to hear from you in the comments below!

NEXT CANDI’S DOG GIG! – Friday 31st July – The B Festival, Bamburgh Castle, Northumberland, UK  Facebook event

Candi’s Cat

Regular readers of this blog will know that we try to use it to give more detailed answers to questions we are asked at gigs. One of the more unusual questions was ‘Do you own dogs, then?’ This one we were not prepared for. Indeed, it would never have occurred to me to ask if The Beatles liked creepy crawlies, if The Decemberists performed at other times of the year and if W.A.S.P. really are, (although there’s probably no need on the last one). For anyone who doesn’t know the origin of our name read this, but like a faithful hound we will jump to your command and answer the question asked.

None of the members Candi’s Dog own a dog. For Matthew and Daniel, this would seem to be due to practicality, while Stephen doesn’t understand why you would willingly bring a filthy animal into your home (though he is open to invitations). If pet ownership was the criteria for naming our band, then Candi’s Cat would, in fact, be more appropriate.

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Marty enjoying the music of Candi’s Dog.

It would seem the cats of Matthew and Daniel are ever present at our practices and recordings and despite the band being named after their canine foe, they do seem to love us. Obviously they haven’t told us so in actual words, but they seem very happy to hear our music. Daniel’s cat Jess, for example, listened to me recording for our last EP for a couple of hours sitting just a foot away on a bright patch of sunshine. And Marty, Matthew’s cat, couldn’t keep away from us either and kept clambering on the warm mixing desk as we recorded. Their contribution to the creative process of music making is admittedly limited, but their continued presence is a vote of confidence in our work which we very much appreciate.

So there you have it; keep those questions coming. And if you doubt our popularity with cats, test it yourself and play our music for your feline friends. Maybe your human ones too.

Must Be Funny, In A Rich Man’s World

“Who writes your songs?” we are often asked at gigs. “We share songwriting credits between us” is the simple answer and sometimes this is enough. Sometimes not though and we are then asked, “but who actually writes your songs”. OK, so I’ll tell you, but first a cautionary tale.

In our last blog I gave the opinion that most people get into music for the love of their art and the vast majority make very little, or no money. Great; so why, I now ask myself, do so many successful bands break up over money issues? If they only care for their art why argue over money? There are so many ways this might happen, but here is one scenario. Band member X is the key songwriter, but this doesn’t matter because they are all broke anyway. The band gets some success and a couple of albums in the rest of the band may notice that X has houses and cars they don’t have paid for by royalties. Band member Y and Z suddenly discover an interest in songwriting and arguments take place over who gets their songs on the album. Y questions why he doesn’t get royalties for the amazing guitar riff he put to the acoustic ballad X brought to the band. Y claims the riff is the main hook of the song. Acrimony, band break up and legal action follows.

So how does this fit in with the idealistic views of the last post? I’m not sure it does, but maybe the answer is that money is a great corruptor of men and if I was naïve it is because I am yet to have the pleasure of being corrupted by it.  With ample examples of the damage money can cause in mind, when Candi’s Dog got together we decided to split songwriting credits between us and everything else we earn is shared collectively regardless of who has done what and where. Obviously some songs are more the work of one individual or another, but how can you possibly work out how much percentage I might be due for adding a section to a song Matthew has brought and how much should Daniel have for arranging a song etc. etc. Somewhere along the line we all contribute something, and we really have more important things to argue about like when seasons start.

A cynic might add that at this stage in our career we make so little to make such argument pointless, but if great wealth does come, I hope we’ll share it equally, we’ll be nice to each other, stay together and we’ll avoid the pitfalls faced by other bands. And even if we ended up, like so many bands before splitting up, hating each other and dragging each other through the courts, we could always follow their example when the money dries up and head our on a lucrative reunion tour.

Money, Money, Money

With the close of the financial year looming, I will soon be mired in the tedium of working out how much we have earned from our music. My feelings on completion of this task can be summed up in two questions:

“Is that all we earned?”
“Why do we even bother?”

I’m reminded of a poster I’d seen on facebook (see below) bemoaning the fact that musicians are undervalued and under-rewarded financially. Reading, I remember, nodding and agreeing wholeheartedly all the way down the list before concluding the whole thing was hopeless.

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Firstly technological changes have mean that the music consumer has ample opportunities legal or otherwise to access recorded music without paying for it. I would rather it wasn’t so, but unless somebody can find a way of breaking the internet, then that is just how it is.

Secondly, in terms of expecting bands to play for free or for experience, I expect simple supply and demand is at play. If we turn down a gig, there are any number of acts willing to perform. Contrary to what the poster suggests, I expect if there was an endless supply of young men and women trying to make it as plumbers we would indeed be able get them to fix our pipes free of charge also.

I would generally take a straightforward view that not being able to earn any money from something is the free market’s way of telling you to do something else, (like maybe take up plumbing) but I think for most musicians and artists it isn’t that simple. We at Candi’s Dog have a need to make music and could no more give it up than we could stop breathing or drinking tea. We love what we do that much. So we may feel normal economic rules do not apply, but still need to put a roof over our heads and feed our families. What’s the answer?

I have no idea better than the one on the bottom of the poster of ‘getting the message across’. Please be aware that if you are watching a band, especially an unsigned band, they may not be getting paid or be getting paid very little. So if you really like a band, try and  nurture them.  Throw a few quid their way by buying some merchandise and tell your friends, family neighbours and even people you don’t like or normally talk to about them.

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Candi’s Dog EP, available for just £4 at a Candi’s Dog gig near you! If there isn’t a Candi’s Dog near you, get some like minded people together and give us a call!

And if you see Candi’s Dog, and you like what we do, please show your appreciation by buying one of our CDs. It’s democratic; if you don’t like us; don’t pay. If you do like us, but you are broke, don’t pay, but do ‘like us on facebook’ and come and see us again.

That’s it, my best solution to the problem. It’s hopeless I know, but I’m just a musician, not a businessman. This year, however,  when I come to my accounts, I’ll ditch the self-pity and those two questions I usually ask and just think: “We’re doing something I love and at least we’re getting some money for it.”

On the road – Leicester playlist

Today we’re off to Leicester to support CASH (A Tribute to the man in black) at The Musician and we hope you’ll join us there.  If you aren’t in the area, you could always join us by listening to the Candi’s Dog playlist we prepared to help the 200 miles fly by.

Let us know what you think of the playlist.  If you fancy submitting your own, we’d love to hear it.  Enjoy, and don’t forget to press shuffle!

 

We Must Have Faith In Spring

Despite the Arctic winds which are sweeping down on my little corner of England as I write this, I am pleased to celebrate the start of spring. Though I witness the passing of the seasons year on year, I never lose my fascination with this simple phenomenon caused by quirk in Earth’s axis. While summer can be a golden time of warm days and long nights, they are more often where I live something of a disappointment that never quite lives up to our entirely unrealistic expectations of what weather should be like at 55 degrees North. Spring offers no such problems. If spring is about anything, it is rebirth, an end to the dark times and hope for the future. It is this potential which sets spring aside, reminding us that we all have the chance to be happy, successful and prosperous. It reminds us that things could, just could, be marvellous.

We should of course consider that there are those for whom this does not apply. Firstly, of course, I’m thinking of the Southern hemisphere. I’m pleased to say that the blog of Candi’s Dog has now been read on every continent except Antarctica and we’re still hopeful of finding a theme that would appeal to the penguins. I suppose, the flip-side of my upbeat paragraph above for all you upside-down people of the world is that all your best times are behind you and all you have to look forward to is cold, dark misery. In short, it’s all downhill from here.

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“Did you guys see the latest blog from Candi’s Dog?”

The other person who this also does not apply to is our very own Matthew of Candi’s Dog. While bands may argue about musical disputes, we save our most bitter and intractable arguments to the big philosophical questions like ‘Is Brad Pitt the worst actor in the world?, What is the correct pronunciation of the word ‘reprise’? and in this case ‘When do seasons begin?’ On this last point Matthew differs from the rest of the band in claiming that we still have weeks of winter to come. After several years of arguing we decided to check the website of the MetOffice (who provide our national weather service in the UK) and settle this once and for all. Much to our dismay we found out we were all right. It seems, Daniel and Stephen had been using the meteorological calendar with Spring starting on 1st March, while Matthew adheres to the astronomical calendar which is 20 days behind.

Whenever you think they begin, the seasons represent the cycle of life and tell us that, no matter how bad things may get, better times are just around the corner. And with the onset of Spring, my mood is now buoyant and I’m not going to let this astronomical calendar crap get me down. So if you are entering colder times, remember it won’t last forever and you can set a reminder to read this blog again in September.  There’s something to look forward to already!

Crocus image – By Thomas Wolf (Der Wolf im Wald) (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
Penguin image – By Liam Quinn from Canada [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Location, Location, Shed?

Not so long ago Matthew went through the whole upheaval of looking for a new property and moving house. For several months he kept us up to date on his search during which time we made such comments as “Good location-excellent access to local services-nice period features-good transport links-spacious kitchen-diner, ideal for a young family etc..” gleaned from hours wasted watching Location, Location, Location. Important as it was to Matthew and family, I can’t say I was particularly interested in his news until he informed me that his new house had ‘a shed’. Suddenly alert, I heard him then add ‘with electricity’. This last point was, well, electrifying, opening up the possibility we could rehearse there.

To be honest though, he had me at ‘shed’. For the male of species a shed is a special place, a holy place. A place where he can escape, be himself and allow his eccentricities to flourish and blossom. A place where he can create home brewed alcoholic beverages with which to terrorise unwitting house guests. A place where he can indulge his inner carpenter and fill the house with crude and unnecessary items. A place where mechanical items are tinkered with and model steam trains stop at model stations in an orderly and predictable fashion. A place where the next big invention might just be taking shape.

So it came to pass that Matthew bought the house, and Candi’s Dog found themselves with a new (and free) practice room where we have spent many hours making music, chatting, arguing and being either too hot or freezing cold. And really what else would the men of Candi’s Dog do in a shed? We lack the interest in alcohol for home brew and are totally devoid of mechanical skills for more traditional shed pursuits. But otherwise, our music is in true shed character. Honest, straightforward, crafted with love over many hours but a bit rough around the edges. And if our partners are happy with the time we spend in the shed, it may be because they love our music. Or it may be that they’d rather that then get splinters up their backsides from a home-made chair while sipping nettle wine. Who knows?

Shed image “Schuppen 7235” by User:Fb78 – Photo by User:Fb78. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons – http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Schuppen_7235.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Schuppen_7235.jpg

Snow Use Complaining

We British apparently love talking about the weather. It regularly tops opinion polls as being the most quintessentially British of traits, an obsession almost. I must say I’ve never really seen the fascination. Commenting on the blindingly obvious fact that water is falling from the air, or studying the movement of weather fronts like there’s a great war going on in the sky has always seemed rather pointless. What can I actually do about it anyway, stand Canute-like and demand the weather goes away? Still, since the alternative British stereotypes of keeping a stiff upper lip in the face of adversity (I’d rather run away and hide) or getting drunk in the city centre, fighting and vomiting in a bus shelter are equally unappealing I will reluctantly talk about the weather.

It’s that time of year when occasionally, just occasionally, fluffy white frozen water falls from the air. There’s something magical about seeing the world around you transformed. Where once stood green fields there’s now a blanket of bright white glistening snow; where even your footsteps sound different, crunching with each movement. Then there’s snowmen, sledging and one of the rare occasions when it’s ok to pelt strangers with missiles.  Even for a miserable git like me, something of the lost child re-emerges. Nevertheless it’s a real pain in the backside (sometimes literally) for anybody who has to trudge through it on the way to work or drive along slippery roads. And then there’s the accidents, cancelled trains, planes, closed offices and people stranded.

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A prediction of what may/may not happen about which I can do very little.

So it was that last week, just as we were about to head off to Sheffield for our gig at the Academy when we were cancelled due to the weather. We had our set perfected, our instruments ready and most importantly our playlist set up for the journey so we were bitterly disappointed, I must say. Cancelled because of snow? You may be wondering whatever happened to that stiff upper lip I talked about before, why can’t people battle through the adverse weather conditions. Well I’m sorry to say that thought did occur to me, but really it’s only a gig. I’m sure the people of Sheffield are dying to see Candi’s Dog, but we don’t want anybody actually dying coming to see Candi’s Dog.

And you may also be thinking. At least with the gig cancelled you can let your inner child go out enjoy the snow? Not a chance. Up here we had the tiniest of dustings so I had to watch the kids pitifully trying to scrape together enough snow for a snowball, but mostly just collecting mud. So I will have to wait for my snow and the people of Sheffield will have to wait for Candi’s Dog, at least until the 17th April when we are back in town. Unless of course we’re flooded or blown away by a hurricane. Which devastation I could happily face with a stiff upper lip, until the first person commented ‘terrible weather we’re having!’