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Well life is a mad old mix at the moment:

OCTOBER TOUR

- first of all there are a lot of tour dates coming up in October. I am very excited to be playing my first shows in Italy – a festival in Sardinia followed by shows in Rome. I must also thank my friend Dario from Ofen Bar who is an Italian genius and an incredible support to musicians all over Berlin. I can also announce that the final show of the tour will be in his little bar on the 24th of October. It will also be a special sing along night, so if you are going to come, bring your full lungs and be prepared for some acoustic rock n roll!

JOURNEYS 3: RUSSIA

- then there is the small matter of RUSSIA. Yup, Journeys 3 will begin in November. There is an unbelievable amount of planning going into this, and I must say that, after a slow start, things are beginning to develop some wind. Just like on the China and East Africa journeys, there are all types of angels, guardians and helpers coming out from unexpected corners. You all reaffirm my belief that we must have the courage to reach out in our lives and allow the world to help. We find a way. Special thanks to Tim Joppien and Victor so far, for all the effort.

RECORDING THE NEW EP

- next week I am back in the studio with my band and great friend maverick producer Chris Van Niekerk. So far we are 4 songs in. I am really pumped for the new songs. A lot of work ahead but just a great feeling to be rolling, writing new songs, and most importantly bringing them to fruition. How I love the studio! Especially excited for new song “Where the Lovers Go”.

RELEASE OF JOURNEYS 2

- finally Journeys #2 is officially released on the 9th of October SO there is a lot coming! First of all there are 3 new music videos, a new documentary and I will be continuing my journal for Nothing But Hope and Passion

Many miles to walk ahead….! If you’d like to catch up on the documentary from the China trip CLICK HERE!

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If you would like to come along then please check here

It is a wonderful little cinema. Last week we had a test screening, and I was knocked out at how great the cinema is technically – wonderful screen quality and surround sound. It is also a little symbol for me of the the best qualities of Berlin – bringing the professionalism and comfort of commercial cinema, but to the intimacy and locality of the neighbourhood.

For me personally, it is an important milestone – both in terms of the Journeys project, and in my own personal journey itself.

Everyone who knows me, knows that it was a tough period after losing the EMI deal. Once again, life has shown me that renewal is something gradual, and transformation something that you cannot rush.

The most important things for me professionally during this period has been to safe guard the continuation of my career. Up until my record deal, my solo career had a sense of momentum and trajectory which I had not experienced previously in my musical life.

Losing the deal ground many things to a halt for me – and it was out of this period of facing new realities that the Journeys project was born.

My meditation upon independence and DIY philosophy has been long brewed. Put simply, in starting the “Journeys” project I had no idea what I was setting out to do.

It has been necessary to crush certain fantasies, dreams and ambitions in order to arrive at a state of professional health and stability. My greatest lesson has been that if you let go of certain longings, you can make the space for deeper realities to set seed.

I will go deeper into these ideas in other posts. But for now, I am happy to be presenting the culmination of a curious sequence of events. Buying a camera, heading to the far East with the thought of making a music video while on tour, recording with joy & spontaneity the strangeness of the life unfolding before me, coming home, finding myself at a dead end, working on the footage in the silence, and at the end discovering I’d made a little film….which in turn has become a broader series, and an important part of the Journeys aesthetic.

Sometimes you find the best stuff when you scratch around for long enough in the darkness.

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“I found myself playing at the Modern Sky festival because I was independent. Because I was desperate and full of fucking dream. And because of a 1000 nights waking in the ‘wrong’ places, following every lost lead to every place painted in the colours of dead end and nowhere”

NBHAP #1

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I am happy to release today the new video for “Waiting for the Gods” from Journeys No.1

I wrote the song in the year between losing my deal with EMI and beginning the Journeys project. It was a time of stopping. Of allowing the past to settle, and waiting for a new future.

The idea of “Journeys” hit me during the flight back from the US after playing my first shows there. As I drank a little too much red wine I realised that finally I was forming a vision of how to go forward.

Arriving back in Berlin, I locked myself in my room in Neukölln for a week, and wrote the first Journey´s EP.

I wrote “Waiting for the Gods” as the scale of the project began to dawn on me.

“Truth is I don’t know where I’m going next, I look around no view where the sun may set, yet I know these feet must take me far….as evening surrenders to the stars….”

Shortly after recording the song I set off to China in September 2014. Half way through the tour I found myself playing a show in Chongqing, a city of 34 millions people. I came down with a chest infection, and the road to Changsha was long and hard.

Before the show that night, I considered doing something that I’ve never done – canceling a show. I was just feeling really sick, exhausted, and it hurt to breathe.

“There’s a crossroad of which many speak, there’s a devil there I am yet to meet, and I don’t know if I will survive….till I’ve met his gaze with steady eye…..”

I decided instead to take a walk with Ben and just before dusk the light by the Xiang river turned into the deepest, most otherworldly blue. It was a moment to be embraced, and we took 3 takes of the song before the light passed to night.

“There are many miles to walk ahead, flesh is weary, feet have turned to lead, yet our faith is only what we make…..of walking forward hand in hand with fate……

It felt somehow that the song had predicted the moment, and I suddenly felt exactly where I was meant to be. I knew that the show had to go on, and it was one of the best nights of the tour.

…..there ain’t no use in waiting for the gods….

I believe that there are many crossroads along the path of our lives. What I tried to express in the song is that first, one does not have to be afraid of them. Secondly, that sometimes you have to allow yourself to spend some time at a crossroad, in order to understand what junction ahead is right for you.

With love from Nairobi

Jim

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Today is Sunday in Nairobi. For the first time since I arrived the sky is over cast, the rain has fallen and the air is pregnant with the scent of Petrichor; the deep musty smell of smoke released from the hot red African earth. I am staying with my old friend who runs the office of the French news agency AFP news. I´ve bonded with his dog Zanzi, who he found abandoned on the streets of Juba, barely bigger than his palm, after her mother died shortly after birth. Sat by the experienced stringer and his street dog, I feel a sense of home, and after 5 shows in quick succession in Nairobi, and 6 weeks on the road, I am grateful to stop.

The opportunity to stop never came while I traveled in China, and its made me remember how important it is to factor rest into your travels. The trouble is that usually there is the next gig to get to, as well as the financial reality that your accommodation is only looked after for the quantity of shows you play. Keep on is the mantra.

It´s been a buzzing week, and I´m glad both for the experiences, and the opportunity to notice my tiredness. I was meant to be going home tomorrow, but some shows and opportunities have come up in Uganda, and it felt the right call for “Journeys 2” to follow the road, and let it lead where it wants to go.

Nairobi has revealed something of is characteristics and quirky qualities during my time here. But that said, a little like my experience in Dar Es Salaam, it has been hard to get a handle on – while simultaneously being inherently fascinating.

Nairobi is dangerous, to the point where many call it “Nairobbery”. Everywhere you turn someone has a story of being robbed, and more often than not at gun point. On the way to play at Choices on Thursday night, I was stuck in traffic for hours and called Rashid the promoter. I said that I was thinking about jumping out and going on foot for the half an hour to walk. I was aware of the dangers, but I´ve also never missed or cancelled a gig under any circumstance. He said in no uncertain terms that I was not to do it. I arrived a few minutes before the set was due to start, plugged in and played.

On another occasion I met an ninety year old gentleman called Irving who had been hijacked the year before. A spirited fellow, he had kicked his assailant in the balls before the second robber knocked him down with his gun.

The reality of the dangers means that there is a strong sense of division in the city. There are gates everywhere, barbed wire fences, security guards and checks. I played one show at Tamambo Village market and it felt like playing inside a fortress, or at least inside the departure area after you have gone through airport security. The venue was essentially a restaurant, I was well looked after, and enjoyed getting to know Jan (the owner) and his band.

It has been the type of show that has been integral to making Journeys 2 work financially, but also the type of show which felt somehow distant from the sense of cultural exchange inherent to the idea behind Journeys. But equally, one wants to fix some type of ideal on to what one does, to make everything work in terms of the vision of what you are trying to do. But life has other plans, and the reality that all these things “outside” your vision, are just as integral to what you are doing – after all you are not traveling in search of a fixed experience, but to experience experience itself. That is one has to be open. And as soon as I had “opened up” to the experience available I started to have a lot of fun, especially jamming with “Danger” who is one of Kenya´s premiere bass players, and Harman, an old guitarist of precocious talent and feel.

The show at PAWA 254 on the other hand was the very embodiment of what I had hoped to discover when setting out. It is an arts community, but somehow transcends this due to its organization, structure, energy and the presence of Boniface Mwangi who is one of Kenya´s most famous activist artists and photographers. Boniface has one several international awards for his photography, and especially his courage in being at the centre of events when the shit goes down – like during the elections in 2008. I´ve spent several days at PAWA 254, interviewing some of the members for the East Africa documentary, or talking a little of Tacheles and my experience there, which many of them are curious about.

One of the most special gigs of the tour, we had over 300 people come along, and it was just a wonderful night, and I felt proud to both be a part of it and also because it was the first music event of its kind there. I must also mention the fellow musician I played with, Winyo, who is one of the great musicians I have played with, but also a man of great power and humility, and a with high pitched laugh which is continually accessed and brings alight the surroundings with is echo.

The show at the Goethe Institute was a special one for me both because of the link to back home in Berlin where I live, but also because on a deeper level, it cemented my connection with German culture. After arriving as a pretty lost and deranged feeling young man back in 2007, it felt like an acceptance into one of its most powerful institutions, which is itself the embodiment of how German culture is expressed worldwide. The gig was was lovely, and the showing of around 60 people could have been stronger if not for the exodus of many music lovers to Sauti Za Basara in Zanzibar for the biggest festival in East Africa. I’d also like to extend my special thanks to Maia Von Lekow who I performed with, please do check out this special woman’s music. Apart from being a fabulous musician, Maia has also opened up many doors for me along the East Africa touring route and all before we had even met. It’s pretty humbling to experience so much as a stranger – thank you Maia!

A highlight of a different nature was the book swap party at Creative Garage. What was special for me was that its intimacy was combined with a genuine insight, discussion and open conversation about art, politics, books, life and art in Kenya – and indeed the wider world. It was special to sit and listen, to contribute and to see how ideas and insight connects across borders and culture. Having wrestled a little with the gated nature of Nairobi life, it was just special to be sitting with a local audience, to be invited and accepted, and to have a lot of fun. Though we set up a P.A there was a mood to abandon it, so I sang the songs entirely unplugged. The highlight for me was the crowds insistence to translate the chorus of “Tell Me Where to Begin”, in real time, into Swahili, and to sing along. That was one of favorite and most special Journeys moments so far.

I have now a few days to rest. I am a little under the weather, I guess the road is catching up with me. I have more to arrange in Uganda, but it may well be a case of just getting there and seeing what happens, we´ll see.

I have enjoyed my time so far in Nairobi greatly, and for my small part, and grateful for the way that music has broken down some of the gates, and allowed me to witness what its people think behind it, how they dance, to witness and listen what they think about, and to hear some of my songs sung allowed by beautiful kind people in Swahili…..for the the record Petrichor is the combination of two Greek words, meaning something created by the mix of stone and the fluid of the Gods….alchemy…..a metaphor to me of music and the capacity of culture to break down gated communities and bring people of different worlds together….

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East Africa is the second of my journeys. I am learning more about the characteristics of the “journeys” as I go. That is, my perspective and understanding of what I am doing is growing.

It has become apparent to me that though East Africa is as different to China as chalk is to cheese, there are underlying qualities which are shaping my experience. I am learning that “Journeys” has its own nature.

To the casual eye, there are the obvious things. Seeing beautiful places nourishes that human longing to take in the great vistas, to absorb space, to pull out thought from hidden stones in the subconscious, and to feel humbled by the vastness of the earth we inhabit.

Meeting people of every nation, color and creed expands us. It challenges our prejudices, educates our understanding, invites us into the brotherhood of man that is available to all of us, but which we, consistently, as a species fail to embrace.

Traveling shows us the qualities of motion; the buzz of a small plane swooping over Arusha channels our mind not into thought but a condition of being that is about flow and rhythm and feeling. Hiking on Mount Suswa, thirsty under the hot sun and your ill rationed water, reduces your complexity and conditions your consciousness to the the pounding of feet, the meditation of the next step, the simplicity of doing what needs to be done.

I am lucky to be within this project, this moment in my life. But I am also not particularly interested in the casual eye. I am interested in the nature of things under the surface, that´s where the good stuff lies, even when it is ugly, scary and we´d do anything in the world to avoid it.

“Journeys” has arisen out of a multiplicity of events in my life, and I can list them at a glance. My mothers death at 19 somehow leading me to the discovery of music, at first as catharsis, and then as a life partner.

Touring the UK in the back of a white van in the naughties, shivering trying to sleep in it in December from Aberdeen to Cornwall, getting back to London having not made a bean, and knowing there is no musical future for me in the UK.

Arriving in Berlin, crashing my van, getting put up next to the Tacheles in an abandoned building, pissing in bottles and playing night after night and learning that the road to nowhere does in fact lead somewhere.

Panic attacks in Bahnof Friedrichstrasse, knowing there is no past, there is only future, no one to help make it for you, no one to carry you, only just the brute strength we find when we finally learn we are truly alone and ready to rediscover the nature of prayer and to bend a knee and to ask for help.

Getting signed by EMI and making my way out of the underground, touring Europe, fulfilling some dreams, getting to the crest of a moment in which you feel all the yearning and hungering and wandering has finally led somewhere, just to lose the deal on the day of release and to find yourself back in that very same underground and joyous with your friends, drinking a hefeweisen and knowing that yes, this is your life, yes, this is where you belong, yes it is okay to be finally at one with it.

And then stopping because you have given everything, and the only thing to do is to stop. And learning that nature hates a void. Nature is inherently creative. Nature demands the expression of potential, because that is its very nature – the nature of nature.

Life happens. Dreams, shattered and lying disconsolate, slowly start reweaving their own patterns, colors, threads. The patchwork of your life has not unraveled, it has necessarily re-constituted itself.

We deconstruct to reform. We break down to rebuild. We fragment to become more whole than we had previously been.

And the journey continues.

The perspective the causal eyes sees a celebratory gig upon the rooftop of PAWA 254 in Nairobi. It does not witness the conditions needed to get there. It does not see an exhausted figure on the back of a 30 gig tour in 4 countries, on a foreign continent, feeling displaced and under slept and unsure if he can go on at 4pm under the burning sun. Or the moments you wake up in the middle of the night, deep in fragmentation, wondering where you are, what you are, you being for a time transmorgified into something young and afraid. Or the 40kg on your back you take from place to place on the buses, trains, ferries, trucks and taxis of the world to try and do you job.

Everything thing is pregnant with its contrary. The casual eye is the eye with least insight, but dammit, if it sees something pretty I hope it can enjoy it none the less.

But what comes back to me consistently as fundamental to the nature of “Journeys” is the need to say yes to life.

I have been more privileged than many people on this planet. But I´ve also been backed into a fair few corners in my time. And in every corner I´ve been in, especially the worst ones, when it feels like there is nothing left and no capacity to go on, I have discovered 2 things.

First is that we have a strength that we often lose sight of. Man, for all the evils he has committed, did not rise to be the top predator on this planet by giving in. I don´t like to put it in those terms because I feel deeply uncomfortable about how we treat nature. But when it comes to those moments, there is a power in us which we only conceive and intuit when we are really up against it. As Dostoevsky wrote in one of his novels “there is a capacity to endure anything”

Second, that when you are backed into a corner you get to a point that is beyond choice. There is no more time for thinking, there is no more time for analysing, dissecting, discussing, considering. There comes a point when you simply have to say yes to life.

You have to say “yes” to the acceptance that you are in that moment. And you have to say yes to making the tough choice to move forward. You have to embrace the conditions of reality, light and dark, and you have to crack on. One step at a time. And those feet always take you somewhere. And usually, when bound with a yes, to the place where you are meant to be.

I have moments when I cower before my life. I have days when I am exhausted and feel fragmented and I think to the future – of the future I am trying to build for my life through this project – and I would do anything to exchange the adventure and excitement for stability and security.

But in those moments I know that, simultaneously, life is asking me to say yes. To get to the next gig. To write the next song. To shoot the next movie. To take a leap of faith and trust it.

I know that I should have listened to the advice I got in my twenties:

“The music industry will never pick up, it is dead, dying, make a life for yourself while you still can”.

I could not accept that choice. There was a spiritual question at play. I just could not stop doing what I felt what I was meant to be doing, regardless of the consequences.

I gave up some time ago on some ultimate vindication, of some validation that would make it all okay, all worthwhile.

At some point I realized that, for better or worse, this is my life, these are my choices, and despite my failings, I do have the courage to stand by them.

I feel that life is an article of faith. I feel that sometimes being too fixed on where it is going, limits the capacity for life to take you where it wants you to go. I am not in control, and I never was. I am in life, not yet with total belief, understanding or flow, but with the knowledge that this is what is meant for me for now.

And in that way I believe in saying yes to life, in trusting her, in taking her hand and knowing that before my time is up, she will take me where I am meant to go.

So I have understood something of the nature of our journeys:

Say yes to life.

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I´ve been greatly enjoying capturing some of the impressions and experiences of the varied African landscape on my travels. One of the boons of the Journeys concept is that it essentially removes the budget needed for making “pop” videos.

If I´m honest I´ve never liked pop videos. I say that in respect to the medium – I´ve worked with lots of great film makers and had many happy experiences, and a good pop video is a wonderful communication for song.

But for me personally, reality is what interests me. Experience, insight, moment, joy, spontaneity, and engaging with unexpected things. Even in my early 20´s my heart would drop when a stylist came on set. Let a pimple be a pimple. There is some illusion that the “fashion industry” governs style. I think the fashion industry hangs on to the coat tails of genuine “cool”. “Cool” is always pre-thought, pre-marketing, always connected to real life, the street, necessity, dynamism.

In any all this is really a distraction. The truth is that in life you simply have to work with what works for you. I don´t make enough money to employ stylists, sets, film makers, script writers, and even if I did, its not my area of interest at this point in time.

But put my in a new country and I find that the videos shoot themselves, and create their own language – one that is not guided by anything other than reality and the little gifts it imparts.

Anyway, I´m working on a lot of ideas as I travel, and collecting some moments along the way. This little video I´ve assembled quickly in my little room in Dar Es Salaam, i hope you enjoy!

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1.

Deep Lows are a signifier that something is out of kilter or not right. Hard as it is, they need to be listened to and observed. You have to be “within” them rather than looking for an exit plan.

2.

When in a deep low the human instinct is to run. One needs to have the courage to be within this state of mind. Our lows are an opportunity, a guide and educator. In the modern world we often try to compensate the low with sex, drugs, t.v and drinking. All of these are in their different ways distractions or ways of attempting to deal with what the subconscious is revealing to us. We have to be willing to see our darkness as revelation, our fear as a road to insight.

3.

Depression often precedes its opposite – revelations, understanding, a break through, balance. Repress it and you shut yourself off to its opposite. Nothing has taught me more about life than my times of anxiety, un-groundedness, and depression. Do not misunderstand – these times have been scary, frightening, painful and sometimes worse. But if what one seeks is a fuller understanding of life, one has to accept at times partnership with the Devil and take his tour through Hades.

View my documentary exploring these thoughts

4.

A life of understanding is to accept, with the deepest part of your being, the acceptance of suffering. We do not want to suffer and we resist it with all our might. But becoming an adult is about accepting the conditions of life and ultimately a universe is comprised of its black holes as well as its suns. Eye ball reality, go head to head with it, accept its dance. To be at one with its best and its worst is to learn to live, to gain a broader understanding.

5.

Why do we so resist discipline? Of one thing I am certain – that greater self discipline leads to a richer life of the spirit. When in a deep low, discipline provides the root and the anchor. We lose our structure and we become groundless. There are some basic truths. We feel better after a run. A walk clears the mind. Less coffee makes us less anxious. Calling a friend leads to connection. A morning without a hangover is easier to cope with. Drugs make a hole deeper. Learning leads to fulfillment.

6.

We never feel as cut off and as alone as when in a deep low. We swiftly fantasize that we are alone, we believe in the lie that our solitariness is our only reality. Call a friend, reach out. The energy of friendship is deeply transformative and though it can´t solve our problems, it bloody well helps.

7.

All problems that we have have already been tackled before. The greatest illusion is that we are insane, cut off, alone. The opposite is true. Most of what we go through, people have already gone through before. We are not freaks, we are just human. But there is so very much to learn from other people´s journeys – we must use this as a resource.

8.

All the tools we need are within us. When in a low we underestimate both our strength and our capacity to solve problems. I read recently that life is a series of problems that area all solvable. Well said. We have to trust in what is already within us. Sometimes we just have to dig a little deeper to discover that trust. In this way depression can be a motivator – the very thing that brings us closer to our creativity, growth, health, and our capacity to trust – both ourselves and the world.

9.

I believe in the role of creativity. I believe that humans are fundamentally creative. Draw something. Write something. Take a dance lesson. Learn something new. Show yourself that you have the capacity to develop. Accept with joy that doing something badly every day for 5 minutes leads to gradual improvement. And when you see improvement you learn something new about yourself and witness anew your capacity to grow, and to change.

10.

Nothing is as revitalizing as our ability to give energy to others. Our aloneness is smashed by our ability to give. We are part of a cycle – we must be willing to give something of ourselves if we are also to receive. Love is a two way exchange, and does not exist unless we are willing to humble ourselves before it, and to take part in its laws.

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