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What place doubt inhabits in us? Is it friend? Is it foe? Whatever, it is a companion to all except the steeliest of minds. And even in that case, it is worse for its absence – there is nothing so foolhardy as a mind without, at least, some partnership with doubt. I write of it, because I am within it. I am a fool for the arts, but the arts is a fools path. Or at least it feels that way. I know I am not alone in that. It is an extension of the life of the underground. It is a path without a planned end, or a destiny which you can control. There are points, especially in youth, when there is feeling of indestructibility, where one is convinced that the marriage of will and belief will only have one end. And it is a rite of passage of age, to see certain illusions as what they are; temporary. And in that new space of maturity we learn something of the true nature of life. Of the fact that we are not in control, that things are not fixed, and mostly do not turn out as we hope or expect. Our adaptability to these realities defines us, makes us who we are. We reject doubt. We hate it. Run from it. Attempt to make lists and good habits to dispel it. But often, if we would only chose to listen to it, we find that it has so many answers. And they are so often beautiful. Doubt is alway there before a junction, before a crossroads, before a turning point. It is doubt that guides us – which presents the options, and which, if we allow it to, allows us to chose the right road for our life. As for me, I feel riddled with doubt at this point. Do I have the courage to see this project through? Can we get enough shows to make the Russian journey work? Why the hell is it that life calls me to the deepest Siberian winter at this point in my life? Why journey towards uncertainty in one’s life, rather than to stability? I don’t have the answers to these questions. I just have the doubt at this point. There is no particular sense or order to things. Yet I do know that I must accept doubt as my companion if I am to continue at this point. My project depends on an affirmation of doubt, rather than a negation of it. So at this point, I will continue my little conversation with doubt, and believe that ultimately, he will turn out a friend….

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UPDATE 3:

A few more images from the evolving session / blog post! Just a brief catch up for now, and then there will be a final update next week on Tuesday.

We’ve had a great week in the studio and the first 4 songs we have put down towards Journeys #3 are called:

1. Where the Lovers Go
2. The Great Divide
3. Lets Do This Thing Called Life
4. Red Petrochia Scent

The session has been a very organic one. The second session has always been planned for September. Unlike the first 2 EP’s we are not recording this “in the one session”.

I’ve decided on a different strategy partly out of the fact that I just don’t feel in a rush (in myself), but also on a practical level, Journeys #2 is not released for another month, so there is no pressure.

That said i find it really hard to leave songs unfinished! But the energy built up is quite interesting because it feeds back into the writing. I have a lot written now, and ongoing, and I simply have no idea what songs will end up as the final two tracks on Journeys 3. We’ll see!

However, the planning for the traveling side is now developing in its early stages. A huge amount to do. One clue – going East not West!

It’s been a long week and then finished off with continuing my film work. It’s been a busy month on that side too, shooting the Live DVD for Hamburg, a commercial job for Paypal, the video for the first single for local musician Ben Barritt and now into a series of video’s for Universal’s Elias. Great to have the work, busy times. Making it happen, rolling on. At some stage I’ll will write a blog on the challenge of juggling one’s time – let me know your thoughts on the subject!

Here’s a very low light portrait taken of Elias during the shooting on the Sony A7s – the only photo taken as we were bustling away all evening on the video side!

UPDATE 2:

Just checking in from the studio. Things are rolling very well. There is a dance between money and time – something all independent artists understand. But there is a lot of experience in the studio, with both the musicians and the magically positive energy of Chris Van Niekirk who is producing. Here is a little video clip to give you a sense of the music and vibe. It’s a song called “Where the Lovers Go” – its really a little poem set to music. It is about the idea that “culture shock” is something you don’t experience when you go somewhere – but something you experience when you arrive back home. Something I feel quite deeply when I come back from my journeys expeditions. Anyway – a long way to go – but wanted to give you a sense of how things are developing.

UPDATE 1:

The EP is being produced by dear friend Chris Van Niekirk

Dan had a monster day yesterday on the drums. The joy for me is to play with these guys, and the simple truth is that I could not be as ambitious in the Journeys project with out them. Simply put, the playing is off such a high level & the chemistry so strong, that we can roll fast once we get into the studio. It’s not about the amount of time we are in the studio, but the energy within the time.

We are tracking the basic tracks live as usual. It’s a small but wonderful studio this time. The project is not flush with cash, so we are squeezing up, but none the less we are capturing the feeling of liveness which is at the heart of the Journeys music.

One of the most talented individuals I know, Austria’s Herr Dietrich – graphic designer, fixer, experimental jazz guru and most importantly, local hefeweizen drinking partner

You always feel confident rolling with this man, my anchor, rock and old friend Ben Barritt. Ben has just finished his own solo record -very exciting and sounding great. We are doing a lot of creative exchange at the moment, and I shot the first music video for his new record last week:

I’m really proud of the songs on this EP. It’s just exciting to be in a “continual cycle” of recording and released. It feels like I have finally broken down the strict lines between the writing and recording part of the process and the release and promotion. I like things to be ongoing and continual, and finally I feel in the artistic space I have been pursuing for, I guess 13 years

As we play the songs there is a little glowing globe next to me…I’m picturing how the music will find its way into the world, and what visual identity this will give the songs.

Finally – thank you Lucas for some of these shots. If anyone has any questions about the songs, process or releas plans, please feel free to comment below! Right – back to work – a big day ahead! x Jim

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I could relate to these curious buildings. I have found myself in the “in between world” of my musical life. Unlike many of the people I grew up with, I have survived in the desecrated environment of the musical landscape. And unlike others, my career has not swelled on the promise of momentum and allowed me any degree of comfort. Things are unstable, and there are few certainties.

My psyche has developed in tandem with these times. When there is the call of activities I am available to it, and of course just grateful for the work. And when times are quiet I have learnt intimately the characteristics and nuances of solitude. But I don’t feel like Camus, “forever a stranger to myself”. I feel in a process of continual education, and I find that the solitude tends to educate me as much or more than than the journeys I am making.

Journeys has many themes and characteristics for me, and one of them for me is to document this period of my musical life. This examination of independence, of self reliance, of continuing when on first appearance the world seems to be telling you to give up.


I didn’t give up. But I did give in. The central characteristic of this time for me is a sense of acquiescence. Of surrender. Of trusting in life. Of dancing to its beat. Of listening to its rhythm. And when the rhythm asks for silence, to allow myself to be silent. Or if to celebrate, to celebrate. Or if to be void, void, inspired, inspired, down, down, reflective, reflective, passive, passive. Of lying down upon the naked earth and allowing the sun to wander across my closed eye with no need to do anything.

Say yes to life

I am for the first time enjoying the cultivation of magnificent voids in myself. To feel no need to fill them up. To feel no need to show. I have realised that my musical journey walks hand in hand with my sense of discovery, with my internal journey, with the slow accumulation of a deepening knowledge.

And yet, then I discover something more. That when the voids empty truly, there appears a new rain. And I am finding that each time I empty myself, I find that the next EP will somehow write itself. Sometimes whole songs very suddenly. Sometimes, picking up little ideas that I have written along the last journey.

In this way this journeys time seems to making its own markers. I am less trying to go forward with it as a project – but allowing myself to be available to when it is ready to go forward. The new EP is now written, and it is calling and next week I will start to record it. It feels an important moment. Again a little watershed.

My travel in China was busy, even frantic. Tiring, wonderful, strange. I remember reading the Tao Te Ching on the way over, and at times during my journey. I feel I have gained an understanding of it. And I think so much of that understanding it about not trying to control fate, about accepting time, about not wanting to get to another place.

Many times in my life I have resisted where I found myself. Many of those times were worthy of resistance. They were not good places. I am grateful to my resistance. Even if now I must in turn reject it. I have nothing left to reject. There are no other lives that I yearn. I am grateful for my inbetween-ness. For the pocket of life in between success and failure, and especially in my freedom from those perspectives. I feel a sense of calmness. So often we want to fill up our lives rather than allow them to be filled.

I spoke recently with a friend of mine, a writer. He talked of the freedom of not having to make a legacy. Of not having to prove anything, be anything at all, or to show anything. I have recognised that on some level that happiness is related to this. I am eager to discover more of happiness. To understand its working, as I have understood the workings of chaos and of solitude.

For now, in the distance. I can hear the calling of my path. But I don’t need to walk to it, time is doing that for me. I am in the spirit of acquiescence, and in that within a sense of trust. Life makes its own momentum. At times you have to react. And at other times its okay to wait.

“…..man has to believe, to know, from time to time why he exists; his race cannot flourish without a periodic trust in life…..” Nietzsche

—————-

Quotes take from a wonderful little book that Berlin artist/philosopher/maestro Boris Eldagsen gave me called “The Essential Crazy Wisdom” by Wes Nisker

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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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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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