Showing posts with label the story so far. Show all posts
Showing posts with label the story so far. Show all posts

Sunday, 2 December 2018

The Story So Far... part 2

I had decided that a new batch of short stories needed more than a page to take them to their audience. But, deciding is only the beginning.
I knew exactly what I wanted, I wanted to put on a show. I wanted to share my stories up close and personal but I just couldn't see how to fit them into a format that would work. I didn't feel that I could carry an hour and a half show. I had half-convinced some other writers to collaborate but this would make the whole process so much more complicated. Some of the would-be collaborators are in other parts of the country and all have different obligations and time constraints. This would become an enormous monster of an endeavour.
I have always loved stories and literature and music so it follows that many of my favourite songs were narrative songs. When I was a kid, my Grandad used to play Johnny Cash and ‘A boy Named Sue’ fascinated me. I'm going to list some of my favourites simply because I want to say them out loud.

  1. ‘Devil Went Down to Georgia’ The Charlie Daniels band
  2. Hotel California by The Eagles
  3. Eleanor Rigby The Beatles
  4. All of Bat out of Hell by Meatloaf
  5. I loved Ian Dury ‘My Old Man’ about his father was a fave
  6. Jeremy by Pearl Jam
  7. Central Reservation by Beth Orton
  8. Tom’s Diner by Suzanne Vega
  9. Stan by Eminem
  10. Love Vigilantes by New Order
  11. A Whole bunch by Amy Winehouse
  12. Jim White, The wound that never heals, a dark tale of love and murder
  13. David’s Last Summer by Pulp
  14. The Wild Rose by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, another who loves to tell a good tale.
  15. Love Detective by Arab Strap. Again a band who liked to tell stories more than sing songs.

While I'm writing this I'm remembering so many more but I really have to stop somewhere.
What informed my vision was mostly the last three in this list. Pulp and in particular David’s Last Summer because it breaks out of the 3 minute pop song limitations and tells a story that could just as well be a chapter from a book. Actually most of Pulp’s songs were stories, Common People being the most successful but I could name Babies and Disco 2000 off the bat. Nick Cave tells a good tale but its strongest point is the musical mood and use of Kylie’s voice. 
You may be less familiar with the last one, Arab Strap, they are from Glasgow and although Love Detective is my favourite they tend to narratives in their songs told in Glasgow patter usually with no attempt to sing a hook. Love Detective is a seedy tale of secrets and suspicion, I love the way the beat drives the story and not the words filling the tune as in most songs. This is what I wanted.
I imagined a DJ or computer based setup with loops and samples to drive the atmosphere. Behind me on the wall would be evocative images to set the scene. At last, I had a plan. This would be the show and it would hold an audience’s attention for as long as it needed. Don’t get me wrong, I've been to some incredible solo performances but I really felt the experience need some extra dimensions.
One minor problem, though. I could not find a DJ/musician. Basically, I wanted someone who would know exactly what I want and be able to realise that in a way that I would be happy with, easy.
Actually, I did have exactly the musician I needed, I just didn't realise it. I had known him for years and we had talked about music many times but a Venn diagram of our tastes would have looked like this…
Then one day he invited me over to his place to figure out if we could work together. He had a bedroom studio with all we would need but I still wasn't sure that he could see the music in my head.

Sunday, 4 November 2018

The Story So Far... part 1


Recently I wrote a batch of short stories that were different, they were truer, deeper and despite being some of the quickest stories I've ever written, they were hard. I achieved ‘flow’ this is a state that many artists crave and few reach, when it feels like you are a conduit for something that pre-exists, somewhere. After writing them I had to sit and recover, just imagine some flunky old medium after a séance. There is something about these stories that’s different, honest (unlike the flunky old medium). I realised that these were not my stories and they have to be shared but I didn't want to trust them to paper. I had to share them face to face, eye to eye.

My first attempt was My Reward, which you’ll find on YouTube. I had a strong idea of how I wanted to present it but what I didn't have was the skills, equipment or even a decent place to film it. With my phone and a darkened bedroom I produced what you’ll see if you haven’t already. It received very strong reactions from everyone and I've subsequently met people who've seen it and got some very encouraging feedback. The most humbling was when I was with a friend, her phone rang and she told the caller that she was with me. When she hung up I asked who it was and if I knew him, “No, but he knows you!” she said.

It isn't an easy watch and the subject is maybe not the most popular at the moment, men in power are being vilified by the #MeToo movement and barely a day goes by without someone being accused of some predatory act. I'm all for that and I know my kind and we are a flawed species, but I think that the “in power” part is more toxic than the “men” part. You know, many of us are just trying to get on with doing the right thing while the goal posts are dancing around the field.

Anyway, I took another of my stories and tried to film it with the help of a friend. It was tough, we both have jobs and families but we worked late into the night trying to realise a plan that wasn't that clear in my mind. And he had only really used his camera to document his kids growing up and the odd social gathering. This remains 85% complete but I promise I’ll regroup with the experience I've gained and get it done.

There was also the matter of the music, I used a fabulously atmospheric piece for My Reward by a band called This Will Destroy You then I received a terse message from the representatives of the band and a red strike on YouTube. I would need to have original music.      

So, I had a vision, some stories and little else. I organised a storytelling event for World Storytelling day at a local hotel. I would invite people to tell their stories and I would present one of mine. Now, I don’t mind telling you, I was a wreck. I have spoken to crowds, given lectures and seminars, I even did some theatre back in the day but this was different. These stories were different, I couldn't fail them, the stories that is. I took a deep breathe, a big gulp of adrenaline and did it. It wasn't all I wanted but it did make me realise what I wanted. I wanted to do a live show.

I knew I wanted to perform these stories, reclaim storytelling from little kids, they get enough things already. You know storytelling is one of the most ancient forms of communication. Once it was news, morality, entertainment. Once, storytelling was Netflix. No! storytelling WAS the internet. I wanted a new age of storytelling.

But, I didn't yet feel that I could carry a whole show on my own. I spoke to other writers, one in particular I know could carry a live performance (you know who you are!). I knew I wanted a show, a performance, not just a reading. And, the more I knew, the more I knew nothing!

Until it all clicked into place, I knew exactly what it would be. And all I would need to realise this was, well, just about everything. So, I went shopping for a musician…   


... Part 2  

From Under Dark Clouds

The Century of DIY