Close, but no e-cigar

It’s 5.04 am and I’ve been failing to sleep for some time now. I’ve actually been considering how I have managed to reach the grand age of 52 and a half without much in the way of success at all. This is not what has been keeping me awake so much as keeping me company in my insomnia. It seems that if there is one area in my life in which I may legitimately call myself successful it is in failing. I am remarkably consistent in getting so far but no further. There are no laurels of victory for me, no spoils, just the nagging feeling that I have made under-achieving into something of an art form. I write this not out of self-pity or in a plea for sympathy, but more in the sense that perhaps, just perhaps, under-reaching is the default human condition. Continue reading

On Ten Thousand Hours

Like the grand old Duke of York, Malcolm Gladwell had ten thousand hours. Gladwell’s hours were the time you needed to devote to an activity to master it. It was originally applied to violin players, and thence to everyone. And now it’s back. Because someone has said it may not be true. No shit. This morning’s Guardian ran a piece on a new study that apparently contradicts it. It doesn’t, of course, because there’s nothing serious to contradict. That and what the real issue is here, that most thorny of questions: how talented are you? Continue reading

Sybarus in context

This is an edited extract from the prose work that will accompany the release of Dancing with Architects … It concerns ambition, intention and luck. Hopefully it will make some sense as it stands.

The opening to I, Sybarite is how every musician and artist wants their career to begin: to simply explode in the consciousness of the audience. No warning given, no real preparation possible. To just suddenly be. It’s a great contrast from the album’s opening track, Praxis. I’m guessing my rationale for putting Sybarite as track two was to confuse those who knew me and expected me to hit the ground at a full gallop and surprise those who didn’t know me from Adam. Continue reading

Bringing Sexy Back (to cricket)

Just when you thought it was safe, here’s yet another piece about the cricket. You know, the World Cup we actually won. And no, it’s not about the overthrows, DRS or any of that, it’s a piece about one of the plays and misses of the tournament … that’s right, the cricketarists …

It is law that the electric guitar is the sexiest instrument on earth, bar none. As a rule, however, cricket bats fall into the category ‘other’. Cricket just isn’t sexy (though that doesn’t mean that cricketers can’t be). Continue reading

Dancing with Architects – the return of the sybarite

And so, with an almost delicate flash of stick across toms, a track I recorded 24 years ago roars back into life. Since it was recorded in 1995, as part of the set that made up the album Dancing with Architects, it’s been loitering with intent, waiting for its turn to re-occupy its rightful place in the world, scaring the bejesus out of unwary guitarists. While the original album was recorded in a week, this version, complete with real drums and an extra guitar solo, took rather longer to prepare. Continue reading

Crisis? What crisis?

This is piece I wrote just before my (ouch) 50th birthday. I just bumped into it again and thought it was worth a read.

‘When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I reasoned as a child. But when I became a man, I put aside childish things,’ so wrote St Paul in an email to the Corinthians. In a little-known coda, he carried on: ‘and when I reached middle age, I said to myself, what the hell were you thinking? And that’s when I reformed The Apostles.’ Continue reading

I wandered lonely as a crowd

There is a school of thought that suggests that, when in a crowd, we make better decisions than if we think as individuals. It’s an extension of Rousseau’s general will. It received its most recent iteration in 2004, with the publication of James Surowiecki’s book The Wisdom of Crowds: Why the Many Are Smarter Than the Few and How Collective Wisdom Shapes Business, Economies, Societies and Nations, and is generally considered to derive from Galton’s observation that a crowd at a country fair guessed (on average) the weight of a bullock more accurately than most of the individual members. It’s an interesting concept, and naturally, it’s flawed. Its flaw is simple: no crowd ever makes a truly collective decision. Crowds are always susceptible to the loudest voice. And those with the loudest voices are often those with the least to say. Crowds simply want to be led. Continue reading