Making Sense of the Human Condition

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I am Analogue man

I am Analogue Man, or am I?

Despite enjoying many of the attractions of modern technology, in many ways I am ‘analogue man’, and here to remind you of what we have all lost in the unstoppable procession into the future…But maybe we haven’t lost much at all?

If you are old enough to remember the BBC series Tomorrow’s World that was very popular in the 70s and 80s, they delighted in showcasing the ‘Home of the Future’ giving us all a tantalising taste of how we’d all be using laser disc players, video phones and have robots doing the housework. Well elements of all those things came true, but maybe not quite as literally as they were depicted by Judith Hann and Michael Rodd all those years ago. The thing they didn’t factor into their futuristic predictions is that people don’t conveniently follow technology curves, throwing out everything that’s old and replacing it with new. They didn’t factor in that people kind of like old and new stuff and mix it all together.

Now we have smart phones capable of video calls, and there’s no need for laser discs, video recorders and minidisc players…. But get this! We ‘stream’ our music from data servers whilst still buying something called ‘vinyl records’, remember them?

You see, a lot of us still have this profound underlying need to connect to bygone eras. It’s not just nostalgia for Boomers or Generation X’ers either… Generation Z’ers are buying LPs for the first time and discovering The Beatles and The Stones. And they are finding out all about this historic music from their smartphones watching something called TicTak and FaceTube. This is the beauty of marrying old with new.

In the real world of Tomorrow, the wonderful thing is, you get to pick and choose. Our Homes of the Future are typically an eclectic mix of 4K TVs, smartphones with more processing power than Houston Mission Control in the 1960s, and carpet and furniture designed in the late 19th century. The Kubrick 2001 ‘esqe vision of bright red plastic furniture and white walls was cool for a while, but we got tired of Spaceman fashion and craved a return to the more sartorial elegance of an Edwardian country house. Just as long as there are enough USB charging points and a decent internet connection.

How many of us still read good old fashioned books but purchase them from Amazon on an iPad or Phone? Technology hasn’t yet killed off the book, and I don’t think it will kill off the CD either, which is another weird anomaly that is set to survive the streaming revolution.

My other job is repairing, and servicing vintage watches and to some extent I also make music ‘of a bygone era’, where again, I mix, quite literally, the old and new. I’m now the proud owner of a 2020 spec Apple Silicon M1 powered computer running the latest version of Logic which I can seamlessly interface with my handmade valve powered microphone pre amp designed by Universal Audio in the late 1960s.

Rolex steadfastly still make the most desirable and iconic watches in the world and, they are also the most environmentally sustainable too. They require no power, no nasty lithium mined batteries, take minimal energy to manufacture, last 100 years + and are worth more in 10 years than when you bought them. They are also less accurate and useful than a £30 Smartwatch. Which is why the two happily co-exist at the same point in history.

The thing is, the past is full of imperfection, crackles, hiss, noise, smell, heat, weight, inaccuracy, inconvenience, danger, and the digital world promises to solve all these problems. But we forget that we become fond of things that aren’t perfect. The imperfections that the analogue world creates, are the very imperfections us humans grow to love.

The crackle and warmth of vinyl, the distorting characteristics of an overdriven valve amplifier, the sound of the Mellotron trying to imitate a choir or strings. Then there’s the orange glow of filament bulbs, the smell of a leather interior, the sound of a V8 engine under load…You get the idea..

Some of these things disappear but they come back in digital form. Then people wonder how good the emulation is and get excited about rediscovering the original analogue design. Before you know it we are all paying ridiculous sums of money for stuff that was thrown out in the rubbish 50 years ago.

In the music production world we have plugins that emulate classic analogue circuitry. LED lights now mimic the look of filament bulbs and once we are over this initial phase of electric vehicles with the aesthetic appeal of household domestic appliances, my prediction is that a new era of EVs will arrive that resemble the classic lines of yesteryear. I have no doubt that EV sports cars will also come with a choice of organic engine noises played in the cockpit to hide the really awful ones like brakes squealing and tyres rumbling.

A good friend said to me once, that one day the digital world will be better at being analogue than analogue is….He may be right.

But on that subject of old things becoming desirable again. Here’s a fascinating question.. What are we are throwing away now that will become priceless to collectors in the 2070s?… Answers in the comments please…

A Man with a Fork in a World of Soup.

Facebook has this feature called ‘Memories’. When you click on it, the app shows you everything you posted on this same day, going back a number of years. On News Years Eve in 2019 I posted about how my mental health had declined in the previous year and jokingly said that my mind Failed Under Continuous Testing (FUCT). I had identified that I was spending too much time trying to fix the unfixable. I had somehow smashed the pottery into a thousand pieces and was berating myself for not being able to put all the pieces back together. This is such a common theme for me. I am completely unable to let things go, to sweep the pieces into the bin and start again.

I admire those people who can do this, intently, the ones that can accept with good grace the deal that life has dealt them and start again. For me, the agony is continuously replaying the trauma on a loop. I still want to replay the same sorry scenario over and over, like some demented software engineer who’s trying to find the exact line of code where it all went wrong.

For me, 2022 has been all about fear and loss… I lost an old school friend to cancer back in August and it deeply affected me. We barely spoke in recent years but we were connected by the whole life forming experience of being great mates at school and subsequently bandmates with hopes and dreams of rock stardom. Rob was an extraordinary character; he couldn’t see any barriers in the world, just opportunities. He suffered appalling circumstance on many occasions, but just got back up undaunted. It seems such a cruel irony that life turned around and finally pulled the rug from under him at just 52, when he was so well equipped to deal with its numerous downs.

I was and still am the opposite.. I can see hurdles from miles away, perceived hazards, pitfalls, possible things that can go wrong, and people with dishonest intentions. Some would say that this is a fantastic life skill, and it’s certainly saved me from disaster on a number of occasions, but also it can be all so overwhelming, putting plans in place to achieve anything of worth is often too anxiety-inducing to contemplate.

I very recently discovered I may be suffering from something called ‘Hypervigilance’ which is the mind being in an elevated state of constantly assessing potential threats around you. It can have all kinds of unwanted consequences, but does have at least a flipside in that it unleashes a wonderful creativity for writing concept albums.

I wrote this song called ‘If Things Don’t Change’, and it’s very clear things are very much going to have to change in 2023, and for a lot of people.

Increasingly in 2022 I found myself incredibly angry about politics, and I have subjected friends and family to more than a few rants. But I think we are heading for disaster… Just on one level, my energy bill for December was £400. Just one month.. I can’t afford this, and I don’t know many people who can, where will this all end?

I am thankful for a few things. The very few genuine friends I still have. The adage about finding out who your true friends are has never been more resonant. Also family and the opportunity to keep trying, even if every year it feels like an ever increasing incline. I think of Rob and also former bandmate David Longdon who will never get that chance… As I wrote in the song..”As long as I can feel the sun, I’m willing to try..”

Cosmograf reached its most critically acclaimed heights yet, this year with the new album, even though the sales remain frustratingly low. It’s the latter point and the growing cost of living which is causing me the most anguish I think… The constant mismatch of putting your heart and soul into work that for the most part is not valued except by those very loyal dedicated fans that continue to support me. I joked to my parents in law at Christmas, that I could have built another company by now and retired, but like so many of my fellow muso friends struggling at the moment, I sold my soul to rock and roll.

To be honest, I don’t know how much more time I can dedicate to music, when it pays so poorly…and I think 2023 will see me put more effort into building other income streams, including my watch repair business.

Forgive my lack of positivity for the new year, but at the moment I feel like that great quote from Noel Gallagher describing his brother, Liam:

“He’s a man with a fork in a world of soup”.

Where It All Went Wrong

Those that follow me on Facebook and Twitter may have noticed I’ve become rather animated about politics these days. When I started my adventures as Cosmograf, I formed a firm opinion that it was best if musicians simply stayed out of political issues. I watched as some of my contemporaries clearly put their mark in the sand and pinned their party political allegiances to the mast, and I thought they were making a terrible mistake, dividing and alienating a potential audience when, it was all too difficult to get any attention at all for your music.

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