Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Beginning of Something

To All Concerned:

I have new music emanating from here:

First free download:

http://rcrdlbl.com/artists/RAMESH/track/The_King

Official website:

www.rameshalwayswins.com

.

Thank you for everything.

Love,
Ramesh

Friday, September 17, 2010

Through the Looking Glass

The Zurich Openair Festival is perhaps the muddiest festival I have ever been to, which is saying a lot, considering the meteorological reputation of such events. Lucy and I have been in Zurich for two days, and thus far, we have been, by all accounts, very good tourists. We have been to the Kunsthaus Museum. We have seen the geode-inlaid stained glass windows of the Grossmunster. We have saddled round the lake to one of my spiritual homing points-the Le Corbusier house, and we have even made time for a purely platonic dalliance with several Dominicana dancers in Zurich’s red light district.

This new scene (the festival one) couldn’t be more different. For me, Zurich is a kept jewel, rich in both beauty and little silver coins, unchanging and solid like some antiquated, luxurious material, perhaps like ivory. I have been imagining the festival will continue very much in this lavish tradition, but upon arrival I am immediately thrust into a realm of chaos and quicksand, somewhat reminiscent of Waterworld. Thin wooden planks provide the only form of transport between vast, hungry mud oceans, and in effect, festival-goers are reduced to ants, trailing one another in single file.

After much maneuvering, Lucy and I reach the stage on which Belle and Sebastian will be playing. To say I am a “super-fan” would be somewhat of an understatement. Having already inadvertently followed the band to Glasgow (and staying for three years), my fandom has now led me to Zurich, which, let’s face it, is not exactly a budget destination. The only difference is that, at this stage, I have the good fortune of being quite a good friend of several of the band members, making my access into Fan Babylon somewhat easier. A journey such as this one to Zurich requires a partner stocked with equal obsession, and in Lucy I have found my match. Over the course of the previous two days, the two of us have collectively hummed, recited, reminisced upon, and generally exhausted every song in the Belle and Sebastian catalogue, including side projects and rarities.

Waiting in the audience, I regret to confess, I feel a slight pang of irritation. For the past five years, I have been touring on and off with my own band, Voxtrot, and during that time I have become very accustomed to being on the “other side of the looking glass.” Now that I am in between active musical projects, there is some notion of failure, that I have left my gilded seat in the backstage and am now standing, caked with mud, alongside the best of them, glinting nervously towards the side of the stage, hoping for the blessed emergence of my musical saviors.
The instant that said saviors do in fact appear, all negative notions of superiority and disappointment dissolve and I am instantaneously thrust back into my teenage mirth. They say that, when people fall in love, we produce chemicals within that brain that cause us to behave irrationally, and over time, these chemicals decrease in presence, bringing us back to our original, dismal pragmatism. In this musical moment, I am defying science, for every rational thought (particularly those pertaining to cold, trench foot, the need to urinate, and general bodily discomfort) has left the building.

Throughout the entirety of the set, Lucy and I are bopping in unison and successfully mouthing every lyric, spoken like true hymns. As Stuart, the man himself onstage says, it’s as though “I was a kid again.”

And so comes the obvious realization: when you make the choice to turn your passion into your profession, you must put some effort into ensuring that the profession remains passionate. If you begin to measure your worth as an artist in terms of exclusivity and having the most toys, you will inevitably foster feelings of jealousy towards other artists, and henceforth create work that aims at increasing your toy count, as opposed to making someone’s world a little brighter. And if we’re dealing with adages, let’s face it, you might even throw the damn things out the pram.

After the show is finished, we are completely elated (due to aforementioned amorous mood enhancers) and have somewhat forgotten that we must now go about the process of actually making contact with our sung heroes, so that we may further bask in their presence. Telecommunication is not plentiful this afternoon, but eventually the universe works its strange magic and Chris (Geddes, keyboards) appears by the side of the stage, bin liners firmly adhered to his feet, and whisks us into the refreshingly mud-less realm of the backstage.

The majority of the band is here, and they are incredibly gracious and full of life. Stuart (Murdoch, vocals/guitar/piano) brings Lucy and I a Cinzano and within twenty minutes I am back in friend mode, forgetting the out of body adoration experience, which has occurred only minutes before. Around midnight, we caravan to the hotel in which they are staying-a nice, large modern one-and several of the band members, along with Lucy and I, engage in a bit more drinking and dancing. I am determined that I will somehow lead everybody, like the pied piper, into Zurich proper for further platonic dalliances, but alas, my affinity for fermented potatoes gets the better of me and within two hours I am effectively rendered immobile.

At this juncture, Stevie (Jackson, guitar/vocals) enters like a knight in shining armor and drags me to a flat surface where I can sleep off my abundance of good feelings. When I awake ten hours later, I am reminded that, age withstanding, Belle and Sebastian will forever be my true heroes.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The End of Something

From the Voxtrot Website:

Recently, a friend in Glasgow asked me to submit a few paragraphs for a piece he was putting together, regarding the end of Optimo (Espacio). Part of my submission reads as follows:

"Optimo is a reminder of the value of a shock to the system. Give yourself over to something foreign without fear or hesitation, and the creative manifestations in your own art will be remarkable. "

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

The career path of Voxtrot was truly one of long, simmering build, explosion, and almost instantaneous decay. Slowly, I am learning to replace any feelings of regret with positive memories of how amazing the whole thing was, and how it has, in an unexpected way, fortified my character.

Making great art requires one to be fearless, and sometimes I've given too much energy to fear. Whenever I read an interview in which a band
claims they are going to return to the sound of their earlier, more popular work, a small part of me aches for them. It doesn't work like that-the popularity of the earlier work is based upon the sense of newness felt by the musicians at the time of creation. So, how to get back the newness…?

Approximately eight months ago, I spoke to my friend Simon and indicated that I was ready to give up on music, or at least leave it for the indefinite future, but he reminded me that you can't dedicate yourself to another job or a degree, or some other distraction just because you've got nothing else going-if you have the feeling that you were born to do something, you've got to follow that feeling.

As he told me, "Do it because you love music. Do it with passion."

And so I did what I had to do. I swallowed my pride and got two jobs, one of which involved clearing the dishes of the filthy-and-not-so-pleasant-rich, and while this sudden change in lifestyle was not altogether ideal, I was constantly aware that I was building towards something.

For me, the most important thing in life is leaving behind something beautiful, something that finds its way into the lives of strangers, and forever alters them in a positive manner. Sometimes, being able to do this means that you have to work the shitty job and serve bread to rich idiots, but whatever, it's better than just cashing in your chips and spending the rest of your life wondering, "what if…?"

In the end, I've come to realize that there really isn't any cause for disappointment. The fact is, the songs still exist, and the music of Voxtrot lives on as a sovereign entity which, outside of all criticism, positive or negative, belongs to the guys and me, and to everybody who ever loved it or believed. Taking into account every person I've met, every place I have visited, every emotional exchange I have ever had with a listener, there is absolutely no room for regret.

In fact, the other day, I was thinking about it in the shower and decided that my situation was analogous to Peter Falk's glass eye. You probably don't know this, but I am a massive fan of Columbo-it is the only detective show in which there is no mystery, thus the entire reason you watch it is because you just love him (Falk) so much. It is a true testament to the power of a strong character. Anyway, when Peter Falk was five years old, one of his eyes had to be removed, due to a malignant tumor. Obviously, this is bad, BUT, had it not happened, he would never have developed his signature stare, which, let's face it, accounts for at least a small percentage of his overall appeal. Whatever I create from this point on, I will only create because of everything, good or bad, that has happened thus far.

Being in Voxtrot has been wonderful and amazing, but it is only one chapter in the book...

When I was in high school, I was a great fan of the Scottish band, Travis, and I have always harbored a secret desire to meet the band's frontman, Fran Healy. Not so long ago, at my friend Lucy's studio in Berlin, I had the fortunate experience of doing just this. He was buying a painting of hers, and we spent about three hours conversing. Eventually, our conversation drifted towards the ebb and flow of our respective careers, as well as the anger that comes with not knowing how to pull oneself out of a creative rut. Obviously, our two careers have been on different scales, but nonetheless, the associated concepts are universal. At the end of the conversation, he said to me, "You can't to keep writing the same song. You have to throw away the map. AND you have to keep creating, even if it goes nowhere for a while, you have to always keep creating… and it'll be great."

And he's right. I must leave again-take a risk, do something radical, but in order to do that, I need closure. This is not to say that Voxtrot will never play again, and certainly, if Voxtrot has never been to your country (or continent) we are open to ideas, but for all intents and purposes, this series of live shows will be the last.

Part of doing something with love is being able to say "goodbye" at the right time. Thank you for everything. On to the next one...

Love,
Ramesh

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Youth Trip



Dear World,

Voxtrot have begun the process of putting together material for a new album. As soon as there is more specific information regarding this, I will let you know. In the mean time, I have begun doing what I hope will be a monthly radio show for RADAR 97.8 FM , Lisbon (Portugal). This is a tremendous opportunity, and I am very grateful to the people at RADAR for asking me to contribute. The first show is called, "Youth Trip," and although it aired last weekend, it can be downloaded from the Voxtrot site (as a podcast) here .

If my attempt(s) at HTML is unsuccessful, simply navigate to www.voxtrot.net.

Thank you for listening.

Love,
Ramesh

Tracklisting:

YOUTH TRIP

1. Four Tet-My Angel Rocks Back and Forth
2. The Velvet Underground-Heroin
3. Allen Ginsberg-Kaddish (Excerpt)/
4. Glenn Branca-Lesson No.1 for Guitar
5. Cocteau Twins-Iceblink Luck
6. Unknown-Youth Trip (recorded outside)
7. The Cure-Plainsong
8. Judee Sill-The Kiss
9. Nina Simone-I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to be Free
10. David Holmes-The Ballad of Sarah and Jack

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

[Pause]



*Photo by Simon Ashcroft. Simon takes the best pictures, so I am always stealing them-forgive me, Simon.

Before the journal entry, here is an MP3 for the reader.

An Excerpt from an Unpublished August Journal:

Once upon a time I stood on a street corner and peered into the canal, thinking that it was just as good a reason as any for living. Certainly, I formed an analogy between its flowing water and my own blood, reflecting once again upon the minimal difference between that which is within us and that which is without (is there not a fantastic sameness in both form and function when considering trees and the lungs of animals?).

The powdered pinkness of the dying sun reflected in the water, the approaching ivory-on-saphire army of midnight swans, poised for majesty and intimidation, the ghostly cleaning boat of yesteryear, surrounded by its cloud of steam and guided only by a few piercing bright lights: these are the images that force one to remain motionless on the bridge, afraid to budge for fear of missing one valuable second. 'Rage, rage, against the dying day...'

For as long as I can remember, I have wished to hold images close to me, as though they were tangible objects. For a time, I believed this to be harmful or foolish, a fetishistic act of consumption useful only for the continual harvest of an insatiable hunger. But now I understand the way in which this reorganization of life informs my happiness; I call it Magical Realism.

When I was a teenager I lived solely in a place of magical realism. At some point I have been each and every one of my great heroes, a cause to which I remained dedicated regardless of whether or not another person was present to verify the occurrence. The first few times I allowed others to pass into my private realm were common but necessary, images so familiar they might have been plucked from any coming of age biopic-reading aloud from the Ginsberg anthology, enthusiasm fueled by stolen warm champagne, cross legged on the black cushion, youth tuned into youth (a concentration permitted only by the suspension of worry available in those days), giving finally a small performance of I Shall Be Released...

The morning after such exploits, when I climbed the hill near my parent's house and sat staring into the rising sun, its ageless puddle of light slowly engulfing every branch and stone, I had effectively transcended time. There was no great stopwatch separating myself from my heroes, for the experience of self-realization and initial discovery is always a virgin entity; its ability to repeat itself yet always be different lies in its being the definition of newness. The only absolute newness is creation.

As a creator of music, I sometimes forget what it is like to experience music from an entirely non-critical point of view.

So, what does this mean for me, Berlin and the life blood canal that once extended before my eyes? It is arguable that all the wandering souls of the world (people like myself) have inherited Christopher Isherwood's haunted, candlelit land of eccentric intellectuals and cabaret shows and morphed it into an aimless place of hedonism and anti-everything logic, but really, it just depends on how you see it.

If I can, for just one minute, block out the chattering buzz of the millions of technological advances that demand such an unending life force (phones, the internet, the ever-present flash of digital cameras), then I am left only with the advancing army of swans, the pink water, the beautiful memory of the ex-Soviet bar, competing musical instruments drifting into consciousness from afar...

In this moment, Rosie is Sally Bowles and I am Bryan Roberts, and when I get home, she will be there, "dolled up for Easter."

Thoughts from the Present:

So, many miles from Berlin, I am giving myself over to music again; this is my aim and my wish. Lost in a little village of guitar feedback and drum machines, I ponder the separation between the man and the music, the world and the single voice, the unceasing flow and the magic quality of a single moment.

Thrills, spills, mistakes, regrets, reflections, and most importantly, things to be thankful for, paint my vision in a rather kaleidoscopic manner, light refracting through a crystal lattice work. All the cities drift by, among them the seven hills of Lisbon, the unrelenting stone facade of Bushwick, the dark retro bars of St. Pauli, the mountain and warm cheese in Mexico, and of course, the chalky rose canal that carried me through Berlin, across the ocean and directly into this moment-this moment, in which I am forced to remember how much magic has truly transpired.

Here I must digest all of this magic, allow it to dissipate among my cells, forming a lightning-fast network of electrical energy. Slowly, it quells my anxiety and gets to work taking my little place of magical realism-the attic in Wimpole Street, the blue bulb of the stage light, the love affair with a guitar-from fantasy to the other side.

And so, once again, a handprint is stamped across time.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

A Good Feeling



Nico - I'll Keep It With Mine MP3

Photograph by Martin Parr, from "The Last Resort."

Today I had a good feeling. Having planned to meet my friends from Hamburg, Sonja and Niki, for a rare combination of sustenance and culture, I walked out my front door, turned right, and traced the almost straight line to the Samaritestrasse U-Bahn station. Before I could reach my final destination, Oranienburger strasse, I was required to make two changes, one at Alexanderplatz, and another at Friedrichstrasse.

Normally, such a circuitous route would spark in me some form of anxiety (I tend to be unnecessarily short tempered when traversing the urban landscape) but today I didn't mind. In fact, the whole process transcended me as though by some divine intervention, and while I was making the first change at Alexanderplatz I experienced the wonderful (see how it has been upgraded from good to wonderful) feeling of which I earlier spoke. The feeling was this: for the first time since moving to Berlin, I was not conscious of where I was or where I was going; my thoughts were elsewhere-perhaps I was mentally reviewing a new piece of music, or possibly just reviewing the vacuous space that was beginning to fill my stomach region-but either way, I certainly was not forcing myself to be continuously critical of my every move.

There's a certain self-consciousness, a kind of continual embarrassment, that goes along with being a new person in any place. You have sense that, at any given moment, every capable citizen is watching you, secretly laughing at your every misstep. But today I was just a piece of the machine, an ordinary gear in the ever-expansive clock of human interaction. Sometimes it's nice to be part of a machine, it just has to be the right one.

I arrived early, and spent about thirty minutes in the park, watching the sun's angle decline, appreciating the fact that I was using this civic gift just as it was intended to be used: reading, watching, depositing my cigarette ash in the ashtray provided for me by the government, understanding how parks act as little puddles of serenity, placed evenly around a city to balance out the madness. Parks are almost living proof that everyone, even those in charge, is aware that life is more stressful than it needs to be.

After lunch, we filed into the Martin Parr exhibition. I don't know how much you know about Martin Parr, but before today I knew absolutely nothing. The briefing I had received (from my friend Moritz) was that his work focuses mainly on the grotesque contrasts/contradictions of modern Western society, both at home and in areas of reduced financial prosperity. It is often the work of juxtaposition: statues of the Virgin Mary underneath a McDonald's awning, British tourists stuffing their faces at a Belgian holiday resort surrounded by garbage, sun-bleached couples seemingly miserable on a crowded ocean front.

Interestingly enough, there were quite a few photographs of Glasgow, which is obviously of great interest to me. Some, I did think, were particularly harrowing, specifically the photo of the men's barber shop, the walls of which were entirely covered with images of naked women. However, there were certain photographs that did not fill me with any sense of disgust. I remember, very specifically, a photograph which portrays a Glasgow street, one where most of the buildings have been demolished and thus there remains only one or two tenements, one or more of their sides exposed. In the foreground of the image one can see a Tennents beer sign, indicating the door to a pub. Obviously, the idea is that, amongst such urban desolation, the most popular escape is liquid mental abandon in an aesthetically-impoverished setting, but when I saw this, the first thought that flashed into my mind was, Sometimes life just looks like that.

I lived in Glasgow for three and a half years, and although I was a) a foreigner, and thus, in some ways, a tourist, and b) living in a very nice part of Glasgow, I still lived there, and I still frequented quite a few places that didn't look entirely unlike this one. Glasgow has a kind of grit and I don't think it's something to be ashamed of. During my time there, I picked up on an almost beautiful force, a simultaneous wisdom and madness that allows the people there to be drawn so close to each other, a sort of universal refuge under all that grey brick and grey sky. It is my belief that, an image such as the one I have described, is totally ignorant of that positive energy.

Two other images really captivated me. The first was of an elderly woman wearing a white cap and orthopedic shoes, eating alone in a McDonalds, hunched over the table. Even as I'm describing it now, it's nearly bringing tears to my eyes. I have knowingly done any number of things to destroy my body (drinking, smoking, whatever...), but this woman, why is she doing this? It's one thing to see a younger person eating a processed hamburger but it's entirely different when you see an elderly woman carrying out the same act. All I can think is that, either she doesn't know any better, or it's the only option she can afford, which brings me to my next thought: Why the fuck do fast food companies make this shit available to people?!

Yeah, consumers have a choice, but all people, especially those in the business of distributing food products, must be perfectly aware that not all are consumers are equally educated, and thus they knowingly provide the crutch for susceptible eaters. Drugs like heroin and cocaine are also really bad for you, and often a crutch, but they're fucking illegal, aren't they? I don't know why the powers that be, or people in general (who I suppose are the powers that be) are not bothered by this image of lonely old woman hunched over a styrofoam plate. I just keep imagining that it's my grandmother, who lived as a widow for the last forty years of her life, sat by herself in a soulless plastic box of a restaurant, thinking to herself, Life is so unfair. It fucking breaks my heart.

The second image which caught my eye is one which depicts a slew of tourists at a Brighton beach resort, waiting to get to the front of a fast food queue. It is somewhat of an action/motion shot, causing the majority of depicted individuals to appear blurred. However, in complete focus, at the far right of the shot, stands a boy of somewhere between eleven and thirteen years, his right arm akimbo as he stares thoughtfully out of the frame and into the present. The remarkable thing about this boy is that he has the face and complete composure of a grown man. Not the facial hair and wrinkles, or course, but rather the sense of understanding and inherent wisdom. During my time as a pre-school teacher, I noticed this trait in some of my students. The viewing of this phenomenon always fills me with a mixed sense of wonder, admiration and sadness, for in some ways, to understand too much too young is a hindrance.

Does this boy remember the day the photograph was taken? What was he thinking about? The photograph is from 1985. He must be in his mid thirties by now. As he walks the streets of whichever British town or city in which he resides, does he still have that same glaze of guaranteed assurance? Does he think to himself, I've got the answer-I've always had the answer? And on the day the photograph was taken did he surmise that it was grotesque, that he was grotesque, that the whole situation of Western capitalism was, for all intents and purposes, grotesque? Fat. Ugly. Unhealthy. Probably not, he probably just accepted that day as it happened, for that's how we live, isn't it? An image is capable of highlighting, later on, an essence that was present all the time, but went unnoticed. Its power resides in its retrospective quality.

And I suppose that's why Carr's work, or any artist's work is important, even if it sometimes neglects the fullness of the human experience: Be part of the machine, enjoy and accept the things around you, but don't forget, once and a while, to stop and criticize.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Summer in Hell:Belle and Sebastian/Michael Dracula/Mother and the Addicts/Voxtrot Collabortion... AND Berlin Odyssey

I've just returned from Glasgow, where I've finished up a recording with members of Michael Dracula, Belle and Sebastian, Mother and the Addicts, and obviously, myself. I'm quite pleased with it. Not sure when it will be finished, if ever. The song was recorded at Green Door Studios.

In other news, I've relocated to Berlin, I'm not sure for what, some sort of inspiration no doubt, so if anybody is kicking about and wants to hang out or play music or whatever, please drop me a line. I'm ready to restart, rewrite, re-everything. No more fear, no more holding back, time for brilsolage. PLUS.... this pink chair in my sublet is BLOODY FANTASTIC.

Love,
Ramesh