July 2023: Sunshine & Showers

Good morning, folks!

Another busy month has flown past and I find it hard to believe that we’re already into the back half of 2023 – I haven’t watched Oppenheimer yet, but I’m sure Chris Nolan has something to say about time (on the atomic level) that would explain why this year has gone both faster and slower than expected.

Anyway, let’s crack on!

The Usual

After last month’s recording adventure, I’ve spent most of my weekends this month doing music as well – a gig in Cheltenham (roughly a 3 hour drive away) was followed the next week by three gigs in 48 hours, not an experience I’d recommend! First, my ceilidh band played a wedding in a medieval tent that wouldn’t have looked out of place in Tudor times, in a field, in the middle of a huge rainstorm, to a crowd comprised partly of drunk French people; the day after that, I played two sets at an all-day doom/metal festival in Sheffield with two different bands. Le Menhir (a solo project by a good friend of mine who has occasionally recruited me and some other friends for live performances) opened the show, and later on Ba’al played what was probably one of our strongest ever sets to an absolutely packed out room – I was absolutely exhausted afterwards but it was a fantastic experience and we got some great feedback afterwards.
A very large crowd watches a band bathed in blue light on stage.Beside all that I’ve even managed to get some writing done! The wheels are starting to spin up on SENGOKU, my attempt at writing an authentic and mature samurai story which deals with themes like familial duty over personal happiness and casts a justifiably critical eye at the bushidō cult of the samurai. As anyone who knows me will know, I’ve been a huge fan of samurai stories since I was about 13 – from Kurosawa and Miike in the movies to Hiroaki Samura, Goseki Kojima/Kazuo Koike and Takehiko Inoue in manga. But I’ve been holding off on this idea until I felt I could do it justice and actually interrogate the concept, rather than just doing a “cool samurai” story riddled with inaccuracies and calling it a day.

I’ve teamed up with a fantastic artist for this story – Andrew “Monomizer” Browne, who as well as loving samurai movies as much as me (and being the only other person I’ve met to have seen Kihachi Okamoto’s “The Sword of Doom”), actually lives in Japan and speaks fluent Japanese! Here’s a test page (not from the story itself) that he’s put together as we figure out the right artistic style:
A page of comic/manga art. A confident samurai is surrounded by ruffians. Close-ups on three of them show them preparing to attack, then the samurai dramatically pushes his sword out of his scabbard with a 'CHIK' sound effect.I’m very excited to start putting this one together – expect more news as the project progresses 🙂

And lest I forget to mention other projects that are currently moving: Alaire has now finished all the inks for Brigantia #5 (the middle part of the second volume) and is cracking on with the third and final part. I was going through her thumbnails yesterday on the bus on the way to work along with the script, and I’m so overjoyed with how well she’s capturing the emotion and power of this part of the story – even just the thumbnails got me a little choked up! It’s been a very long journey but we’re approaching the end and I can’t wait to share it with the world.

The Record

• 14 pages written (SENGOKU)
• 8 pages lettered (The Phoenix)

As the above spiel probably made clear, I’ve dived into writing mode with SENGOKU – at this point the goal is to get a first draft nailed down so I can move bits around or rewrite later. I already had about 10-11 pages written so the page count is creeping up, slowly but surely!

The Tunes

Actually not that much metal on this month’s playlist! The first few tracks are all on the light end of the spectrum – I’ve had a bit of a Ghibli appreciation month, so the Totoro theme opens things up. Try not to get it stuck in your head..! Next are a few pop starlets – Taylor Swift with my personal favourite track off her re-recorded version of Speak Now (not an album I got into when it first came out – my Tay-Tay journey started with 1989) followed by the divine Lola Kirke (who I have a MASSIVE crush on) with a track off her newest album. After that we have new music from the mighty Metric – I’m looking forward to the new album! My writing soundtrack for SENGOKU has obviously skewed towards traditional Japanese music, and here’s probably the most famous piece in that repertoire – Kojo-no-Tsuki, a certified banger. After that, something completely different to kick off the brief metal portion of this month’s list – it’s a death/thrash song by a band called Pizza Death about being eaten by zombie olives. Perfect. We follow that with some more atmospheric/serious stuff – Wounds of Recollection make lush blackgaze that’s a joy to listen to, and Lowen were a particular highlight of the festival I mentioned earlier in the newsletter with their blend of middle eastern vocals and big doom riffs. Lastly, we close out the list with some more electronic sounds – Mega Drive are a pounding bridge between metal riffs and vapourwave synths, and Carbon Based Lifeforms wrap things up with some big ambient space electronica, perfect relaxation music.

The Links

We watch episodes of Somebody Feed Phil (a very good, delightfully wholesome travel/food show) with a friend every Monday night, and recently saw the episode where he visits Korea – which reminded me of the amazing Buddhist nun/best chef in the world Jeong Kwan, and that led me to this article about the restaurant she’s opened up: https://www.lottehotelmagazine.com/en/food_style_detail?no=276

Chef’s Table (the show) is almost a parody of itself (and rightfully mocked in the fantastic film The Menu, when Nicholas Hoult’s awful Tyler suggests that he has an elevated understanding of Ralph Fiennes’ Chef Julian Slowik because he’s watched his episode of Chef’s Table multiple times), but the episode about Jeong Kwan is perfect – not just because it foregrounds her philosophy over her food, but because it makes every other chef profiled in the series look like an immature, petty little child obsessed with status and “being the best”. We could all stand to be more like Jeong Kwan, quite frankly!

Thanks very much for reading this bumper-sized edition (assuming you made it this far) – next month there won’t be a newsletter, since I’ll be on holiday in Athens, eating delicious food and looking at extremely old buildings. I’m sure you’ll cope..!

Until next time, cheers!


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