vrijdag 3 februari 2017

A Hell of a Time



The road to the release was not paved with roses. Band members down with the tummy flu just before. Cars breaking down. Last minute instrument repairs. Rodents nibbling the wires. Still, somehow, we managed to get on that stage. It was definitely not a case of "Just do it". More like "Do it anyway".

But what a blast it was! Thanks to those who came and made it a party. Thanks to those seven people who climbed on stage with me. It was my first time ever as a singer in a rock band and I loved it. We played all twelve songs of the album A Hell of a Time. Drums, bass, guitar, keys, three singers and me. We made some noise.

And so, there it is: A Hell of a Time by Diftong & the shipwrights featuring the listless angels. The CD is for sale. On my website you can order it. Or you can go to iTunes or Spotify. And I am going to sleep for a month.

By the way, this is probably the last post in the Rocket Swing blog. Soon I hope to start a new blog on my website, where I will write about music in some general kind of way, instead of blabbering about myself all the time.

Thanks for reading this. See you some other time in some other place!
Diftong website
Diftong on Spotify
Diftong on iTunes/Apple Music

zondag 30 oktober 2016

Voice-over



These days I am a singer in a rock band. Although my profession is singer-songwriter, that is a strange thing for me to say, because I consider myself more of a songwriter than a singer. Mind you, I like to sing, but I never felt inclined to really learn the skills that ‘professional’ singers have. Also, I like punkrock and Patti Smith and Neil Young, Lou Reed and Nick Cave. That should tell you something.

There are people in this world who never really get used to their own voice. I am one of them, but not the only one. I remember a documentary on 16 Horsepower, where the singer was saying the same thing and he asked his grandfather, who was a preacher, ‘Do you like to hear yourself preach?’ The answer was a short and clear ‘No!’.

Sometimes, we have musicians staying in our house for one or two nights. We talk about music, obviously, play music and basically live in the music in those days. And sometimes, I play my guests a song of mine, when I have had enough wine. Like last weekend when I was told I have a good voice. Unfortunately, I did not record that remark or I would have listened to it again and again.

Anyway, I decided to re-record some of the vocals on my new album. And it was a good thing I did, because I greatly improved on my earlier performance. I may even start to like my own voice!

Now all we have to do is finish the mix (we made a lot of progress there), do the mastering, finalize the artwork and kick the bastard into the world.

dinsdag 27 september 2016

Sunday Sessions


For the first time since December 2015 I played live for an audience. I had stopped playing because two fingers on my left hand played other notes than I had in mind. Frustrated, I started writing songs for a new Diftong album last winter. During that period, I discovered that I could still play a bit of guitar if I kept looking at my left hand. And well you know, an addiction is an addiction, so I decided to give it a try again, which is what happened on Sunday September 18 at Ned Egan's Easy Sunday Sessions.

So there I was, back on a stage, playing my songs. I have done this many times before, but as you can imagine, I was more nervous than I used to be. The what-if-factor. What if my hand refuses to do the job? What if I put the wrong date in my phone? What if nobody shows up? But it was the right day. They showed up. My hand did the job.  And… it was magic. I had almost forgotten how it feels to play for a room full of people you love. It felt really really very good. So to all of you who were there: thank you! To all of you who could not make it: never mind, life is beautiful anyway. And to the rest: I guess you missed something. No worries, I will do this again. Starting this Sunday October 2, on a pop-up stage that is part of an art exhibition in my home town. And there will be more. Although I don’t know when and where yet.

Meanwhile, the recordings for the new album are almost finished. Two more backing vocal tracks to go, and we can start mixing. I can hardly wait to let you hear it, because I think it is very good and also very different from what I did before. This time, I will only make a limited number of physical CD's. If you are interested in buying one, pre-order your copy, by sending an e-mail to diftong@diftong.nl. Of course, the album will also be available for you to download. I will let you know when. Our aim is November.

vrijdag 12 augustus 2016

Something White



We are wrapping up the recording of the new Diftong album. I say Diftong album but it is actually a band that is performing my songs. And we did with enormous fervor and gumption. So I'd like to start with a word of thanks to Budi, Dirk, Jeewee and Peter. We played some fine seventies rock with a bit of roll.

We managed to record twelve songs. Eleven are brand new and one is an oldie called Something White. I wrote it after watching a TV program about a populist party in Denmark in 2001 or 2002. At the time – it must have been not long after 9/11 – I could never have thought that it would be so relevant 14 years later. Though I made some changes to both the lyrics and the music, the idea of the song is the same. And now populists seem to rule the media. Here are some of the words:

Here they come again and they won't listen
They swing their crowbars, draw up their lists and
They start waving flags
They start sticking on the tags

There is something white fluttering in the corner of my eye

Keep watching for something white and don't let the big words get to you!

zondag 24 juli 2016

Cornfields

Wednesday July 20 2016. A small abandoned house between cornfields in the middle of somewhere. Five guys with their instruments, an incredible amount of cables and a lot of blinking lights. It was hot outside. It was even hotter inside. We were all in good spirits, but there was one spirit in the house that made an annoying squeak through all the amps. Never mind, we came to record bass and drums and will do overdubs of the other instuments later.
The drummer counted to four. What we heard then, was a smooth funky rock sound I could not have imagined in my wildest dreams. We kept it going for three whole days and finished way before the deadline. Twelve songs with a groove were etched on the harddisk. I sang 'The ways things were going they could not go on'. True. Not because we we didn't want to, but because we were exhausted. Twelve is enough.
There was the music before July 2016 and there was the music after that. Those of you who expect the fifth Diftong album to be anything like the previous ones are in for a surprise. I might call the album Exile in Cornfields. You never know.

Now, if you will excuse me, I am going to get some sleep.

zondag 3 juli 2016

Scribbles

Last week, it so happened that Lynne Hanson sat in my kitchen, working on some new songs. We started talking about writing songs and I played her one of mine and asked what she thought of it. She said she liked it, but had reservations with me using the same word twice in the chorus. Normally I would think so what, but hey, this was Lynne Hanson. After struggling with that chorus for a few days, an alternative suddenly came to me. And it is a big improvement, I can tell you!

The words for the new album are finished by now. At least, that's what I tell myself: the lyrics are finished. It starts with scribbling words and phrases in a notebook. I also use napkins, the back of receipts, i-phones, desktop computers, whatever is at hand. If I think what I wrote is any good – in about  1% of the cases – I will use it in a new song. I make a lot – and I mean a lot – of draft versions. After a while – a while can be anything from 10 minutes to 2 years – I approve of my work, type it on the computer and print it. The printed version always looks very pretty and I'm satisfied. I really am for a while. Then I take a pen and start crossing out words, replace a whole verse or add one and change the chorus. I might keep on doing that until just before the song is recorded. And still there are people who think the life of a songwriter is not stressful.

Meanwhile the graphic designer in the house, who is also my wife, is working on a book with lyrics I wrote in the last 30 years. It is strange as well as exciting to read all the old stuff. We came across a whole range of other things too, like the picture above. This is an album cover of an album that was never released. The title song was Icarus, about me flying an airplane high above the Earth's troubles. The picture shows my modest attempt at hang-gliding, jumping from a two foot sand hill with a kite in my hands. Those were the days.
I got my airplane instruction set
Got all supplies that I could get
Oxygen for high altitudes
And a radio to contact you
Got a radar to protect my back
Enough ammo to fight off an attack
Got a fur lined flier’s suit
And I got my parachute
Up here in my aeroplane
I’m flying high above the rain
I’m free in my aeroplane
All efforts to ground me were in vain

And some day I’ll come tumbling down

I know I will be elated, that the book will be something to be proud of. All these messy notes contained in a book that looks beautiful. Let's just hope that I will not pick it up, take a pen and then…

By the way, listen to Lynne Hanson's music here.

donderdag 16 juni 2016

Good Vibes



High time to fire up this blog. I have neglected it, but I am full of good intentions. I am not changing the name of the blog because I love that and all the memories that the name holds. And of course, I love the album The Rocket Swing, which is still for sale by the way.

This summer I will be recording a new album with some fabulous musicians. If you know my previous recordings, you know all of them but … this time we formed a supergroup. I have twelve new songs that I am very proud of and I am still writing. Fact is, that I am writing so much stuff, I am running out of notebooks. The new album, no title yet, will be a rock album. I might even ask for guitar solos that last longer than two bars. Brace yourselves!

Our plan is to record the basics in July and add some fancy stuff later this summer. The lyrics have been approved by a native speaker. The band is doing homework and sending me their ideas. I am thinking about arrangements.

Everyone tells me that cd's don't sell anymore and don't I know it. We will think of another way to get this music to you. If you have any wishes or suggestions, let me know.

By now you will be wondering: "Who is that woman and what is she doing here?" That woman, ladies and gentlemen, is Joyce Willemse. She is the poet laureate of my hometown Veenendaal. I had the honor to co-write a song with her. She wrote the words, I put them to music. You will have moist eyes by the end of the song. Just don't say I did not warn you. Click here to find a rough demo. I just sat in front of a microphone with my guitar and played it. A studio recording will be made later on.

But first the rock album. As you can guess, I am full of good vibes. If I have any news, I will keep you posted. Have a great summer. Rock!