Away With Words

A blogtastic notepad and general repository for hABIT - related verbiage.

Being a child of the DIY post-punk boom I've long wanted to have my own label. The internet, having bulldozed through the traditional music biz in a way that punk only dreamt of, has enabled anyone so inclined to offer their wares independently and globally, 24/7.

So with a little help from my friends, including a couple of good old "can-do" American dudes and an enthusiastic Label Management deal here in the UK, I now have a properly supported outlet for my music. 

I run a 24 Track digital recording studio, The Signal Box, with excellent outsourced remixing and Mastering facilties (and guitar fettling/building services,) at the discretion of the folks involved.

My aim is to provide albums - although they are merely a format created by technology, (and now arguably made redundant by it,) because as a songwriter I find the album format the ideal vehicle for a body of work, giving each song a discrete context; a family, if you like.

Often an album is made up from a group of songs which arise from a particular period in a creative journey too and the idea of the concept album, with a unifying theme, is no longer regarded as something remarkable - it's just another bonus of the 45 minute disc. Yes - I miss the A and B side factor too. Well, it made a psychological difference, both to the artist and the listener, which influenced not just the running order but also the way the songs were perceived.

Six Winter Mornings

 ...those sleeve notes in full

 



The eye - defying darkness and blood rumbling silence of winter nights, deep in rural Wiltshire, make sunrise a much anticipated event; a beautiful blessing of light as seductive and worthy of depiction as the more traditional sunset scene.

 

This is perhaps especially true for the former city dweller recently arrived among such unsung natural glories.

I’ll always remember one early February morning, (a time of year when one is anticipating the days beginning at 7a.m., after long months of dark mornings,) when I was walking my dog towards some woods in the endless inky blackness, being puzzled and thrilled by a sudden and unexpected blaze of light; it was the Moon appearing between clouds. Somehow the realisation that this was sunlight, just one degree removed from its’ source, made for a poignant moment.

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Early in 2001 I took six images of dawns, from the same viewpoint, and thought they might make a good record sleeve - and title. 

Being small Polaroid prints however they didn’t work on the scale of a CD cover but, coincidentally, my son Oliver later took a picture on his mobile phone - which I bagged and mangled in my laptop to make the generic sunrise featured here.

 

Having sorted the title and cover the songs came, eventually, towards the end of a six year sojourn in a remote cottage, where I enjoyed the silence and beauty of the landscape, the seasons and the wildlife, of stars and owls.

I also had the opportunity to think, to have flights of fancy, feelings of regret and longing and, sometimes, healing insights - all grist to the songwriting mill. 


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Then, following the release of my albumThe Huddle House in 2007, I found myself with a dilemma: how, having so exceeded all my expectations on that record with Louis Philippe and Ken Brake, could I proceed?

The obvious route was to continue with the winning team, (and I hope to do so again one day,) but with hindsight I guess there is always a need to feel stretched somehow in the making of a new record. 

I wanted to use my own studio, which I’d had for fifteen years, actually to make a record for the first time; and working with Louis and Ken inspired me and gave me confidence to strike out on my own.

My predicament was that I had no handle on how to approach the project: I see an album as a discrete body of work made with its’ own philosophy which shapes and informs its’ aesthetic and purpose.

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As a means to a start I took the first few pages from a messy pile of recent songs - in - waiting, (there are advantages to not having had a record deal for years,) and casually recorded fifteen of them.

Thus this album began life as a bunch of relaxed reference takes; acoustic guitar and a vocal, without even a click track to play along to.

 

In the way of things, having burned a CD of these contenders to play in the car, it became an album over time.


To my delight, (as with children, I find it almost impossible to be subjective about my own music,) friends were unanimous in praising it - Mishka Assayas, whose opinion comes second to none, thought I should release it as it was.


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T

hat was a very tempting idea but, as I drove the “demo” album around, I kept getting ideas for overdubs and strongly felt that I should follow my desire to develop the recordings; to support the songs with the sounds suggested by the naked album.

 

It was therefore a logical compromise to work from the original, basic, lo-fi tracks; because the performances are authentic and unrepeatable.

 

So the core of each track is unchanged and dictates the nature of the whole finished arrangement.


 

A set of criteria for mixing and production evolved as I went along:

 

 



I wanted the mixes to be explicit; no more tambourines apparently coming from a distant outbuilding, but everything almost equally present.

It also had to swing; so, after years of Young Marble Giant - style prominence, the Bass here is not about melody, or stand alone merit, but movement.

 

Being weary of the blandness and omnipresence of samples and digital fakery I used only real instruments played by real people.



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Six Winter Mornings - Lyrics (Copyright S. Moxham.)
Bring Out The Best

I only have one heart
It's only for one woman
To come and take apart
You can't make it too soon and

Don't know yet who you'll be
But you'll have to love me
And all I want for us
Is to bring out the best
Is to bring out the very best

And I will be with you
Not in that fantasy world
Which led me to a nightmare
When dreams come true you must beware

The lotus eater's choking
That diet is quite revolting
Feed me with care and I will
Repair the ill he did you

Blue Loop

A rainy day and an empty house
I've been looking at old photographs

No-one calling on the door or 'phone
Guess this is what it means to be alone

I pick up paper and I pick up pen
I pick up guitar and I play again

Tell me you miss my gentle touch
Tell me you miss my easyness

Say that you can't find my kind
Nobody else so fair of mind

East

People say you should never look back
But how're you going to see how far you've come?
You're looking into shadows
When you're walking from the sun
Take the time to turn around
And see the patterns in your wake
Face the heat of a setting sun
Do it for their sake

Autumn Song

These chords, this way
They make me want to play
And sing along
This gentle Autumn song

Sunday rain
Here again

Hello to you
Oh welcome passer-through
It's good to see
Your colours on the tree

Autumn's turn
Deadwood burn

Warning Signs 2

Come round and be with me
There is no need to worry
We won't want to
Hurry back to
Where we used to be

Sit here and share with me
The times we had before
We decided to ignore
The warning signs

Tonight

The lateness of the day
All colour washed away
And the Moon has waxed

The birds to roost all fly
A wind pushes the sky
And the night is next

The chimneys start to smoke
The owl in wood has spoke

The starry gaps above
Look down upon my love
Who is not far away

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...and now some wintry writings:




When The Rockets Are Covered With Leaves

     

When the rockets are covered with leaves

And the sky's complicated by trees

Broken ice so that horses can drink

Freezing air so the walker can think


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INCOMING 


Driving west, through a sodden Somerset lashed by squalling rain from an angry sky, skeletal black, wet, trees punctuate the vivid

 green landscape. The air super-clear under grey rags of cloud. Flocks of lapwing tack and flicker in effortless unison, low over latent

 fields, like fish on a reef.

In mellow country towns the hissing roads are littered with broken branches now denied to the small, colourful songbirds of winter. 

This is a West Country the tourist never knows; at the exact opposite to the height of the holiday season. I came to live here twelve

months ago, leaving the blaring concrete of the impersonal, self-important south east of England, to be deeply soothed by the old,

natural beauty of Wiltshire and Dorset. 

Once, when I was rhapsodising about the bleak midwinter scene to a local lad he, after an old - fashioned look to check my

seriousness, kindly responded, 

“Wait until the bluebells come out.”


 

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THIS WINTER




 

To sit in that red sofa

Beneath the big window

 

On a wet afternoon

 

This winter

 

And hear the rain

Run down the pane

 


While wind rattles the do

or



(January 2002, Berwick Saint Leonard, Wiltshire.)


 

 

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DRIVING SLOWLY


In the mood for driving slowly

In the middle of the night

Silent roads unknown go through me

Under frosted starry light

Remote, the Moon rides high and sharp

Across the frigid map of stars

While naked woods endure alone

The freezing winds that swirl and moan

Shapely trees on looming ridges

Hidden towns - forgotten bridges

Flow, like quiet dreams of home

Beyond the icy sweep of chrome



(Hertfordshire, late '90s)


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GOOD CONSUMERS

This is the year of 1980
Here is the news, for all who've waited,
For students of all things macabre
And good consumers in their cars

How time has passed is quite beyond me
I look around, it's all behind me
The future's looking very grim
We're in the same boat, sink or swim

Externalise my fears thus
Face up to everything I must
Survive myself before all others
Hope they remember we're all brothers

OK we all deserve to die
And all our freedom here is paid for
But just remember all the time
Nobody asked you to be grateful

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Something truly spooky:

Alouette Pym

Alouette Pym has entered my life, completely unbidden, in the depths of the night. 
Amongst all the hurricane detritus of waking dream nonsense rejected, pre-dawn, this quarter-profile young Victorian woman, imagined to my immediate left, looking in the same direction as me and dressed in smooth, pure white, has inexplicably won my approval to occupy psychic space.
I have no idea who she is or where she came from ( as ever, it is the name which galvanises me, ) but I suppose she is is a reward for all the long nights of solitary struggle. She is The Queen of Insomnia, earned by a thousand hours of bad trips; the molten repetition of patent nonsense convincingly presented as urgent fact, the utter exhaustion of dawn, the bitter comedown of rising.


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