New Kid on the Blog

Strung Out is about my life as freelance cellist in London. I’m not sure how it will turn out, as I’m a blogging novice. A blovice, if you will. In fact I’m an habitual luddite. Saying the word “blog” makes me feel like a character in Nathan Barley.

Just so you know a bit about me, I’m a girl, I’m 28. I grew up and studied in Manchester, I’ve lived here in South London for 5 years. I’ve been playing the cello for 20 years, apart from a brief period after graduating when I put it in the box, and decided it was never coming out again. This malaise lasted a year, and was a horrible time, manifesting itself with me bursting into tears every time I passed through a tube station playing classical music on the tannoy. When I started playing again, it was because my violinist best friend said she knew a girl who wanted to start a string quartet. I’ve been in that quartet ever since, and it will feature heavily in this blog.

I studied classical performance at college. My parents are professional classical musicians. They divorced when I was little and remarried other classical musicians. So the chances of me growing up wanting a non-musical job were slim to none. I went to see my dad play at the Liverpool Philharmonic Hall when I was a kid, and saw him dressed up in his tails with all the other musicians. I watched him walk onto the stage, and I was jealous. He seemed like a rock star, even if he was one of 60 other players. My Dad was in the ad campaigns for the orchestra around Liverpool, so he was on billboards sometimes. Once I got in a black taxi with my mum, and the poster below was on the back of the odd flippy up seat that faces the wrong way, which was pretty freaking cool, for an eight year old. My dad is the tall guy leaning on a contra bassoon looking bored in the middle.

Sometimes my Mum and Dad played on the telly, at the proms, and it blew my little mind. I grew up listening to classical music, I played in orchestras, I was in the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain, which is like the world’s most intense band camp. It was strict, and full of middle class white kids, but I learnt most of what I know about music there (that sounds like I think I know a lot. I know a bit. Like how to play quietly, and sight read quickly. And not to look around and gawp at a wind player when they are playing a solo. They HATE that shit.) I played at the proms myself, on the telly, in that orchestra, when I was 13 years old. I was bricking it.
Now I barely listen to classical music. I’m not sure why, I love playing it (most of it. Show me a muso who enjoys playing Delius and I’ll show you a liar.) I learn it when I practise, I studied the history of it….but for some reason I never want to listen to it in my down time.

5 Things I listen to in my Down-Time

1. Alt-J. they’re new, they’re young, they’re talented. They’re about to support Wild Beasts on tour. My afore mentioned best friend Kirsty is married to their producer, which meant I got to play on their new album. I am so excited for it to come out. This is Fitzpleasure, their most recent single from the upcoming album. At 1:49, entrancing things happen.

2. Radiohead. I dismissed Radiohead for years, mainly in rebellion against a pushy ex boyfriend who wanked on endlessly about how good they are. I split up with him, listened to Kid A and began to wank on endlessly about how good they are. My all time favourite Radiohead song is Idiotheque. Whenever I hear it I feel about a million different things at once, none of them bad. Which is my mark of a good song.

3. The Black Keys: particularly the song Next Girl, from Brothers. If I had to have a “Music to have sex to” list, and let’s face it, we all have one….(don’t we?) this would be near the top. Black Keys music is hot, in a grimy, black and white slow mo video kind of way.

4. The Dead Weather: Jack White may look a bit peaky but he is a musical and lyrical genius. I always knew this, but I couldn’t 100% commit when he was in the White Stripes. I’m not proud of this, but I wasn’t a Meg fan. That’s all I’m going to say. He’s particularly brilliant in the The Dead Weather as he drums, sings, plays guitar, and shouts in harmony with Alison Mosshart (which is difficult to pull off. Shouting in harmony, not harmonising with Alison Mosshart.) The distortion and feedback in the Dead Weather makes everything sound sinister and at the second every hook kicks in, it sounds like the best hook you have EVER heard. It’s an obvious choice, but Blue Blood Blues is my all time favourite.

5. Hang Me Up to Dry, Cold War Kids. Why? The bassline. It’s simple, I can even play it myself , in my own amateur bassist way. (I have a bass guitar. It’s white. It’s cool. I can play about 4 things on it.) There is something about the bassline in this song that makes me never want to play the cello again, shave my head and join a band. There’s also a brilliant guitar solo after the choruses, at one point the lead singer punches the keys of a piano at random, which many a frustrated pianist can relate to. Also the lyrics…. Personified laundry? What’s not to like? I have listened to this song about 400 times. I skip back to the beginning before the song finishes. I have deliberately not researched The Cold War Kids, in case I see an interview with them being wankers, which will mean that song is forever ruined. (Yes I am that fickle. For instance, I can appreciate the genius of Morrisey and The Smiths, but I can never love it whole heartedly because Morrisey seems like such grandiose tosspot.

My appreciation of his work is purely academic….I will never be a true fan. You may think this makes me shallow and judgemental. You are probably right. I just think it’s a shame that there are so few musical geniuses who aren’t such blatant egotists.)