'Music & Motion' by Paul Marc
Velocity is an Amplifier.
I spend weeks on the road during the busy summer months. Not the time spent on site or at shows, I mean the hours spent staring down a motorway into a tarmac abyss. The white lines that punctuate my nights and the roads ahead are as structural as they are a hypnotic distraction.
I wake up early and I go to bed late. While the rest of the world is sleeping a show off, I'll have a team striping it down, loading it into a truck and dragging it across the country to go again. The advantage of so much road time is that some days I can consume anywhere from 6 to 16 hours of music. On a bad day, I get none.
I have noticed over the years that the amount of music I listen to has a direct correlation to my productivity, my positivity, my moods in general. I think it's fair to say it impacts my mental health as a whole and yes, there's an element of the addict in there, complete with the euphoric highs and the lows of withdrawal.
It can be hard to remember between the stacks of truss, the telehandlers and the smell of stale beer why I got into all of this in the first place. My love of music can now seem peripheral among the straight lines and right angles of spreadsheets and articulated trucks.
These days I find as much escape in climbing in the van and putting on an album as I used to get from watching a stage fire up on opening night. Although I'm always surrounded by music, it's often someone else's overspill, the crew's mini rig, a band's soundchecks or a sites soundclashes. There's a difference in putting on an album you know and love and taking the journey from start to end.
The determination and frustrations of my job, mixed with the inevitable exhaustion, give the mind ample opportunity to run wild. I find myself talking to Bob Dylan a lot. In fact, my imagination combined with the right soundtrack is as strong a driving force in my career as any piston or cylinder.
Spring is a good time for both the music scene and the open road. The years early releases are familiar while still holding the promise of something new. Creative prospects and clear country roads abound. The optimism of fresh heavy beats and new challenges are a tonic to the ferociously long winters.
The off-season can feel restrictive, and like many others in the game, I get cabin fever during the oppressive European winters. Then the sun comes out and music seems to slip a collar from around my neck. With the riggers, the ravers and the gypsy boxers I bolt for the fields. The addictive nature of music gives it a certain medicinal quality and it feels like going home.
Early in the season when the months of planning are finally coming to fruition and the skies are a summary of blue, there is still an excitement to it all. April through to June can feel pretty good. I'll be listening to something brash, loud, familiar and bold to get the year started. Road time can be a selfish and necessary indulgence in audio.
It might be the Beastie Boys or The Deftones or the more visceral side of Dylan who is always close to hand. Jamie Lenman was a regular in the van this year. I like a balance of harmony and aggression and there's no more honest a songwriter in the world than Jamie at the minute. So Spring is largely about high energy sounds and shouting lyrics into the breeze through wide-open windows.
There's something about the combination of motion and music, car journeys, a train ride, take off's and landings, even just walking down the street. Momentum produces a greater sense of impact and adds to the visual dimension of music. Much like with dance, having movement, a physical trajectory changes the act of listening from a passive to an active one. It makes it more complete.
Motion turns up the emotive capacity of a song by enhancing its dynamics. Lyrics paint brighter pictures at pace, rhythm sections feel tighter and fall more concussively. Music has more gravity as speed, more clarity, warmth and w i d t h. Velocity is an amplifier.
I produce events for a living, not a role you can easily define in text. Basically, I help to organise parties, big parties, tours, festivals, exhibitions. So I have a short seasonal window to earn a years worth of money.
I barely see my home during a nine-month working week and then I have a three-month-long weekend. Three months of planning and preparation that is. My humble beginnings are starting to produce international fruits so as you can imagine the miles add up quickly. Music helps to keep me sane on these sojourns and is one of the many reasons my daily doses are so important to me.
March is the equivalent of my Monday mornings. I wake up realising I have spent all my money and I don't want to go outside to play. The troops are eager to march, the tax mans coming. Until May life is a whirlwind of catching up and reintegrating with the broader industry. I hit the motorways and a few runways hard but with optimism and with my music turned up loud.
Sometimes I need a soundtrack to remedy the pace and the noise of the world around me... I love listening to ambience at home, the linear and unstructured nature helps me to concentrate and focus but I can't drive to it. I need a little more guts on the road, something to match the urgency of my work and to cancel out the unnecessary internal noise of my own mind. I like to be distracted by music, transported, blown away. Half measures won't do.
I love improvisational jazz, improvisational anything is great for road trips. It makes sense to a journey. Post-hardcore and progressive rock are also favourites. Not the wizardy kind but the aggressive underground scene from the UK and US. I like layers, textures, music with sizeable dynamics. The lifts and falls need to match the twists and turns in the roads and of my life. I try and keep the tempo of the music relative the flow of traffic which can help to harmonise my own moods.
The cadence of gridlock and airport terminals sync up with The Album Leaf, Portishead, Tommy James and the Shondells. Slow tempos for slow traffic. The Cinematic Orchestra, Radiohead and John Coltrane wind me up through the gears. They each produce the torque to capture and keep my attention while having enough cogs on their gears to cruise along to.
On the open roads, I look for something heavier, faster and more expansive. You can't slow dance to Slayer and nor can you body pop to Nils Frahm. Anything from to RUN DMC to Noyo Mathis, DJ Shadow and Rinoa to I Hear Sirens all keep me alert and interested. The fast lane of the motorways demands music with an impact and pace.
Rage Against the Machine are my fifth and sixth gears. They are my Nitrous Oxide, my ballistics missiles and machine guns. I'm never late when Rage is in the cans, ever. There is no anxiety, no over analysis. I know exactly where I'm going. I know every fucking word of every fucking song and fuck you I won't drive how you tell me!
July. It's is an apex from which things tend to run downhill while feeling increasingly like an uphill struggle. The battle to stay awake gets to be as hard as the fight to get some sleep. My mental states are reflected by my audio backdrops.
As the year rumbles on my musical habits and addictions become erratic as my senses reach saturation point. Between Chuck Berry and Bach, I'll try a dab of Qbert followed by a line of Aphex Twin. No, wait...Did I just get my musical baggies the wrong way around? Shit. Hold tight. You'll be fine, just stick with the plan. Wait, what was the plan?
I set myself challenges and invent imaginary targets. I try to make hypothetical borders or to listen to one more album before peeling off the road and off script. I lose myself in arguments with idiot drivers I'll never meet. I plan, dictate, map out and forget the coming weeks. I debrief gigs that haven't happened and fire people I haven't yet hired.
I struggle to focus at ninety miles an hour and I question life choices on gridlocked motorways. No matter how much new music I accumulate, by this stage in the year, there's an inevitable repetition to it all. Bob Dylan, his never tiring presence breaks up the beats and heavier productions “Hey Bob, are we nearly there yet?” I ask, but he never replies.
By this stage of the year, Bob is a poet of pure scorn and cynicism. He's a teller of false fables and corrupted dreams. In heavy traffic, it's enough to make you want to get out of the car and lie in front of it. “Bob do you mind, the rhythm and road don't match up. I can't hear myself think.” A cigarette hanging from his open mouth, he looks out of the windows at the traffic and mumbles something about lightweights and Woody Guthrie. I need to get home, off the road.
Brake lights and roadworks break up the nights. They remind me of the warmth and glow of the studio. Equalisers pitch and fall as the channels clip. Red and white Tetris blocks weave their way through the night like faders mixing some impossible track. The road is the never scroll of a DAW and I have to master my way home through a wall of plug-ins and poor decisions.
Anyone who has ever mixed tracks knows the struggle is real. But I'm not mixing a track. I'm still sat on the motorway, somewhere between Donington 1994 and Festival Number 6, 7, 8 and 9. The apples and elderflowers of the mid-summer nights are beginning to ferment. Spilt cider, broken sunglasses and sequins cover the floor. The fresh beats of Spring are all too familiar now. Every stage and every line up look exactly the same. It's just a different field.
In the rumble and silence of rush hour, my windscreen wipers create their own beat. I try to find a tempo that works with the weight of the rain. There's a balance between the screech of rubber on the dry glass and the mirage of to much water and too little wiper. Sick. And. Tired. And. Sick. And. Tired. And...Wait, it sounds familiar. I know that beat...I focus and try and remember.
I reach for Fingathing first, no its Canyon's of Static. I find the song and the band reward me by getting me another sixty miles closer to home. Every band has a sound or a story to link it to the next, selection isn't random, it's a linear process of relatives and harmonies.
Canyons of Static deliver me to Explosions in the Sky, Ida y Vuelta somehow introduces me to Bill Frisell who passes me back to This Will Destroy You. I'm spun off down a slip road into a world of midnight and calm. The roads are empty and clear. For the first time in what feels like months, the tempo is just right. I listen intently.
Journey's and albums both have a beginning, a middle and an end but, in listening, the journey becomes everything. When I'm on the road and I turn up the volume it tends to turn down the other less productive noises in my head, the nerves and apprehensions dissipate. Even through the shitty old speakers in the van, there's a transparency and lucidity to music under momentum. The messages of politics and poetry are clear.
It's often said that for all the millions invested in mixing and mastering tracks, the true test of a recording is in its delivery over a car stereo. Most people consume their music on commutes, through the headphones on a tube, the nodding heads of nodding heads at bus stops and in the never-ending slow ride of rush hour. Take it easy...
As I make my way closer to home the thin metal walls and the glass of the of the van warp and flex. Bolts and springs work their way loose and pipes and brackets I'll never know rattle and hum. The windscreen is a cinema, a canvass that plays out my imagination and memories. Acceleration and thrust, like all good drugs, exaggerate, enhance and amplify your interactions with music.
Finally, I get off the road. It's good to be home and to be still for a while. I shuffle between Christopher O'Reiley's re-imaginings of Radiohead, Kenny Burrel and Jimmy Smiths Midnight Special.
This piece is dedicated to John Fugler who taught me how to get home safely. Good night John, thank you. Safe journeys.
Paul Marc - writer for Artisound
Paul Marc is a musician, author and event producer.
His first publication '(Re) Defining Improvisation' available through https://www.cambridge.org/core but is currently SOLD OUT.
can contact him through :
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