The Soldiers of Hell were created in October of 1999 when slip of a lad Andrew Melladay met the young Spencer Vale. After a portion of mild encouragement, and a show-name decided by a shouty Chinese boy, we embarked upon our career at University Radio York. After four years of AM radio heaven, an ill-fated boyband project, and winning a Best Show Award at the York Media Awards in 2001, the Soldiers story was nearly over when our time in York came to an end. Three years later we acquired the means to broadcast over the internet and began uploading podcasts. If you can Google us, and if you know how, maybe you can download… The Soldiers of Hell.
Or add us on iTunes
I’ve spent most of the last few months wanting to spring clean. I suppose it’s only in the last few days it technically has become a ‘spring’ clean but I’ve done various charity shop runs, tip trips and even traded in stuff at second hand tech shops in recent weeks. I really hate clutter. But there’s one thing I find it quite difficult to part with and that’s music on physical media.
As per most people of my age bracket, the way I have digested music over the years has gone from Cassette to CD to Download to Streaming to Vinyl. Weird isn’t it? From the most transient to the least transient. But also like a lot of people, it’s just not possible to consume all the music you’d like to get your mitts on in a vinyl format. For a start it’s not exactly portable is it? So downloads and streaming still win out there. Plus vinyl is becoming increasingly more expensive as it continues to grow in popularity again.
Therefore I’ve resigned myself to seek out vinyl in the following circumstances:
(a) Bands seen live (that I really love)
(b) Amazing soundtracks
(c) Collectors items
(d) Cheap discoveries
I feel like I don’t need to buy everything on vinyl because it’s not always necessary. Vinyl should be about the experience; not just for the sake of owning it. (Mark Manson has written a couple of brilliant blogs about de-cluttering called ‘How to 80/20 Your Life‘ and ‘Minimalism’. You should read his stuff. He’s great.)
For those times where you just want to play something random whilst you’re washing the dishes, you can’t beat Alexa.
Where does this leave CDs in my life? I’ve ripped all my collection years ago. And as bizarre as it sounds now, they look so much more dated sat on my shelves than vinyl records.
So why is it so hard to part with them? This is such a first world problem I can’t believe I’m even typing it!
Anyway, I’m coming round to the fact that I should. And I think my approach will be to wein myself off them by filtering out anything that doesn’t meet the criteria of a, b and c of my vinyl buying method. That will get rid of a lot of them.
As Harry Hill once said: “You’ve gotta have a system.”
Last night me and my old radio presenting compadre, Andy Melladay, experimented with a new form of Internet broadcast. It’s over 8 years since we last did a podcast together, and over 17 years since we did our first university radio show under the moniker Soldiers of Hell. So from the technology extreme of AM radio in 1999 to the cutting edge of Internet broadcasting last night, we attempted to create a new station on Anchor.fm.
Anchor is such a new social media service you might not have even heard of it yet, so let me explain. Anchor is an app that let’s you create stations that other people can listen to over the Web. People can follow your station, “applaud” it as they listen to it, and even “dial in” using the app and you can choose whether you add their content into your station or not. You create content through the microphone on your phone or by uploading and clipping pre-recorded audio. It’s really easy and we fun it great fun to do.
The main difference between this and podcasting is that any content you create is only “live” on your station for 24 Hours and then it’s gone. So if Soundcloud is the audio equivalent of YouTube, then Anchor is more like the audio equivalent of Snapchat. And on that respect it makes it more like traditional radio in its temporary nature. No wonder the app declares itself as “radio, reinvented”.
People often ask us how we write our songs. It’s usually like this. Lomo 2 plays a riff, Lomo 1 starts singing some words, Lomo 2 adds some words. Sillyness ensues.
And if we like any of what we improvise, Pete writes it down in his blue lyrics book.
Then we refine.
Well, yesterday shuffle on phone threw up a jam we had recently that I’d forgotten about completely and it made me chuckle; so I decided to share it with you.
Soon we’re going to get together and turn it into a proper song, but in the meantime I thought it would be fun for you to see how our stupid ideas begin. Most of our songs started like this. Enjoy the case study of something in the making…
I’ve been a little obsessed with retro tech of late. I say of late. I mean I’m always drawn in by retro tech, but even more so lately. Call it a dose of post-Christmas continued nostalgia or we could lay it the door of nostalgic music and TV. (Stranger Things on vinyl as a Chrimbo pressie – I’m looking at you!) But I had a longing yesterday to dig out some of my old tunes.
I think it was about 5 years ago I had a similar nostalgic vibe and said on twitter that I was going to rerelease my old solo albums on Bandcamp. Well it’s taken a while for me to get round to but I’ve got that feeling again and decided to go for it.
So Saturday morning I dug out my old Mini-disc player and box of mini-discs, stuck in my headphones and crossed my fingers. Thankfully it still worked. But unfortunately a lot of my oldest compositions weren’t on there.
Next stop, I had to find all the instrumentals I’d sequenced on my Technics back in the day and see if I could get the floppy disks to load. No luck. It just wasn’t having it; which is pretty sickening. At least of got most of the earliest stuff recorded on tapes but they’re not going to be restorable enough to release online I wouldn’t have thought. If they’re good enough I’ll just have to recreate them in due course.
So what have I got on the minidiscs for now? I’ve got 2 albums I originally released on CD and MP3 in the early noughties on Peoplesound (a now defunct music distribution service) and the scores for 2 musicals I wrote in the late 90s.
I’ll be remastering these gradually, but here’s the first one for you. This is called Decadent Dreams and was released in early 2000. I hope you enjoy it:
As I said yesterday Alexa is a damn fine juke box. My kids having been loving the ability to ask for what song they want whenever they want it. It begs the question, how many times have I heard Uptown Funk this year? Or how many times have I heard I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day by Wizzard in my lifetime?
With the tech we now have in our pockets it is possible to do a study of these questions moving forward. What if Shazam or similar was constantly recognising the tunes you heard in your every day life and tallying them up? It would be interesting to see what the top 40 of your life is and how much they correlate with your tastes.
I’ll never forget the time I went shopping at the Designer Outlet in 2002 and heard Liberty X in literally every shop I went in. If that represented my life there would be 0% correlation.
I wrote a really long post yesterday and I thought I’d saved it. It turns out I didn’t. Where it’s gone I’ve no idea. But it’s really annoying.
The gist of yesterday’s post was I’ve bought an Amazon Echo Dot as an early Christmas present for my family. We’re enjoying it. It’s a fab juke box. The far-field voice recognition is obviously excellent, but it’s funny how it’s given me a nostaligia trip back to Christmas 1988 when I get my first computer – not counting my Dad’s home built Sinclair ZX81 – an Atari XE and how as an 8 year old I used to try and create my own AI in BASIC. It was no better than IF X Then Y really but when you think about it Alexa’s logic won’t be massively more sophisticated. It’s the voice recognition that’s ace.
Anyway, the crux of my post was that I imagine the Easter Eggs are not high-up the Amazon Echo feature team’s product backlog, but they’re a great example of what can be pulled in at the end of a sprint when you’ve got a tiny amount of time left. They’re also some of the most fun bits about the tech. My eldest daughter, (ironically just about to have her 8 year old Christmas) has already declared her love for Alexa and asked her to marry her. The AI knock back was polite. “Let’s keep our relationship the way it is.” I wonder if Alexa would prefer to marry my 28 year old Atari instead. He’s hiding in the loft. Maybe I should introduce them at some point.
Hot on the seasonal trail of old Father Christmas himself, Peter escapes the Yorkiverse for a trip to Santa’s grotto at the North Pole. You can either:
(a) listen to the brand new soundcloud version
(c) watch the youtube version
And why not share all three with your friends to spread some festive cheer…
Another week, another new Marshall of the Yorkiverse interview. This week, Peter meets a fan in York’s premier street theatre performer: Constantine, otherwise known as Constant Ian the Great
Stream or download it now from Soundcloud.
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