We start in post-punk Manchester, the pre-internet era
An era that might appear more innocent and simple (it was anything but!), with bands playing gigs that were a mix of covers with originals sprinkled throughout the set.
The songs on the site gathered over many years began to emerge during studio ‘downtime’. Those hours when the hiring band are sleeping and the studio technically asleep, in these twilight moments music was being made. The consequent efforts were recorded across multiple formats and tape configurations which is what made The QuietLife Project so difficult to put together. Drawn from: two-inch reels, DAT tapes, cassettes, floppy disks, Tascam 8-track, Revox recordings, and brought together by Logic, and mastered at World of Sound, so creating a homogeneity from these heterogeneous elements has been something of a challenge for everybody involved.
But where do the songs come from?
We start in post-punk Manchester
the pre-internet era, an era that might appear more innocent and simple (it was anything but!), with bands playing gigs that were a mix of covers with originals sprinkled throughout the set. Disillusioned with the ‘Manchester scene’ a move to the Smoke became inevitable. After a year or so of London sessions including the hallowed ground that is Abbey Road for a succession of wannabe ‘New Romantics’, a call from cult Prog Rock act ENGLAND to become their new keyboardist beckoned: following the now legendary Robert Webb, and current LIFESIGNS curator John Young to that post. It felt like a tall order at the time, but so much was learnt and the music was great fun to play.
But, in the end, it turned out to be a two-year sabbatical in the wild and windy South Downs with everything grinding to a halt after a succession of departures, a hurricane, and a general reluctance for the band to tour. There is only so much gardening and decorating to be done, and too many broken promises, long hours remixing old songs needlessly, made for an uncertain future, despite the occasional foray to Abbey Road or RAK studios.
to work as a pianist in bars all over London offered an income of sorts, along with a succession of gigs as sideman and live-band member. Then, after tours that including supporting Meatloaf, and about a year waiting for Glam Metal act SHOGUN to get their act together, taking a year out to travel seemed the only reasonable thing to do. A glorious summer was spent playing piano bars across Europe and considering what the future might hold, before returning to the UK with a bunch of songs and a plan.
On my return I heard ASHES and DIAMONDS with their song-based melodic rock were on the lookout for someone to ‘imitate’ their specialist ‘piano stylings’ – the vocalist/pianist Paul Bell preferring instead to ‘lead’ vocal. Unlike the time with ENGLAND, but with that experience accumulated, this was a less daunting and a more settled existence. But, as is the nature of bands, A & D hit the rails pretty hard when the guitarist left after barely a gig and just after the release of the first single. Soldiering on with a succession of guitarists and drummers joining and re-joining it took two years for the line up to be finalised. An album recorded at Criteria in Miami with REM and Jimmy Page in studios either side made no difference to the outcome, when the Album finally came out and despite multiple tours supporting BLONDIE and the COMMITMENTS among others, some encouraging radio play and two summers on the festival circuit, it became clear the Melodic Rock boat had sailed.
Hip-Hop and the Gangster generation were firmly in the ascendency
In the meantime, whilst the vicarious challenges of the music business swallowed the hopes of A & D, a second career as piano teacher and sometime pianist for a Ballet school at Battersea Arts Centre returned some valuable income, and even a third: as sound engineer for Ashes and Diamonds sufficient expertise was acquired for additional opportunities to arise as a low budget studio engineer/producer. Taking time to up-skill at the London College of Music and The University of Surrey finally achieving a first-class honours degree: the years in the tour bus and empty hotel room reading suddenly found a use: nothing is wasted.
The final nail in the touring career was perhaps not the rise and rise of gangster rap, but the failure of the LG band. The pre-cursor to The QuietLife Project was beginning to attract interest after successful gigs at the Marquee as a three-piece. Reimagined as a five-piece, an album demoed, and festival work booked for the summer, the future showed promise. But the sorry tale of wasted opportunities casts a wicked spell; the guitarist and the pregnant girlfriend; the singer and the broken marriage; the unpredictable and unreliable drummer; so the LG band collapses in a heap of tension and unfulfilled promise.
The teaching merges into pedagogy and publishing: piano pieces to help students with their technique follow, and what started out as supplementary became the essential ingredients of The QuietLife Project. Teaching and educating with the focus on creativity as the model. Helping 16-18 year-olds how to write music and think creatively is very interesting when some can’t even distinguish and E chord from a G chord – A* GCSE’s dripping from their entry forms yet they can’t put together the three-chords that most self-taught musicians learn while they tune their guitar and take their first hopeful steps to stardom. They expect right and wrong answers? Music is far too beautiful for that.
So here we have it: The QuietLife Project: based on songs rescued from oblivion by the wonders of technology and the patience of saints. With ideas for teachers on enabling students; ideas on songwriting (including lyrics); some key learning tools; piano and general music lessons; on-line consultation; a chance to ask questions directly; speaker engagements; piano music and books for purchase or download; music for commercial use.
There so many elements that make a career in music a possibility even if the heady heights of superstardom remain elusive