Pianos

Wandering in the time between lectures at university I remember finding a tiny room with a small upright piano inside. The room had a polished wooden floor and a window that looked out onto a courtyard, I think. I can’t remember the view but I do remember the sunlight picking up the dust motes hovering above the keys. I started playing around on it, trying to write melodies for Distant Signal songs, playing the first few bars of Moonlight Sonata, half of which I’d transcribed from a classical guitar tab on our piano at home (I can’t read music). I was fascinated with the piece ever since friends and I had heard it in that scene in Resident Evil where playing it opens a secret, hidden door.

The piano at home was meant to be donated to the local Cricket Club from a house in Fairfield Road but they didn’t have space for it. As my next door neighbour and I were in a band my dad offered to keep it in our front room until it was needed. Some of the melodies for Distant Signal songs we played live were written on that piano.

A few of the very early Uffmoor Woods Music Club tracks came out of experimenting on the ivory. One of them, ‘Hello, Eavesdropper’ I remember writing and recording in one day, with an SM-70 mic hanging in the opened lid connected to an digital 8 track. I basically put together some licks and practised them over and over to try to get the various sections to run together fluidly. I then felt tired and had a bit of a kip for an hour. When I woke up, I could play the whole piece although the timing seems uneven now! I put a flanger on the vocal and it was done, as far as lo-fi is ever done.

Eventually, we didn’t have room for the piano either. Nobody wanted it so my dad smashed it to bits with an axe. I was disappointed, but that didn’t stop me taking photos of its broken workings.

I play the piano as a guitarist, which is to say not at all to some people’s way of thinking. I recently had the chance to write another piano track for the new record, Everything I Will Remember When We’re Gone. Inspired by Bill Evans’ transcendental ‘Peace Piece’ (which I first heard underneath Miles Davies and John Coltrane on ‘Flamenco Sketches’), I recorded ‘Deep Assignments’ in two first takes. This surprised me and discouraged any urge to tamper with it apart from dampening the last note, which had seemed too strident.