Magic Month. 

October always feels magic. It's my favourite time of year. Samhain draws in and spooky season really begins. I love those witchy forest walks, just before twilight hits and the changing light tricks the eye into seeing things…..

Having completed the score to my first feature length film*, which I loved - I dove headfirst into October.

I have been working hard on a special project which I can't really divulge any details yet. Bar the music I have written is amongst the most unusual for me. As it is coming from a “Scandi-noir” place, which is more about texture and mood, than a melodic place. Not that I didn't get to flex a little melodic muscle either!

This project, you can tell it's coming from a group of very talented people who clearly love what they do and want to create something special. I was very lucky to be invited on the project, and as is the way with the composers, I arrived post production. And was hugely impressed with what I was presented with. As such it made my job easier with the presentation and as a result, the inspiration that followed. As previously stated, I can't really share anything more with you but I am excited to share all, once I get the nod!

In other news, “Hangin' On The Line” was officially selected amongst the nominees for “Best Music Video” category. On my 40th birthday, no less! It feels unusual that my film making skills are under the microscope, as opposed to my musical ones and I won't deny the degree of pride knowing this video was filmed in a box room with a RealMe C21 android phone. November 26th is D-Day. I have no idea if it will make it any further along in the process. But for now, I'll enjoy my little 15 minutes of fame, as it were.

Magic month indeed.

*"Am Fear Liath" which is in post production from Bren Enterprises. It also feels pretty damn special, and we are trés excited! We have a blog about this incoming soon.

 

 

STAR WARS or "These Aren't The Droids You're Looking For". 

Some time ago, I was approached by a talented actor friend with the idea of creating music for a Star Wars type “proof of concept” trailer. 

First thought was "John Williams - the guy is a living genius. I couldn't clean those shoes, never mind attempt to wear them. But I was still intrigued. I'm a Star Wars fan to begin with, and the only way you could hope to measure yourself as an artist / sportsperson etc, is to attempt to tangle with the best. And of course, in terms of sheer, epic, cinematic scale - Williams is the godfather.

Yes, Hans Zimmer is the current standard bearer (and a brilliant one at that), but even he will tell you that Williams is the benchmark.

The idea was straightforward: “A hero rises from the ashes / memorable melodic music / the big bad”. I won't get into detailed technicalities as I'm unsure if there will be developments in the future, but COVID did what it will and the world shut down. In the meantime, my wife and I took a messy trip through adoption territory which seemed to imply a “halcyon days” ending, but every time we took a step forward, we seemed to be pushed several back. It was a form of psychological torture. Topped with the emotional toll of working through the pandemic and the genuinely devastating death of our beloved dog, Norma Jean…. I stopped enjoying music.

Fast forward to now, and I've rediscovered a certain joy in the music I have created. So much so, I'm revisiting and touching up the 3 piece movement which I have named (*winks) “These Aren't The Droids You're Looking For.” Part I: The Jedi, part II: The Duel, part III: The Dark Side.

I'm currently in the process of creating a video for social media, for the purposes of hearing and sharing the piece. I'm also considering entering one or two competitions with it. The question is, oh reader: Does anybody out there actually want to hear it?

 

It's been a little quiet. 

Hey. I'm still alive this side. And it's been a pretty topsy, turvy few months. We have felt the highs and some pretty damning lows. I guess we are almost at the other side of them. Nothing too personal I wish to share here, but I can only assure you - I wouldn't wish the lows we've had on anybody.

I'm really only getting back to making music again now. Maybe it was all the distractions, lack of inspiration or even interest. It's a funny old game, is life. I'll check back in soon. Thank you for checking in here. I hope you're keeping healthy and happy.

Why so serious? 

I've recently been checking out my competition's websites. It's good for comparison's sake. You can pick up ideas, appreciate how far you have to go and find out what makes them tick. But there is one thing that is a common denominator: In their photos, they look completely miserable. 

The majority of these seem to be generally Berklee / Julliard grads. I always thought having that kind of educational clout behind you, you'd be a happy camper, proud as punch. I'd scream it from the rooftops. Frame it on the wall! College was never an option for me. I never aspired to it. I generally hated my school years. They were boring, I often felt like an idiot and therefore had no drive to learn. I was in many ways, the quintessential "Weird Kid". The only good thing I brought with me from school, was a couple of close friends.

And to those who did it, more power to them. They should be rightly proud of their achievements. But back to these moody 80's band style photos. Many composers seem to be unable to crack a smile, even their eyes bear no hint of emotional salience. So I tried a few moody pictures myself, but not too serious. Here's an example...

There's a little levity behind my eyes. I'm not exactly smirking, but there's definitely a sense of humour there. I don't want to look completely unapproachable!

I can understand actors having these types of photos. It's all about range. But I don't see why composers (not all of them do it, of course) feel the need to plaster photos which just make them appear uncomfortable, depressed and / or constipated. Maybe it helps them be taken more seriously. Or maybe that's how they wish to perceive themselves.

I won't post any of the guilty parties' photos but here's Tears for Fears, doing a pretty spot on impression of what I'm talking about...

Not knocking the band. It was always their "thing" and they've released some cracking songs to boot. This is just similar to the visual wares many of these composers post on their website. So, why so serious? I may give it a lash myself.

EDIT: My wife, full of wisdom and more smarts than I (College kid, y'know?) has just informed me as these composers tend to be Berklee and Julliard graduates and all, they clearly have a mountain of student debt to their names. "You'd be f***in' miserable too, Phil."

There endeth the lesson.

 

Couple more moody pictures here, as I contemplate the nature of student debt. And strange camera angles. 

Thanks for reading folks. Stay healthy, be happy.

The Jerry Goldsmith Awards - A Christmas Miracle 

 

 

 

 

A very Happy Christmas and New Year (or your own preferred holiday sentiment / celebration) to you! Been a long time since I've updated this, but let me tell you of my very strange Christmas evening, but first we must journey back almost two years to the creation of "The Last Illusion".

I knew I'd created something, a little different. It sounded different, it felt different. It felt like mine. It had a personal stamp on it. Like listening to a popular artist and you know, immediately because of the way they sound, that it's them. True, it wasn't for everyone - but that's okay. I write music for me. Around the same time I saw an advertisement for The Jerry Goldsmith Awards whilst googling that particular legend's works to add to my Spotify, and decided with some Dutch courage, The Last Illusion deserved to be considered in the FREE CREATION category. I filled out the necessary documentation and sent it off, laughing to myself and yet patting myself on the back for having the guts to do it.

Long story short, COVID 19 hit and that was that. I didn't hear anything after and thought "Fair dues, young Philip - you still had the guts to send it." Then, completely forgot about it. Mind you, I have already been blessed this year, having placed second in The Cue Tube's General Composition category for "I Catch You". 

Christmas evening 2022, the JGA had updated their nominees in all categories and released the top 10 for consideration. I went into the lists and see a literal icon in Philip Glass, Hollywood big hitters such as Natalie Holt for "Loki", Jeff Russo for "Fargo". My eyes moved through the various categories, until I nearly spat my Guinness out when I spotted a name in the FREE CREATION category. Phil McClean: The Last Illusion. I paused for a second, to double check that it wasn't a cruel combined trick of the evening half light and my Guinness. Then I looked at my wife, eyes wide. "F*** off, f*** off, f*** OFF!!!"

Once I'd calmed down and she'd cleared up that nobody had died or wronged me in some way, she was just as surprised and delighted as I was. 

Naturally, the imposter syndrome is strong. I have received no formal music education bar playing truant from my secondary school music class and being advised that music probably wasn't for me as my recorder skills were extremely limited. My real love with music began when I bought a bass in my late teens and attempted to learn Korn songs, and writing my own with my dear friend Tom. But I have decided that I'm not an imposter, and I will endeavor to try and not feel like one. I have been checking up on my fellow nominees in the FREE CREATION category and the talent is out of this world. To be even selected in the top 10 is enough to make any person blush with pride, especially considering the quality of works mine is measured against. I don't know what's going to happen further down the line as regards ceremony etc, but I will enjoy this moment in the spotlight. Regardless how short the duration it shines on me.

 

 

"Something Outside". 

 

First things first. Apologies for the low quality - but this was never meant to make it as a final published piece!

 

This is from a low quality video file that I'd filmed on a mobile phone as a sort of a motion storyboard for "Backyard Gothic". A project I long struggled to keep going before and throughout COVID. But I think it best for my (and my crew's) mental health - we just leave it alone. I found this rooting through an old hard drive and thought it effective enough to stand on it's own for comedy and an effective "JUMP SCARE". A big thank you to Paul Dempsey, Patrick May. Also to Denika McClean and Susan Dempsey for effective hairdryer skills (both verbal and actual) on what was easily one of the funnier nights I'll have behind a camera.

Tom Waits Appreciation Post. 

"I hate him", "Jesus, that's dark" or "What the hell is that?". Generally most of the responses I get towards playing Tom Waits. But I can't help but love what the guy does. He is just unlike anything that came before (or indeed after) and that is the true beauty of it. Artists as diverse as Bette Midler to Primus appreciate this. His songs are known by millions and a majority of them are better known through other artists. How I discovered him, could almost be a Tom Waits song in itself.

I worked nights in a retail unit in the early noughties and myself and a co worker had snuck out the back of the warehouse to have a cheeky cigarette at about four in the morning. The co worker in question was definitely an individual with diminished mental capacity and nowadays, sadly, can be seen in a semi permanent state of unemployed intoxication about the town. 

He always brought his radio in to play old cassettes of odd sounds and songs from the radio that recorded in the wee hours. As we sat on the old loading ramp, my ears were drawn to the lyrics, delivered by a raspy, ancient sounding drawl: 

"He had a bullet proof smile 
 He had money to burn 
 She thought she had the moon 
 In her pocket 

But now she's dead 
She's so dead 
Forever dead and lovely now"

"Who's that?!" I inquired. "Tom Waits." And I was sold. I went home and stayed awake, knowing my local music shop was open at ten. I went in and bought "Real Gone". It was the only CD they had, which incidentally had "Dead & Lovely" on it as it had been just released. I wore that CD out, It was on repeat for weeks. Every song was better than the one before. Naturally, I went through the back catalogue which as anyone who knows Tom Waits more recent stuff, was a shock to venture further past "SwordFishTrombones" but no less brilliant. Even crazier to know he was responsible for writing "Tom Traubert's Blues", "Jersey Girl" and "Downtown Train" to name a few. Most reassuring, is that you never feel ALONE with Tom Waits. If you feel down, depressed - you always felt, at some point - he was there in that position too. In his own way, he makes loneliness beautiful. Not that all the songs are depressing. There are some absolute bangers in there coupled with countless monologues! He is the reason for my noir inspired journeys through my own musical journey, at times

I am pretty sure Tom Waits' songs have saved many lives and changed even more...

Happy birthday, Tom. And thanks for the music. Never stop. 

 

Hey you, hiding in the bushes: My foley effects adventures. 

A large part of this job is sound effects or foley effects. So named after the originator of the art: Jack Foley. But enough of the history lesson. Let's look at how insane foley artists are...

I am no stranger to creating sounds, but since I have been tasked with sound effects, I am frankly shocked at how much I've begun to notice and overthink every sound I make. From dissecting the chewing noises I make,  and how my inner ear perceives them, to randomly satisfying thoughts like "if I squash enough flour into that leather glove, I can make it sound like I'm stepping in snow" or recording wind through trees and bushes. (Don't worry, it's not the human kind yet.)

And right now I can be found wearing different shoes with a mic pointing at my feet to record various types of footfall in different ambiences. Today, I wet a balloon just to squeak it enough to sound like canvas shoes or sports runners... 

I am trying to create a kind of hyper realism to capture the vision my director has for this upcoming project, without it being too cartoon-ish. Yet keeping tongue firmly in cheek. It's no easy task whilst trying create a musical score at the same time. But I am much happier with too much to do, than too little. My director is a self confessed workaholic, who's very passionate about his art too. So I guess, I'm in good company. Wes Anderson has been cited as a strong reference point sonically, so I now spend my days studying the foley work that is trademark in so many of his films.

I fear I may be getting a little obsessed.

Help me..........

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Lights, Camera, Action! 

 

 

 

I have been hired for my first "grown up" scoring job.

Naturally there is a mixture of excitement and healthy nerves. I can't share any juicy details as it's not my place, that's at the discretion of the producer and director who come across as warm, relatable and professional people. I was a practical bystander (as advised beforehand, but was no less thrilled to attend) at the first production meeting as my work will be post production, but the energy from them was contagious and I couldn't help but feel excited and inspired to do the best job I can possibly do.

Seeing location photos and watching them discuss set design ideas was great. I love films, it's no secret and it's just as much fun to watch the artists get excited talking about their work and ideas for the project.

Musically I've received a couple of good leads on specific soundtracks for reference, and obviously I want to be able to add as much of my own sound pallet to it, whilst making sure it suits the director's vision. I am also responsible for the foley fx work, which is leading me down the veritable "rabbit-hole". And I'm having a lot of fun with it.

It's going to be a very quick production, so I am already working on ideas as per the script, to keep ahead of the game. 

As already stated, I can't really reveal much more than that but hopefully, soon - I can shed a little more light on it.

Thanks for reading, and stay safe.