Friday, December 31, 2010

Speaking of the King

I had the privilege of seeing the "King's Speech" this afternoon. The movie is directed by Tom Hooper and stars Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush. It was incredible. It was a simple idea and story delivered perfectly. The direction was superb, and the visuals were stunning. I found myself in tears in moments from the sheer power and sincerity of the movie. The performances were incredible. Please, if you love Cinema see this movie.

But why i wanted to bring it up in this forum is that the power of voice, whether singing or speaking has defined many aspects of human history. There was a line in the movie that shows this- 'The Prime Minister and Cabinet govern and make the decisions, however, the King is the voice of the people, when he speaks, he speaks as the people for the people'. It is in his words that people can find hope and strength. It has been the same for the last century. Hitler captivated his audience with the power in his voice and conviction, those alive probably know where they were when Martin Luther King delivered his 'i have a dream speech', when Neil Armstrong said 'One small step for man'. These pieces of audio stay with us and remind us and connect us with so much. Music is the same. Music like a King's speech in how it connects with the people. But unlike a King's speech the great thing about music is it's made by the people and spread to the people through each other.

Bob Dylan and the Beatles music helped define the 60s. Even the when the crazy gay men in the club i play in go CRAZY for Lady Gaga, she is lifting their spirits and taking them to a place of happiness. And hopefully when i play i am doing the same. All musicians have an obligation to their craft to be great and persevere and to speak clearly with a message. It doesn't matter what that message is- it can be fuck you or fuck that, but be clear of who you're fucking or what you're fucking.

Sounds shape us, voices speak to us. I still remember OutKast's 'Hey Ya' from when i finished High School and it always takes me in my mind back to that happy place of completing something huge and accomplishment and peace. There are many other songs, speeches, and sounds that connect me to the world and people around me.

Another thing that the King's Speech reminded me is that you have to have confidence in yourself to deliver what you want to say and what you've got to say, and that if you can't do it alone, seek out the help of those wonderful spirits that can help give you your voice. I was never one for training or advice, i thought i knew it all- but i know shit all, and there are many people out there who you can learn from. Lionel doesn't tell the KING WHAT TO SAY (someone else kind of does i guess.. but you get my drift, the King is theoretically saying his own speech) but tries to give the King HIS OWN voice to say his words.

Don't take advice from people who tell you what to do or how to do something, but always be open to advice to those who try to bring out the YOU in YOU!

That's what i learned today.

Go see the movie!!

Recording update!

There hasn't been a blog for a while with Xmas festivities.

What a great Canadian Christmas i had. They really know how to do xmas over here- so joyous and giving. Joyous- that is a word that you don't hear too much these days, but should be felt and used way more!

We've been back in the studio this week, and now have roughly five songs mapped out in their most basic form. Still a long way to go and many finishing touches and vocals and orchestrations to put on, but now we have 5 of the 10 songs down it is now seeming not an impossible task to finish! Just recorded 'Mine'. Absolutely adore this song and would play it over and over and over again if i could. Just love it. Guess Who's right again became a little more structured and now feels like a really catchy pop song. Looking forward to what a 'gang vocal' will sound like in the choruses.

Hope everyone had a great Christmas. I am off to a gig tonight starting at 11pm. News Years Eve!

Happy New Years Everyone!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

In Search of Truth

As i sit here at 9pm on a Sunday evening, about to consume a Banana prior to a long night gigging (yes i said prior.. my gig starts at 10pm!) i wanted to reflect on some discussions i have had with my producer lately.

Dave Thompson is a very insightful man, and very much has become a mentor to me. I am blessed i have a few mentors in my life that i trust and listen to- not always agree with, however always process their opinions, taking the time to consider them thoughtfully. We have been talking very much about discovering truth in music, quite specifically 'your' truth in music. And for me this is a process of discovery every time i sit down to write, and especially in the studio. I think back to all the covers gigs i have done and although i impart a sense of me in to those gigs (the show man) i am merely portraying like an actor my interpretation of someone's writing. The real question lies in, how do i portray my own writing. This is something i am still coming to terms with. It is also important to consider how you portray your own writing in a commercial medium that requires a deal of specificity and stylistic confinement. There is a beat- it must be kept not changed, you would think this is indeed the essence as Dave would say to all music, Rhythm, but in covers gigs one can vary this from phrase to phrase, chorus to chorus, verse to verse depending on what you are trying to achieve- usually some form of drunken engagement to lonely souls, or souls out to have fun with their friends with what you are doing not foremost in their minds. But pop/rock music has a specific rhythm- it must be felt in the bones and kept. The melody has to sit on top of this rhythm, to serve the rhythm, in fact i think it is a mutual kind of respect for each other.. they serve each other and no one else. When the melody and rhythm serve each other that is where the feeling, the idea, the message, the magic comes from. If you have killer lyrics as well then maybe you might just change the world, or change people's hearts with that philosophy. Will Smith's daughter's ridiculous new song 'i throw my hair all around' is a prime example of a catchy catchy melody on a stringent powerful groove... for me it still gets me and is swimming around in my head.. unfortunately i think it's for the worse as the lyrical content doesn't connect. But this great book i am reading about Bob Dylan raises a great point on this subject. Dylan was asked about his change from folk to rock music (although he doesn't define either, or doesn't feel he belongs or ever has belonged to either). He said that rock music is different than folk music in the sense that rock music let's you escape for 2-3 minutes on a groove into another place, with catchy rhythm, you are not faced with any world changing message, you are just implanted with enjoyment. I guess Lil' Smith's song is what this is. Pure escapism. Maybe Lady Gaga as well- but its still great music, don't get me wrong, it's just not necessarily the sort of music i want to create. Traditional Folk music however is a thinking constant engagement. You can't just chill out like you can to Bob Seeger's Old Time Rock n Roll, or Chuck Berry's Johnny Be Goode.

So this is what i am learning. I don't want to be Lil' Smith and create catchy rhythmic melody trash to sell records. But i need to take some tips from this music, and harness the energy of rhythm and melody together to create strong phrasing in my writing and especially my delivery to connect with the heart and soul of each song i write. And this is where i believe that truth is found. Its not a huge high kick or spirit fingers done in a lounge to backgroundingly entertain drunk people.

Dave explained that modern pop/rock music by songwriters is effective when the performance is more introverted. It's not just about show. Its about giving one's soul simply through the song. Think of Radiohead, Oasis, and any great singer songwriter. There are show elements between songs, in some solos, but when they step up to the mic (even Bono and Freddie Mercury who are very much show men) they fucking give it right down that cord and into your heart. You are drawn in to their truth and the world of their song.

For an extrovert, hooked on over playing in lounges, this perhaps is going to be the greatest challenge, yet most rewarding in my artistic career.

Always search for truth. Inwardly then give it Outwardly from that place.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Idea Bank

Every artist has their book don't they? I am not sure in what forms their books come. They probably come in all sorts of different types and shapes and sizes and binds. I think some these days keep it purely electronic. I can never write romantically or ideally on a computer. Blogs and anecdotes for sure, but pieces from the heart like songs or poetry need a hand written authenticity for me to deliver the right message. Plus i think my hand writing is so bad that it is not a bad way of keeping my ideas mine as well- no one else can read them.

My mum gave me a book while i was in Hong Kong when i first departed Australia on this long journey. The first entry was a list of all these great bands and albums on the Air New Zealand in flight library- it was hugely comprehensive. I look back at the list now and some of those bands that were really indie at the time have risen to be huge. But the book has served me through many acting workshops, dialect training workshops, gym workouts, records of note and anything personal to me. The back of the book is where all my song ideas are.

This is my book, just so you know where the songs are written down in their roughest, un-neatest, rough, honest form.

Saturday, December 11, 2010


Mine is a place where we can go together
To keep warm and escape the stormy weather
A place to hold you close for all of time,
A place where Rhythm backs the Rhyme

Hold on my love,
Your head on my chest close enough,
I'll stand by you when seas get rough,
Can't you feel that you'll be fine,
Just cling to mine...

Mine is a place where our thoughts can meander
Far from fear to places where light dances
Amid our hopes and dreams of yesterday,
Guiding us together on our way

Hold on my love,
Your head on my chest close enough,
I'll stand by you when seas get rough,
Can't you feel that you'll be fine,
Just cling to mine...

Alex Hopkins (6pm, 11th December, 2010)

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Laying Down Good Vibrations

Well, i just joined Twitter. My social networking guru (who shall remain nameless for his privacy, people would swamp him with requests for representation!) tells me that tweeting is the new fad. I have noticed that some of my old friends are on it, and now i can follow them too!! LOVING IT already. Just have to set the Do Not Disturb hours for the night (or early morning and mid morning as my sleeping patterns dictate) otherwise i will be getting bombarded with people's tweet's in two different timezones! Hopefully this can be a new brief way of updating people simple ideas... and when i update the more emphatic, long winded blogs i put out there, i can tweet that they are ready to read. I am going to try and make the blog more enjoyable... less texty and more sexy. I will try and post some photos and video and music, and that kind of stuff to make it interesting for everyone to follow. Perhaps when i get to designing the Album artwork people can even suggest the kind of things they like. I am hoping to employ my great friend Laurie Assender back home in Oz to design the cover and inserts for me- she is so great at that kind of stuff, would be very interested to see what she can do.

We are now into week 4. Recording for a month. We do only get in there 3 days a week, the other 4 days are let the stuff sink in. It's a really involving process, i can't of ever imagined how involving it is. I am staring down the barrel at the start of Song #3 thinking god, we have another 7 to do after this. Let alone record final vocals and mixes and write further parts for the first two songs. Building an album and an original artist from scratch is an intense project, but one that will change my life forever i am sure. It's like everything in life where its about taking everything one step at a time and deal with the small pictures first then the big pictures will come later- in fact the small pictures are almost like little pixel squares that eventually make up the large multi mega pixelled final sensational breathtaking image.

I have heard so many break up stories from back home that i have not been there for. I haven't been able to support my friends over coffees and big breakfasts. This is still one of my fav things in life- being positive and when my friends are down trying to give them as many perspectives as possible to look at a situation so they can be happy and start moving on and having fun. I am not a preacher and i didn't write the gospel of go get em', but i am positive and its good giving that positivity to people. In the end, it's only women, or only men- it's not everything- there are still amazing Latte's out there to be had. So this next song i decided is perhaps melody wise the strongest i have ever written.. it really does sore over a big vocal range. I want it to drive and inspire and make you feel the wind in your hair as you drive along the coast down for your surfing trip or across the Harbor Bridge as your heart bleeds and mends.

The chorus goes something like this..

'Hey I'm On Your Side...
Let your Spirit Dance..
Feel the Wind at your back..
There's more to life than just romance'

Because there is more to life than just romance, its a huge part of it for all of us. It's in nearly every song, its on nearly every billboard, it is in every movie- even in Predator, Arnold Schwarzenegger (i google-d the spelling!) has a love interest with that woman (the only woman, so i refer to as 'that woman'). I'm not sure if anything actually happened between those two in the plot, but the movie seemed to suggest some kind of romantic/sexual tension. But seriously, romance is fed to us like baby mash and breast milk from the time we can't even get an erection. The media latches onto it, hell i spent the first 3 years of song writing, writing ONLY love songs, with words such as heart and soul and heart and soul and in your eyes etc. etc. etc- and probably will still write these kind of songs forever more. WHY! Because romance is driven into us, we look for it everywhere, and we often tell ourselves we need it when we don't. And it when it leaves us, it leaves us hurting like hell. Then we go 'oh, i'm never going to find another person like that again', 'it's so hard being single', 'how could she cheat on me, i am an ugly worthless piece of shit'- the truth is, you won't find another person like that again, but you might find someone better for you or different in a great way. It's not that hard being single, go to and buy a book on a topic you like and throw yourself into it- you'll save money on booze and learn something about something you like or are interested in and then you'll bring it up in conversation one day with a beautiful person that shares your knowledge that you then connect with, and that simple thing of getting out of the doldrums and not becoming an alcoholic or a druggo to supress your problems, is the very thing that leads you onto the next stage of happiness and fulfillment (and WAY BETTER SEX!). And you know what, the cycle might happen all over again, but at least then you can go buy a book on a new topic! This song really is about that. Buying a book, then buying another one on a new topic. There seriously is more to life than just romance.

Hope everyone is having a great time. It's now snowing in Toronto, i will take some pics and post them to show all your Aussies back home how lucky you are right now.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Thought i would post a headshot!

This is a cool head shot that i recently got done in Toronto. Thought i would upload it!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

A Few Pics of the Studio!

Here are some pics of Digital Underdog.. not too revealing.. i am sure there will be more to come and some video in due course!!!

Educated Woman guide vocal done. Still a bit of arrangement to be done and parts to be considered. But a great day. I learned alot!

I am learning about Rhythm. Funny that!