Monday, 22 April 2013

Gangnam Style

A couple of years ago at my sisters place in London, I was playing with my nephew and talking to him about nursery rhymes:

 [Me]- “Nathan, just remember that Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star and Baa Baa Black Sheep are actually the same song with different words.

 [try humming them both to yourself right now- same melody, different words. See…? I was right, wasn’t I?]

 Don’t let the people at daycare tell you any different- because they’re bastards!”

[My sister]- “Victor!! You know I don’t like you talking like that around Nathan!!”
[Me]- “but it’s the truth! It’s false advertising! He’s almost 2, now! He’ll have to learn at some point!”

 My sister doesn’t like it when I discuss the harsh realities of life with her son. But for some reason, 2 years on, he can find Gangnam Style on YouTube and dance along to “Heeeeey, sexy lady” without any objection.

 I don’t get it.

 How is everyone?

My trip to London last month was one of the shorter ones, but I think I managed to get around to see most people despite being unwell for some of the time. I think that was actually a blessing in disguise, as it forced me to actually rest for most of the time, instead of hooning around the way I normally do.

I went straight to my parents’ place from the airport, and my siblings joined me there the day after. They’re as crazy as I am, and it’s awesome when we’re all together. It was nice to see mum and dad, too.

For about 36hours.

Then mum sat next to me: “You’ve changed your mind about going to church, haven’t you…?”

Oh no.


It was time to go.

I hung out in Winstons apartment in central London while he was on holiday and caught up with a different person each night while just resting during the day.

The main reason for my visiting at that time was Nathans 4th birthday, which was on the last day. I partied with him and his little friends, which was awesome, but the party reached a peak when his dad put on Gangnam Style. I swear- the way his eyes lit up was a complete transformation. He just went mental. I had to get out my phone and record it. Here it is:

I nearly died laughing, but I was also impressed with his rhythm and timing. He just went for it, and he genuinely didn’t care what anyone thought. When I played it back to myself, I found myself thinking “Hmmm….. he reminds me of someone….”.

Then it dawned on me.

 “Oh my God”

 “He’s like me…!”

Or it may be more accurate to say that I’m like him. That child-like abandon is such an incredible thing, and people can see it in me when I dance to a song that I really like. It’s probably most evident in my’ Getting Jiggy With It’ dance routine: when I was 19 (yes, 19) my sister was starting to come to my friends parties and cramping my style, so I thought I’d choreograph a dance routine so cheesy and embarrassing that she would never want to be seen at a party with me ever again.

It’s basically a collection of Will Smiths cheesiest dance moves arranged in increasing cheesiness.
I did it at Winstons 19th birthday party.

It worked.

In my last diary entry I told you all that the hospital I’m in at the moment (Royal North Shore) is pretty intense. I went back and did a few shifts at the smaller hospital I was at before, and was explaining a care plan to one of the nurses. As I was doing so, out of the corner of my eye, I could see one of the other nurses laughing at me.

“Did I say something funny?” I asked her.

“Something’s happened to you since you’ve been at North Shore” She said.

“What do you mean?”

“You’ve become dead serious!”

 She had a point. My new workplace is a very serious, formal environment. A lot of the time I don’t feel like I belong there. I can feel that inner child suffocating. I'm not sure I'll be there long term.

There’s a chance I may not have to.

You may know that I started guitar lessons and writing songs halfway through last year. That’s been my only outlet since I started studying for my exams, and you’ve heard 2 of the recordings I’ve done on my laptop with my guitar teacher, but I’ve actually done 5. Here they are:

Be This Way

You’ve read the stories for the first two, but they each have one. They’re all attached, if you’re interested.

I was put in touch with a music producer, Sean Carey, who used to be lead guitarist in a prominent Australian band called Thirsty Merc. I sent him the YouTube links above, and he sounded quite interested. We met up and talked about my songs and what we would do with them and how. We worked out it would take 4 full days to record all 5 songs. The first day, Sean made some minor adjustments to the song structures to give the music a bit more impact, and we recorded the main guitar parts. He sat me with my guitar in front of the studio microphone and I looked at him like he was crazy. “Um… I started guitar lessons 7 months ago…” I told him. “It’s your album- you should be on it” he replied. I played as well as I could, and it actually turned out OK. He added additional guitar parts on top, as well as the bass.

The next day, the drummer arrived. I hadn’t thought much about drumming at all, other than the steady bass drum beat I put in on my laptop. His name was Michael Quigley, and teaches drumming at the Australian Institute of Music. He would listen to a song once, make some notes and then smash out an amazing recording at the first attempt. I was just astonished. I actually cried when we did the first song “Be This Way”. That was when I truly felt it come to life.

I listened to the basic tracks we had so far, with Seans guitaring and Michaels drumming,  and thought- “Holy crap- my singing is going to be the worst thing about this..!” We had a week until days 3 and 4, so I did more singing practice than I had ever done before in that week.

Day 3 came, and so did the keyboard player. His name was Beau Golden, and he plays with Guy Sebastian (of X-Factor [shudder] fame) and other Australian celebrities. I held my laptop up to him so that he could hear the string parts to the songs. As he was listening, he was writing down the alphabetical names of each note, and then just played the parts as if he’d been playing them for years. Again, I was astonished.

I did the singing in the remaining time, and Sean did the remaining mixing and sound engineering.

The result was beyond my wildest dreams. I’m ecstatically happy with the EP. I almost can’t believe it’s me sometimes. I almost cringe when I look at my laptop recordings in comparison, and thought about taking them off YouTube, but then I thought “No- keep them. This is how it started. If anyone doubts that these are your songs, you can point them to the prototypes. This is your creation, and you should be proud.”.

I am eternally endebted to Sean for all of this. In particular, for song number 5. It’s both our favourite:

I sang over the instrumental recordings for my singing teacher, and she was over the moon. “You know what’s best about this, Victor? You have something that’s truly yours. And not only that- uniquely yours. You have all your ‘aha-aha’s and ‘hey, hey, hey’s and ‘mmm, mmm, mmm’s and ‘I-I-I’s. It’s truly your own sound.

I’m in love with it to the point of listening to it at least once a day. I’ve copied it and given it to about 30 people, most of whom love it, too. I think they genuinely mean it. Your friends saying they like your music is like your mother telling you that you’re handsome- they want you to feel good, but it’s not always an objective statement. But with this, I can see that each song makes a genuine impact on people who listen. I love it.

It’s on iTunes now, and it’s called Factor This (some of you will know why), and here’s the link:

It would make me incredibly happy if you could download it and/or share it with anyone you think might like it, whether it be via your Facebook page or otherwise. I’d really like to get this out there.

It’s under the stage name 'Victor Steele'. Let’s face it- ethnic names don’t fly in mainstream entertainment. Elton Johns real name is Reginald White: even a lot of standard western names don’t cut it in showbiz.

I’m looking into filming videos for each song, and will put them online, but be careful when you search- internet videos featuring black guys named ‘Steele’ may yield some unexpected results…..

Thank you for reading and listening.