‘In making this album, I realised that all of us need a battle to fight, an adventure to live and a beauty to love. Sonic Blue Soul took me on a journey back and a journey forward. Then it left me right here and right now, which is where I like to be. What is authentic cannot be wrong. Every so often you find the gateway, and can wield the pure power – Blues Power’
Grey Cooper – August 2021
I Am A Bluesman – Sonic Blue Soul – Keep Getting Paid – Love Don’t Live Here Blues – Electric Man
She Should Be Ashamed Blues – Back To Hell Again Blues – Everything Gonna Be Alright
Time Of Our Lives – What Do You Say – Slide Your Blues Away
Sonic Blue Soul – The Background
‘Grey, sorry, but I have got to padlock the doors. That is it. We cannot do anything more in the studio‘
The only line I wanted to hear less; might be ‘Grey, someone has just stabbed your grandmother’.
Alex had no choice but to make that decision. For, in March 2020 in the UK and in most other countries in the world, psychopaths and liars had taken over. They were prime controllers of governments and institutions. Nearly everybody in the world was under a virulent, powerful and merciless occupying army of dishonest mass media and bossed over by fully bought and paid for politicians, alongside supplicant civic and public managers of all persuasions.
If you did not toe their line in the public eye, you were toast. Gone. Censored, ridiculed, de-plat formed. The virus hoax was going to change the way the world did business, and those promoting the fraud were prepared to take any kind of action to implement it, no matter the cost.
This meant, in their warped and dishonest world, preventing people from working or living with established rights and freedoms. It was the currency by which they measured their success. As a private artist, I went under the radar in true ‘resistance’ fashion.
They hated artists then and they hate art now
Later in 2020, the talking heads and mouthpieces of the globalist government machine in the UK would begin newspaper advertisements encouraging young men and women involved in the ‘arts’ to ‘re-train’ in computer or other mind control friendly work.
If you take part in culture, art, these forces despise you. They work for first your compromise and, if you refuse, your destruction. Unless you toe their line like a puppet or mouthpiece – they will make life very difficult. That is how afraid they are of the fertile ground for free-thought and expression which underpins art in the history of humanity.
My commitment in March 2020, was that I would spend every penny if required. Whatever it took to head-butt the globalist machine between the eyes, is exactly what I did. Breaking their nose (rules) became a pastime of redemption. Lying to their machine was a form of ready reckoning and spiritual truth. I hustled, and even bribed people if required, just to move my album along and get it finished.
In July 2021, on the same day as the UK lockdown fraud unravelled, I got the masters on the album tracks coming back from Neil in Berlin.
Sonic Blue Soul is therefore a story of making a Blues album in not only unfavourable circumstances (a bogus world lockdown of personal freedoms) but making a Blues album where they really are ‘out to get you’. It is also another story of my life, told in music, beat, lyrics and Blues.
Sonic Blue Soul – The Story
Alex was a talented young engineer who ran a recording studio about 3 minutes ‘as the crow flies’ from where I lived. I had just spent three un-glorious years bringing home an album called Modern Man Blues and Alex was one of two people who appeared like lighthouses in the pitch black, on a stormy sea. He helped to get the album finished and I was at the beginning of March 2020 embarking on demoing up tracks for what would become a quick-fire next album, Sonic Blue Soul.
I can remember being persuasive enough for us to keep the studio open when the rules said everyone had to stay at home, apart from essential travel. Well, I considered making an album very essential. It is hard to forget driving to the studio and thinking if coppers stop my car – I will just tell them what I want them to hear. Why should I tell these puppets anything else? Who would have thought that Britain in 2020 would come to that? Going about your business of making music and wondering if the state jackboot was going to flash their lights and pull you up for doing so.
Well why don’t we try doing something on zoom?
It was Alex who suggested ‘well why don’t we try doing something on zoom?’ I liked that idea and every Tuesday for about a month we built the album demo up track by track. I came up with the song title, emailed over an example of the rhythm for the drum track. Then sent a complete song format along with chords. Alex built the demo according to the emailed song, assembled midi versions of the beat/rhythm examples, played the chords on the keyboard and did some midi bass to get an idea of the complete track. In 6 weeks of remote effort, we had the final eleven tracks for the next phase. It has to be said that his input was major in getting this thing off the ground.
My next issue was, how do I get my demo guitar and vocals down? The steel wind of reality was that a psychopathic junta in control of the UK was preventing anyone from any face-to-face contact with anyone else.
Executive Producer – Berlin
I approached Neil Ferguson to see if he would be up for working on the album with me. Neil was proven at every level of the business. From being a guitarist in a band who wrote songs and released records to being part of an internationally successful group, to running a commercial studio and establishing expertise in every element of recording and music production. In addition, Neil had mastered Modern Man Blues and was a good friend of a good friend.
My diary said that I wrote him a draft letter on 11th April 2020 but only actually made first contact about Sonic Blue Soul on the 8th of July 2020. Because of the lockdown situation everything had to be considered remotely now, plus Neil was based in Berlin. I was looking for an Executive Producer who could oversee the various musical threads flying around and keep them together in a cohesive whole, with the final objective in mind. In the end Neil ended up contributing extra keyboards and sequenced lines on each track. With every album I do, I like to have a ‘theme’ or surprise element which goes through the set. On Modern Man Blues it was steel guitar and lap steel, here it was going to be sequenced lines. No one uses sequenced lines in Blues, but then I do not play by the rules.
My plan was to pass over the demo album files to Neil who had to cross them over from Logic into Pro Tools and then record the live drums, guitar, bass, vocals at Alex’s studio. These recording files would then be sent over to Berlin for Neil to work on and assemble, as we completed them. Late September 2020 Alex dropped a bombshell and said he was selling up and changing jobs.
A unique bond
The psychopaths in charge of the UK government machine would have been delighted. Another artist bites the dust, getting out of the art and music game. This was actually a real blow as we had not only done much work together, but you get into a vibe with someone you spend long times developing and recording music with. It is a unique bond.
On October 15th, 2020, I reached out to a studio run by James and booked in a visit and chat that week. James is a studio engineer who as well as offering to make the tea, could also play great drums. This was a real bonus moving forward, solving the live drums issue.
The Logic files for the album (along with other demos) were sent over from studio to studio and the job started to gain fresh momentum.
On November 8th, 2020, I was in contact with Neil and notified him that I was about to start recording and to prepare for files to be sent over. The most important egg to crack and make omelette with at this point, was the ‘editing’ and how we could do it most effectively on a remote basis.
Let me explain a little about this: I had been a band leader for way too many years. No one knew more than me about how to put a band together and rehearse new songs into a live gigging band. That meant, all the songs would have been meticulously rehearsed with all the parts (bar the normal live spontaneity) worked out. This was not the case here.
Also, there was no Bryan Ferryesque 5yrs in Nassau to record and develop things at his pace while the record company paid the bills.
Here in the Urban steel jungle under heavy manners from a crooked government and working to the constraints of time and money, things had to be done effectively and they had to be done fast.
The whole process of this album was a bit like:
1. Idea pops up in brain
2. Jot down ideas
3. Record the demo into an initial format of midi drums, bass, keys, demo guitars, lead vocal
4. Do a secondary sweep of the demo format and edit it into a primary version
5. Add new guide vocal
6. Add live drums
7. Add final guitars
8. Final vocal take
9. Last sweep for further edits of formats/parts
10. Mixing, produce, last edits
12. Promo video (audio-visual art)
The above is the approach I have conquered since moving away from developing material within a band, and it works nicely.
Next Phase Development
The process that James and I established was listening to the midi-based demo and I would point out any format changes and edits before he went for a live drum take against the click track. It was great to hear how the whole tracks began to animate and flourish with live drums. I would be very insistent on bass drum action and other elements of the ‘feel,’ the pulse. The very first track we did was a new Blues called Love Don’t Live Here, which James also played bass on. This track was finished first so it could be used as a marker of where we were headed and how we were going to work. It is the only track on the album that uses a session backing vocalist and also a session Hammond player.
Working this way meant that all the demo guitars I had done 6 months earlier at Alex’s studio could now be fully scrutinised and edited by me, alongside James in his studio.
Final version went over to Neil in Berlin, and he had a brief to mix and produce it with two final mixes, both a bit different. I called them the ‘Urban’ mix and ‘Europa’ mix. I sent this finished track over to my art media man, Mojo Satch, who put together a great promo video for it. That came out on January 15th, 2021 and it was an encouraging way to kick off the year.
From January to June 2021, I was editing and recording with James then sending the final results over to Neil in Berlin, so he could assemble the files over to Pro Tools and work on them. He would send versions back to me for assessment and make further developments in the days/weeks/months to come.
Eventually, all eleven initial demos from a studios begun before the Spring Equinox of 2020, were built and worked on at another studio up to June 2021, and over that period sent over to Neil in Berlin, for further editing, mixing and production. It was a system that worked, and we can hear the results on the album!
Sorting the bass out with Dan Hawkins in Singapore
I wanted a bass player who could give me a variety of options but who could take ownership of a brief and make it his own. A group working things out in the studio would not generate this album, so I needed a specialist in every quarter of the action. Dan’s resume and website sung out like a man with a funky megaphone and reading his credits, they sold me. However, doing any form of roots music – it is the chemistry between people that really makes the project excel and imbues it with the required spirit. The vibes and feel-good factor take the day. In my imagination, Dan was a kind of ‘frontiersman musician’ leaving London to live in the ‘pearl of the orient’ and it gave me a good feeling that this album was literally being tackled from every corner of the globe!
Dan is a groove monster
He played great bass on this album and incorporated my ideas or instructions like ‘try to give me a slap hook on this section’ or ‘hey man, open your shoulders on this section’. Getting the balance right – between preparing a space for artists to express who they are, really add to the music at hand, but deliver what you want as the songwriter, well it is the great balance in the science of life, music and art. Very difficult to achieve, but Dan was a groove monster and just kept knocking it out of the ballpark. My idea of a good time was to grab hold of Dans three versions of the song (initially sent over to Neil in Berlin) and then either choose them as completed whole parts or (in very few instances) work with edits between the versions sent over. Hearing the final bass mix in with the great drums put down by James from here in Sheffield, was like watching creation and renewal day by day.
Sonic Blue Soul – The music, the songs, the life
In making this album, I realised that all of us need a battle to fight, an adventure to live and a beauty to love.
Despite the tenor of my commentary about the social circumstances in which I made this album, the content of the record is nothing to do with wider society issues. Though I did turn ‘What Do You Say’ around to fit the brief and release a video hitting back against the globalist propaganda and fake news media. This set of songs are really reflections of the eternal themes that seem to underpin all of our life episodes and adventure. Particularly for me, they were drawn from a well of my life experiences during the period 2019 to 2021.
Into The Blues
Take a box, for instance. You have an exterior and an interior. You have the form of the structure, and you have its content. Many people (including musicians) only know the exterior form. But to be real, you have to know both the exterior form and the interior content. You do not really get good Blues or bad Blues; you just get authentic Blues or blues that are not authentic.
Blues put you in the dead centre of your life, and you have to live that life. This is the deal, and the cultural continuum never stops. You do not escape it, but try to influence it, work with it and sometimes you even need to create strategies for it.
Living in what might be an unliveable situation. Working to make certain things happen or trying to avoid other things. When you cannot get out of the way or did not see them coming, and they just crash into you without being beckoned, you face them head on and the situations get called out. For things have to be named.
You have to name them
You might give up on a situation, but keep reflecting on it. The answers do not always come straight away, do they? You fight forward, hold your ground, or retreat. But mainly, you name the situation and prescribe a remedy. That remedy might be magic and transformation, it might be internal alchemy, it could be external force, perhaps surprise redemption, or it can be fierce invective or judgements. It can also be a plea for help, as sometimes we all just need a little help.
Paradoxically, even though ‘isolation’ underpins the blues – it is the destruction of that isolation by communalising experience and emotion, which leads to its salvation potential. Any blues musician will tell you of the massive healing when you hear a fellow blues artist articulate what is going on for you or has been going on for you. It is therefore closer to religion than toytown.
Every so often you find the gateway and can wield the pure power – Blues Power.
Whatever it is, it has to come from your soul and your soul will permeate your mind, your mind reflects who you really are as the silent pool reflects the moon. It is then your own self transporting you through the cycling experiences and feelings which flood, drench and influence the mind. These are the rich tapestries woven by the course of our lives, and which stretch back to infinity and forth to eternity. No one really knows from whence they come and to where they go – but come and go, they do.
By diving within the oceanic flux of these experiences, emotions and feelings, telling your truth and putting that truth against the special rhythms, tones and music which is handed down from the very first awakenings – then you are playing the Blues.
Grey Cooper – August 2021