Woolhouse Boys road trip.

You may have spotted that I’m a Twin Peaks fan, you might even have noticed my recent obsession with a certain item of garish knitwear, due to my membership of The Woolhouse Boys, the best group on the internet. If so, then hopefully you’ll be up to date enough with the story to appreciate this seasonal tale of goodwill and friendship.

First, a little background.

Back in March, while the frenzy surrounding Twin Peaks: The Return was still building to fever pitch, I became friends with a very interesting chap with the unlikely name of Kneel Downe.

As an author and fellow Twin Peaks fanatic from the North of England, with whom I share a birthday, along with many other common interests, it was inevitable that Kneel and I would get along like the proverbial house on fire and I subsequently invited him to join the Woolhouse Boys.

To my total lack of surprise, that warm and friendly group of kindred spirits took to Kneel as quickly as I had and it wasn’t long before he became one of the inner circle of genuinely close friends we have all made in the last few months.

So it was just as unsurprising that, when he was going through a really tough few weeks, the Woolhouse rallied round to help.

Kneel suffers from MS and his health can vary wildly from one day to the next, especially when dealing with stressful situations, but despite this, he is always concerned about the welfare of other people and is one of the most compassionate people I know. He was caring for his father, who was seriously ill, meaning Kneel’s health also deteriorated and there were many days that we didn’t hear from him at all, the stress was clearly taking its toll.

Then, on November 6th, we got the sad news that Kneel’s father had passed away.

Which was when the Woolhouse swung into action.

Within minutes of hearing of his loss, Joel and I were getting messages from members all around the world; from here in the UK to all over America, from Europe and even from Australia, everyone wanted to do something for Kneel.

Now, sending round a card for everyone to sign was obviously impractical, given the distances involved, so I suggested anyone wanting to contribute could PayPal me donations, which I would gladly take and present to Kneel, along with all the love and condolences of the boys and girls in the Woolhouse.

Needless to say, donations came in from many of Kneel’s friends and, after the funeral had taken place, I arranged to go up and meet him for the first time last Saturday, taking Audrey with me for company, (because it’s almost impossible to feel down when she’s around) but not before we had another brilliant idea.

Joel and I had been working on a new shirt design, which we were about to roll out to any interested group members, and I’d only just picked up the first prototype when we heard Kneel’s sad news. It immediately seemed obvious that, along with the generous donations from his friends, I should also present him with this small token of our affection.

But how could we make it that little bit more personal, a completely unique gift?

Then I had a flash of inspiration; if I got everyone to send a nice clear photo of their name, black on a white background, I could compile them onto one sheet, invert the colour and have the resulting white signatures printed on the shirt, as if we’d all signed it for him.

That was easy enough to accomplish (although I left the technical stuff to Joel, who works with computer graphics) and I’d have been happy with that, but Joel had other plans afoot.

While I was still on the phone to him, ironing out the fine details, Joel was e-mailing one or two of his famous Twin Peaks cast member friends, asking if they’d be happy to add their names to ours for a good cause.

I can’t, I’m afraid, reveal the three names he delivered to us, but rest assured you would be amazed at who he managed to get to send us an autograph. On top of that, I contacted the wonderful John “Chad” Pirruccello from the show, who had previously been such a good sport about our daft shenanigans and he instantly sent us his name.

{I should point out that all of this happened on Thanksgiving, so I am eternally grateful to all of you who spared the time to get involved, you’re all awesome}

So at six thirty on Saturday morning, Audrey and I set off on an 800 mile round trip to Lancashire, arriving at Kneel’s around lunchtime and presenting him with his extraordinary gift, along with a few baked goodies from Rhonda and all the best wishes of The Woolhouse Boys.

Kneel’s home is a veritable shrine to Dr Who and you can’t turn round without coming face to face with one of the dozens of daleks that adorn almost every flat surface, not to mention the hundreds of DVDs, a Cyberman head on top of a hat stand in the hall and all manner of other memorabilia throughout the house.

I filmed little clips of our journey, editing them together into a short travelogue, WHICH YOU CAN WATCH HERE, including our first meeting with Kneel and, although the actual presentation of his gifts will remain private, here is a redacted version of that fabulous shirt and a shot of us toasting our friendship (a condition impressed upon me by Joel was that I must get a photo of Kneel and I having a pint together and who am I to refuse such a request?).

Please excuse my peculiar eyewear, I wear my varifocal glasses from work for driving and forgot to take them off for the photo.

It was a real pleasure to finally meet Kneel and to see his reaction to the kindness of his global network of new friends, it made me truly proud to be a part of something so positive and supportive.

But I’ve found that this is what The Woolhouse does, it brings people together from all walks of life and it makes them into lifelong friends, I see it happen every day and it is good to know that we have helped one of our own in some small way, by showing him that there is always someone who cares enough to make a difference.

*****

You can explore Kneel’s amazing Virulent Blurb universe AT THIS LINK.

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Mixing it up.

During my extended medical absence from work, (which comes to an end tomorrow) I downloaded an app called edjing, which is a full set of DJ decks with all the gadgets required to make high quality mixes from my extensive mp3 collection.

I began by playing around with small samples of tracks, just to get the hang of mixing (which I have never attempted until now, despite always wanting to have a go) then advanced to remixing entire songs.

It shouldn’t really be a surprise to discover that among the first victims recipients of my remixing skills were Kraftwerk, given my previously documented appreciation of their robotic rhythms; but it also turns out that their precision engineered style makes their material remarkably easy to combine in a mix.

Here is Antenna, from Radio Activity, spliced with a sample of Pocket Calculator percussion, from the career-defining Computer World album.

It’s called, rather predictably, Pocket Antenna.

For a more lively visual treat, here’s a remix of Numbers, with an added sample from Control by a band called Operators, accompanied by another of my psychedelic videos.

You’ll never guess what it’s called; Number Control.

I had even more fun, mixing a sample from It’s More Fun To Compute with the dynamic Dusseldorfers’ self-aware hit, The Robots, which you can listen to at the link below.

CLICK HERE »»» ***It’s More Fun To Robot***

Finally, for a bit of variety, I made an extended mix of the Grimes bonus track, Angel, adding some wispy visuals for extra atmosphere.

Visible vibes.

Over the last week, I have once again been messing around with my music apps; Oscilab, the loop maker and sequencer on my phone, combined with a beta-test version of the Poweramp music player on my tablet, which includes a new “visualisation” feature.

This transforms any audio signal played through it into a complex and synchronised series of patterns which are unique to each sound, allowing you to “see” the music.

Like, far out, man.

Unfortunately there is no way to save the resulting psychedelic visual display, unless you get creative and improvise a little, of course.

So I built myself a studio in the airing cupboard; a black box with my tablet lying in the bottom of it and a sheet of glass on top with my phone on top of that.

Then, with my phone camera turned on, all I needed to do was line up my tablet in the video viewfinder, press play on the tablet and record on the camera, then close the door and wait for my latest musical creation to finish playing.

Once I have video of the unique patterns produced by my new tune, all that remains is for me to edit the video to the exact length of the audio track, (cutting out me turning on the tablet and removing any blank screen from the end) remove the sound from the raw video, dub the music back over the edited footage and; Voila! another masterpiece.

I’m not one for leaving an idea alone, once I’ve convinced myself of its brilliance, so I ended up making four new electronic soundscapes in the last few days, all with their own trippy visual accompaniment.

I’m posting one of the most melodic and chilled-out numbers here, which I’ve called The Glimmering, but you can also find it, along with all the rest of this week’s audio output (plus one earlier attempt) on my new page, Sound and vision: The Oscilab project, via that link or the drop-down menu at the top of the page.

I hope you enjoy the soothing tones of this adventure in electronic psychedelia and when you’ve sampled its peculiar delights, why not visit the new page for yourselves and check out the rest of my collection.

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