The music I write is mainly electronic. This is partly because the people who introduced me to performing music were keyboard players, and partly because, of the instruments I've tried to play, I find keyboards the easiest.
My singing voice has been compared (by those who like it) to Jon Marsh of The Beloved, and to Tim Freeman, the singer of Frasier Chorus. You don't want to know what it's been compared to by those who don't like it ;-)
I do just about everything myself - composition, performance, production, you name it... I've occasionally worked with other musicians, and it might be interesting to do so again, but I'm not sure anybody else would have the patience to write or record with me.
Lyrically, I'll write about almost anything. A couple of songs are based on incidents in my stories (see the Fiction page), although I'm not keen to make a habit of this - not least because the song probably won't make sense unless you've read the story. I wrote a song about Galileo and his persecution by the Church, and another about the Vietnamese pot-bellied pig that my former landlady kept as a pet. (See below for RealAudio file of this.)
My early lyrics were quite cerebral, but I'm becoming more interested now in emotions and attitudes. Emotions I commonly deal with are fear, self-doubt, uncertainty, isolation and loneliness. Sometimes I reach inside myself for these, and sometimes I'm reflecting the world around me. I like clever lyrics (some people would say I like them too much), and I try to put innovative metaphors and imagery into what I write. I try to make sure the vocal rhythm is consistent (that is, that everything scans properly), but I'm not too concerned about rhyme. If it rhymes, fine. If it doesn't, I don't try to force it.
As an aside, if you want to start writing song lyrics, I'd recommend that you ignore rhyme completely to begin with. Concentrate on making the lyrics scan. It's easy to sing lyrics that don't rhyme, but damn near impossible to sing ones that don't scan.
Once you feel ready to start rhyming, try to use words where the rhyming part is just one syllable. For example, heart and start, or abet and regret. In the latter example, the rhyming part is the -et on the end of each word. (I'm not suggesting you should actually use that one: it was the best I could come up with.)
The more syllables the rhyme has, the more contrived it's likely to sound. For example, idealistic and surrealistic. The rhyming part there is -ealistic - four syllables, the way I pronounce those words. If you're writing a humourous song, then people will appreciate this sort of thing, but otherwise, don't be tempted to try it.
Another thing to avoid is rhymes of more than one word - such as missing you and kissing you. It'd probably be better for the second line to rhyme just with you. This is more of a personal opinion than a firm rule, though.
For me, the bottom line about rhyming is that listeners rarely notice good rhymes, or the absence of rhyme, but they'll usually notice bad rhymes, and these will spoil their enjoyment of the song.
I wrote my first couple of songs in the late 1980s, but didn't begin writing seriously until 1991, when I suddenly found a huge amount of music within myself. Several times, I wrote a complete song in an hour or less. (Nowadays it can take weeks. I'm still not convinced that I'm any better at it now than I was then.) I recorded a couple of albums in the summer of that year. At the time, I was really pleased with them, but I can't bear to listen to them now. (Pictures of yourself as a small child are always embarrassing, aren't they? ;-)
In 1993-94, I re-recorded some of the songs on those first two albums, with one new song thrown in. The result was an album called Reason, which is the earliest of my recordings that I'm prepared to let people hear these days. Click here for a picture of the cover (34K GIF). There are some embarrassing technical faults, mainly in the mixing, which I did over a couple of days, but I think that taking longer over recording it made it a lot better than the earlier albums. Since then, I've been gradually accumulating material for another album, provisionally titled Technophobia, although I'm thinking of calling it Downtime instead. There's one song which was on the 1991 albums, but the rest is all new. I've got about nine songs for it, and I reckon another two or three will complete it.
When I write a song, I usually start with the words and then work out a vocal rhythm and melody. After that, I'll add instruments, beginning with a bassline. I'll add backing vocals and sound effects if I think the song needs them.
None of my songs has been published yet, although this is partly because I haven't really tried to get them published. Occasionally, I'll give a tape to somebody whom I think will enjoy it. In 1998, one of my friends, acting as my agent, sent some of my songs to producers and musicians. She got a few people interested, but nothing came of it in the end. My friend tried to sell just my lyrics. She reckons that my lyrics are (sometimes) brilliant, but that the accompanying music is (usually) crap. Diplomacy is not one of her strong points...
These songs are all 128 Kbit/s stereo MP3s. Any computer that was made in this century should be able to play them :-)
Copyright notice: The copyright in all the recordings that are available for download here is owned by me, Steve Pemberton. You may copy and distribute them to other people, provided you do this on a non-commercial basis. (You may charge a reasonable fee to cover your costs.) Except as permitted by law where you live, you may not create derivative works from these recordings. You may, however, use samples from my recordings in your own recordings, as long as the amount of material that you use in any one recording is no more than five (5) seconds in my recordings. You may repeat this material within one of your recordings as often as you wish. All other rights are reserved.
Written and recorded 1998. Lyrics and stills from the
video are here
(you need to click the Ambiguity link on that page to get there -
the reasons are far too boring to explain here ;-)
Written 1991, recorded 1996, additional recording 1998. The bass guitar and guitar solo are played by my friend John Kilby. This song features in The McHedgehog Inheritance (it has absolutely nothing to do with the story; we just thought it was suitably silly).
I've done a great many recordings and remixes of the song over the years. This one is something approaching a definitive version. The pig noises are provided by a genuine pig (of the Vietnamese pot-bellied variety - hence the reference in the first verse to "a little black monster from Vietnam"). My landlady at the time I wrote this really did keep such an animal as a pet. And yes, his name was Porky. And yes, he really did sleep in the kitchen. Look, the whole song is absolutely true, OK? Apart from the bits I made up...
Written and recorded 1994, additional recording 2000.
I've made a video for this, but haven't yet uploaded stills.
Written 1991, recorded 1994. I've made a video for this song; lyrics and stills are here.
This is about as close as I ever get to writing love songs. Perhaps the reason that so much of my music is pessimistic and cynical is that I'm like that myself, at least sometimes. Another reason might be that I find it hard to write or compose when I'm happy - I'm too busy enjoying the happiness.
This is by no means a complete list:
Of these, probably the first three are the biggest influences in my music.
Last update: 19/6/2007 16:14