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Part 1 of however many it takes: The story of #TheKellycaster – A Thing of Beauty

March 17, 2018 Leave a comment

The Prologue.

So it’s about time I actually wrote in my own words, what The Kellycaster is (the best way I can), its story so far and why it’s so important to my future journey? I think for sanity and to keep the blogs not too long, see this as part one of however many it takes.

The Kellycaster shadow with orange/red backlight.

The Kellycaster purs away at home.

Recently someone very kindly wrote “Mary will introduce John Kelly to the stage as someone who has already helped us re-redefine the electric guitar working with DM Labs to produce the KellyCaster”.

Wow, to ‘re-define’ seems a massive statement which I was/am blown away about. However, keeping myself as grounded as possible I don’t take in so much to get carried away into the lovely things people say and write about my performances, songs I write or cover, voice, gigs or words.

Of course, I really appreciate and do not dismiss those nice words that someone has taken the time to give. I gratfully acknowledge them, feeling luky for them, but in my head, I always feel; what have I learnt from tonight, ah I have a lot to learn, long way to go, I’m not bad at this but many others sing sweeter, play better, articulate much better and so practice, practice, work hard, head down and continue working hard and hope I improve. I can be content in the comment or in the moment and enjoy it but not complacent in wanting to make my songs or singing or playing better.

The Kellycaster was in the big papers almost immediately the first sound was made on those three strings strung on an old throw-away Telecaster guitar body that we (Charles/Gawain & myself) cut up for a Hackathon on the Southbank. You’ll notice from the picture the strings doubled to 6 as to keep with convention.

Telecaster guitar body with kneck cut, wires and bulldog clips

First Prototype

And the interest has stayed and grown, the BBC ….then articles in Italy, Spain, The States…short films for The British Council….and of course things written by Drake Music colleagues, friends and other colleagues who have blogged, tweeted and shared such supportive news about its development. To all I am hugely grateful and somehow indebted too, I owe them more than a pint anyway!

A musical breakthrough says The Independent just a few days after we made the first sounds.

Guitar breakthrough – The Independent, 2015

At that Web We Want Hackathon little did Charles & Gawain (see below) know that we’d be taking my Guitboard (my first choice name for what is now The Kellycaster), on a big journey from that Southbank room (below) with no windows and lots of soldering smells. This was the first hack taken from my concept presentation shared at a DMLab meeting a month or so earlier

 

We started with a hex pickup and plugs for each individual string. The string signal sent to a max/msp with a 6 input soundcard to convert into sound and on that day we used an OSC app to change three simple chords.  There was a fair bit of latency but I could compensate on anyting under 90 BPM, perfect for Ride On! the first tune I played to share in the very public Clore Ballroom.

 

In writing this, I’ve just realised my lovely mum never got to see this beautiful thing that’s come into my life. I’m sad about that because she knew how important music is to me and she loved the craic and fun of the gigs I’d be involved in. She was so supportive to me pushing and doing whatever I enjoyed and succeeded at. I’m glad she at least knew it was happening, although I smile at what she’d thing of all the new extra gear I now carry around from gig to gig. She used to joke “jaysus, couldn’t you have got a job with a desk where you wouldn’t have to be pulling and tearing gear in and out of the house every night”, then she’d laugh, “sure we wouldn’t be happy then though’.

So…I knew what I could physically and musically do & of course I had dreamt from childhood of playing guitar. Rocking it out to a crowd, belting out a tune, playing with others sweating from the energy and emotion. Equally I’d dream of singing in a corner somewhere playing a guitar to myself (ideally in an irish bar obviously). Of course the journey had a few twists and turns and we had to work thrugh complicated bck to complex.  Complex is what makes The Kellycaster an instrument to be learnt.  Its prettty simple to get a sound out but practice and more practice is required to play it with skill, I’m still praciticing btw.

guitar with leads all over it, a nintendo controller, ballpoint pen and gaffer tape.

From complicated to complex. The birth of the Boogie Bar (nunchucker, bluetac and ballpoint pen).

Like any classic childhood guitar dreams the reality came in the shape of a snooker cue (i preferred this to the traditional tennis racket although I dabbled there too). I mention the snooker cue because that’s really over the years how I figured I could strum, pick n pluck…and also I could do left hand stuff as long as it was a button here or something there that would do the chord shape.

Although I learnt to play guitar sort of….it was on an open tuning of E, just like the old blues masters who could always go much further than I. it never went the way I wanted to play in my head. I learnt “you’re cheatin’ heart” on it and wrote “just a dream” and I could do a bit of the old boogie woogie 12 bar riff, that I am now spending hours trying to embellish and hone on The Kellycaster.

So I’d learnt the basics on piano, could blow the old trumpet (three valves, 3 faster fingers, perfick). As some of you will know I’ve played keyboards for years, using a single finger to play most of the chords and learnt 100’s of songs. Last count my little book had 170 something songs in it. So the keyboard was kind of ok, as far as I thought it would go. i could write, jam along and play well enough to please an audience. But in that old head of mine, I knew those single finger chords were still limiting and somehow locked in.  Anyone playing along with me had to fit in with what was happening.

Silhouette of The Kellycaster body shape with The Kellycaster logo on neck and inscription "This Machine Kills Oppression" on body of guitar..

This Machine Kills Oppression.

 

 

This is not a sad song….

November 13, 2016 5 comments

Of course its a bit hard to write this blog but I just need to acknowledge…..This day (13th November)…this time last year, I didn’t know that I’d only have 7 days left with my beautiful, lovely mum. Bare with me…promise it won’t be a sad song…..

Me n Pickles (who just landed today, swapping planes wiv me Banana burro, Dave) were backwards n forwards to mum, still hoping for the day I could get her home from the hospice…Taytos, bounty, crunchie, burgers…all the bad stuff (flowers and scents too,mum loved nice smells), but we all laughed together and didn’t care! 
We didn’t know what was happening next so we lived for each moment and I’m so grateful to everyone who supported/PA’S for me  so I could always be there…when it mattered. Especially after Gerry suddenly passed in the middle of it all bless him. 

I always knew mum was my strength but I’m only just starting to realise how much strength she’s given me to keep going. And I’m so grateful to her for it. 


This has easily been the worst year of my life and yet I’m here (obviously) getting through it, gigging, working, living. I’ve lost mum, Gerry, my pa Vicky and a whole load of other changes (poor Yvonne & Lena no longer able to work with me, no ilf, amongst other changes)…

I’d lost two people who were my compass…my everything…..but…..I smile, laugh, enjoy things/moments, continue to write & sing, perhaps a little weaker for now.. But….  

I’ve obv cried a lot…In life I’ve never been scared to cry but was feeling a bit outa control with it. So I tried to stop hold it in…not cry so much…not show it as it was seen as wallowing…not crying  didn’t help. 

Recently I went back on a gig/end of tour show performing with ExySexy Bodies. Ironically I was in the middle of a UK Tour with them when mum took ill.  Anyway whilst away on this recent gig  G-Bob gave me a few pearls (I’ll put the link up once I chat to him to ok it). As a result I cried again…but the way  I used to do, cry …deal with a sadness….let an emotion out and importantly to feel it was ok to do so (Thanks G-Bob x). 

And yet through this last, worst year of .my life… good things carry on, filling my life. I can still laugh, smile, enjoy. Phew!! See I told you it wasn’t a sad song. 

I’m blessed with a dad as strong as an Ox.  A family, PA’s & friends that have caught me as I have fallen at various times through this year and brought me back to realise I’m lucky and need to get on wiv it.  

Cliché but, You all know who you are and I love you dearly for all you have done and continue to do for me. 

I have brilliant work and colleagues, supportive, always there with understanding n words of wisdom and who really do inspire (in the proper mom patronising sense of the word) me. 

In my life I always try not to spend too much time looking inward…a little is no harm.. But not to the point where it becomes self centred. This last year I’ve had to look inward more than I would like…just to hold on…get through….

I’m not going to say I’m ready to move on…not sure lifes really like that, but I am getting through, getting on, new excitement, challenges, friendships, relationships, opportunities that I know I have to give a go/take..there’s a job to be done. And as mum said in those last week’s.. Keep at em.. Fight on (referring to our fight for the ILF)

I know this next week’s going to be hard leading up to going back home to Ireland, and of course some sadness,….but….I’m looking forward to it. 

I’d love your help next Sunday to mark mums anniversary…in a way…if that’s ok? I’m giving you the heads up now so you can think about it in time. 

I want to find a way to celebrate mums life so when I get to this point each year, over time it becomes more celebration, less sadness. I know my family will pray but not everyone is into that and me mum taught me what inclusion means…whoever you are yer welcome..

So…..

As many of you know, mum was a whirlwind of energy & happiness, the fastest at everything and always up for the craic. She loved music (probably why I ended up a musician?). So it’s simple.


Next Sunday I invite you to play a song  that makes you smile (if you want obviously). 

It’ll be a bonus if it makes others smile. Choose a song that means something to you. Simples…maybe share it in Facebook/twitter. Even that’s not important…just play a song that means something and makes you smile..

Hopefully when you do it you’ll remember me mums strength and happiness which in turn will give me strength n happiness…others don’t even have to know why……everyone’s a winner.. 

Ideas for a hashtag (if we want to share the moment, hopefully #not to cheesy) would be making Gerry laugh and confusing mum with my flip top computer and they’d both be asking how many gigabytes…

Course I’m gunna be sad…I’ll prob cry a bit…but I want to smile and learn over time to celebrate the day better & better. 

Thanks in advance sausages xx

Hashtag suggestions so far:

#MarysMusic (my preference at mo?)

#MusicToSmileBy

???? 

Fanks mum xx fanks sausages xx

Categories: Music, Rockinpaddy

Archive audio blogs – last: The wheelchair saga!

February 18, 2010 Leave a comment

My audio blogs are via the link above, click & it will take you too all my audio blogs with most recent at the top, plus older audio blogs too.

Abbeyfeale to Athens to Albury via Stratford UA & Newham!


It’s often easy to say “I’m very busy at the moment” but my carbon footprint over the last 2 months could easily have been mistaken for the footprint left by a sizable Yettie with extra foot growth issues. Stratford seems a distant memory, but going to the home of the bard to perform Equality Street at UK Youths national Youth work conference was some highlight.

The team performed well, despite British rail making the challenges of travel even more challenging. The performance went down very well and was even seen as being a bit ‘controversial‘? I’m not sure it really was but my guess is that this is because of our starting point being that Inclusion = All Means All, no ifs, buts, or might have beens (cue for a song).

The band has been extremely busy, starting off with a gig with our furry womble friend Haydon at Hyde Park, despite the mightiest of early morning thunder storms, the sun came out for Rockinpaddy in the Park. Then off on a small-scale tour of Ireland, playing around the wild west, including my cousins wedding in Adare and two gigs in our hometown of abbeyfeale. Any time playing at home is special, but our acoustic set in ‘Jacks -The Corner house’ had to be up there. A few Guinness’s were sunk & Roland & Dave made their Irish debut’s with Rockinpaddy. It was a very quick trip in the sense that because we were playing, we were busy, but we tried our best to recapture the peace and serenity that 6 blokes sharing a country house full of brandy, can have. The Rock & Roll moment of the tour, apart from the wedding, fixing the water filled stage roofing, feasting in Leens hotel or listening to the sad death of MJ on the radio as we returned from a gig, had to be drinking Brandy at breakfast as dad wanted to clear the cupboards out!

After Abbeyfeale I squeezed in a a few CIL meetings, a session in Camberley and a music workshop before heading off to Athens to help lead the music element of a European Performing Arts Seminar. I have to admit working self employed, I was nervous about pulling this one off, but i worked with a brilliant team and together we had an amazing experience, definitely a moment of moments. The participants, particularly the young woman and girls of Amalion made the whole event a special, fun and creative experience and the quality of work in the final show was absolutely amazing.

The picture heading this blog was taken from the roof garden of our hotel where we stayed for a few days after the seminar to chill out in Athens. the garden overlooked the Acropolis (still not finished!), where each morning Barry & I would sit drinking strawberry iced water, ooh it was lovely. The city of Athens was busy and hot, any blank space was covered in graffiti, some good, some not so good. what amazed me was for an Olympic city, the access, apart from the brilliant Metro, was so inaccessible. Dropped curbs were rough and inconsistent and it made me realise the efforts the team went through to make the seminar venue as accessible as it was.

I think the nerves actually spurred me on and thanks to our workshop participants we created some great original material which reflected the good time we had. I made some very good friends out there, particularly my 2 co-facilitators and a number of individuals who have stayed in touch since my return.

My time out there re-enforced the importance of music in influencing change and also the need to develop young disabled people as leaders. The experience got me questioning the impact we had and I felt there was more potential from this event to grow and touch elements of change desperately needed in Europe for the inclusion and equality movement.

On my return it was straight into a second equality & inclusion session with Newham youth Service who are on the journey. Finally a small acoustic set at the Albury Festival rounded up a very busy period. I have to say I had hoped for more in the Ferret race but at least we had a bigger dressing room than the little fury creatures!

An amazing few months and I’d like to thank my PA’s & family for supporting me through this busy time, if I’m busy then they too are busy! Most of all thanks to all who joined us in Hyde Park, Stratford, Newham, Camberley, Merton, Abbeyfeale, Adare, Albury & Athens. There’s more to come over the next few months, not to mention the party of all party’s my 75th birthday (Well that’s how I feel today anyway)! Now what does my house look like again?