Posts Tagged ‘Disability Arts’

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.



R2Bcheeerfuuuull: Day 66, Allo London

March 29, 2012 1 comment

So here we are….flippin London Hackney Empire.

I have to be honest, I started the day mostly in the bathroom. Nervous, not cause it was London, but nervous cause I didn’t want nerves to ruin me day!A sausage sanger set me right and we walked down Hackney Road onto Mare Street and then a very long walk down to the Pire.The sun was out n Ackney waz looking very good indeed.

Saw me phizzog on the side of a wall and I guessed this must be it. This was confirmed by a few passers by who said “hey that’s that fella up thereon that poster”, first time that’s ever happened to me.

The Empires got history. Charlie C (The Chaplin that is), Mr Laural and of course Ian have all rocked this place. Even the house stage manager had gigged the Blockheads, West Endies, Jesus and the 12 apostles! So it was a big day, we did sound check which I smiled all the way through. I even had an asparagus tart for lunch, which was well more poncey than I usually ave, but flip it,I’m living the dream (I did have a sausage roll as back up…neither tart or roll got finished as I forgot, I’ve lost all ability to eat properly or sleep properly.

We are using 3/4qtrs of Status Quo’s rig in this show, the other quarters in me dressing room, so the sound rocks, big time. The theatre holds 1300 and when our lovely crowd got in, we all ‘ad it.  There’s a big rake (slope not gardening tool) on the stage which has created a few new challenges for Gaz & I at ‘Ackney.  It almost beat me tonight when I lost all position on Wake Up, flying towards the Bar Phone, luckily all the others are Pro’s n me lully Jude covered it beautifully by thrusting on the floor like it was all meant to be…..which it was of course!

Bar confusion at the end, but we still got plenty in. Fanks to me many lully friends for comin and joining the fun tonight.

bed now sausages.


R6BC: day 43, I’m comin huurm!

March 5, 2012 2 comments

Ok, travel day today, it’s few days of time so sorry this is short but…………….Hull n shows n shots n fun n frolics have taken their toll…so in a nutshell, Chinese Laundry Retro Shop, spent too much on nice gear, taxi train, power stations, pickles in-accessing my needs wiv bubbles, bizarre first class waiting room toilet moment at Kings Cross, taxi, home, cuppa, phoned loved ones, quick blog, bed….hibernation, next blog when I come round in the next few days.

Sleeeeeeeeeeeeeep sausages, it’s been a blast and there’s more to come.

RtoBC: Day 41, 2 a day keeps the Dr away

Oooh two lovely shows today, friends in the growing audiences and lots of fun n shenanigans. This blog is short n sweet not because there’s not lots to say, but because I’m completely jiggered. Eeeer went to Nandos wiv the gang..what’s that all about……….Nandoooos?

It’s been great here in Hull, Trucks a great venue, lully people, nice places to frequent, although after the bad head of the night before I stayed away from Propoganda last night even though I love it there too, £1 a shot is the equivalent of a sign reading bad head mornings bought here, especially with ‘Teccy Dan’ buying a tray full of shots on each visit to the bar. So I was kinda sensible for one night, mainly cause I’d given it my all in the two shows and didn’t want another head.

You see, that’s me job, largin it up with the lemons. Each of those songs are pretty physical, I mean, you have to do them properly (technique-wise) in order to give every ounce of breath to the tunes, that’s what they deserve and what I feel I have to do every night (and matinee). ‘avin achy neck n shoulders after a gig is the sign I’ve given it all and last night I had those signs everywhere all pointing to the middle of me neck.  It’s not a bad achy, it’s a good achy, if that makes sense.

A JD n coke and then I was finished, so staying away from Propoganda was a good move me finks!

Keep Truckin sausages x

R2BC: Day 40, Down n dirty in the Truck

I had a fairly relaxed day, which was lucky considering the previous nights shenanigans. Had a walk through town n had a lovely lunch with the lovely Spicer, ’twas a lovely few hours.

Show time was a groovy affair, we are in the main house and we are sharing the space with the studio theatre, obviously we are pretty loud n a little bit naughty too, so we were hoping the sound bleed isn’t too bad and we have to keep quite once off stage to the dressing rooms.  When the adrenaline is pumping that’s a hard task, but we can behave you know……..just for a minute or two anyway.

It was lovely to meet a few friends after.  I can’t really express how much it means to me to have the support of mates, whilst on tour you can feel like you are out of the loop a bit, so having mates come and see the show and have a beer or two after just puts the icing on the cake.

Two shows on Saturday so………….

Early to bed sausages x

R2BC: day 39, Propoganda ministers wohoho madness,I call it gladness.

First show day in Hull began with sound and tec time. First song n blew a speaker, rock n roll eh. Well in a way, but it did mean spending the rest of tec feeling like I was singing in another room with the sound travelling back to me a few days later.  The good thing about technical disasters is knowing you are in good hands and our sound & tec crew are top banana, so by showtime all was hunky-dory & the show rocked with some lovely audience moments and encores to follow.

Earlier I went into KCFM Radio to do an interview and as a result the gang are comin in to join the rockin, nice.

The end of the night turned a bit messy hitting a little bar/club for a dance n drinkey, drinkey drink.  Oooh shots.

Be ware shots sausages x

R2BC, day 38 – Adventures in a fish tank.

February 29, 2012 Leave a comment

After reading about William Wilberforce I went for a walk round the docks and headed to The Deep where I spent most of the day in a huge fish tank looking at………….well, fish n that.  Big ones,  frightening ones, small ones, glowing ones, jelly ones, poisonous ones, cute ones, flat ones, horse ones, shark ones n ants that aren’t really fish ones at all but got themselves into their own exhibition tank about the Amazon n that. Then we went in a lift that took us 10m up n down in a fish tank which was attenboroughtastic.

After finding Nemo, which I did,  I had haddock fish cakes (in honour of The Haddock himself) and felt very guilty about the whole choice of lunch as a result.

Off for beers n footy soon in order to get into shape for rockin Hull over the next few days, listen out for us on KCFM sometime tomorrow.

Keep fishin sausages.