Sunday, 19 February 2012

Home to mum and dad

I am currently on a National Express bus up to Retford which is/was a small mining town just North of Nottingham. I have decided to go and stay with mum and dad for the two weeks before my audition for Jesus Christ Superstar.
I plan to work on my voice and work out twice a day to try and shed a few pounds before the frightful day.
I got the official audition date through and I have to be in London at 9.30am that means I shall have to be up at 6 am and warming up.

I saw lord webber on Scottish TV via the wonderful invention that is the Internet. What he said was a two edged sword, he kept referring to the person who lands the role of Jesus as 'this kid' does that mean he really believes there is an 18 yr old out there that can crank out Gethsemanie and Get out for 28 shows without rupturing his testicles or keeling over on day five?
Mind you if Axel Rose was to have just one more facelift and his genitals didn't end up on his chin and his sporran was kept topped up with Bolivian marching powder he might just pass for 25. Though Judas might be kept waiting for 20 minutes for a cue whilst he disappears backstage and fires somebody for not taking all of the green MMs out of his dressing room.

The one thing that did restore my faith was his aside 'that he would be helping develop anybody with talent.'

I know I have talent and I know my voice will be better and better. I really want this show. If I don't get the gig what better platform can there be to be seen by every casting director at once?

So providing mum doesn't try to fatten me up any more and dad can be persuaded to play some scales for me. There is no reason why I cannot be totally prepared for this audition.

Lord Webber be ready to see a middle aged young man from the stage school of some of the worst, dirtiest, scummy rock venues in the world take music theatre somewhere else. It's time that leading actors stopped looking and sounding exactly like the last leading actor that played the part.

The more I uncover in the world of music theatre, the more I respect people like Bill Kenwright who take risks on people with passion for the business.

Monday, 6 February 2012

Wobbly bits

I have had the best day ever of vocal exercises today. I spent most of the afternoon in the company of Mr Brett Manning.

Last week I got through his final set of technique exercises and was really starting to doubt myself as they were becoming harder and harder to master.
I was starting to really need the company of one of those over priced London vocal coaches. Brett seemed to be totally ignoring my lack of understanding if I were doing the right thing or not.

I woke up this morning with a fresh set of ears and decide to plough on. The next disc in the course was an introduction to styles and after a huge warm up we went off into basic note bends. 45 minutes later I was attacking trills, drop offs and run ups/downs and enjoying every second of it. I was so buzzed up that I made lunch, cleaned up the kitchen and decided to begin Brett's most recent addition to his course. Mastering Vibrato. To say that Brett's teaching style has changed since the first course (singing success) would be an understatement. The first cd went into the physics of vibrato as well as the uses and when and when nots and demos of over use and false vibrato etc etc. Brett has cut out all the American Dale Carnegie sales bollocks of the first two CDs of the singing success program and instead gets stuck straight into the meat. After all if you are buying this course you are probably a fan of the system and the teacher already.

Just as I was drifting off into self doubt and asking myself if I had finished enough of singing success yet, Brett pulled me back Into the course with 'you'll remember from the foundation course, note bends. Note bends are the building blocks of good vibrato'
Yes! Here we go. I'm qualified to go into vibrato..... And so it was... And it continued. Brett has really matured and even his jokes are drier and less eager to please or make you buy into his stuff. Now, I want to meet this guy!

Disc two: We start for real and Brett tells us once we master this cd we won't need it any more. 45 minutes later I was in possession of a new gift from an American with a dodgy rock mullet and a beautiful range. More importantly: another 45 minutes later I was beginning to control it. Just as my larynx was about to run away and join a different lazier rock band the lesson finished, I was positively glowing and brimming with confidence and trying to imagine my voice after another two weeks of disc three, then Brett walked to the back of his studio (on the disc) and joined in my rejoicing by celebrating his finishing the course.

Brett you may just have change my life son! Really! Now it's down to me.

I'm not receiving a penny or a discount or a referral or anything for this blog.
(update 22nd Feb 2012- Now I have joined the Brett Manning affiliate program and am actually getting paid for any sales referred by myself and have gone back over my previous blogs and added links to the program. I have not however, changed my comments on the course and I will continue to be as honest as I can about both the merits and the pitfalls of the course)

If you want to try it, go for it. I see from his website and free video lessons that he has cut his hair and now looks like the guy who wrote a genius master class on vibrato rather than a frustrated rock singer who turned teacher. I think this will go miles toward selling the course in Europe. They now offer a money back guarantee for the course.

A singer is never going to trust that another singer is going to give him All the secrets. Brett stakes his livelihood on it and believe me. You will see the fruits of it in me. My voice has ne'er been anything special and now it's heading up special street.

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Hard Times

This week I worked on my voice every day. Maybe its just me but I seemed to get stronger and stronger and then on the 4th lesson I just fell apart and couldn't even finish the exercises (trills on a double octave) and I gave up. This is where the merits of a live vocal coach come into their own.

Friday I did the full set of exercises in the lesson but had started to doubt myself. Who the hell do I think I am? What makes me think I am good enough to go into this competition? Why don't I act my age and go back to my day job?

Two days later, it's Sunday and there is 4 foot of snow outside. I decided to record a tune which has been one of my faves for years. I decided to have a go at singing a real character voice and so went for Mark from Rent. he normally has a very nasally NY tone which i thought I should try. So here it is. Its not perfect but it cheered me up and I got a little tingle when I did the harmony parts of Roger ( a cleaner rock tone).

So I enjoyed myself immensely and am ready to hit the lessons again tomorrow and start developing my high head mix. Another week of lessons coming up with Brett Manning and Jesse Nemitz. Today I emailed Jesse and asked for his help. Watch this space (or not).

Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Another competition

I today entered another competition just for fun and as part of my vocal build up to ITV Superstar.
there is a very funny and well known blogger known as @westendproducer he has set up his own anti-superstar competition called 'Search for a twitter star' I knocked up a quick entry in the bathroom today and it's up ready to go.

If you want to vote me through to the second round then place 'Like' my effort....

Click here to see it....

There are plenty of other entries that you can see too by using the tag #searchforatwitterstar in Twitter....

Fun fun fun!

Monday, 30 January 2012

Voicing Up!

Today I started my vocal program,  a full time teacher is out of the question due to personal finances and the fact that I really want to be able to research a good teacher that understands right now what I want and I only have 3 weeks until the audition.

I have had a better idea... about 3 years ago I bought a singing course from Amazon from an American singing teacher. I don't remember why but I think I got halfway through the first CD of the pack and gave up as it sounded more like a  Dale Carniege motivational course than a singing course.

This past weekend I started researching a highly recommended rock opera teacher and all the searches, recommendations and youtube clips suggested 2 possible names:



Brett Manning and Jesse Nemitz, I started by researching Brett's course and found that it was called SINGING SUCCESS then I researched Jesse Nemitz a little further and found out he works on SINGING SUCCESS support materials. Namely one piece of material that I feel will be invaluable to me The Top Secret 7 Tips For Super High Mix.

The next step was to search my old hard drive and my CD carriers for the last singing course I bought to compare it with this one and guess what? Here it is.....

In a HD folder named SS I found the complete Singing Success course burned into my iTunes folder and a trip to the rehearsal studio storage cage and a rifle through my old CD carriers turned up this baby. Had I persevered and gotten through the first CD of Singing Success back then I might already be able to hit the Gethsemanie "G5 WHYYYYYYYY"

So last night in bed I listened through the first 2 CDs which were actually really encouraging this time through, then put aside 2 hours today to go through the first lesson which is on CD3

I learned lip rolling, trilling and warm ups and warm downs and most importantly about my breaks and started to discover where they are and how to move between my different registers. I now have a far more detailed idea of the mechanics of singing and that I actually do have what it takes, I just have to knit it all together until i have one voice made up of all the registers.

So today I learned a hell of a lot. I'm going to take this opportunity to pay tribute to the guys at singing success  and give them a chance (via their materials to get me ready for the audition). If anyone else is preparing please drop a comment and let me know how you are getting on too.

Superstar Steve Balsamo also dropped me a vital clue via Twitter that only made sense once I started to watch Jesse's tutorial on Super-high Mix (blending all your registers to get super high tones).

What did Steve say, when I asked him how to hit the highs? He said 'Pray and work on your bottom end'


Sunday, 29 January 2012

The Audition

So I walked into the audition room and as far as I remember there was real grass on the floor and daises.
All the members of my esteemed panel of judges sat before me in deck chairs. Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber had his trousers rolled up to the calves and a knotted hanky on his head he didn't look up from licking his ice-cream cone as I entered the room and set up my luminous orange tuba on it's special stand that was constructed from a rotary washing line frame or an ironing board (I don't remember exactly which it was).

Mr Motivator was sat in the next chair playing Metallica riffs on some sort of autoharp. He looked up and gave me a huge grin and motivated..... "Beautiful Trumpet",  "It's a Tuba", I insisted, "Though I'm not sure why I brought it, I haven't a clue how to play it".

Cheryl Cole just stared at me, "Why are you here?" I pleaded, my voice reaching the G5 I needed for my song. "Why on earth are YOU here Cheryl? this isn't your area, you can't sing...what the hell...?", She doubled up and stared at me like I had crawled out from under  a stone. "her finger hovered over the security buzzer"

I looked over to Lord Webber for confirmation on my judgement on Ms Cole's credentials to judge an operetta competition but he was now trying to get  pickled egg out of a jar with a pair of chopsticks. Mr Motivator jumped up (far too high) and handed me some dots and I read the title,"Material Girl" "we'd like you to sing this for us please and if you could do the tap dance too." "What tap dance?,"I gasped in the G#5 pitch that I'd worked on all week. "The tap dance, everyone was asked to prepare a 3 hour tap dance"

Cheryl was grinning like a vengeful Cheshire cat (finger still over the buzzer should I refuse my task or question her skill set again) and Sir Andrew was now picking up jellied eels from a polystyrene foam cup with a cocktail stick. Mr Motivator motivated again, "Gary just go out of the door again, there's a pair of ballet shoes for you. Put them on and come back in please"

I went through the door as Sir Webber was tucking into curry sauce and chips from a newspaper in his lap.

The rest of the dream consisted of me looking everywhere for the shoes and not being able to find them and not being able to find the door back into the rehearsal know the sort of thing....

Anyway... I am becoming more terrified by the day....will they recognise that I can sing and that my voice  can be trained up? Well, today I started putting together a fitness and voice course for the next two weeks...... more tomorrow.... the way I figure it, if I do get anywhere near the standard required I may as well start auditioning for other stuff.

Saturday, 28 January 2012


So, it's been a strange week. Since I started scribbling on my Macbook my blog has been picked up by Unreality TV who have asked me to do a weekly blog for them about my preparations and thoughts leading up to, I have been invited to two auditions for TV commercials and been to two interviews for UK based teaching positions and I have rediscovered the drive and determination that has gotten The Cureheads  booked all over the world for the last 21 years.

Yes, I have decided to take the plunge and get myself into shape and stay permanently in England and pursue If I don't win it I will get into the best shape vocally and stagecraft wise than I have ever been in and will be ready to either go on and fight for more performing work or go back to teaching other younger hopefuls what I've learned. We will see what comes out and what I am really capable of.

I've always sneered at reality Tv and I think we've all had the nightmares of being in the big brother house (for some I guess it's a wet dream). I was mortified this week to find myself addicted to the online 24 hr, on iPad, on twitter, on carrier bags in Tesco train wreck which is otherwise known as celebrity Big Brother. maybe it's the Lack of UK TV in Turkey or Saudi that has saved me from my own viewing compulsions for the last five years or so. (it was certainly this which enabled me to finish my album and learn the blues). Maybe it was the fascination of watching people who have had it all at one point or another (or indeed not had enough for them) slowly come apart and unravel. I think the most mind boggling part for me was how the bubbly, funny, needy, love me, Denise morphed into Eddy Izzard at some time before her triumphant exit.

I suppose the hardest part for me to get my head and nerves around is no different to that experienced by actors all over the world. THE AUDITION. Does anyone remember the poor girl who claimed to be a singing teacher and then proceeded to squeeze every style of singing, screeching, whale noises and birth pangs into a 30 second indecipherable menagerie of irrelevant vocal vomit? Simon Cowell and assembled vultures then descended on her and tore out her soul, her passion and her dream and sent her away believing she was totally insane for wanting to follow her demons. If you haven't seen it then I have linked it here. Watch it before you continue.

Did you laugh when you watched it? Did you choke on your eccles cake? Did you think what a freak? If you did then I expect you have never been to an audition. You are also one of the reasons I stopped watching UK TV.  I felt so bad for the woman. Yes, she appears to be one loop of the particle accelerator short of finding the Higgs Boson glue.....but...but..... I understood her pain. I understood why she had done this, why she had risked exposing herself on national TV, why she had offered up any tiny part of herself that she thought the money men might want in order to take her through to the next stage, where maybe she might have then had been encouraged to use her own most powerful voice.

I was actually shown this clip a couple of days ago after my first dream/nightmare which featured Andrew LLoyd webber  that I can ever recall, by a friend who I told about it.

The dream? I'll write about that later, except to say that it involved the auditions for and it wasn't a lot different to the video above.

Why did I have the dream? well... It was the day that I decided to begin this blog, I had started to re-run in my mind the words and the movements from the first time I had played Judas in JCS in an amateur dramatic production back in Stevenage. From that very second all the adrenaline came flooding back, all the memories of hanging out at the rehearsals not just to work on my parts but to enjoy the whole process and watch the dancers and the other cast and the local carpenter knocking up the set. It was the first time in my life that I had found something that I didn't mind working on from 6am till 3am with no breaks.

It's impossible to explain to somebody that does not feel the same way how exciting it is to be in a theatre, not just a grand old West End theatre, but any theatre, even the tiny hand build theatre of The Lytton Players in Stevenage which was in an old scout hut. To walk around backstage and under the seats and look in old boxes of costumes, to be in the sound or lighting booth and marvel at the racks of electronics or sliders attached to old dimmer packs that bring the sky and the sun or the moon into the theatre. To go searching through boxes of old scripts or posters is something I love to do as well, but the ultimate thing to do when nobody is around is to just stand centre stage and look out to the rows of uncomfortable threadbare seats and sing 'Woman Your Fine Ointment" at the top of your voice.....then take a sneaky cheeky bow... (this is something I still do when we get into a theatre when we are touring with with  & the guys have gone out to get pizza..(one of my strange habits on tour is once we are in the building I don't want to leave till show time)...its something you would get taken away by policemen for doing anywhere else on the planet (and possibly sat in a room with rubber wallpaper)...and if Victor Hugo is to be believed I am merely paying homage to the architect of the theatre. (read the first 2 chapters  real Notre Dame De Paris, about buildings killing the print press).

This is my secret thrill, it doesn't matter if we are playing to 500 people or 14000 in a South American basketball stadium, the best part of the day is my secret cheeky bow to the ghost audience that came to see me support Steve Balsamo that night in JCS or Strum my guitar as Roger in RENT on a wonky table or Ask God WHYYYYYYY in Miss my guilty pleasure and as far as I know, until secret, guilty, cheeky pleasure....there will be techies (sound engineers, light engineers etc etc people who lurk and move silently around the stage and FOH fiddling with stuff) who I strongly suspect will tell you that this is what all singers and actors do and have hard disks full of the funnier ones hidden away for techie self-amusement parties. I think you get the picture now, something has been re-awakened my demon is stirring.
The Cureheads - Soundcheck Santiago BB Stadium 2009

So why do I feel for the poor girl in the video? if you have read everything above and really have no clue, then maybe you should go read this blog instead?

For those that wish to know my thoughts on it I will write about it next blog.

For now I have some exercises to do :)

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Jesus Trivia

This tickled my fancy...

Day One

It's 6am and I can't sleep. I'm too excited. I don't even know if I have entered the wrong competition. One thing i do know is that I have been waiting for an opportunity like this for a very long time. I read yesterday that Sir Tim Rice (the lyricist of jesus Christ Superstar) is in fear of this competition degrading or dumbing down what is essentially one of the greatest pieces of music theatre of all time. I must say, that after watching ITV turn Grease into a dental veneer and muscle top parade of all that was bad about the 1990s I do share similar fears. When you look back at the history of JCS (or indeed any really good piece of theatre) it's success has very little to do with who is in the lead roles as to how successful it becomes.
Rice and Webber occasionally are very lucky in casting when they end up with somebody who has the whole package of incredible stage presence and the voice to be able to carry off the incredibly demanding vocalisations required to make this long musical rivet people to their seats night after night. I would have to include Paul Nicholas and Steve Balsamo in a long list of people who managed to make the Jesus grade for me personally.
Paul Nicholas was Iconic as jesus

Rayman Tikram was more of a looker as Judas than a great singer.

Steve Balsamo made it his own.
However, I am sure that they would both agree with me that the beauty of this
part is that its written in such a way that occasionally someone really special comes along and totally makes Jesus OR Judas their own. If you haven't heard of him please take a few minutes to visit YOUTUBE and have a listen to Ted Neeley. This guy rocked like a bastard (and still does)

Ted is still playing jesus

Whilst I agree with Sir Tim that it will be terrible and extremely sad if Sir Andrew is forced by the judging panel into choosing young lookers who can rock for three or four shows but can't roll for a tour or indeed get bored with this style of music, I think that JCS itself will sort out the wheat from the chaff. I'm really not interested in the 'fame' aspect of it. Let's face it, unless you are Michael Bolton or Elaine page you are very unlikely to make a huge living out of music theatre as JCS is one of those musicals which is just bigger than any one person that's in it. I am however confident that should 'The Webber"'s panel somehow lose out to the British public's sense of irony (otherwise known as The Michelle McManus effect) or some Ant & Dec (which one IS which BTW?) fuelled, past family tragedy, storyline; that JCS will not be floored for long and will come bouncing back under another more 'avant garde' directorship, somewhere down the line. One thing I have learned as a song writer is that sometimes you don't own or create music, you discover it and it finds its own way out of your limited abilities eventually.

On a plus note I have heard that Rice must agree on the casting for it to go ahead (though that just may be badly informed press conjecture). So why am I doing this? For fame? nahhhh, to get on TV? Nahhhhh (I would be just as enthused and dedicated to be part of it if the local 'Amdram' were advertising auditions for JCS. Probably for the same reasons that plenty of other people will be, to see if they can. To see if the people who have told me for years that I should be doing it were just being nice or really felt something when I sang. To test that demon that refuses to rest or quit until I've been told by the best that I am sadly deluded. Why haven't I gone for X-Factor or BGT? because that's not me. JCS is and I wouldn't accept from Simon Cowell or Louis Walsh that I don't have talent, besides I really don't want to do Karaoke on children's television for 6 months or end up on Celebrity Big Brother or some last ditch pantomime 6 months down the line (and no disrespect to people that do want all this). I WANT TO DO JUDAS and do it well and make it mine. I don't have a sad story, I don't want to marry a footballer, I don't crave fame and fortune. I want to do Judas and JCS justice and prove to myself that there is something deep inside me and  it will make other people happy not just me. I want the little bit of help from the professional theatre people to get my voice over into 'the really special'. I know it can be done.

There....I'm going back to bed now...... Vocal exercises later.

2B or Not 2B an ITV Superstar?

So....those of you that know me, know me as having fronted The Cureheads the original tribute to The Cure for the past 21 years...those of you that know me a little better will know me as singer of Nosferatu's early time. Those of you that know me even better will know me as front man of my own original rock band 'The Hiram key'......those of you that really really know me well (and can still stand to be around me for extended lengths of time) will know about my secret passion for West End Musicals, in particular one musical that I seemingly know every word and inflection for.... JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR.... those of you that know this will have had to listen to my in depth arguments of it's context and deeper meaning and may have even endured me wailing it through band sound checks or even worse in Karaoke bars around the world.

One particular rendition of mine of Gethsemanie made famous by Steve Balsamo was given together with the cocktail pianist of Frank Sinatra's restaraunt  in New York,  hours before a Cureheads show.

We had all gotten ready to play and were in full Cure make-up and hairspray and had decided to grab a bite before we headed to the venue.

The Cureheads Live On Stage

The concierge of the hotel we were staying at pointed us down the street to the the left and we duly followed with our empty stomaches and backcombed hair, we must have looked a strange site entering the famous Italian eatery frequented by New York's upper echelons. It wasn't until we were seated at a table and were handed the menus over the first glass of wine that we noticed to our horror that the menus had no prices next to the dishes. Out of pure Britishness and embarrassment we decided to stay and suck up and enjoy what was sure to be the most expensive 'Spag Boll' we would probably ever eat.

However, we soon noticed that we were being almost ignored by the waiters, no matter how we tried to signal the spotless waistcoated professionals who glided by as if on ice, they would not see us. It was as if our general air of costumed ridiculousness (now forgotten about completely by ourselves as we sank closer to the bottom of the second bottle of wine) was some invisible barrier made of sound proof glass.

That was until our saviour entered....... a young lady came into the building and on getting a glimpse of us through the darkened early hour moody lighting of the Italian restaurant gave out a stifled scream. From that moment forward, the barrier evaporated and we became the focus of almost every waiter in the joint. Our orders were taken at high speed and extra drinks appeared (Compliments of the management) and we were not totally sure, but every now and then the resident cocktail pianist would add a flourish from a Cure song into whatever early evening standard he was playing at the time. We didn't know it at the time but the young lady in question was the daughter of the owner and also a huge Cure fan. It soon became evident to us that she had clocked our English accents and together with: the hair, the makeup and the low lighting had put 2 and 2 together and come up with three thousand and seventy five.

This seemed harmless and amusing enough except that every person that came up to our table and asked us if we were indeed THE CURE refused to acknowledge the part of the answer that said 'No we are just The Tribute band and are playing at the Bat Cave up near Madisson this evening' some point between the main course and dessert the subservient cocktail pianist came out of the closet about his Cure fetish..... 'Ladies and gentleman we'd like to wish Mr Robert Smith and his band mates The Cure a wonderful concert at Madison Square Gardens this evening!', this was followed by a huge ripple of applause from the rest of the dinner suited diners and the sound of a piece of bread becoming lodged in my throat in protest. The next few minutes are now a blur of Bordeaux and Steinway as the pianist came over and took me by the hand and led me to share his piano stool and asked me what I should like to sing.

My mind was almost a blank and I was in a state of pure panic, until the solution hit me. There was no way that I could stand up and sing a song by the Cure or that would be aiding and abetting the illusion that had grown up in the minds of the people around me, at the same time it was now too late and would provide great offence and embarrassment for all these rich people who had no idea who the cur were anyway except that this illusion gave their mind a reason as to why these freaks had been allowed in their presence.

2 Weeks earlier in the UK I had played Judas for 10 shows in an AM DRAM version of JCS in Stevenage with a group called The Lytton Players.
There's me as Judas in the Bright Orange Shirt

I quickly whispered to the pianist (do you know any JCS?) he looked at me puzzled and said "I actually depped keys in that show 2 yrs ago... Gethsemanie OK?" , I gulped down the rest of my Bordeaux and nodded.

Off we went! A man in huge white trainers and a baggy crumpled suit, with red lipstick and a huge mop of backcombed hair, took the microphone and stood up and delivered (what I am assured was) a booming rendition of Gethsemanie complete with a Ted Nealy 'WHYYYYYYYYYYYY' to some of new York's richest socialites in Frank Sinatra's favourite Spaghetti House....I remembered very little of it myself and was totally shocked to receive a standing ovation from the pre-opera crowd.
Imagine this lot in your favourite cafe...

When it was time to pay our bill we were shocked to find that it had been taken care of by table 24 and drinks had been taken care of by table 16 (all of who stood up and waved). As we left the place all the waiters were lined up outside, this was too much for me and I ran all the way back to the hotel where the promoter was ready to drive us to the venue to begin our proper concert that evening.......we never spoke about that night for at least two years.

Today.....I have entered ITV's Superstar competition to find a new Jesus and Judas. I decided to keep this blog to record my preparation and thoughts as I progress toward the audition. I will add recordings of me attempting to train my voice up to the higher notes etc.....

To keep you entertained here is one I made today..... I'm not totally happy with it as I need to strengthen my higher range and find my rock vibrato again..... I shall speak about how I intend to do that tomorrow... Today I received an email form ITV asking which audition I would like to attend and which three songs I would like to sing at audition.
For now have a listen to my first attempt at blowing the cobwebs out with the song that opens JCS.
It's a Judas song and deals with demonstrating to the Audience how disillusioned Judas is becoming with Jesus and expressing his concern at just how much attention Jesus is getting, both from huge crowds of commoners who will expect something special from him and from the Roman Authorities.

Heaven On Their Minds - Jan 24 by The Hiram Key