In 2004 I was diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy, a disease of the heart where, in my case, it slowly deteriorated. I nearly died at the time, but bounced back and, after some rest and with treatment, I led an impaired, but normal life.
I met my wonderful wife, and after consultation with a geneticist, and given my cardiomyopathy was ideopathic (they can’t specify what caused it) we decided to have a child. I had already had three wonderful daughters from my previous marriage and another wonderful woman joined us.
My condition got gradually worse, so slowly, we didn’t really notice. The long walks stopped, the jobs I used to do, didn’t get done. I went to bed earlier.
It was around 2011, after months off work with fatigue, that I started to realise this was really happening, I was dying, and just another good night’s sleep, wouldn’t put me back on track. Up until then, denial and simply pushing on had been serving me good. Kind of. I started looking grey.
I’ve always thought of myself as creative. Not quite sure why really, because, with the end in sight, I didn’t have much to show for it. No paintings, internet things, doodles, music, poems to show for it. Nothing. Just a lot of either lost things, broken things, forgotten things, ideas of things.
Watching our daughter play ring o’ roses it hit me that I probably wouldn’t see her grow, go to school and a song just fell out.
At this point, I started having extremely vivid messiah dreams about being The One. A dubious deity was searching for the most ordinary man that ever lived and it was, of course me. I met various other gods and devils and muses and they told me things. I decided to try and work with GarageBand and record these meetings and dreams. I would make and finish my album.
I can’t sing, I can’t play, I definitely can’t produce, but I always felt I could sniff out an unusual riff and mangle a few meaningful words into something musical. When fatigue allowed I recorded bits in our kitchen, I recorded vocals on my laptop in lay-bys on the way home from work. Unable to breathe properly, I practiced the songs in the car on the way to work. Singing is good exercise. Strange overlapping songs, about death mainly, came flooding out.
At this point, an old friend, colleague and band member, gave me 17 hours worth of practice sessions he’d recorded as mp3s, in which songs develop, or arrive and depart. I’d forgotten most of these even existed. I am forgetful. I had to re-learn how to play them, and most sort of fit into a story arc that mirrored the newer creations. It was becoming, er, an opera, or a concept album. I started to get a bit grandiose. This was gong to be great. I planned visuals and scenes and got carried away, fluffing at the edges.
I looked around for collaborators, because, me not really being able to actually do anything, has never totally stopped me; but with the limits on what I could do, I asked around and couldn’t really get anyone that interested, and maybe the fact that I like really noisy music. A friend and colleague Wayne Britcliffe introduced me to some mixing concepts, which I still don’t really get, but you can hear the slow development in these three versions, practice sessions, with Sam, Kris and Steve, from 1999, mine and Sam’s from 2013, and Wayne’s from 2015.
I didn’t quite get there.
I am, as I write this, lucid (enough) and it is December 31st 2016 and 31 days post heart transplant. I need to launch this paper boat, wave it goodbye whilst I get on with getting better. An ending and a beginning. New moon, new year, new me.
So, if anyone can help me finish this “album” please pitch in. Feel free to nick bits for your own projects, or create a mix that explains a mixing concept, makes it sound less muddy or makes my voice listenable.
There is so much talent in the world, if you could shape a song into something more than it is now, please do. Feel free to re-record or add or remove or mash or whatever it is you do.
Everything is completely open. Improve it, steal it, make me laugh out loud with what you’ve done. Use it as an example of how not to record. Anything.
Please, please go for it. I intend to drop back here back in a year or so and see if anyone has done anything. You never know.
I’m going to make all my Splice projects open releases. They’re in the wrong order really so scroll down a bit before you sample one.
The mp3 bounces of my favourite songs are here on Soundcloud, they’re roughly in the right order or the story too.
The mp3s bounces of the B-sides are here on Soundcloud.
The lyrics, some with rough tabs, are on Google Drive here.
I know this sounds strange, but please I’d appreciate it if you didn’t contact me about this. Everything takes effort, choices, remembering, sequencing, moving. I still have a way to go, and work to do. It would freak me out, really.
I need to slow down. Listen. I need calm. I need quiet.
Right now, I’m in hospital, recovering, with care from such amazing people, and working out who I am, and so far it has been the most wonderful experience of my life, a second chance at life, hope of living a normal life with my beautiful family… what a joyous privilege.
You wouldn’t believe the number of small coincidences that made this transplant possible. It is astonishing. I am so lucky, so very lucky and grateful. I really am the luckiest man alive. The universe aligned every single atom to create this chance, and a kind donor and their family have given me this gift. Wow!
But I now have some difficult work to do. This is going to take a while. The whole world is new. I am new. I will return here , next year with hope that someone has maybe done something… my best creative work has only ever been done with other people.
If anyone does do anything, leave a link to your work in the comments below. Thanks…
Please do consider joining the UK Organ Donor Register or the one where you live and letting your family know you have.
The End. Tom Smith.