Doctor Foster

“I’ll tell you the bravest tale how a conjuror served me. You know Doctor Fauster?”

“Ay, a plague take him.”

The Tragical History of the Life and Death of Doctor Faustus

* * *

Today sees the release of the fourth and final single release from my forthcoming album ‘Maxim’ with No Spinoza; Doctor Foster. It is another reimagined nursery rhyme, delving into the odd tale of an ancient bewetted physician. It’s one of my favourites from the record with some lovely string arrangements, as augmented by the magnificent mellotron residing down at Echo Zoo Studios. Speculation as to the identity of Doctor Foster has variously pointed the finger at King Edward I, Archbishop of Canterbury William Laud, and – my favourite – Marlowe’s Fauster where he is named by a Carter as ‘Doctor Fauster’ and cursed for eating a whole cart-full of hay. Moments after having entered with the immortal line, “What ho, hostess! Where be those whores?” Different times.

It was a lot of fun making the video for this one, repurposing a few interweb archival finds. The primary story reworks some of a beautiful original short film “우리다. Urida” by California-based artist Eun Bi Chang under Creative Commons Licence CC BY-SA. Do go and visit Eun Bi Chang’s website to explore more of her wonderful films and photography. Inspiration was also drawn from the unmistakeable BBC weather symbols, true icons of modern design. The now ubiquitous rainclouds were designed by Mark Allen, a student at Norwich University of Fine Arts, for a graduation project. Allen apparently drew inspiration from the similarly iconic 1972 Olympic pictograms which were then retained for all subsequent Games. The BBC adopted Allen’s iconography in 1975, in exchange for £200 and “a small percentage of license fees“. I hope for his sake that the percentage wasn’t too slim.

The track has been enjoying some BBC radio play, a nice feature on Scottish music blog Podcart, and a shortlisting for Fresh on the Net’s Listening Post with a feature on the ever-great and ever-green Tom Robinson’s 6 Music Show too. I hope you like it.

Jack & Gill

“Jack shall have Jill” A Midsummer Night’s Dream (III:ii:460-2)

The third release from Maxim is Jack & Gill, an avant-pop arrangement woven around a spine of No Spinoza‘s Phillip Glass-esque fractured piano. I even blew the dust off my trumpet for a fleeting appearance in the outro, a ghostly nod to Miles Davis’ Solea. A lifetime ago I used to play the horn a fair amount, and even played in a couple of jazz funk bands. These days my embouchure is shot to pieces from years of neglect, but this track with Tom’s piano and double bass really felt as though it had space for a tiny fragment of horn. As such, I pray your forbearance for the cameo of my trusty old Conn 1000B and its dented rose brass bell.

We are delighted also to have digital artist @pixelscript create an interactive visualisation to accompany the track. The animation generates waves, curves and a collection of medieval merchants’ marks in response to the music, swaying and adapting to each mouse cursor movement or touch of the screen. Every iteration is unique. You can find it at here.

We preserved the unfamiliar title of Jack and Gill from the earliest version of the rhyme (a reprint of John Newbery’s Mother Goose’s Melody), thought to have been first published in London around 1765. Jill was originally spelled Gill in this early version and the accompanying woodcut shows two boys at the foot of the hill. This volume also has a curious maxim, “The more you think of dying, the better you will live”, which will make another appearance later in the album.

The Grand Old Duke of York

“The deep sound and performance were amazing.” Niche Music

The second release from our forthcoming collaboration Maxim is a brand new take on The Grand Old Duke of York. Tom (aka No Spinoza) and I had actually worked on varying versions of this a fair bit in the year leading up to our studio session in Summer 2021. These experimental takes had never quite gelled into the coherent track we were looking for. At the end of Day 1, we were back in the artist apartment above the studio with friend and drumming extraordinaire Phil Wilkinson who worked up a gallop beat as a new starting point. We liked the beat as a nod to the military heritage in the song without it being too ‘on the nose’ as a marching snare beat. A few minutes later we had laid down a simple guide track with intertwined picked guitars and a melancholic melody line. Tom stayed up into the wee small hours working up some fuzzy swelling synths and bass to envelope the track in warmth and texture.

The next day all the parts were recorded live in studio, and within hours we had our finished track. It is an outlier on the record, the one track of ten recorded exclusively in the studio, and not as a work up of the demos that Tom and I had been crafting in our ‘question and answer’ style renditions sent to one another during lockdown. It’s also the one track featuring the triple vocals of Tom, Phil and myself in the outro chanted refrain. Squint, and the mingling of Phil’s Northern Irish brogue, Tom’s Yorkshire burr and my more southerly intonation could be those of Prince Frederick’s eighteenth century British militiamen, marching their way to Flanders.

Whether the Grand Old Duke really is Prince Frederick or not is anyone’s guess. The oldest printed version dates back to 1642 as ‘Old Tarlton’s Song’ (attributed to Richard Tarlton) with the lyric,

“The King of France with forty thousand men, Came up a hill and so came downe againe”

Other contenders for our indecisive Duke include Richard Duke of York and his ill-fated jaunt up and down Sandal Castle, and James II‘s 1688 march to, and subsequent retreat from, Salisbury Plain. It turns out aristocrats really love marching people up and down hills. Go figure.

Finally, I’m very happy that the track was premiered on BBC Introducing and has found a home in this lovely Spotify Playlist ‘Mountain Air‘. Go give it a listen.

A reference in a strange 1787 book with the catchy title, “A Few Serious and Seasonable Observations on Some Matters that Engage Now the Public Attention: In Which, the Subject of Tithes, the Disturbances in the South, and the Present State and Conduct of the Established Clergy in Ireland, are Fairly Considered. By a Curate”

Sing a Song of Sixpence

“This is so, so cool, it’s so much better than I remember the track from my childhood!” BBC Introducing, Jericho Keys

“The energy is infectious and exhilarating. I’m a fan of this track.”  Chillfiltr

“Charged with a real intensity… such an evocative sound.” Various Small Flames

“The orchestration is amazingly clever.” Alt77

I’m delighted to announce the release of Sing a Song of Sixpence, a reimagined nursery rhyme fusing melodic pop with the avant-garde. It is the lead single from Maxim, my forthcoming album with No Spinoza

Maxim is a lockdown project born of the slow burn of remote collaboration and a shared passion for experimentation with musical heritage. Over the past 18 months or so, Thomas Pearson (No Spinoza) and I have whiled away many an hour shaping and reshaping fresh iterations of old childhood curiosities in our home studios. Various drafts have passed to and fro over the internet’s ether, allowing them to build up a palimpsest patina. The result is a series of 10 modern retellings of familiar tales, laced with urgent vibrancy and an underlying dark melancholy.

This particular track is an outlier of sorts. It finds its genesis in a concept album that No Spinoza was putting together about Canary Wharf some years ago. Tom’s bandmate Christopher Wright had left an old unfinished track in hibernation, but still pulsing with kinetic energy and blazing 80s synths. When Tom sent me the draft last year I could hear a re-rendering of the Sixpence lyrics scanning over the skittering rhythms. Tom wove in a riff incorporating the essence of the ‘original’ childhood rhyme amidst the pizzicato fizz.

It was a lot of fun finishing this up down at Echo Zoo Studios in Eastbourne with Dave Izumi Lynch over the summer. We were joined by the rhythmic behemoth Phil Wilkinson who added his own unmistakable flavour to the drums. And of course we had to layer up some of those beautiful old analogue Moog synths for the fluttering blackbird riffs at the close.

I hope you like it.

The Finale: Angel Wharf

Well it has been a long time coming, but I am delighted to finally release the last video and concluding track from the CRUCIBLE audio-visual project: Angel Wharf.

For this video I was privileged to collaborate with my dear friend Thomas Pearson, a poet, designer and architectural conservationist who also produces music under the moniker No Spinoza. Thomas and I have previously shared both stages and [numerous] pints together, and continue to indulge a mutual love of London’s gorgeous architectural heritage and hidden stories.

Angel Wharf found its kernel of inspiration in a night walk of mine on the Thames. I asked Thomas if he would be kind enough to write a companion piece for the track. In response he crafted the fabulous poem ‘W’, one of a series of works rooted in, and reflecting on, the Walbrook. The two of us then spent a day trawling through old deeds and records in the National Archives before strolling from the Walbrook to Angel Wharf, shooting as we walked. The footage from these exploratory expeditions has been knitted together to form this entirely indulgent video. I am indebted to Thomas for his wordsmithery, camerawork, editorial skills and creative generosity, all of which contributed to this final video.

No Spinoza can be found at His stunning second album ‘All and Some’ is due for release in November 2016. The first release The carnal and the crane is a must watch.

I have truly enjoyed pursuing this video project over the past year, crafting 10 of the 11 videos which have now been released for every track on the record (again, a h/t to Kevin McGloughlin for the cracking video he created for The Underground Man.)  The entire canon is now available to digest in one bloated sitting as a Youtube playlist. For the kids.

Thank you for your time.



[vide]Ode To Stepney

This is the penultimate video of my CRUCIBLE audio visual project.

The kernel of this song’s inspiration was unearthed in William Palin’s evocative essay ‘The Lost Squares of Stepney’, published in the forever inspiring Spitalfields Life blog: I was born in Stepney and now reside in neighbouring Bow. Reading the sad tales of the demise of Wellclose and Princes Squares triggered an elegaic response in me, wrapped around an old nursery rhyme. Hence this Ode to Stepney.

The video was created using three pieces of degraded archival footage:

– ‘Housing Problems’, a 1935 film by Arthur Elton and E.H. Anstey for the B.C.G.A;
– ‘New Town’, a 1948 public information film by the Central Office of Information for Ministry of Town and Country Planning; and
– ‘Charley’s March of Time’, a 1948 public information film by the Central Office of Information for Ministry of National Insurance.

The Gentle Author was kind enough both to feature my video on Spitalfields Life and to invite me to play at a fundraiser for the Save Norton Folgate campaign. Hosted by Griff Rhyss Jones and also featuring Suggs & Stick in the Wheel, the evening is raising funds to challenge Boris Johnson’s flagrant abuse of executive power. He has overriden Tower Hamlets’ rejection of a major development in the historic conservation area of Norton Folgate in favour of ‘British Land’. It is the 14th of 14 times that Boris has ‘called in’ a development in favour of corporate development against the wishes of a localities’ democratically elected council.

If it sounds like your cup of tea, tickets are here. Fittingly the gig is at St Leonard’s (of ‘Rev’ fame), the same Shoreditch church referenced in Oranges and Lemons

Video #8: Flood of Red

My new video has been exclusively premiered on New York Music Site Baeble. I am honoured by their write up here:

“One of the most promising acts I’ve heard in the last year is UK neo-folk artist Drew Worthley. We had the chance to chat with him last July about his single “Bone China Savior” and in September, we premiered the music video for his track “The Underground Man.” His music has the sparse intimacy of folk but he pairs it with an understated lushness (or in the case of “The Underground Man,” Phil Spector-esque walls of sound). And on his latest track to get the video treatment, “Flood of Red,” a Sufjan Stevens-esque baroque folk style is paired with heartbreaking conceptual lyricism about wine and desperation.

We have the exclusive premiere of the video for “Flood of Red,” and it’s a masterclass in the Kuleshov Effect (the notion that the juxtaposition of images can directly alter how you perceive an image that might otherwise be neutral…except now the juxtaposition is between sound and images). Consisting entirely of non-copyright video footage (including old Charlie Chaplin shorts), Worthley is able to make footage that might seem happy in its natural context seem devastatingly sad and alienated when paired with his song about wine…drenched in religious metaphors as well as those that seem to ring of addiction.”

Video Vol. VII: Daemon

With gratitude in abundance to DarwinFish 105 for electing to share his incredible footage of Tokyo under a Creative Commons licence. Do take a look at some of his other beautiful videography.

Video Number 6: Derivative Calves

Welcome one, welcome all to December’s video, marking my sixth visual creation from the new album CRUCIBLE. This one is a favourite track of mine, ‘Derivative Calves’. As ever, I am dependent on the kindness of strangers in offering up raw material from which I can mold my creative collage. I actually recorded a raggedly live version of this track a couple of years back, where I also wrote a little about its genesis as follows;

The song itself had a cluster of inspirations (including Matthew Arnold, Bill Shakespeare, Saint Augustine and John the Baptist) but foremost a quotation from John Maynard Keynes that got me thinking about the dogmatic certainty of our prevailing economic orthodoxy. I make no claim to be well versed in theories of economics, but am nonetheless intrigued by the power of fiscal hegemony and its ability to so strongly dictate the Western economies of the 21st Century. The song is pretty much a lament for the absence of such a powerful dissenting voice as JMK’s in today’s world. When it comes to combating the glorious follies that forge our idolatrous calves, the compassionate wisdom and shrewd intelligence of Mr. Keynes is much missed.

 “When the accumulation of wealth is no longer of high social importance, there will be great changes in the code of morals. We shall be able to rid ourselves of many of the pseudo-moral principles which have hag-ridden us for two hundred years, by which we have exalted some of the most distasteful of human qualities into the position of the highest virtues. We shall be able to afford to dare to assess the money-motive at its true value. The love of money as a possession — as distinguished from the love of money as a means to the enjoyments and realities of life — will be recognised for what it is, a somewhat disgusting morbidity, one of those semi-criminal, semi-pathological propensities which one hands over with a shudder to the specialists in mental disease … But beware! The time for all this is not yet. For at least another hundred years we must pretend to ourselves and to everyone that fair is foul and foul is fair; for foul is useful and fair is not. Avarice and usury and precaution must be our gods for a little longer still.”

“The Future”, Essays in Persuasion (1931) Ch. 5, JMK, CW, IX, pp.329 – 331, Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren (1930)

A Cloud | A Hand | The Sea

As part of my ongoing project to create a video for every track on the new album CRUCIBLE, I’m delighted to release this new peach for A Cloud | A Hand | The Sea. I have previously relied heavily upon the good will and generosity of strangers who make their creative video endeavours available for cannibalism by virtue of Creative Commons licensing. This is the first time though that I have been completely dependent on one individual; Swedish animator and filmmaker Tobias Larson. I stumbled across his gorgeous short film Guilt on Vimeo, “a poetic thriller without words, about good and evil” and was immediately struck by how closely the mood and tone mapped onto my song. I subsequently shortened and adapted the footage pursuant to Creative Commons Licence CC-BY-NC 3.0 to create a significantly edited piece for the 3 minute track. Please do go watch the fabulous original video and support the artist.

My use and credit of Larson’s footage does not in any way suggest that he endorses me or my use of his work.