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Schlagwort: Instrumental

James Rhodes: Fire On All Sides

Honest and open. That were one of the first thoughts that came to my mind when I read the beginning of James Rhodes’ new book. Next it was astonishment. The astonishment that “Fire On All Sides” offers a much deeper look inside James’ mind than “Instrumental”, his first book, does. There’s no doubt that “Instrumental” is shockingly open when James, raped for years as a boy, describes how this disgusting and horrible abuse destroys the life of a young, sensible child that only seeks for love and support from his teacher who rewards trust with violence. James has no doubt that he is still alive because music saved him.

“Fire On All Sides” could be the evidence that dreams can indeed become reality. The James of today is a professional concert pianist, travelling various countries, playing concerts. He writes articles for newspapers, gives interviews, hosts radio shows. And yet there are those evil voices trying to convince James that he is not that good, that every single concert will be a disaster and that even an ordinary day offers problems and obstacles that are challenges.

The voice is so loud that I convince myself that I am perpetuating a fraud.”

Of course this is a book about music, about love and hatred and imperfection. But James wouldn’t be the author if he wasn’t to add “including the self-indulgent crap because it’s me and I’m a narcissistic asshole”. Even if we are lucky because we have not to fight depression or anxiety or a horrible illness on a daily basis, we all face the challenge to get up in the morning, go to work, get things done. And no one knows how difficult it is to smile and pretend everything is okay when it is not. Imagine you have voices in your head that are your constant companions that have nothing else to do than convince you, you are not enough. In James’s case: he’s not able to play the piano properly, no one will pop up to his concert venue, and the waiter in the café just round the corner always stares at you because you seem to be some sort of freak.

“Words are dangerous, music is salvation – the one thing I don’t need to be afraid of.”

But then there are these moments when James realises he can handle it. “It” meaning walking on stage after make sure for the hundredth time that every single note is saved in the memory (James always plays the piano on stage without scores), that of course there is indeed an audience that isn’t only excited to see what is waiting for them. They enjoy the evening and they want to get their books or CDs signed. And – surprise –  there is even a “bunch of really lovely German fans” waiting for him at the stage door in Munich’s Gasteig back in the autumn of 2016.

So after having survived a horrible childhood that still haunts him, James has finally reached a stage where he can even convince the evil voices in his head that he lives the life he always wanted, “a life surrounded by, engulfed by, music”. A life that is bearable because he is finally ready to see life as it is: Imperfect. And that there is no need to pretend that life and humans and especially James is perfect and furthermore its “fragility can unite us all in the most comforting way”.

Or as Sherlock would say: “We are all humans after all”.

James Rhodes: “Fire On All Sides: Insanity, insomnia and the incredible inconvenience of life”, Quercus, Ebook from 8,49£/9,49€.
The new album “Fire On All Sides” is available at the usual streaming service.

James Rhodes: “Life’s too short to pretend”

Ahead of his upcoming tour in  Germany, Austria and Switzerland, James Rhodes kindly answered a few questions. No idea how he does it, but the answers hit my inbox in no time 😉

You have been on tour recently and will have a couple of concerts in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. Do you have time to stroll a bit through every town you are in? And if so are you looking for something typical in the town you are in?
I really hope so. Some days I’ll have more time than others but ideally I’ll always be able to stroll around and explore new places – most of these cities are new to me and I can’t wait.

How are you preparing for the concert in the evening? Is it important for you to relax, sleep in or are you too excited to be calm?
It’s a real mixture – on a perfect day I’ll be well rested and excited (in a call way!). But of course lots of the time I’ll be stressed and anxious and grumpy. But then I’m that way with everything not just concerts.

Is it difficult to concentrate when playing in a new hall?
Not usually. Sitting at the piano is the best place for me, whatever the hall is like.

You are quite active on Twitter where you are not only funny or chat about ordinary things. You are very open when it comes to topics such as depression or the abuse you suffered as a boy. Is it some kind of therapy for you? And are the internet/ social media stressful sometimes?
I love Twitter. I’ve met some wonderful people on there and been very lucky in that I haven’t come across much nastiness. I think loneliness can be really debilitating for people especially if they’re a bit wobbly emotionally (like me), so social media can be a really positive thing. I think it’s important to just be myself whether it’s with a friend in a cafe or online, it’s always the same me. Life’s too short to pretend.

When meeting fans it seems you are really enjoying it. Is there anything you want to tell them?
Thank you! That’s the main thing. It’s appreciated more than they know and it makes me feel all warm inside. Don’t ever feel shy about coming to say hello 🙂

I met James Rhodes in September 2015 after a talk at The Guardians' and asked for a selfie. Photo: Petra Breunig

I met James Rhodes in September 2015 after a talk at The Guardians’ and asked for a selfie. Photo: Petra Breunig

——

You can find more about James Rhodes on his side where there are also links to tour dates, his Sound Cloud and his Twitter – and on this blog

All dates for his upcoming tour are in this poster: jamesrhodestourposter2016

James Rhodes “Der Klang der Wut” – A story like a fairy tale

The truth one might think is something you can’t suppress. But it looked highly unlikely that the book “Instrumental” (“The sound of rage” is it in German – my note) would never make it onto the shelves of the book stores. Not until the British Supreme Court allowed the publication of the book saying that the author is allowed to tell his story. The judges rejected Rhodes’ ex-wife try to prevent not only the publication of the book . She tried to prevent Rhodes from talking about his past publicly.

A different kind of pianist

The author is James Rhodes, a pianist who is exactly the opposite you expect a concert pianist to be. He appears on stage in Jeans, tee and trainers, seems to be hyperactive and calm, witty and serious and has no problem at all to get rid of his black, long sleeve tee with “Bach” written in capital letters on the front (“Sorry, I’m warm, have to get out of that shirt. Be envious, I was at the fitness centre.”). And creating worlds out of music on a very impressive huge and polished Steinway piano, fascinating his audience in London’s Barbican centre last autumn. And then this small, fragile 40 year old British guy who takes off his nerdy glasses when playing thousands of notes out of memory, seems like he has been happily playing this wonderful music, just himself and his piano, for all his life.

But what he is writing in his book – that is now available in German – hasn’t anything to do with classical music, at least not for a start. Without whitewashing anything, Rhodes writes how he was abused by his boxing teacher over the range of five years. Yes, he doesn’t describe all the most devastating details but even without them, the book is shocking, stirring, disturbing and moving. That is because Rhodes writes the same way he communicates on Twitter with his followers or describes his audience why he is playing the piece of music he is playing, what it means to him – and he tells something about the life of the composer.

 “I started writing at 3.47 am. Something is wrong with me.”
(My translation)

Of course “Instrumental” is about classical music, pieces of great composers, even outsiders know their names, even if that sort of music isn’t their cup of tea. This music is more than just a way to earn money. It has saved his life because, Rhodes writes, music comforts him “when there is desperation, music gives pure energy in a very high doses when one feels empty, broken and exhausted.” (My translation). Music that a friend smuggled inside his mental hospital on an iPod where Rhodes tried to commit suicide several times after his marriage broke up and he stopped working in the City.
The fact that he now is married happily to his second wife, writes for British papers, had a show about music on British telly and has his own label – thanks to his manager he met in a café – reads like a fairy tale. Of course the book “Instrumental” isn’t a fairy tale at all even if the story could have come out of the mind of a screenwriter. But he would lack that direct, puzzling tone which comes with the swearing of the original in the German version where the reader is addressed as “Sie” (the polite way to talk to strangers – my note) – and which sounds a bit rough from time to time. The joy of reading is completed by a Spotify playlist of all of the pieces introducing every chapter.

Photo: Petra Breunig

Photo: Petra Breunig

Book & music
James Rhodes: Der Klang der Wut, Nagel & Klimche, 22,90 Euro.  [You can find my review of “Instrumental” here]
James Rhodes offers some of his pieces for free on https://sound-
cloud.com/jrhodespianist
His latest album is „Inside Tracks”.

[The German version of this article was first published in Fränkischer Tag, 10th February 2016 and online  (paid).  This blog entry is my translation and has a few notes to explain specific German expressions]

James Rhodes: Instrumental: Violence, music and love

The thing with autobiographies is they can go totally wrong, trying to convince the reader what a perfect, clever, self-confident and of course perfect looking human being the writer is – and leaving you as the reader either laughing or sick because you can’t cope with a super man (of course there are super woman around, too).

James Rhodes’ “Instrumental”, that is finally available, isn’t that sort of book at all. It is funny, it is shocking, it leaves you shaking your head in disbelief and it touches you deeply. That is because – and for me the most important thing – James writes about his life, his experiences and the things that matter most to him in such an open, honest way as if he is talking to you as a very close friend. Being able to literally write about grief, sorrow, shame, feeling insecure and simply not fit for the world outside is a kind of getting rid of it. No matter how people will react.

“I started writing this at 3.47 am. There is something wrong with me.”

And people will react, they always do. Especially in a time when they can throw their rubbish onto the internet and straight into James’ Twitter and Facebook (He’s on Google+, too but unfortunately doesn’t keep that account alive). And especially when it comes to abusing children or as James names it: rape. The fact that he was raped, humiliated and tormented by a school teacher when he was a boy, is not only disgusting, may turn your stomach and makes you cry when reading about it (so this book is not a book for children or people unable to cope with violence). It is also unbelievable for people who never experienced violence in their lives. But this is the truth and it is a miracle that this boy now a man of 38 hasn’t committed suicide, is able to speak out – not only with this book but also in various articles and on Twitter – and is desperately trying to bring classical music to a broader audience. From the moment a friend gave him an iPod, smuggled into the hospital James was living because he had tried to kill himself frequently – together with his destroyed self confidence, the feeling that everything that has happened was his fault was result of the raping experienced as a boy – James knew and still knows that classical music can make a difference: “Anything changed.” The Bach-Marcello Adagio “took me to a place of such magnificience, such surrender, hope, beauty, infinite space, it was like touching God’s face.”

“I would not exist (…) without music.”

And because music is so important to him and because he is as different from a “normal” pianist – sitting in tee, jeans and trainers at the piano – as you possibly can imagine, it’s thrilling to listen to his work, to his explanations about the composer or watching him on telly or on Youtube. Or simply finding out that classical music isn’t something for an elite audience but for normal people who are not able to remember the name of the composer but just like or dislike a special piece of music. No wonder that he tries to catch people whereever he can, engaging with his fans on Twitter and on Facebook, offering free music on his soundcloud and promoting his book. A book that is worth every hour reading it.

Screenshot: Petra Breunig

Screenshot: Petra Breunig

Every chapter has an introduction about a special piece of music. There is a play list on Spotify

James Rhodes: Instrumental, Canongate, £16,99.
As ebook on Amazon, iTunes and Google Play Books.

And interview with James Rhodes can be found here.

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