or, a rambling explainer — with recommendations

First of all, happy new 2021 year. So far, it’s been a crazy one, a worrying one, a hectic one, a not entirely unexpected one. I didn’t intend on taking an extended break from Ringo, but here we are. What is it, five weeks?

I jumped into January 1st with too much going on, with other things piling on top over the following days. All attempts to write and publish Ringo foiled and unraveled. It’s nobody’s fault but my own, but, hey, I’m considering this a chance to recalibrate.

Distraction’s a problem, always has been. Here’s hoping the political winds change, and distraction levels decrease, but I’m not holding my breath. Personal and professional occurrences are distracting enough. I’m on a Sisyphean quest to defy and deny distraction so I can more easily do things I want to do this year — like send out a weekly Ringo

Anil Dash recently posted about his Personal Digital Reset. This piece poses his alternative to New Year’s resolutions, a typically 2021 cleanse of one’s digital life. Many of his proposals make sense: a lot less (to no) social media, ingesting online news and information solely with intention, replacing FOMO with YAGNI (‘You Aren’t Gonna Need It’). Others, such as wiping your computer and reinstalling everything from scratch, seem drastic but might actually be a good idea. Honestly, getting bogged down for hours maintaining a computer sounds like another distraction to me. But we are recalibrating here, right?

Have you seen The Isolator? Here’s a helmet worn while working, to relieve the writer of all distractions. It even includes an oxygen tank, so you don’t have to come up for air. On the other side of the coin, there’s the TV Helmet — an enclosure that feeds the wearer nothing but distraction, uncontrolled and divorced from intention. Notice how similar these are in concept despite the dichotomic applications. Happiness is found somewhere in the middle, no headwear required. 

That’s a rambling way to say that Ringo will be back soon, perhaps sooner than you (and I) think. Recalibration is almost completed. Thanks for remaining and reading.

* A special thanks to new subscribers, including those who found me via this lovely article by Will Sumsuch in 5 Magazine or this kind recommendation from Jon Freer. You’re probably a little confused right now, but I promise it’ll all come together soon.


It’s not my reputation to leave you empty-handed. Here are some recommendations for you to enjoy and mull over until we meet again:

Daniel Lanois on WTF with Marc Maron + Rick Rubin on The Moment with Brian Koppelman → Possibly the best thing I did all week was listening to these two podcasts back-to-back. These conversations illustrate how a music producer's role can overlap with some combination of philosopher, personal coach, and crisis manager. It's not just about drum sounds and reverb. Lanois talks specifics about the process of wrangling great work from icons (and their giant egos), and Rubin expands on that with the big picture view. I recommend you listen in that order — a masterclass in the mindsets required to inspire others into action, not just applicable to inside a recording studio. Bonus: this interview with Trevor Horn conducted by Prince Charles Alexander (also a producer of renown) has a lot more 'shop talk' than the previous two but is still a fascinating listen. Horn is such an amicable interviewee. 

New Wave Eye Candy → That’s a tag on Simon Reynolds’ Hardly Baked blog and there are three installments in the series (so far). These posts contain a long scroll of vintage graphics from album covers, adverts, and posters that exemplify the look and attitude of the post-punk new wave. It’s also a remarkable glimpse of cutting edge graphic design just before the days of Photoshop et al.

Ken Burns’ Jazz → Noting this because chances are you are an Amazon Prime subscriber so you can get those dark gray vans to frequently visit your doorstep. Jazz is available on Prime’s streaming service at no extra cost right this very moment. This astonishing series from K-Burns was released in 2001. That was just in time as I doubt many of the interview subjects were around much longer. This thing is massive — is it like 20 hours, maybe more? Well, the pressure’s on because I think it’s leaving Prime (as a ‘freebie’) on the first of February. You’ve got a week. At the very least, watch the first few episodes — the origins of jazz are compelling, instructive, and say a lot about US history. Of course, the history of any country is in the history of its music.

Optional Essentials Vol. 1 → My friend Dr Olive — who once took me to the top of Mont St-Michel — recently launched a new label, 3 to the 3rd Music. The latest release is an ambitious two-part compilation cheekily titled Optional Essentials. The hype-text describes this collection as “the home-made home-listening soundtrack to one of the strangest years, written by music makers from 7 countries.” The sound is chill, overall, but audacious. There’s a diversity of instrumentation and mood-scapes, never a dull moment. The sequence is thoughtful, easily pulling the listener into its zone when played from beginning to end. And I have a connection — I contributed the song “Tarkovsky” under my Q-BAM moniker. I recorded this song ages ago, inspired by repeated visits to Moscow and my admiration of the Russian filmmaker named by the title. And I sampled Robbie Hardkiss saying, “Everything is cool.” Also on the compilation: amazing new tunes from my friends (and label-mates) Monta At Odds and Gemini Revolution.

Juniore - Ouh là là → I literally discovered this while I was writing the ramble text that starts this update. I know nothing about Juniore (yet) but the first impression is that they kinda sound like Stereolab creating songs for a Giallo movie. Which also sometimes describes the band Broadcast. So it’s like that. It’s great and the lyrics are in French so they don’t throw me off while I’m ramble-writing.


There you go. I’m getting back on the saddle, one foot at a time. Ringo will be riding high in no time.

Hope you’re doing fine and please feel free to check in. I’ll see you in the ambiguous soon! 🚀


btw — I'm Michael Donaldson and you can read more about who I am and what I do here.

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