Updated: Sep 13
If there are any comic book artists out there, I have a great idea for a manga. The premise goes like this: It takes place in and around Barcelona, Spain. The Ronin Troubadour, Liam Cloud, spends his days in parks and cafes. He learns new riffs and melancholic lines of poetry from either aged traveling ronin musicians passing through, or from the few samurai troubadours willing to take a risk talking to him.
In the world where this story takes place, musicians need to be sworn to one of the local Music Barons of Spain. If they aren't, they play music only at their peril.
Liam Cloud is determined to live his own life. So he spends his days honing his style till his fingers are raw. He does so in the back room of his step father's licensed studio. His stepfather is secretly a sorcerer of the wilds himself. So Liam and Pan live in a situation of mutual subterfuge, keeping mum for each other for survival purposes.
Liam Can Be Seen Walking the Streets of Barcelona With His Guitar Slung Like an Odachi on His Back.
He always has the excuse that he's only carrying in public because he's making a delivery for his stepfather. Then he's always got the axe ready for the unexpected musical duels. Unsanctioned duels, and therefore doubly dangerous, that break out every fifteen minutes on the streets of Barcelona.
At night, Liam Cloud the Ronin Troubadour finds windows of fair maidens to serenade. Or he finds smokey cafes where revolutionaries nest. He practices the potency of his songs against an audience. He hones The Magic in the Music, the magic to turn hearts and minds. It's this unbridled power the Music Barons of Spain fear. They fear it above all else for its subtle art that could undermine their hold on the Iberian Peninsula.
Liam always stays one step ahead of the Opera, the secret police of the Music Barons. Every night, Liam manages to slip away just as the Opera arrives, bringing the worst kill to whatever buzz Liam kicked up. From there, Liam finds some garden or park bench. He'll sleep the night away, taking advantage of the apparently perpetually pleasant climate in Spain. Or he sometimes finds some troupe of traveling musicians. He'll trade songs for wine and more songs, till dawn breaks, and he starts it all again.
It's a tough world. In it he's growing in his skill and technique. By that he's growing closer to understanding the soul of music. From there, then the ultimate magic, which will give him the power to confront the Music Barons and finally defeat them. He knows it.
I envision sort of an Afro Samurai style to the art.
It's Called Ronin Troubadour.
This story bears no relationship to reality. Any similarity between the characters or locations in the story are purely coincidental. When Liam heard it, he said, "Well, I don't like wine." So there's the entire backbone of the idea all deflated.
Although he also said, "That would be legend." I think he's right.
By pure coincidence, there's a real person called Liam Cloud.
Liam Cloud is a musician who lives in Barcelona in Spain. It's a coincidence and has nothing to do with my idea for a manga. Liam plays guitar (also a coincidence) and he says that he thinks of himself as a samurai or ronin (also a coincidence).
He's one of the universe's pieces of good luck, because he kind of fell sideways into guitar. We were one too-closely-built English neighborhood away from getting a sort of Van Halen type situation out of the Cloud family. Liam wanted to play drums, and his younger (middle child) brother, Dylan, started playing guitar. Which, if you know your rock and roll history, could have very closely been the situation that brought us the version of Van Halen that wasn't famous. Because Alex Van Halen, the older brother, wanted to play guitar. So he told his kid brother Eddie that he got to play drums, and wasn't he lucky. Which would have been the end of it. Van Halen wouldn't have been as relevant as they are, probably, if Eddie hadn't decided to give the guitar a try. Which is how we got famous Van Halen.
We didn't need to wait for that with the Clouds, though, because the close-built English neighborhood prevented any Clouds from taking up drums. So they all started with guitar. And the rest, as they say, is a Wikipedia article.
Liam Had a Couple Early Teachers That Gave Him a Few Pointers.
Liam's stepdad, Pan Martinez, showed the Clouds a few chords to get them going. In a similar time period, Liam took lessons for a while from a cat called Seth Govan. Seth was apparently pretty good. Liam only learned later that Seth is related to this other cat called Guthrie Govan, The Guitar God of some note.
When Liam Decided That He Wanted to Make a Thing Out of the Guitar, He Did What a Lot of Us Growing Artists Do.
He found an idol. Then he figured out exactly what that guy did so well, and then did exactly that till he figured out the secret sauce. Liam, showing I think some pretty fine taste, decided to decode Ed Sheeran. He played Ed's stuff in Ed's style. He played it till folk would come from nearby to hear the Ed Sheeran cover band that did such a good job of sounding like Ed Sheeran, so why would we go see Ed Sheeran when we can see Liam-ed "Mini Sheeran" Cloud over here for less money?
So that's a pretty good heritage to come out of.
Except that Liam didn't come out of that heritage. Not exactly. He figured something out. He figured out that you can learn fundamentals and tunes and notes and technique from other people. That was fine. That was cool. But if he ever wanted to play Liam Cloud's music then only one guy could teach him that.
Liam says that he aspires to be one of these pickers who you can recognize their finger work just from the sound. You're listening to a track you've never heard. Then you can tell it's Liam playing just because he's got his own way of holding that note. His own way of bending that other one, of giving that titch of vibrato, or plucking with his personality and not just his hands. Like Slash and Yo-Yo Ma and Johnny Ramone, and these other guys who figured out how to play like no one but like themselves. You can't learn that from anyone except future you.
One of the Things Liam Mentioned Was That He Finds That He Can Be That Much More Expressive With Electric Guitar.
I get that. The electric guitar is an odd machine: for them that know the doing of it, the technology can augment the expressiveness. There's plenty of stuff where that doesn't seem to be true. With the guitar, in this journalist's opinion, and for some artists, it can be. Liam used to play mostly acoustic, but went electric and found it pleasing.
While he's getting there, while he's learning how to play like Liam Cloud, Liam considers himself a musical chameleon. He zigs in and out of different genres and between various styles. Seems like a smart move.
He's coming out with an album soon. Him and his band. They're calling it Something To Relate To, which is the unifying theme and artistic thrust of the album. The songs will all be about different emotional realities that we all experience in our lives. He wrote a song about his guitar, for instance. We can't all relate to owning or caring about a guitar. We can, though, all relate to finding some tool that we use to help us find clarity. There's something noble in that.
Keep an eye out for the album to drop. Cats who like John Mayer and this wicked lass whose project is called H.E.R. should keep listening for Liam Cloud and Jezebel Lies' album Something To Relate To.
Pre-Album - Watch Liam Cloud and his band rip into it in Front Page News' next concert in 2020 - Front Page News Music
Watch how the crowd gets into an original song "Wings" by Liam Cloud