stevelawson.net

Steve's Blog: Solo Bass & Beyond



The Times They Are A-Changing…

December 8th, 2003 · Comments Off on The Times They Are A-Changing…

So last night we watched Bowling For Columbine. Tonight we watched the 46664 concert. Steadily the voice of those not happy with the top-heavy way the world is being steered, in favour of big business becoming bigger business and away from protecting the rights and lives of ordinary people is getting louder. There are now millions of ordinary people around the world who recognise that AIDS is a problem that won’t go away, that the invasion of Iraq was a criminal act of inconceivable proportions, that access to semi-automatic weapons is not an inalienable right, but rather a time-bomb in a country where hundreds of thousands of people are feeling increasingly disempowered and disenfranchised by the decisions of its government.

It’s not that these issues haven’t been there before – there have been people protesting against wars and injustice for millenia – but the numbers are growing, their voice is getting louder, and the look of your average protestor is no longer a crusty student with green dreads and a dog on a string. It’s doctors, teachers, musicians, actors, unemployed people, shop workers, police men and women, homemakers, students; people from all walks of life who aren’t believing the BS anymore…

just a cursory search of the net throws up the following sites for further info on what’s happening to make a difference –

www.46664.com – Mandela’s AIDS awareness initiative.
www.controlarms.org – campaign to regulate the arms trade.
www.amnesty.org/ – please tell me you know who amnesty are and what they do…
www.maketradefair.org – Oxfam-led initiative to push for trade laws that are fairer to farmers and producers in the developing world.
www.americanapparel.net – sweat-shop free sensibly priced clothing, made in the heart of LA. Go on, wear something that makes you proud.

So, instead of spending more time surfing round the same old bulletin boards, doing another google search on your own name or whatever other dodginess you usually waste your time with on the net, why not check out the sites that are seeking to make the world a better place for all of us. Work your way through that lot, and I’ll be back with another list of links next week…

Soundtrack – nuttin’

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Call me The Accugroover… :o)

December 4th, 2003 · Comments Off on Call me The Accugroover… :o)

So, as I mentioned back on Nov 25th, I’ve changed my amp endorsement deal, and now I’m officially working with Accugroove on the design of a new powered cabinet!

I’ve known about Accugroove stuff for a few years, and have tried their cabs out at NAMM over the last couple of years – loved the sound, but at the time I was enjoying a slightly more low-fi, ‘stressed-speaker’ sound. Now, with my ever increasingly complex rig and the desire to go stereo, I really need to be using powered cabinets, and that’s what Accugroove has agreed to design for me, which is great!

Mark Wright, the owner of Accugroove has been a friend for ages – he’s been to my gigs, and Dan and I stayed at his house on my tour in CA last year. He and David (the other partner at Accugroove) are great guys, and make amazing bass cabs, so despite a few tempting offers from other places, Accugroove was really the only choice.

So now I’m REALLY looking forward to the NAMM show where the prototype ‘Steve Lawson Solo 110’ or whatever it’ll end up being called is going to be first available to try. How excited am I? Very. very very. this is roughly what it will look like (actually, it’s almost certainly exactly what it will look like…)

So there’s a press release that’s up on the news page on my website, and a bit about me on the front page of the Accugroove site, and I’ll obviously be playing on their stand at NAMM, and taking the prototype cab around with me for any other dates I do in California (at the moment I’m working on getting some dates with Trip Wamsley, which would be great. Trip’s a fantastic bass player, very fine songwriter, as mad as a box of frogs and anglophile to the point of actually wanting to live here (someone has to), and his latest CD, ‘It’s Better This Way’ is bleedin’ marvellous.

So anyway, go and have a look at the lovely Accugroove stuff on their website – www.accugroove.com, and if you email them, say hi from me.

Soundtrack – Moondog, ‘Sax Pax for Sax’; John Mayal’s Bluesbreakers, ’70th Birthday Concert’.

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Making it up as we go along!

December 4th, 2003 · Comments Off on Making it up as we go along!

Had a marvellous gig last night with Orphy Robinson and Corey Mwamba – Corey on Vibes, and Orphy on Marimba, assorted Hand percussion, steel pans, QY-70 drums, wind-synth, etc.

I had mic feeds off of both guys into my looping set-up, and mainly used the one from Corey’s vibes, given that Orphy was looping himself (with an RC-20) and making a marvellous noise without my help!

The venue was Derby Dance Centre – a lovely venue, with a very friendly audience. Slightly surprising given how intense parts of the first set were, with orphy toying with controlled mic feedback and triggering some pretty mad beats off the QY-70…

Second set was more mellow – started with me looping and processing Corey’s vibraphone, Orphy joining him for a vibes duet, and finally me coming in over the top, which drifted into a solo bass thing (which was fortunately recorded, as it was unlike anything I’ve played before…) only to have them rejoin and take it off in another different direction.

The whole gig was a lot of fun, has some magic moments, was an insense listening experience, and bodes well for more trio stuff like that in the future.

What else is happening? bits of teaching, sending out CD sales (and surprisingly sold a load of CDs at the gig, despite playing nothing that sounded remotely like the CDs at any point in the show! :o)

Soundtrack – at the moment, the sound of computers humming.

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Say what you have to say…

December 1st, 2003 · Comments Off on Say what you have to say…

Miles Davis used to tell his musicians to say what they’ve got to say then STFU. If they didn’t have anything to say, stay quiet, don’t take solos for the sake of it.

The talks at St Luke’s are a bit like that – often very short, sometimes slightly longer, usually including some pretty amazing thoughts, concepts, insight etc. but pretty much always the right length. Avoiding what James Brown called ‘talking loud and saying nothing’.

The St Lukes website has an archive of a handful of talks, if you fancy a little meditative oasis in the middle of your day…

Soundtrack – me and BJ Cole – listening through a few of the duet recordings from earlier in the year. Some lovely stuff there!

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an offer I couldn't refuse…

November 30th, 2003 · Comments Off on an offer I couldn't refuse…

Church today was a ‘service of thanksgiving for Jasmine and Angus’ – Paul and Rachel’s kids, and I was Angus’ Godfather… I was asked to be godfather a few weeks ago, and accepted with pleasure – being a godparent is a big responsibility (you’re making yourself to a greater or lesser degree responsible for the spiritual and social development of the child), but one I relish. I knew I’d done the right thing when Paul and Rachel dressed Angus in a tiny Kilt for the day – makes my job of getting him to dress like a freak a lot easier if he’s already into wearing skirts… 😉

anyway, here we are –

Was meant to be going uptown to meet Sarda‘s fiance this evening, but sadly we had a tyre blow out on the car on the way back from dinner with paul and rachel! The car hit a pothole, and it knackered not only the tyre, but the wheel itself! Then we discovered that the spare was flat, so had to call out Dave-The-Vicar who lives near where we broke down, to help us out with a hand pump, which fortunately did the trick. Got home too late to go and meet up with Sarda.

Last night was the St Luke’s Auction – a now yearly event, raising money for different things each time, this time it was to referb the church kitchen, and we raised

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Yet more great reasons for staying indie….

November 29th, 2003 · Comments Off on Yet more great reasons for staying indie….

“Increasingly, the music companies understand that they have to take some of the money back from the artists to correct a business model that has squeezed their profit margins. The challenge as the consolidation takes effect is whether the artists will agree to sign away some of the rights they have enjoyed in the boom times.”

That’s a quote from an article in The Sunday Times Business Section from a couple of weeks ago, relating to the EMI/Warner deal.

So, let me get this right, record companies are struggling to make enough millions, so they take money from the artists? artists who already surrender the ownership of their recordings (which if they want them back they have to buy back, they don’t actually revert to their possession after they’ve paid of their advance or ‘loan’, like a mortgage where you never get to own the house…), artists who already often end up on a crappy retainer while the record company fritters away their advance on unwanted and unneeded extras to people within the company (hiring their own contracted producers, using RC owned studios, paying for limos/parties/schmoozing journos etc…)…

Good lord, I’m so glad I went the indie route… While there are clearly some advantages to getting signed etc. it seems that the cons far far far outweigh the pros unless you only want to be some educationally challenged cat walk buffoon pedalling rehashed 70s MOR tunes on totp after winning a televised school talent contest (only, at most school talent shows I’ve been to, the winners have been considerably more telented than ANYONE I’ve seen win fame academy or pop idol or whatever…)

the time is now better than ever for supporting indie artists, listening to indie radio (or the BBC, which seems to be be a bit more flexible than national commercial radio in its playlisting), and supporting indie cd shops. Next time you’re thinking of buying a CD, head over to cdbaby.com and have a browse around to find something new and original that you like, rather than spending far too much money on some tripe that’s in the charts. Go on, I dare ya!

in other news, I’ve just been booked for an improv gig in Derby on Wedneday night – obviously, I’ll post more news when it comes in, but it’s going to great fun! Orphy Robinson on steel pans and assorted odds ‘n’ ends, and another vibes player… :o)

Soundtrack – The Rough Guide To Congolese Soukos (amazing stuff, get this CD!); John Patitucci, ‘One More Angel’; some loops that I set up about an hour ago and am still listening to…

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One in the eye for neo-imperialists…

November 27th, 2003 · Comments Off on One in the eye for neo-imperialists…

I can’t even begin to imagine what buffoon thought Benjamin Zephaniah was going to be pleased to be offered an OBE – hadn’t they ever read his stuff? But still, it seems, some maroon decided to offer him one, and it’s given him a great chance to talk about just why a medal called ‘The Order Of The British EMPIRE’ is unacceptable in modern britain – The Empire???? That agent of repression, racism, slavery, imperialist supression of native democracy and self-rule??? yeah, that’s really something to wear with Pride…

Anyway, Benjamin puts in best in his article in today’s Guardian.

and if you’ve never heard Benjamin, check him out – he’s a great poet, and an even better performer of his own work. One of my most vivid childhood TV memories was Benjamin Zephaniah performing one of his poems on a kids TV show in the very early 80s – the image is still clear in my mind.

Soundtrack – lots of unreleased recordings from the last year – I need to start collecting some of this stuff together and deciding what to do with it!

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Too many downloads??

November 25th, 2003 · Comments Off on Too many downloads??

One of the uber-cool things about having this new webserver is that I’ve got a really excellent stats program that tells me all about who’s been visiting which pages they’ve been looking at, and what they’ve been downloading. I had no idea I was getting so many downloads!! hundreds of MP3 downloads a week, it’s remarkable.

Which begs the question, is there too much audio on the MP3s page? Is it stopping people from buying the CDs, cos the MP3s are enough? It’s a pretty bleedin’ selfish thing to do to download all the audio, burn it to CD and never buy the proper CDs, but maybe that’s what people are doing – I’ve made it too easy for people not to buy the CDs… I mean, I’m still selling CDs, but not in the quantities you’d expect given the amount of downloaded material there is off the site…

So, here’s the challenge. If you want more downloads, you gotta start buying more CDs! Lots of CD sales = lots more MP3s being made available. If you’ve not got all the CDs yet, then shame on you – go and get them now, via the paypal links etc…

And if you have got them, er, convince someone else to buy them…

What have I been up to? Well, on the music equipment front, I’ve bought a Mindprint Envoice preamp, which is absolutely lovely – really nice clean tube sound, with a great compressor and parametric EQ as well. I’m running it in the FX loop on my MPX-G2, and it just sounds delish.

I’m also in the process of negotiating a new amp deal, after finishing my working relationship with Ashdown – I’ve been using Ashdown stuff for about 5 years, and they make great amps, but a solo player doing what I do needs a certain kind of support from a company like that, and I wasn’t getting it. They seemed to have lost interest in helping to promote what I do, so it was time to head elsewhere. A shame in some ways, given the length of my time promoting their stuff (most of my students use ashdown amps, and I get about 15-20 emails a week asking questions about ashdown related stuff – BTW, from now on, it’s probably better to direct those questions through their website…) but also an exciting time, as I’m in the process of finalising a deal for a ‘signature’ powered cabinet – I’ve been after these for years, and Ashdown never made them. Finally, it looks like I’m going to get really hi quality full range powered speakers so I can start running in stereo. It should all be finalised by the end of the week, so I’ll post more about it then…

I’ve also spoken to Modulus, and my new bass should be ready in about a week! how exciting is that?????

Soundtrack – Zakir Hussain, ‘Making Music’; Three Prime, ‘Three Prime’.

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Tory logic

November 23rd, 2003 · Comments Off on Tory logic

What’s the best thing about living in the UK? The BBC, of course. Most things about living in England are rubbish, it must be said, but the BBC is quality. Great radio, better than average TV (which is still rubbish, but not decended to the unprocessed hazardous human waste levels of most TV in the world), and the world’s finest website….

So according to The Guardian newpaper, the Tories would close it down, because it’s ‘too good’, and therefor anti competitive. Sweet Jesus, can the Conservative party get any more irrelavent????? So Britain’s national broadcasting institution – one of our biggest exports to the world – has a website that provides tonnes of incredible information to the planet, at the expense of the licence fee payers, and that’s a problem?????? What a bunch of losers. You’d think to Tories would be wanting to do something useful for the country, to increase the world-wide cache of being british right now, given that we’re part of the axis of warmongering stupidity, and therefor are pretty unpopular right now. So to increase good-will towards the brits, we close down the world’s best website… riiiight… (BTW, thanks to Adrian Clarke’s blog for alerting me to this story)

The Labour party is ridiculous. Blair is a joke, a fool and a liar. But the Tories are even worse. Time to give the Lib Dems a shot at government? They can’t be any worse that what we’ve got now, and the two ‘strongest’ parties is a like being given a spoon and asked to pick your favourite flavour of shit.

So, where to move to – Amsterdam? Copenhagen? Garda Lake? Krakow? Barcelona? anywhere?????

SoundtrackBruce Cockburn, ‘Nothing But A Burning Light’ (I’d forgotten just how good this was – seriously, it’s on a par with Hejira and Songs In The Key…); The Cure, ‘Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me’; Theo Travis, ‘Heart Of The Sun’; Shawn Colvin, ‘Fat City’; Jellyfish, ‘Bellybutton’; Prefab Sprout, ‘From Langley Park To Memphis’.

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Gigtastic!

November 21st, 2003 · Comments Off on Gigtastic!

Right, so my phone line was finally fixed – had to replace the line from the house to the pole outside. Two days without BB access was really bad… but I got lots done… there’s a lesson in there.

Wednesday evening was the Tim Berne gig at The QEH in London. My interest was particularly high due to David Torn playing guitar, but the band also featured Marc Ducret on guitar, Craig Taborn on keys, Tom Rainey on drums and the Arte Saxophone Quartet.

Met up with Theo at the gig, and watched the first half – hard going, very dense writing for lots of saxes. Half time, moved back a few rows to sit with Bill Bruford, and musically it all became a lot easier to deal with. Firstly a piece just for the sax quartet, then the other quintet playing some amazing stuff. Ducret was oustanding – I was familiar with his playing from before due to Franck Vigroux being a huge fan of his and playing me a lot of his work, but seeing him live was a revelation – amazing stuff. The whole band was great, really energetic, some marvellous improv. After-show party was fun – nice to see Mick Karn again, who I met briefly a few years ago in my past life as a Bassist journo.

It was so good in fact that I did it all again on Thursday! Though not before meeting John Lester for lunch, and spending a couple of hours on the anti-Bush march. The march was amazing – huge, colourful, noisy and featuring some particularly, er, ‘forthright’ slogans…

Then off to Oxford for the Tim Berne gig again. This time at the Zodiac, a club I’ve played at with Airstar. More of a rock club vibe, and a very different sound for the improv bits, another blinding gig. Loved it.

And today has just been about teaching, answering stuff on thedudepit, talkbass and my own forum, which let’s be honest, kicks the ass of all those lame-o forums… :o)

Soundtrack – right now, Billy Bragg, ‘Must I Paint You A Picture’, before that, Pat Metheny, ‘One Quiet Night’ (fantastic); Shawn Colvin, ‘Fat City’; Bill Frisell, ‘Good Dog Happy Man’.

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