Steve's Blog: Solo Bass & Beyond

A trip back in time…

November 17th, 2003 · Comments Off on A trip back in time…

Saturday night, The Cheat and I went to see Level 42 in Guildford, which was obviously a very different trip down memory lane than it was for the people who’d just come to hear some great pop tunes from their childhood… It was great to catch up with the guys in the band and crew, and to say hi to a few people in the audience who remembered me from the support slot last year (and to be refered to as ‘Chicken Man’… which was slightly unnerving and flattering at the same time… perhaps I need a feathered coat instead of the furry one… :o)

Anyway, it all brought back lots of fine memories, and the band played really well – slightly different set list from last year, with some really nice unexpected additions to the set list. Didn’t get home til the early hours of sunday morning.

Sunday was fun – one of the tunes from ‘Open Spaces’ was used as a musical interlude in part of the St Luke’s service, and then last night I spent a few fun hours catching up with David Torn – a very busy chap, and astonishing musician who’s playing around England this week with Tim Berne, so I’m going to three of the gigs – London, OXford and Birmingham.

And today, the new dyson arrived… :o) Ahh, domestic bliss. Took me a while to figure out how to get it working properly (what? programming effects units and operating four loopers at once I can handle, using a vacuum cleaner is a whole other world…) but once I did, we were away!

And now I’m waiting for a BT engineer to arrive, and while I’m doing that I’m listening to The Late Junction on BBC Radio 3, who last week played Flutter from ‘For The Love Of Open Spaces’ – fantastic! The Late Junction is a very very cool and very eclectic show, which I listen to a lot anyway, so getting airplay there is marvellous. you can hear an archive of the show – it’s the wednesday show in the ‘listen on demand’ archive, and you can see the playlist here – if you do listen to it, please email them and tell them how much you enjoyed hearing us on the radio!

so now I’m going to get on with mixing some of hte tracks from the Italian sessions of a few months ago…

Soundtrack – right now, The Late Junction. before that more of Rob Jackson, and John McLaughlin, ‘Que Alegria’.

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Boo!!!! …no, really, I enjoyed it…

November 14th, 2003 · Comments Off on Boo!!!! …no, really, I enjoyed it…

…I was just saying your name!!!

Last night went to see Boo Hewerdine play. You’ve probably not heard Boo play, but you’ll have more than likely heard his songs, him having written for Eddie Reader, KD Lang and others. I saw him play at Greenbelt this year, and really enjoyed it, and as the gig was part of Delicatessen, organised by sarda and the cheat, then I had to go. Add to that the presence of Rob Jackson, looping guitarist and very nice bloke, and you’ve got yourself a great evening.

Airstar opened the evening – it’s always odd watching them, having played with them before, but nice to hear the songs, which are really strong, and to see the cheat doing a remarkable unwitting impersonation of paul field

Then Boo came on – somewhere in a parallel universe, Boo’s old band, The Bible, are hailed as the savours of itellegent pop and selling hundreds of thousands of records, while Paddy McAloon is out touring arts centres playing gloriously miserable songs to 90 enthralled punters who feel like their in some secret society for knowing who he is…

…in this universe, it’s clearly the other way round. Boo’s between song banter is hilarious and provides the perfect counter-weight to his miserable unlucky-in-life songs. Rob Jackson’s guitar playing is a thing of great beauty and wonder, and fortunately Boo gets this and gives him some room to loop and layer is Frisell-esque Telecaster loveliness through a few of the tunes. And Rosalie Deighton’s BVs are a little quiet, but add yet another layer to a glorious live sound.

So now I’m sat listening to Rob’s album ‘Wire, Wood and Magnets’, and it’s fantastic – really really lovely. The missing link between Frisell’s country exploits and Phil Keaggy’s acoustic instrumentals. Great sounds, great playing, and some exquisite tunes. Hopefully Rob and I will be recording something or other together soon, so watch this space. We’re also thinking of doing a gig or two – maybe theo and I, with Rob as well… lots of possibilities, but for now, go and buy his CD – there are lots of downloads on his website, so have a listen, then get it. you can buy Rob’s CD at the Burning Shed shop, which also happens to stock loads of other really really cool music – lots of Theo Travis’ other albums (start with Heart Of The Sun, it’s a masterpiece), NoMan (another great miserable adult pop band), and Peter Chilver’s albums (soundscape stuff, lots of fine bass work and a very silly sense of humour just beneath the surface).

Soundtrack Rob Jackson’s album’s just finished, and I’m now listening to Boo’s live album.

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Blogs from the Big Chair

November 13th, 2003 · Comments Off on Blogs from the Big Chair

I’ve got a new chair! This may not be very exciting for you, but it is for me (it’s a hard life, being a solo bassist. Between gigs, we have to find domestic things to keep ourselves happy) – my old office chair was not-so-slowly disintegrating, and certainly provided no adjustability or support any more, the cushion was worn out, and the whole experience was somewhat akin to sitting on a pile of supermarket baskets with a rolled up tshirt on top. not nice.

So off to Ikea yesterday. Too many leather chairs (call me a flake if you like, but the idea of sitting on the carcass of a dead cow all day really gives me the creeps), but found one really nice (and rather expensive) cloth upholstered one, went through classic convoluted Ikea process to buy it and then found an identical one in the Bargain Basement, that had a wheel missing, and no other noticeable problems, but was

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Hi, honey, I'm home…

October 31st, 2003 · Comments Off on Hi, honey, I'm home…

after being away for about two weeks.

First week was in Denmark, visiting the International People’s College. IPC is a ‘folk high school’ – a scandinavian educational model that looks at learning as something that’s worth doing for its own sake rather than just for the piece of paper you’ll get at the end of it. The various folk high schools around Denmark, Sweden, Norway etc. have different emphases (emphasise?? no idea…) – some are all about sport, or film making or whatever, and this one is an international school (the clue’s in the name), drawing currently from 32 different countries as diverse as nepal, england, argentina, tibet, bangladesh, malta, poland, USA, romania, uganda, kenya, australia and brazil.

the focus of the college is on conflict resolution, cross cultural studies, development issues and for most of the students it’s seen as a great place to learn english. The staff are an amazingly diverse bunch – from cambodia, mauritania, denmark, australia etc. etc. and the food’s great.

The reason for the visit is that my mum’s involved in trying to set up a folk high school in Berwick On Tweed (middle of nowhere and turn left), and I taught on their summer school this year. So we both went on a fact finding trip, to see if all this folk high school stuff was hippie idealism or a the answer to the UK’s current education crisis (education, education, education said Blair. bollocks bollocks bollocks says the entire population of england, 6 years on.) It was amazing – a fully functional school, the classes dealt with some pretty intense stuff, lofty concepts and deep philosophical stuff, all within the framework of 32 cultures under one roof, all unwittingly capable of deeply offending one another! :o)

With a week at the college and a couple of days to look round Copenhagen, we had a marvellous week (also had a nice chance to drop in and see Anders-Streetteam at one of the most amazing drum shops I’ve ever seen!) Copenhagen’s a great city – here’s hoping I can sort out some gigs there soon…

Got home from there for one day, did a day’s teaching, and headed off to Amsterdam on holiday. Warning – if you’re living in London, heading off to Copenhagen and Amsterdam in the space of a week is not a great idea if you still want to feel really good about where you live… Don’t get me wrong, I do like living here, and some things about being in England are magic, but politically we’re losing it, and the whole crime/vandalism/transport/weirdness thing has become the british axis of evil. Amsterdam is beautiful – it’s great to see a city of that size operate with so little car traffic. Thousands and thousands of bikes, but precious little car useage. lots of canals, gorgeous canals, and some very groovy shops. The liberal drug laws seem like a cool thing (when was the last time you saw someone get stoned and start a fight??), and there were much less of an agressive feel there than on a night out in central london, but the ‘liberal’ attitude to porn and prostitution is, according to the UN and other sources, just a front for some seriously nasty illegal stuff. So much for unionising the prostitution industry – doesn’t really help the girls who are being trafficked from asia and eastern europe. London has a huge problem with this too, but at least we don’t pretend that being a prostitute is a great gig and that it’s all kosher here… scary stuff.

Still, it’s a great city, sex-tourism aside, and I hope to go back and do some gigs there too soon!

And now I’m back home – time to get to work promoting the CD, which hopefully you’ve all bought by now! :o) Theo did a huge mailout to radio and media while I was away, so reviews and airplay should start happening soon… til then, play the CD to your friends, steal their money and buy them it for christmas. Lots of people are saying it’s their favourite of the CDs I’ve put out, which is nice.

On the bad news front, I heard today that Mike Yaconelli was killed in a car accident a couple of days ago – if you’ve ever been to Greenbelt, Yak won’t need any intro. If not, he was an author, social activist, realist, speaker, comedian and all round remarkable human being who did far more in his 61 years than many people could acheive in 10 times that. His passing is a loss to the world. here’s the report from his hometown. Please spare and thought and a prayer for his family.

Soundtrack – while I was away I picked up a few CDs – Charlie Haden, ‘American Dream’; Jing Chi, ‘Live’; Living Daylights, ‘Electric Rosary’ and Metalwood’s latest, which is upstairs and I can’t remember the title, but they’re all very good indeed! Today I’ve been listening to Jonatha Brooke, ’10 cent wings’, which is oustandingly brilliant, like just about every note jonatha has ever uttered.

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Is There Something I Should Know???

October 17th, 2003 · Comments Off on Is There Something I Should Know???

…and other such classic Duran hits were all in evidence at the gig at The Forum on Tuesday night. And what a fantastic gig it was!! Really really great to see a bunch of ‘pop stars’ who can a) write fantastic melodies, b) come up with really interesting arrangements and c) play as well as anyone. Seriously great stuff. Oh for the days when pop stars could play instruments!!! It set the dick-heads that currently litter the charts in stark relief, that’s for sure…

Anyway. What else?? Of course, the big news is that the album is here!! All the advanced orders have now been sent out, so you should be getting them early next week. the packaging, CD printing, sound quality and everything is just great – Theo came round yesterday to sort out the press-list and to sign all the extra discs, and we were like a couple of kids with new toys! I’ve been listening to the CD almost constantly since it got here on Wednesday, and it just sounds fantastic! Even though we played it, it’s still hard to conceive that it was all done live… a strange feeling indeed. Anyway, if you haven’t got it already, you can order it now! Paypal/Gemm and post are what we’ve got happening at the moment, but CDBaby will be sorted v. soon, as will evinsol, hmv and a few others…

anyway, here’s the paypal button –

One word of warning to anyone planning to do the same thing, all the backordering on GEMM decimates your rating – if you did buy the CD through GEMM, please go and give us a good feedback rating, or it looks like we’re a bunch of charlatans…!

Wednesday night was fun – Bob Lee, buddy from California was in town, so Bob and I, along with a couple of other guys from the churchbass discussion list met up for a curry. I’m always amazed at the myriad friendships that the internet facilitates – it makes a nice counter argument to, which, while I think they’ve got a point, does take it too far… :o)

Tomorrow I’ve got my first gig in ages with Jez – you know, the piano guy on ‘Conversations’ – it’s a wedding reception, which is cool cos I don’t get to play standards very often, and playing with Jez would be a pleasure even if the gig was all TV Themes!

Soundtrack – Me and Theo (both discs), Billy Bragg, ‘Must I Paint You A Picture?’, The Cure, ‘Greatest Hits’, Scritti Politti, ‘Cupid And Psyche’, John Lester, ‘Big Dreams And The Bottom Line’ – if you’re in any way interested in solo bass and singer/songwriters, you NEED to hear John’s music – he’s seriously good – great tone, fantastic voice, fine lyrics, and all really well produced – GO AND BUY THIS CD.

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countdown to release day…

October 13th, 2003 · Comments Off on countdown to release day…

…so the CDs should arrive here on Wednesday – how exciting! I need to buy a nice big box of Jiffy Bags tomorrow and start addressing them, cos it’s going to take ages! Thanks to all you lovely people who’ve been ordering the CDs, it’s going to be quite a big job…

Was in Italy this weekend, which was great fun! I was playing at an event called Sound Expo ’03, organised by a HUUUUGE music shop in Verona called Musical Box. I was there playing on behalf of Ashdown, so as well as the two performance sets that I gave on the main stage, there were various amp demos in the Ashdown corner of the shop… Also had plenty of time to check out the rest of the gear that was on show, to see some music (most of it was the usual trade fair stuff – very fast, not many tunes, but there were some gems in there too…) and to just hang out with Luca. Fortunately I also got a chance to catch up with some other lovely friends – Giovanna, Albano and Renate, as well as Luca and Gio’s cats, Blue and Ompy (not sure about the spelling of Ompy, but as neither is he, I’m not too worried…)

The Ashdown distributors in Italy are Proel – known over here for making cables, connectors and stuff, but actually a freakin’ huge company!! Scarily huge in fact, but very very helpful, with great staff.

It was a flying visit – out Saturday morning, back Sunday night – and in that I managed to do rather a lot. Of the music I managed to see at the show, my favourite was Massimo Varini – a very talented Italian fusion guitarist – sort of Satch meets Phil Keaggy with a bit of Holdsworth thrown in. His trio were fantastic, and hopefully I’ll get to do some shows with them at some point. Another highlight was an italian singer doing Cornflake Girl who had apparently just learnt it phonetically as the words she was singing were incomprehensible… If I ever suggest singing in Italian, someone please punch me in the face.

Soundtrack – Massimo’s album, Billy Bragg’s best of, and the recordings from my last trip to Italy (thanks to my new RAM strip I just fitted to the computer, I can stream it all off the DVD quite happily…)

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New arrivals

October 10th, 2003 · Comments Off on New arrivals

…nah, not babies (well, babies as well – congrats to Theo and Madelyn!). No, this morning my Passport arrived (yippee!!) so did a copy of the new Billy Bragg retrospective, ‘The Essential Billy Bragg’ – he’s amazing, brilliant, unique, fantastic. This is a great compilation. I’ve got quite a few of the tracks, but only on cassette (remember them???)… I’ll be listening to this alot over the coming days…

Also – and this is really exciting! – The Cheat got tickets to see Duran Duran at The Forum in Kentish Town on Tuesday!!!! Wahey!! I’m so excited – it’s the original line up, and this is a small warmup gig for some deal they are doing at The Albert Hall on Wednesday… So me, the small person and the cheat are all off to see Duran… :o)

Soundtrack – Billy Bragg now, last night it was Stevie Ray Vaughan, ‘Texas Flood’; Kelly Joe Phelps, ‘Slingshot Professionals’ and Bill Withers Greatest Hits.

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God Bless the UK Passport Office!!

October 9th, 2003 · Comments Off on God Bless the UK Passport Office!!

Wahey! just got a call from the UK Passport office, and my passport is being shipped to me to arrive before 12 tomorrow!

Prayers answered :o)

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This is why musicians have managers…

October 9th, 2003 · Comments Off on This is why musicians have managers…


So I’m all booked up to head off to Italy on Saturday for these gigs, and then think ‘oh dear, my passport hasn’t come back…’ – it ran out on the 23rd September, and I sent it off just after that, but this really is cutting it fine… I should have sent it off the day I got back from my last overseas trip, really – the sort of advice that a good manager would have given me (actually, to be fair, it’s the sort of stellar advice that the small person gives me, but I end up procrastinating, and in this kind of situation)

So I’ve just rung the passport office, and they are going to pull the application out of the queue and send it to the emergency team, which sounds very scary! Anyway, hopefully I’ll get a call back from them – their office is in Peterborough, so I could probably go and collect it if I had to, though I’ve got a very full teaching schedule over the next couple of days…

So the moral is – get things done when they come in – I’ve still not done my self assessment tax return either, which means I’ll have to do all the calculations myself (not that hard, but it is making extra work where it doesn’t need to be…)

gotta get organised, gotta get organised…

Soundtrack – mainly the extra disc that’s coming with the new album (if you order it before next week…), ‘It’s Not Gonna Happen’, which is sounding very good indeed. I’ve just finished the on-body artwork for it, which is nice. Other than that, been listening to John Abercrombie, ‘November’ (I think that’s what it’s called – it’s borrowed and I can’t find it now!) and Andrew Buckton, ‘Now But Not Yet’.

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try again

October 6th, 2003 · Comments Off on try again

OK, so this is my second attempt at writing this, having written a very long post earlier before my computer crashed nearing the end. Bugger…

anyway, here’s the bullet point version (I’m sure much to evil harv’s delight) –

on Saturday I went to a memorial service for a friend whose life was tragically cut short by cancer a couple of weeks ago. She was 29, had a baby and a husband – everything to live for, but the cancer had other ideas. The service was moving and beautiful, but nothing could hide the deep, painful merciless injustice of someone being cut down that early in life. I’ve no idea what her poor hubby is going through – he’s someone I’ve looked up to hugely for years, and I just hope that I can somehow be there for him now. The pain must be inconceivable.

Friday I got a new computer… well, some bits with which to construct a new computer having picked at the bones of my old one for whatever morsels could be rescued. the new chimera is pretty good, and The Captain was invaluable in building it for me – I’d have no idea how to put the damn thing together – software, I’m fine, hardware, forget it.

So the last few days have involved lots of installing of software, lots of trying to find email archives and diary archives etc. All great fun… but at least is all runs a bit quicker, and I’ve not got an extra external drive so I can back everything up. Some friends of mine were burgled this last week, and aside from the electronic stuff the had taken, they also lost a load of photos and film that was in the camera and camcorder, as well as a load of work that was on the PC – that’s terrible! I’m going to try and keep backups of everything so it can’t be stolen or lost or have my harddrive crash again… It’s such a pain as the actual stuff is hardly worth anything, but the work on it is very hard to replace…

anyway, today was a teaching day, and posting out of CD orders (yup, still getting orders for the older albums too! :o) this week I need to get the extra disc pressed up and sorted, so that it’s already to be sent out to all of you who’ve advanced ordered it by next week…

On the gig front, Italy this coming weekend is confirmed, but Stoke Newington on Nov 9th has been cancelled… comings and goings, hellos and goodbyes, bookings and cancellations. Thunder and Rainbows from the same sky. Friends dying, babies being born. All part of the cycle of life, but that doesn’t make the tragedy of death any easier to bear, the joy of birth any less marvellous. On that note, congrats to Johnny and Rosie, Geoff and Sarah and maybe to Steve and Linda by now, who knows… St Luke’s is awash with babies, with more on the way!

Soundtrack – Keith Jarrett trio, ‘Tokyo 96’; Marc Johnson’s Bass Desires, ‘Second Sight’; Joni Mitchell, ‘Hejira’; Charlie Haden & Hank Jones, ‘Steal Away’; recordings of me with BJ Cole and Orphy Robison, and with Luca Formentini, Moreno and Gianni in Italy.

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