Steve's Blog: Solo Bass & Beyond

Developmental Myopia…

June 20th, 2004 | No Comments | Categories: Uncategorized |

I think it’s fair to say that my progress thus far as a solo performer has been a series of myopic fixations. And not without good reason – I’m the kind of person who thrives on creative restrictions, giving me something to bang up against and come up wtih interesting ways to subvert or supercede those limitations.

This is most evident in the development of the compexity of my live and recording set up, and the way advice that I receive often takes years to filter into practice.

A few examples –

back in 2000, when I was first doing solo gigs, I had also recently signed up to the Loopers Delight discussion list . I was a fairly avid fan and advocate for the Lexicon JamMan that I Was using at the time. Much of the discussion on the list revolved around the relative merits of various looping devices and a lot of the users therein recommended the Echoplex Digital Pro over the JamMan because it had feeback control. Pah! says I, who needs that, I can just stick a volume pedal inline after the JamMan and fade it out that way, not really getting the point of feedback, and not having the wisdom to enquire further as to its usefulness. Fast forward a couple of years to me getting an Echoplex, and finally the merits of a feedback control are very plain to see. Had I asked earlier, maybe I’d have got to grips with the loop function in my Lexicon MPX-G2 a lot earlier, that having feedback control….

About a year later on Looper’s Delight, another discussion comes up about how to wire all the different boxes together (I think a picture of the kind of geeks we are who sit around discussing looping all day….) – and various wise and learned loopers are talking about running looping devices in Auxiliary channels on mixing desks (if you don’t know, you don’t need to know, believe me – skip all this waffle and read something else instead), and once again, me having up to that point run my gear all in a straight line poo-pooh’d the idea, suggesting that such things were overly picky and not to be worried about. Jump forward a couple of years to the recording of Not Dancing For Chicken, and I discover that by borrowing the Small Person’s mixing desk, I can put the various looping devices in auxiliary channels and make everything much tidier and the signal much cleaner…

On the preliminary sessions for Not Dancing For Chicken, Jez and I set about recording it in his studio. ‘shall we put each looper and processor into a separate channel on the computer?’ asks jez. No, says I, cos I want to be able to record it all through a mic’d bass amp… One failed session later I realise that on studio recordings, mic’ing bass amps for reverb and hifi regenerating delay sounds is probably not such a great idea. Still, I then went home and recorded the entire album in stereo when I could fairly easily have separated it all out if I’d not been fixated on my one way of doing things… Fast forward once again to this latest album that I’m just finishing up, and having finally bought a mixing desk with insert sends on each channel, I’ve been able to record the signal from each of the G2s and each of the Echoplex onto separate tracks, making the signal cleaner, the mix far more maleable and the end result my best yet…

So those, along with various other options I really should have taken up a long time ago have lead me to a place where I have a hugely versatile set up, incorporating about 5 years worth of accumulated advice, all of it seemingly on a three year slow release mechanism… From a mono rig with a bass combo at one end and only one looper with no feedback control at the other to my current set up which is stereo live and has six different channels in the studio, allows me to use one of the processors before or after the loops, or both, loop from one EDP to the other, fade one, sync them, apply effects from the Kaoss pad and pan any of the above signals to anywhere in the stereo field – it’s been a fun journey thus far.

Having said all that, my rate of technological uptake has kept pace with the speed at which I’ve learned what each bit of kit does. I got good with the JamMan, then added the G2, got good with those before adding the Line 6 DL4, swapped the JamMan for an Echoplex which then became two echoplexes, then added the kaoss pad and a simple mixing desk and finally added a second MPX-G2 and a more complex desk… If I’d just gone out about bought the set up I have now five years ago, I’d have had no idea what to do with any of it…

so there you go.

Soundtrack – me! oh yes, the new album is pretty much finished to pre-master stage – I’m just tidying up some mix elements before sending it off to Denis Blackham at Skye Mastering to add his fairy dust to it. I’ve mastered all the previous CDs myself, but this one deserves the full treatment. theo put me onto Denis, and it transpires that he’s mastered albums with me on before… However, the bit that sold me on him was that he mastered Spirit Of Eden by Talk Talk, which is one of my all time favourite albums. So he’s the man for the job!

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