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Steve's Blog: Solo Bass & Beyond



Last night's gig with BJ and Emily

December 8th, 2006 · Comments Off on Last night's gig with BJ and Emily

Lovely little gig with BJ Cole and Emily Burridge last night – the Enterprise in Camden. It does have the steepest stairs in London, and after loading my stuff in, I wasn’t sure if my arms would be working in time for the gig, but they were. I also nearly brought the scaled down travel rig, but I’d have been in deep shit if I had because the PA there isn’t even close to being up to the task of reproducing StevieSounds. So Emily ran her cello through my rig as well, and BJ had his most beautiful fender amp with him, which always sounds like the music of heaven.

It’s a little room, and we had a little audience, but they were most appreciative. Nicest surprise for me was that during the afternoon I’d been thinking about older tunes I haven’t played for a while at gigs, and decided to do Danny And Mo from ‘Not Dancing For Chicken’ – a tune dedicated to Mo Foster and Danny Thompson. And who should walk in just as I started playing but Mo Foster. Always nice when the inspiration for a song is there to hear you explain why they’re so fantastic. Do you want to know the story behind the tune? OK – when I first started working on the tunes that would become Not Dancing For Chicken, I had just got a Gibson Echoplex, which offered loads more looping options – I was rather inspired by a guitarist in California called Andre LaFosse who was doing some amazing unique things with the echoplex, and was certainly a very long way from the long chord progressions, melodies and ambience that I was working on at the time.

So when I went into Jez’s studio to record the first version of the album, I was experimenting with a lot of really spikey angular electronica – using the replace and sus functions in the EDP all over the place, and getting some fairly cool effects.

however, when I got home after the sessions, I was listening to ‘Time To Think’ by Mo Foster, and had an epiphany, realising what was missing from the record – TUNES! I had nothing with any of the big romantic melodies that are what I do best, and all the ambient stuff was punctuated by bleeps and squeaks, some of which was great (and ended up on Lessons Learned Pt I) most of which wasn’t that good…

So I went back to the drawing board, and the first thing I wrote, straight after listening to that album of Mo’s was ‘Danny And Mo’. So there.

Anyway, back to the gig – I played Behind Every Word (with a huge cock-up on the B-section first time round – just had a brain freeze), then Danny And Mo, Despite My Worst Intentions, MMFSOG, What A Wonderful World and Deeper Still. I’d planned to do a whole load of improv, but went with sweet tunes instead. :o) And ’twas v. well received, which is most heartening.

Bj and Emily’s set was, as expected, beautiful. There’s an amazing empathy between them as players, and the classical arrangements work better than any rearranged classical works I’ve ever heard. It’s usually a recipe for disaster, but them playing Satie is a thing of great beauty. Emily’s a fab Cellist, with an amazing tone and touch. And BJ’s, well, BJ – a completely unique figure in the world of music.

in the second set they got me up for an improv, which started out as a gentle naive duet between BJ and I, swapped to a duet between Emily and I, then I looped a progression in D, and BJ and I started building up the ambience while Emily played beautiful melodic lines over it… and the fade got really dark with my big Sigur Ros guitar sound, and BJ’s twisted MoogerFooger distorted steel… amazing.

And so you have it, the story of gigs in london – small appreciative crowds listening to world-beating music. It’s the kind of thing that should be filling concert halls the world over. I guess it will… patience, dear boy.

Tags: Music News

WTF?

December 7th, 2006 · Comments Off on WTF?

WTF? In London???

Tags: Random Catchup

Spearhead, Sessions and tonight's gig

December 7th, 2006 · Comments Off on Spearhead, Sessions and tonight's gig

Tuesday night was Spearhead night – my 5th time seeing them play, this time at Shepherd’s Bush Empire. They are, without doubt, my favourite live band in the world. It’s funky, celebratory, the tunes are great, the playing’s amazing and the lyrics make you feel like the world isn’t quite as lost as it seems to be if you just turn on the TV and watch… Michael Franti has a Shamen-like presence, encouraging the whole room to celebrate together, to encourage the celebration of differences, exhorting religions to focus on their similarities in order to work for a common aim, firing us up to get politically and socially active. All this under the distince haze and odour of many a spliff – bring on the smoking ban… ah well.

Anyway, I got there half an hour after they started due to teaching schedule and a remarkably early start time (headline band on at 8.30??) But the other hour and 45 was incredible as always. The new album, Yell Fire, has a strong reggae influence, and it gives another spin to the protest angle – Reggae, like Hip-hop has it’s origins in defiance, protest and inspiration for the poor and dispossessed (just have a listen to any Bob Marley, Steel Pulse or Linton Kwesi Johnson track for evidence), and like Hip-hop it’s been mostly hijacked by ‘bling’ culture, with so many reggae stars toasting about guns and booty… So it’s great to see it reclaimed as a medium for changing the world.

At the aftershow party, Franti was clearly enamoured with my coat, wondering which muppet I slaughtered to make it, but stroking my arm the whole time we talked. :o)

Yesterday was a heavy teaching day – yay! And today started with teaching and has moved on to recording. I’m in the middle of two remote sessions – one for Lobelia, a fantastic singer/songwriter from Montreal, and the other for Andrea Nones AKA DubNervous – a great electronica artist from Italy. Very different projects, equally enjoyable and challenging. Hurrah!

And tonight I’ve got the gig at the Enterprise in Chalk Farm, opening for BJ Cole and Emily Burridge – doors 8pm, tickets £8/£6 – see you there!!

Tags: Musing on Music

The perfect surreal Christmas present…

December 6th, 2006 · Comments Off on The perfect surreal Christmas present…

…for anyone who grew up in England in the 70s –

Go on, you know you want one hanging in your bathroom to remind you of school swimming in the 70s. :o)

Failing that, you could actually do something useful with your Christmas money and send presents to people who really need them on behalf of your friends and family.

Tags: Random Catchup

Not an 80s vid…

December 5th, 2006 · Comments Off on Not an 80s vid…

despite it being a Nik Kershaw song. Nik’s album ’15 Minutes’, released in 1999 is a hidden masterpiece, a tour de force of stunning songwriting, great guitar playing, and proof if ever it were needed that he was always a cut above just about everyone else who came out of that decade… Go and buy 15 minutes, you’ll thank me later. He’s got a new album out, which I need to get.

Tags: Musing on Music

My ringtone rendered as video…

December 5th, 2006 · Comments Off on My ringtone rendered as video…

OK, this one is objectively verifiably one of the greatest pop songs of all time. If you disagree, well, you’re just wrong and I pity you. It’s also my ringtone on my phone (the MP3 not some crappily rendered midi-file of it. So if you’re ever on a bus somewhere and hear this playing tinnily behind you, it’s me taking a call, OK?

Sit back, enjoy, then go and write some songs this good…

Tags: Musing on Music

John Lester at the 606

December 5th, 2006 · Comments Off on John Lester at the 606

Fine gig last night – John Lester was launching his new album, So Many Reasons, last night at the 606 in Chelsea. His band was him, Theo Travis on sax, flutes and marvellousness, Andy Hamill on bass and magicalness and Roy Dodds on drums, percussion and groove-based tremendousness. And then, in the second set, me for two tunes. No looping, no Ebow, no fretless, no big delays… just my 6 string fretted and some rather fun jazz guitar parts. I played on Union Street (which is one of my favourite songs of John’s – no mean feat in a set packed with favourite songs of mine) and Good Intentions, another great song off the new album.

Ever since I started playing solo I’ve wanted to be in a position to give other people a leg up. It’s what I want people to do for me, and in the spirit of ‘do unto others as you’d have them do unto you’ (what wise-ass came up with that? pretty simple formula for changing the world, huh?) I have always wanted to use whatever meagre platform I have to give other musicians a boost. And John is probably the best example of that, even though it was through a tour with Michael Manring that the push came about (and I always pull much bigger crowds when I tour with Michael, for some inexplicable reason… ;o) – anyway, John came out and opened for Michael and I on a bunch of gigs, and was quite frankly awesome. Awesometacular, if you will. He sold a shedload of CDs, won himself an army of new fans, and it helped to establish him in some way in London. Since then – with no help from me at all! – he’s been touring and playing bass for Gretchen Peters, where he plays in her band and opens the show, blowing away audiences night after night, and winning himself so many new fans along the way. He’s a great performer and great songwriter, and last night he had the cream of London’s musicians playing with him – Andy’s one of my favourite bassists in the world, Theo’s, well Theo, i don’t think he’s ever played a bit of music I didn’t think was outstanding, and Roy’s the perfect sensitive groovy player to be in that band. A magical evening all round.

So, now go and get John’s CD, from his website, or at least have a listen to some tracks on his myspace page.

Finally, a blog post that doesn’t feature a video from the 80s… hang on, gimme a minute here, I’ll find one for you…

Tags: Musing on Music

It's alright, I'll get bored of this in a couple of days…

December 4th, 2006 · Comments Off on It's alright, I'll get bored of this in a couple of days…

I promise…

After Paul Weller left the Jam, I as a pre-teen Jam fan wasn’t impressed with the really early Style Council stuff. The first of their songs that totally grabbed me was Walls Come Tumbling Down. After that I then went back and rediscovered the first album, which is a work of genius. And Steve White was what, 17 when he played that stuff?? Unbelieveable.

Tags: Musing on Music

And more retro-loveliness

December 4th, 2006 · Comments Off on And more retro-loveliness

OK, so I’m indulging the kind of retrogressive fanciful nonsense that I’ve derided before on this ‘ere blog (can’t find the entry at the moment, but it was a rant about oldies stations), but I’m really loving finding 80s classics on YouTube… I guess I can console myself that I’m digging up songs I really like, and still like, not Amytiville by Lovebug Starski or Just Say No by the Grange Hill Cast… I’m not even dipping into guilty pleasures like Hi Ho Silver by Jim Diamond (it’s the association with Boon, I’m afraid) or any of the great 80s power ballad duets from crap films…

So here’s installment 3 in Steve’s video nostalgia trek… I promise I’ll dig up some new music soon to counteract this pointless reminiscing.

BTW, there’s a thread started over in the forum – I’m sorry that comments are still down… Will try and stick pins in Sarda and get him working on it… it’s not like he’s actually busy with work and moving back to England or anything.

Tags: Musing on Music

World AIDS day… (two days late)

December 3rd, 2006 · Comments Off on World AIDS day… (two days late)

Friday was World AIDS day. A day that shouldn’t have to exist, shouldn’t have to be marked. But it does, because AIDS is spreading, particularly in the developing world, and is destroying entire countries, as huge sections of the population are wiped out.

Every 11 seconds, someone dies an AIDS/HIV-related death. That’s a lot of deaths. Many of which are preventable, if only the right drugs were available. That they aren’t is a blot on the collective conscience of the world’s developed nations that as this quote from the president of World Vision highlights, is our own preventable holocaust –
“I believe that this could very well be looked back on as the sin of our generation. I look at my parents and ask, where were they during the civil rights movement? I look at my grandparents and ask, what were they doing when the holocaust in Europe was occurring with regard to the Jews, and why didn’t they speak up? And when we think of our great, great, great-grandparents, we think how could they have sat by and allowed slavery to exist? And I believe that our children and their children, 40 or 50 years from now, are going to ask me, what did you do while 40 million children became orphans in Africa?” — Rich Stearns, President of World Vision, US

There are lots more quotes about AIDS here – we used quite a few of them in a service for World AIDS Day in the Soul Space service at St Luke’s this evening. It’s sobering, challenging, and enraging all at the same time. How is this still happening? Fortunately, there are organisations that are doing something, right here in London, as well as around the world.

Support, donate, campaign, pray, write letters, volunteer.

Tags: Rant - Politics, Spirituality, etc.