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Steve's Blog: Solo Bass & Beyond



busy busy busy

December 12th, 2007 · Comments Off on busy busy busy

It’s all go here!

We’ll start with last weekend – two gigs, Saturday/Sunday.

Saturday’s was a gig with Lobelia in Brighton at the Sanctuary Cafe, opening for MAP – that’s and Peter Harris – both incredible acoustic guitarists, writers of sublime melodies and fantastic performers. Also on the bill before us was a marvellous singer/songwriter, Conrad Vingoe – as well as having one of the most rock ‘n’ roll names ever (not much chance of that domain name being taken), he writes great songs and has a gorgeous voice. All good. ‘Twas a small crowd, but the venue was intimate and sounded good, the people lovely and a fine time was had by all… I’ll put photos from it up on Flickr soon.

Sunday’s gig was back at Smollensky’s with Luca Sirianni, this time with Sophie Alloway on drums. The gig with Luca is becoming a fairly regular thing, and a whole lot of fun – the chance to play a lot of pop/latin/jazz tunes, do some interesting arrangements, get funky and get paid (a bit). Luca’s a fine guitarist, who does enough ‘dinner jazz’ gigs to know just the right kind of things to play, but also likes to stretch out, improvise and have some fun. It was the first time I’d played with Sophie, and she was a treat to play with – not having come the usual ‘3 years at music school’ route, she plays with the maturity of a player who’s been gigging twice as long as she has, because she learnt on gigs. One of my main gripes with so many drummers is the don’t listen well – they establish a beat and stick with it, instead of letting the grooves grow and expand. Sophie listened really well, and also – crucially – understood the space a drummer has to occupy in a trio. As usual, I hit my stride about half way through the second set, but that’s the price I pay for not playing with drummers often enough…

…Though that’s not the case right now – I’m in the middle of a really fun recording session with Patrick Wood and Roy Dodds – if you saw the last Recycle gig, you’ll know this is a pretty special trio… We spent most of yesterday setting up, but got about 20 minutes of amazing music recorded last night, and will spend much of today on it as well… except the time that I’m teaching – thanks to my going away for Christmas and January to the US, I’m having to fit in as much teaching as possible before I go, partly because lots of students want lessons before I go and partly because I need to earn as much as I can in order to be able to pay my rent, and renew my car tax in january…

in between all that, I’m booking things to do in the US (masterclasses and gigs in California), sorting out my tax return (spending a lot of time buried under piles of receipts) and somewhere this week, I need to fit in a few hours to record some tracks for an italian electronica project that I’ve been meaning to record some stuff for for over a year, and HAVE to have done before Christmas…

Add to that regular trips to the post office to send off CD orders for the new EP and people ordering other stuff as christmas presents, and you’ve got yourself one seriously overworked Stevie.

Roll on Ohio…

Tags: Music News · Random Catchup · teaching news

new video on youtube

December 12th, 2007 · 2 Comments

MMFSOG recorded at the ACM in guildford

Tags: cool links · Music News

role-models, goal-models and the quest for admirable qualities.

December 10th, 2007 · Comments Off on role-models, goal-models and the quest for admirable qualities.

I heard a discussion on Radio London this morning about role models. A term came up that I’d not heard before as an alternative – ‘Goal-models’ – people who aren’t neccesarily who you want to be, but may have achieved something you wish you’d achieved, or are planning to achieve….

The whole notion of role-modeling is fraught with problems, not least of all in how we define success. Two were mentioned on the radio this morning as being common choices of ‘role model’ – the first was Richard Branson, and the other Muhammad Ali… to both, my response was ‘WTF?’ – Ali spent his ‘working’ life attempting to inflict brain damage on his opponents before they did the same to him, and is now a shell of a man thanks to having been punched about as a job. His ‘success’? fame, money and a lot of other people equally fucked up thanks to him pounding them with his fists. Great role model.

Branson? The dude who talks about his concern for the environment but is still going ahead with his plan to offer the first commercial flights into space… He seems incapable of recognising that protecting the planet is going to require LESS flying, not just ‘greener’ flying. Branson is a shining example of someone imprisoned by their wealth, unable to make the ethical decisions that are staring him in the face, thanks to the constraints of his enormous financial empire.

Neither of them are people I’d want to model myself on, or would want my kids looking up to…

The problem seems to be that ‘success’ is measured in terms of surface things – wealth, fame, ‘power’, desirability… none of which are ‘qualities’, just consequences of luck, by and large… There are venal mendacious scumbags that are rich, and poor. There are inspiring famous people, but equal numbers of inspiring poor unknowns… Ordinary people living extraordinary lives. People who make alchemical magic out of the clay of their own lives. Who don’t need to transcend their situation to shine, but instead, transform anywhere they are into a place of grace and redemption and inspiration.

Most of the people who inspire me are of modest wealth, little or no fame, and most of them are parents – bringing up kids is just about the biggest and most exciting responsibility anyone can have, investing in the formation of an independent mind and spirit, setting them off on their journey… So I look at people who spend the time required to give their kids that kind of start, who invest in the things that matter, and I’m inspired. I want to be mindful as they are mindful, even though I don’t have kids.

The other people who inspire me are those who choose to walk away from ‘fame’ for the sake of doing the deeper thing, whether it be working for a smaller company so you can have an positive impact, staying at home to raise their kids, or even just playing the music that’s in their heart and mind instead of trying to write lowest common denominator music just to meet a marketing man’s idea of what will sell…

Bottom line is, ‘roles’ and ‘goals’ are transient ephemeral things – you can have an impressive role in life and still be a scumbag, or you can work in a chip-shop and change the lives of the people you work with just by being kind, friendly, generous and creative.

Maybe we need ‘journey-models’ – people who just do what they do with a degree if dignity, grace, generosity and selflessness that is worthy of emulation, regardless of their station in life or the ‘goals’ they have reached or will reach…

Tags: Rant - Politics, Spirituality, etc.

Future music stats….

December 10th, 2007 · Comments Off on Future music stats….

Sarda just sent me a fab link to zdnet’s blog of digital music industry facts and figures – here are three at random –

1. Top music retailers in Q1 2007: Wal-Mart, Best Buy, iTunes, Amazon, Target
2. 72% of online Americans listen to music on their PCs
3. 10% of all music sold in Europe in 2007 will be digital music

Piecing together anything coherent by way of a response to these will require a lot of reading, extrapolating of trends, and a look at what’s happening outside the mainstream (I doubt that I’ve lost that many sales because people have gone into Walmart or Target hoping to buy my CDs and been disappointed…)

But the blog is well worth a read if you’re interested in the trends and stats in the monetization of music…

Tags: New Music Strategies

Karlheinz Stockhausen RIP

December 8th, 2007 · 1 Comment

German electronic music pioneer and unrelentingly experimental composer Karlheinz Stockhausen has died, aged 79.

I first heard his music when I was about 15 or 16, listening to hours and hours of John Peel’s radio show every week, and eager to soak up new ideas about what music could be. In a music lesson at school, Mr McCormick put on ‘Frogs’, and the few of us that were developing an interest in experimental music had our minds well and truly expanded. None of us had heard anything like it, and we all found it – crucially – hilarious. I’ve always found deep comedy in much experimental music: not by laughing ‘at’ it, but just in the absurdity of abstraction, in a Dadaist tradition, I guess… Stockhausen’s Frogs was a high-brow musical version of Monty Python for us, and as a result, hugely compelling and influential.

For a while around that time, I had my first ‘experimental’ music group – a duo with a friend at school called ‘Pigfarm’ – it was basically us making a racket whilst recording it. We would rustle plastic bags, run taps, read surrealist poetry, talk in squeaky voices, play thing backwards and generally make a largely tuneless ridiculous noise (though I do remember a sublime version of ‘House Of The Rising Sun’ complete with stuff being smashed up in the background and preset rhythms on a cheap keyboard employed for comic effect.

It was, of course, total nonsense, but it was important nonsense for us in that it was about making ourselves laugh. It was also in a sense frustrating because our technical skills at both recording and playing limited just how ridiculous we could be… I learned at that point how skillful great free players have to be, whether they’re playing instruments or just making a racket – if the racket is going to be engaging, it takes ideas and skill and concentration…

And Stockhausen was a MAJOR figure in my musical world at the time, referred to on an almost daily basis as the arbiter of all that was most extreme in music – up there with Napalm Death and John Zorn in the pantheon of ‘how far can you go?’ musical talk…

Figures like that are vital. Since then, I’ve heard music of his that I love, and music of his that leaves me unmoved… it’s highly likely that the problem is with me not him in the bits that I don’t get… I look at his music in a different way now, but his name is still there as a beacon of limitless experimentalism, of the pioneering spirit that ignored the nay-sayers and just did his thing. String quartet suspended in helicopters? no problem. Orchestral music with the players sitting in the audience? sure thing. Music for four simultaneous orchestras? er, OK. Live frogs on stage? easy…

Whenever I dip my toes into the world of experimental music, free improv, atonal music, non-idiomatic music etc. I draw on an experimental streak that runs through the middle of my own musical journey – it’s clearly not there in the harmonic content of what I’m playing these days (I doubt Stockhausen wrote much diatonic music in his life…) but it was definitely there in my decision to start experimenting with solo bass in the first place. I didn’t go into it be experimental, but the fact that at such an early age, Stockhausen, along with John Peel, John Zorn, Napalm Death, Air (not the french chill-out dudes), John Cage, Steve Reich and the guys I was hanging out with at school that were equally willful in their desire to make a funny racket helped me to approach the world of music with a sense of adventure rather than boundary, a desire to have fun, to test the limits of what I could do with my instrument, and not be afraid of having my own ‘high concept’ about what I was doing, even if it wasn’t remotely audible to the person listening to the end result.

Stockhausen had more bad press than perhaps any composer in history, but also changed the course of music in the 20th century. From The Beatles to Miles to Zappa, the more visible icons of change and progression in music during the 1900s were all influenced by the man.

Tags: Musing on Music · obituaries

New EP! New EP!

December 6th, 2007 · Comments Off on New EP! New EP!

Right, with no advance notice at all, Lobelia and I have a new live EP available. It’s a pre-release of some of the tracks that will be on our live album, coming out towards the middle of next year, and features three bass ‘n’ voice duo tunes and two solo tunes of mine. Track list is –

Happy (7:34)
MMFSOG (4:09)
I’m Lost (5:11)
Rain (9:14)
Jimmy James (6:51)

The version of MMFSOG is by far the best take of that tune I’ve ever recorded, and the version of Jimmy James is an all-fretless one. The tracks were all recorded live at Power Base Studio in Nebraska earlier in the year.

“So how do we get one of these lovely very limited edition discs?” I hear you cry… All you have to do is send £5 via paypal or nochex, which includes WORLDWIDE POSTAGE AND PACKING. (send it to steve[at]steve[dash]lawson[dot]co[dot]uk please)

What’s more, if you buy this disc now, it’ll save you £2 when the album comes out.

The CD itself is a CDR with all the info printed on the disc, and comes in a pretty plastic clam-shell case, like these –

To make it easy, here’s a paypal button which goes straight to the ‘pay Steve £5 for his and Lo’s delicious new CD’ page –















and in the player below, you can listen to the first track from it – ‘Happy’. It’s fab! :o)


Steve%20Lawson

Enjoy…

Tags: Music News

Vegetable Orchestra…

December 6th, 2007 · 1 Comment

Found via Jazz: The Music Of UnEmployment blog – an orchestra with instruments made entirely from vegetables. Wonderful stuff:

Tags: cool links

Lessons Learned Pt 2 – free to stream/download… or donate?

December 6th, 2007 · Comments Off on Lessons Learned Pt 2 – free to stream/download… or donate?

For quite a while now, Lessons Learned From An Aged Feline Pt 2 has been free to download from last.fm – I’m not sure how many people have downloaded it, but it’s there.

Anyway, here are all the tracks, streamable in their entirety from here, and by clicking the ‘download free track’ link in the player as each track is playing, it’ll start downloading. If you really want to, you can also send me a couple of quid for it, by clicking the button below. No pressure though, just if you want to.















so here are the tracks. Listen, and then download the ones you like! :o)

Lessons Learned From An Aged Feline Pt II

Tags: cool links · Music News · New Music Strategies

Payplay.fm – download sales

December 3rd, 2007 · Comments Off on Payplay.fm – download sales

Thanks to the lovelies at cdbaby.com, my music is on something like 42 digital download stores. The majority of my download sales still come from itunes, my own store and emusic, with some paid plays on napster and rhapsody.

But every now and again, a new one starts up that has some interesting ideas. So it is with payplay.fm, who do sales widgets, as well as free downloads and fun stuff like that for their users. Check them out, and if you want to grab a few tracks from my last album, you can do it here –

Easy..

If you’re a musician with albums out and your music isn’t on Cdbaby, you’re probably missing out on possible revenue, and a whole lot of great ideas… head over to cdbaby.net for more info…

Tags: cool links · Music News · New Music Strategies

Microformats plug-in for Safari

November 26th, 2007 · Comments Off on Microformats plug-in for Safari

A few days ago Sarda sent me a link to this microformats plug-in for Safari. Basically what it does is, when there’s an microformat data on a page, it shows the lil’ green microformat symbol in the address bar (like where the orange RSS thingie is if you’re looking at this page in Safari), and when you click on it, you get the option to automatically add the hCalendar or hCard address info to iCal or your address book.

It’s very useful for adding gig details from last.fm direct into iCal, or for adding the gig dates from my gig dates page direct into iCal. Or even the gig dates posted on this ‘ere blog. If you had the plug-in installed, and are reading this on the home page of the blog, then the two previous gig date entries would be listed in the microformat thingie, and you could add them with one click.

There’s a similar plug-in for Firefox, should that be your thing.

And if you’re using MS Explorer, please switch to something else – Firefox, Opera, or even Safari for PC

Tags: cool links · Geek