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Steve's Blog: Solo Bass & Beyond



gig – Smollensky's, London, with Luca Sirianni, Dec 9th

November 26th, 2007 · Comments Off on gig – Smollensky's, London, with Luca Sirianni, Dec 9th


date
Sunday December 9th, 7.00pm-10pm
venue
Smollenskys on The Strand, London
details
Trio gig with Luca Sirianni + drummer, mixing funky latin jazz originals, with some improvised material and a few standards!
weblinks

Tags: gig dates

Gig – Sanctuary Cafe, Hove, E. Sussex Dec 8th

November 26th, 2007 · Comments Off on Gig – Sanctuary Cafe, Hove, E. Sussex Dec 8th


date
Sunday December 9th, 7.30pm-12pm
venue
The Sanctuary Cafe, Brunswick St East, Hove, Brighton, E. Sussex
details
Duo gig with Lobelia, opening for the excellent Map, featuring Max Gilkes. Have a listen to the tracks on his myspace page. Conrad Vingoe is also on the bill. Tickets £6 on the door.
weblinks

Tags: gig dates

Facebook for musicians – a jumbled mess?

November 25th, 2007 · 10 Comments

One of the massive challenges facing the world of social networking and how it interfaces with marketing (in our case, marketing music) is the area of integration – simply put, how can information uploaded be spread across MySpace, Facebook, Last.fm etc. without us needing to add everything to all of them individually… How can the data from one site be output to be processed by another… The formats and web-standards are there for it to work in the form of RSS/XML, Microformat mark-up and feeds, but very few sites will ACCEPT information that way. Some output it – Reverb Nation generate RSS feeds of gig dates for artists, and last.fm generates ical feeds of the gigs you’ve added to your profile etc. but neither of them will accept input from an hcal formatted page…

Anyway, all of that stuff is lightyears away for the increasingly lumbering behemoth that is Facebook because they cant even get integration to work within their own f-ing site!!!

“What’s the problem?”, you ask, perfectly reasonably. Well, at the moment, there are number of tools for musicians on facebook, their ‘flagship’ idea being Pages – that is, public pages that you can create for a band, product, service, whatever. You create your band page, then folks add themselves as ‘fans’.

However, they also have an excellent app. for ordinary facebook profiles called ‘My Band’ – created by the lovelies at Reverb Nation, it puts your reverb nation player onto your facebook profile (note, not your ‘page’), and even has a separate page for each artist within facebook, and allows your friends to sign up as ‘a fan’. Can you see a huge crossover in purpose here? Of course.

“Wouldn’t it be great if there were a way of connecting the two?” Yes it would, good question, well done.
“Well, is there?” It would appear not.

And to make matters worse, there’s also no link between your Reverb Nation My Band app. fans on facebook and your fans that are actually on your Reverb Nation page.

So what needs to happen? Well, it would be great if Facebook did a proper hook up with Reverb Nation and started to allow embedding the ‘My Band’ player into the page – they could make it the heart of the page in the way that the myspace player is the thing that made that site work so well. That may well entail Facebook buying Reverb Nation – I’m not sure that the corporate side of the Facebook machine would be all that happy about that close a hook-up with a partner rather than a subsidiary – but either way, it’d make it work much better, and would definitely be a giant leap towards Facebook’s aim of finishing off MySpace… It would then mean that there would be proper integration between the embedded Reverb Nation widgets that litter all kinds of pages, and the Reverb Nation Facebook plug-in for fans.

For now though, here are the resources you need to get started, and have the stuff in place when it all starts. These are also the links to follow if you want to check out my music on facebook, and become a fan (which you’ll have to do at least three times for blanket coverage! :o) – you’ll need to log-in to Facebook to access any of the pages there…

My ReverbNation.com page
My Facebook artist ‘Page’

The reverbnation listener plugin for Facebook – for anyone else wanting to add my music to their page, to help spread the word.

If you’re on Facebook, please do add yourself as a fan.

Tags: Geek · New Music Strategies · tips for musicians · website recommendations

London Jazz Festival fun

November 25th, 2007 · 1 Comment

Yesterday’s gig at the Barbican with Corey Mwamba was all kinds of fun. As I’ve mentioned before, this was definitely the most difficult music I’ve ever had to play, and I was still a little under-prepared given that we’d had only two rehearsals as a band – there were a couple of the lines that I could play fine on my own, without the distractions of other musicians, but in the context of the gorgeous improv soup going on around me, I got a little lost. However, one of the very useful skills I’ve picked up from all the improvised music settings that I’ve played in is how to get lost in interesting ways. Learning what to do in a situation like that is your most important tool when it comes to winging it. If you’re underprepared, you’re very likely to screw up, and no amount of bravado or talking yourself up is going to make your playing any better. So instead, you try and give yourself markers through the tune to find your way again when you’ve lost it, and in between playing things that sound GOOD even if they aren’t RIGHT – after all, the audience don’t know the music. There were VERY few of the mistakes I made in the gig that anyone who was intimately acquainted with the music would have been able to spot at all…

At one point in the title track of the set – Argentum – the twinned power of Robert Mitchell on piano and Shaney Forbes on drums just blew over me like an unexpected storm. It was amazing, and beautiful, and a little scary, and I just tried to hang on to my bassline, listening for some clues in Shaney’s drumming for where the hell I was meant to be, but really just enjoying the ride. It’s a healthy feeling to be out of one’s depth with musicians who do their thing with a lot more confidence than you do their thing… I was off of home territory, but as a result was able to take something different to the gig… I don’t carry any of the machismo so often attached to anything possibly describable as ‘fusion’, and I think Corey was drawn to that – both in terms of my ‘sound’ and my approach to improvised stuff… I don’t/cant’ do twiddly clever solos over complex changes, so when I get in that situation, I tend to play atmospherically, shaping a sparse melody through the harmony, looking at it as a composition exercise – much the way I approach the Recycle Collective, just with a little more pre-ordained structure. And to my ears, it worked beautifully…

…there was a lovely moment at the end of the second last tune, where it had slimmed down to a drum solo, and we were all creeping back in to an improv section – I was using the ‘woodblock’ sound that I get by fretting the strings with my nails up near the bridge, and you could see the audience craning their necks to see where the additional percussion was coming from…. I like moments like that. :o)

It was a privilege to play with musicians that good – Corey, Robert, Shaney and Deborah are all incredible players, and delightful people, and I hope I get to play with all of them again v. soon!

Tags: bass ideas · Music News · Musing on Music · tips for musicians

Buy Nothing Day

November 22nd, 2007 · 1 Comment

buy nothing day ad

Tomorrow is Buy Nothing Day – an annual institution instigated by AdBusters as a day to buy nothing and think about over-consumption – in a similar vein to No Music Day.

So go on, Buy nothing tomorrow (or on Saturday if you’re not in the US, or be radical and have two days of buying nothing…)

Tags: cool links · Rant - Politics, Spirituality, etc.

Facebook have added more band stuff….

November 21st, 2007 · Comments Off on Facebook have added more band stuff….

Facebook have now added the option to have band pages, and I’ve got one up there.

If you’re on facebook, please click here to add yourself as a fan – would be lovely to have your support over there.

As they add more resources for musicians, it could become a really cool thing.

And if you want to add my music to your facebook profile, you can do so via the Reverb Nation Facebook plug-in – it’s a great tool that allows you to add music to your page, and spread the word! It’d help me out loads if you did, and give your facebook page a cool soundtrack too. :o)

If you’ve got a band and want a facebook thing, it’s all about the pages click here for more, and once you’ve created your page, come and add a link to it here in the comments…

Tags: cool links · Music News · site updates

Transparent Music Pt 1

November 21st, 2007 · 1 Comment

Nope, this isn’t going to be a review of the excellent BJ Cole album of the same name (though that always comes highly recommended!) – no, in this context, transparent music relates to making music that isn’t obscured by the technical and ego-laden concerns of the creator… It’s something that bassists seem to struggle with more than most, often content to label what we do as ‘bass music’ or to see other bassists as a target market. So many bass-led albums end up being largely displays of technical virtuosity and bass-ish gimmickry devoid of much musical content. Or even with plenty of musical content obscured by the techno-wank going on over the top.

I dispensed with the idea of targeting bassists as my primary market a long time ago. I did so not because I don’t like bassists listening to what I do (dear bassists of the world, I love you very much indeed), but because of how it affected the way I thought about making music. As I’ve reiterated here a number of times, impressing bassists isn’t that hard – indeed it’s often the stuff that is least musical by a particular artist that gets the strongest accolades from the bassists of the world – youtube is full of half-assed bass cleverness getting the ‘wow that’s amazing!!!’ treatment from the enthralled bass playing teenagers of the planet. But will it ever get airplay? Probably not. Will you ever see it on a gig of any kind? Probably not. That’s not to say that the people making it shouldn’t be doing it – of course anyone can make whatever noises they want and upload the vids to youtube without me policing it!!! – but it’s important to be aware of what’s at work, and how it affects YOU the artist.

If you find yourself thinking about your target audience when you’re making your music, in a ‘this’ll wow them’ kind of way, that’s going to affect the emotional range of what you come up with. Guaranteed. You’re narrowing yourself to ‘wow music’, and that’s not, for the most part, a particularly fertile furrow to plough.

So this is where the idea of transparent music comes in – music unobscured by the technical overload ladened on to leave teen bassist’s tongues hanging out. Music where the story, the emotion, the vibe, the scene that’s being set is foremost in the listener’s awareness when they’re listening.

So am I saying that technique isn’t important? Of course I’m not. Technique is doubly important because it has no real currency in and of itself, so it needs to be learnt, perfected and then set to work serving the greater musical picture. It needs to be much more highly developed given that the cleverness of it will be no coverup for a bunch of fluffed notes, when it’s meant to be conveying something else to the listener.

It requires mindfulness and maturity, clarity of thought and purpose, and is particularly difficult if you’re thinking about how you’re going to sell the end product when you’ve finished it. But no-one said make great music would be easy. It clearly isn’t, given how much risibly dire shit gets through the radio/magazine/tv filters – most music is at best mediocre. Which is all the more of a challenge to make something of substance. As Ellis Marsalis once told his son Wynton – “those who play for applause, that’s all they get.” – technique has to be at the service of something deeper, or it becomes circus performance.

And of course, it goes without saying that that deeper thing can be incredibly technically advanced – have a listen to Michael Manring, Don Ross, John Coltrane etc. etc…. It’s just that in each case, the music, the passion, the spirit is deeply evident in every note.

In the UK for quite a few years through the late 90s and early 00s the exact opposite of the flashness thing was true – musicians were actively shying away from appearing to be technically proficient, preferring to sound shitty and untrained as a way of appearing to be 4 REAL. Bollocks. It just meant that nothing grooved and a whole load of musical language that REQUIRES proficiency dropped off the musical map for a while.

One of the reasons that so many times of musical transition have been characterised by drug use is not that drugs make you more creative. It’s just that they shut off the voices that tell you what you CAN’T do. And very few people can be bothered to go through the process of shutting out those voices in a way that doesn’t rely on drugs. It’s tough. It’s really hard to filter through the thousands of messages we get from marketeers about how we should be, what we should like, what’s cool and why cool matters. And it’s all utter bullshit. Picking a path through it is a life long pursuit, and a daily one at that. A process of naming and disregarding the BS voices trying to get us to conform and consume.

It’s the same in the music world as anywhere else. Fads, fashions, new gear, new software, new models for this and that. Buy a new bass and your tone will magically compensate for the 10 years of half-assed non-focussed practice that you haven’t been doing. Picking through that, realising that there aren’t any short cuts, but there are efficient ways of doing the work, there are useful ways of thinking about what it is that we do that will help us cut down on wasted time and get to the place of creativity and clarity sooner, and without needing to get stoned to be there.

Feel free to post your thoughts and experiences in the comments, before I expand on this in Pt II. :o)

Tags: bass ideas · Musing on Music · tips for musicians

Early Christmas presents – your virtual gifts here…

November 20th, 2007 · Comments Off on Early Christmas presents – your virtual gifts here…

It’s something we’ve done in a small way over in the forum for a couple of years, but I thought I’d copy it over here as a comment thread this year – giving Christmas presents is often expensive and perhaps almost as often, pointless. You spend ages trying to find something that is adequate as a gift, not that is either useful or of benefit, or something where the purchasing in the first place is for the greater good…

We can talk about fair trade presents (and beautiful solo bass cds) later but for now, we’re looking for free online pressies. They can be as simple as recommendations for cool websites, or links to sites with free (legal) MP3s, or cartoons, films. Please don’t post links to anything where the legality or morality of the derivation is questionable, like MP3 blogs not sanctioned by the artists etc. but links to last.fm pages with free mp3s are good, or even last.fm pages where albums are streamable if not downloadable.

This is your chance to offer a free gift of something fun and useful and artsy and cool to all the readers of this ‘ere blog…

So here are my three for you – one or two of which I may have mentioned before –

The End of Control – on ongoing ebook, readable as a blog or downloadable as PDF chapters, on the changes in the music industry.
Free Culture – another e-book about the nature of copyright, ownership and the proliferation of ideas and content in a digital age.
New Music Strategies – a third e-book about the changes in the music industry. More deeply thought out stuff on where it’s all going.

So there you go, three books for Christmas (or for you Americans, you can see them as a Thanksgiving present too, should you wish to, along with this thought and this thought about what Thanksgiving is).

So post away, comments are open – give a freebie web-gift for Christmas! :o)

Tags: cool links · New Music Strategies · Random Catchup · tips for musicians · website recommendations

Free documentaries to watch online…

November 18th, 2007 · Comments Off on Free documentaries to watch online…

Lo. just found this site – FreeDocumentaries.org – loads of streamable/downloadable docs, including SuperSize Me, Fahrenheit 9/11, Bowling For Columbine and a couple of episodes of Morgan Spurlock’s ’30 days’ series. Plus lots of other great stuff, and a couple of things that look like crack-pot conspiracy movies which should be good for a laugh.

Days and Days of quality brain food!

Tags: cool links · film/tv · website recommendations

more streaming video from me and Lobelia

November 13th, 2007 · 1 Comment

Last friday, I played with Lo. at the Freedom Of Expression night in Marylebone, London, and once again it was archived for your viewing and listening pleasure. And this time, I actually took my pedals with me – hurrah! It’s a lovely little gig, and well worth a watch…

Enjoy!

Tags: cool links · Gig stuff · Music News