Steve's Blog: Solo Bass & Beyond

Paradigm is no measure of quality – what to do when you're 'different'…

July 20th, 2008 | No Comments | Categories: gig dates · Music News · Musing on Music · tips for musicians |

This post is inspired by two things – firstly, a conversation I had recently with the very lovely Laura Kidd. We’d known each other quite a few weeks before she finally bothered to listen to any of the music I did, assuming that because it was solo bass it would be a load of techno-wank bass cleverness and therefor not something she’d be interested in. She eventually listened to it, probably as much out of politeness as anything, and said with a large degree of surprise the next time I saw her how much she liked it.

She was quite embarrassed, but actually her response is pretty much mine whenever I get an email or get given a CD and told ‘you’ll really like this, it’s solo bass’.

The problem is that solo bass is neither a style of music, not does it carry any indication of quality. And, for the most part, I’m not hugely into what happens on solo bass. There are some very notable exceptions to this, and some of my favourite musicians in the world are indeed solo bassists, but as a ‘draw’, solo bass doesn’t really work for me without some evidence that there’s more to it than the tools of the trade.

Same goes for ‘loop music’, ‘ambient music’, or any other vague classification I might fit into. It’s one of the reasons I find it so tricky to accurately sum up what I do in a single sentence…

The 2nd thing that inspired this as a topic was thinking about mine and Lobelia‘s upcoming gig at Darbucka. Going out to live shows in a city as big as London can be such a chore, and venues are, by and large, becoming less and less pleasant places to hang out. I don’t want to stand around in a dark smelly hall surrounded by drunk people shouting waiting for a band to come on only to find that I can’t hear them play anyway… I’m immediately wary of any gig in a venue I haven’t heard of, and I’m guessing that most of the people who would enjoy my gigs feel similarly.

So how do you get it across to people that a night out at Darbucka is ‘not like other gigs’? That the venue is cool enough to be worth a night out on its own, that the food is great, the ambience is really mellow, the sound is always cracking, it’s a fun night, people listen, the audience are generally lovely, and there’ll be the return of the lovely bloke playing Ukulele and singing, as well as all the usual Steve ‘n’ Lobelia loveliness.

That, dear readers, is where you lot come in. Cos nothing at all beats word of mouth in spreading that kind of info. I can rant til I’m blue in the face about how fab my own gigs are, but hey, they’re my gigs, I’m bound to say that. Why should anyone believe me when I have a vested interest in them being there?

…I hope that for most of you reading this, that last bit is rhetorical, that it’s clear I do try to be honest about what I’m doing, and definitely go out of my way to put on the best gig I can (despite Darbucka having it’s own PA, and me not owning a car, I still take my own PA down there cos the sound is better, for example 🙂 )

So, if you’ve been to see us before, take the next couple of mins to tell someone about it – post a comment on or Myspace, or hey, just post a comment on here! Tweet about it, blog about it, or call up some friends if you’re in London and bring ’em along. If you’re bringing loads, email me for a group discount 🙂

Hope to see you at Darbucka on Tuesday 29th July – it’ll be a really lovely mellow, fun night out, I promise!

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No Comments so far ↓

  • Kevin


    Great to hear that Darbucka is back up, best of luck with the gig. It’s a lovely, intimate venue.

    But hey, what is ‘techno-wank bass cleverness ‘, is it something like shred over substance, or something else perhaps.

    We need to know.



  • steve

    Hi Kevin,

    indeed – when the display of gymnastic technique takes over and obscures whatever music may be lurking behind it, rather than serving to facilitate whatever music the writer/performer wants to get out…

    Have a click on the links to my fave solo bassists in the articles to hear a few guys who get the balance right, IMO – I don’t think anyone could say that Trip or Manthing’s technique was somehow insufficient 😉


  • Kevin


    One man’s techno twiddler may be another’s Holdsworth. It all depends where your ears are at. Enya to Ella.


  • Benjamin (Bass :)

    In ye olde world of corporate marketing they talk about the power of customer testimonials. Few marketers explain the benefits of a product better than a customer 🙂

    The last Darbucka gig was amazing – worth more than 5 hours of travel getting there and back. There isn’t anything else on the planet like it.

    If someone is reading this and hasn’t been before, you won’t know what you are missing. The only way to find out is to get there.

    You will be very glad you did!

  • steve

    without a doubt, but there’s often a degree of consensus, at least within groups of listeners with a shared aesthetic.

    A useful benchmark is often (not always) which of the more overtly technical musicians have an audience outside of people who play the same instrument as them – Holdsworth is a perfect example of a player with unbelievable technical ability, but the musicality to reach beyond the market for guitar shredders… Gary Husband’s album of solo piano arrangements of Holdsworth tunes is a great example of that…

    But it is subjective, for sure, which is why I very rarely ‘name names’ on here of music I don’t like – that stuff is clearly my opinion, not necessarily the opinion of my readers, and I don’t want to disabuse anyone of the music that they care about, for whatever reasons 🙂