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Steve's Blog: Solo Bass & Beyond



2016 – A Year In Music

January 3rd, 2017 | No Comments | Categories: Music News · Random Catchup |

2016 was a really interesting year for music for me:

  • I released more solo music than in any year ever
  • Got my first new bass in well over a decade
  • Played gigs with a visual artist and an amazing dude playing a large bowl of water
  • Did a mini tour of Germany and Holland
  • Played bass on Songs Of Praise…

Let’s break that down a little!

Releases:

The plan from the start of the year was to put out a new album in the summer – The Surrender Of Time was planned, but the rest of this years solo releases were more of a surprise!

But before all the solo stuff came Language Is A Music – this live recording of Michael Manring and I from 2012 is one I’d revisited from time to time, but never carved out the time to properly mix and master. At the start of 2016, I got that sorted and released it for my subscribers. I really enjoyed coming back to this over the year, reliving such a fun show!

The solo releases started with ‘Well, Say Hello Then…’ – a low-key subscriber only introduction to my new Elrick ‘SLC’ signature bass. Recorded within just a few days of the bass arriving at my house, it was also my first recorded output using the amazing Jule Monique Preamp that I got at the start of the year. The Monique is one of those bits of equipment that, after using it, you can’t imagine being without…

May was a crazy-busy month, that included a mini-tour of the Netherlands and Germany, that included an amazing show playing at the launch of Marc Mennigmann’s ‘Hands’ exhibition. Marc has been taking beautiful black and white photos of musicians’ hands for years, collecting them, and compiling a photobook and set of large prints that tell an amazingly rich story about how music is made. This was the first gallery launch, and he asked me to go play at it. The resulting recording ended up being released for subscribers later in the year, and judging by the feedback has become quite a few people’s favourite thing of mine in quite a while…

I drove back from Germany and was home for about three days before flying back to Berlin for Music Tech Fest – this time, helping out with a symposium on audience interaction, and then playing for a beautiful improv piece with singing genius Eska. It was also at MTF that I first encountered the MOD Duo – an incredible multi-FX processor that a few months later replaced the Lexicon unit I’d been using for almost 20 years…

And to top it off, May featured the unlikely scenario of me playing in a chamber group for a recording of Songs Of Praise in Leeds. It was a whole lot of fun to be back reading, following a conductor, and playing 4 string bass in the background… a change is as good as a holiday :)

June rolled around and the country was properly shaken up by the Referendum. After I ran out of words to throw at it, I started recording music – firstly in the run up to the vote, channelling my fears, hopes and expectations, and then on the morning the result was announced, a couple of sad, broken improvisations. I released the album pretty soon after and it resonated with quite a few people. There are only so many times you can type the letters ‘WTF’ before it ceases to mean anything… at that point, you (I) pick up an instrument…

The recording sessions for Referendum soon became the preliminary sessions for The Surrender Of Time – experimenting, exploring, seeing where things took me. I took time to get to know the Quneo better (the electronic percussion/synth controller that I first used on A Crack Where The Light Gets In/The Way Home) and experiment with some more esoteric sounds there… I filmed a lot more of the sessions, and was able to share a lot of the process of the album coming together with my subscribers. Will do a lot more of that in the future!

The album came out to a lovely response from press and listeners – a fabulous review in Jazzwise Magazine, and some radio play on 6Music and a few US stations. I also played an album launch gig, with special guest Mike Flynn – a proper Birmingham Bass Night, of which there need to be many more in 2017!

I tend to alternate years of solo focus and collaboration focus… this was definitely a solo year, but a few amazing collaborations happened too. Divinity and I played at the Bass Bash at NAMM in January, and had fun despite some serious tech trouble… we realised that our duo is not one you can just roll in and set up in 10 minutes. Lesson learned! That was followed by a tour with John Lester – one of my favourite singer/songwriters in the world, that included a LOT of collaboration, and a beautiful guest-spot by Daniel Berkman at one show.

After that in March, Poppy Porter and I had our first show – Poppy’s a visual artist, who is synaesthetic – she ‘sees’ sound, so while i play, she draws what she sees. It’s a pretty amazing experience for me as a musician to see it emerging, and we’ll be doing a LOT more of that this year as it features pretty heavily in the research plans for my PhD (as well as being immensely enjoyable and creatively satisfying!)

I got to revisit my occasional collaboration with musical polymath Beardyman with a couple of tech-swamped days in the studio. We’ll see what from that makes it into the public arena, but it was a hugely creative couple of days and introduced me to Emre Ramanazolgu – not only an *incredible* drummer but one of the nicest people I’ve met in years. So it was a special treat to get to play my first ever gig (at least, first gig that wasn’t an insane corporate covers gig in Thailand) with Mike Outram – 6 years after we released an album together (!) – with Emre on drums, in September! More from that trio in 2017 too…

Talking of amazingly lovely people who happen to be great musicians, I recorded a beautiful improv session in October with saxophonist Pete Fraser – after a couple of years of chatting back and forth online, we met up outside the studio, went in and played for a couple of hours. A fabulous day, with an album lined up for release in the first couple of months of this year…

Back in the land of strangeness, another remarkable collaboration was the Beneath The Waves gig with Gawain Hewitt – Gawain and I played together a bit in the early 00s, last collaborating about 13 years ago, so coming back together at this point was a real treat. His set-up features live sampling of water and some amazing analog synths. That was, obviously, recorded and videoed, and will makes it way out into the ether at some point in 2017!

Although it was recorded in 2015, 2016 also saw the release of my first collaboration and co-write with one of my 90s musical heroes – Tanya Donnelly (out off of Throwing Muses and Belly) and I met at a Muses gig in 2014, swapped a track back and forth in 2015, and she released it on her Swan Song vinyl compilation in 2016. It’s a beautiful song called Silver In Your Palm, and I REALLY hope we get to do more.

And finally, in November, I was invited to open for Divinity at the Jazz Cafe in London – another gig mired by tech gremlins, the highlight for me was definitely Divi joining me for an impromptu bass and beatbox improv thing. Her set was *outstanding*, and I so so hope we get to play together again this year.

Capping off the year, December saw the release of three subscriber-only recordings – first there was my ‘Christmas single’ that wove a couple of carols into an ambient improv, then Ley Lines II with my genius trio buddies Phi Yaan-Zek and Andy Edwards (released for the public yesterday here), and then Towards A Better Question – the companion album to The Surrender Of Time – released on my birthday, as this weird and often terrible year breathed its last…

…and that’s without getting into all the fun masterclass/teaching/seminar stuff that happened, at PMT in Birmingham, for Scotts Bass Lessons, playing on the Dunlop booth at NAMM, giving a masterclass at Leeds Beckett and getting through the first year of my PhD!!

So yeah, a busy, busy year, musically. Lots of recording, and some fun gigs – I’m most looking forward to playing and recording with Lobelia again after a loooong hiatus – her forthcoming album is extraordinary, and we’re planning a duo one for later in the year too.

I really want to play live a lot more in 2017, teach more, and do more collaborating… Let’s see how that works out.

Let’s finish with a recap – here’s ALL the video of me that went on Youtube this year. Enjoy!

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