stevelawson.net

Steve's Blog: Solo Bass & Beyond



Entries Tagged as 'Music News'

New Album Progress Update…

July 21st, 2016 · Comments Off on New Album Progress Update…

So, the follow up to last year’s A Crack Where The Light Gets In and The Way Home is well underway. I *think* all the music that might end up on it is recorded… I’ve got about two and a half hours of music recorded, and there’s none of it that feels disposable at this point. So the process of picking an ‘album’s worth’ of music from it is the next step. For that, I’ve again enlisted the help of Sue Edwards.

Sue is an artist and event manager who has a LONG history with my music. We first met when she booked Theo Travis and I to play the commuter jazz series at the Royal Festival Hall in about 2004/5. She became a great friend and advisor on what I was up to musically, having demonstrated time and time again that she REALLY knew what it was I was trying to do with my music (as opposed to those whose commentary is entirely based on their own taste and a deep misunderstanding of the music’s purpose…) Sue co-produced Behind Every Word (which was pretty much the last time I did multiple takes of the tracks on it as pre-composed work – I was sending her the various recordings and responding to her feedback) and she chose the track order for A Crack Where The Light Gets In last year – an album that was a very long way from what I thought the album would be, but now can’t imagine it any other way…

So, she’s got all the music, we’re sorting out what of it will make for a complete thematic work. The rest will be available for subscribers soon!

Speaking of subscribers, they’ve been getting regular glimpses of the work as it emerges – a fair few of the tracks have appeared for them as videos in the subscriber feed, and the discussion there has informed the work so far beautifully. They’re also the economic basis for being able to commit this amount of time to making an album. A lot of my work happens in a fairly quick way – day-long collaborations with other musicians, or recordings of live shows. But once a year I get to dedicate 6-8 weeks to a more focussed process. The music itself happens in the same way – it’s all recorded live in one take, with minimal or no edits – but the space to record a LOT of it, to work on sounds and ideas, to reflect on themes and inspiration over a longer time makes for a distinct project and process. A few weeks back, I released Referendum – a pretty instinctive response to the politics and social climate around the EU referendum here in the UK. I love being able to do those kinds of projects, and the subscription model is what makes that possible…

Anyway, here are the tracks that are publicly available that are in the pool for the new album – please subscribe for access to the rest of them. You’ll also get my entire solo back catalogue the moment you sign up, and all the other subscriber exclusives that have been released over the last two years. 28 albums in total!! All for just £20…

Tags: Music News

Improvisation For A Better World – Making Sense Of Things With A Bass In My Hands

June 29th, 2016 · 2 Comments

For years – perhaps decades – I’ve said that ‘instrumental music is what happens when I run out of words’. I love words, I love what language makes possible, and my default position is always ‘talk more, listen more, don’t give up on dialogue’.

But I hit a point on Monday when the barrage of shrill voices on social media (NONE of it targeted at me, I hasten to add) – people with plans, schemes, ways of interpreting what’s going on, insider knowledge, spiteful interpretations, thoughts to counter the spite, arguments with, from and between politicians… it just became a cloud of shouting. Like a montage from a David Lynch movie meant to represent the dreams of an insane person. Or the set up for a Peter Gabriel-era Genesis song. Talking loud, saying nothing. The intentions were mostly good, but were also mostly desperate, reactive, non-reflective, and lacking in care.

At this point, I thank God that I am, at heart, an improviser. That I’ve built a music practice around responding to now with sound, around being able to step into that instinctive, mystical space – not having to sit and painstakingly compose music that reflects how I feel and then play the music I’ve written…(there are people who do that brilliantly, and I’m grateful for their art and the guidance I’ve received from it through the years).

My need is to sort through ideas, emotions, reactions… sadness, anger, confusion, hope, clarity, absurdity, more anger…and music is where I go to do that.

Sharing it is how I throw a line out to anyone else who connects with it. It’s a pretty exposed thing to do, as there’s pretty much no way to counter a response of ‘you’re just playing any old shit and saying it’s about whatever you want…’ – but that’s also a discussion that’s so utterly pointless I wouldn’t enter it anyway…

What is true right now is that I’ve pretty much run out of words, and I’ve exhausted, to a large degree, my need for other people’s words to try and make sense of what’s going on. We’re in a massive downward spiral, and there are many ways of seeing a bright future in a crystal ball, or predicting the collapse of civilization as we know it. I don’t need that kind of guesswork, I need to stay in touch with the emotional/spiritual side of this, and then harness that to actually DO things to help the people whose lives are changed by this. Because, as well as being my refuge and place to ‘heal my hurts’, as Faithless put it, music is a constant challenge to me that music isn’t enough. To take that inspiration, that comfort, and go do something for those who are really messed up by this. Because as a white dude born here, with an accent rooted in the UK, I’m not at risk. Our financial position, in the longer term, is pretty precarious, but that’s not even close to the fear that all the amazing people who have chosen to make the UK their home and are now facing a rapid increase in racist abuse are feeling.

So, make music, then use the inspiration of the music to change the world around you. It’s as simple as that, and as complicated as that.

So how does this play out? A lot less time on social media, for sure. I need to train myself not to get on Twitter of Facebook expecting the sum of the shared ideas to bring clarity. It won’t. I need to spend time every day making music that reflects how I feel about what’s going on. This weekend, I released ‘Referendum’ – 6 tracks directly reflecting on what’s been going on. 4 from before the vote, 2 from after.

The Pre-Order Plan:

I’m currently working on the follow up to last years A Crack Where The Light Gets In and The Way Home, but it felt important to get these works out now. You can listen to that, and buy it if you want. If you want to ‘pre-order’ the new album, please Subscribe via Bandcamp – it’s £20 a year, you’ll get about 23 albums and 4 singles immediately (everything solo I’ve ever released, and a collection of subscriber-only collaborations from the last 2 years), and everything I release in the next year. Which will include a series of subscriber-only video previews of the new music as it happens. The first of those videos went up today.

I’m not doing any other kind of crowd-funding campaign for the new album, there are no ‘tiers’, no attempt to get you to increase your contribution, or sell you stuff you don’t want or need. There’s just music, lots of it, and you can pay £20 or as much over that as you want… It’s entirely your choice. The subscription model fits my music-making so well, and the response from the subscribers so far has been amazing.

I’m so grateful for their support, and the feedback that happens on the Subscriber feed on Bandcamp. Please sign up and join in.

This is the future of sustainability for niche music. Be a part of it.

Tags: Music News · Rant - Politics, Spirituality, etc.

Saving the EU with Solo Bass…

June 6th, 2016 · Comments Off on Saving the EU with Solo Bass…

…Well, probably not, but these tunes do form two halves of an instrumental reflection/meditation on the impending EU Referendum in the UK (where we get to vote on whether we want to be in or out of the EU) – it’s pretty clear to me that staying in makes by far the most sense – the ‘risks’ of leaving offer nothing of substance in the way of counter-balance, and the kind of utter pond-life that are the politicians fronting the Leave campaign would be enough to make me turn my back on a long-held ideology. It’s a full list of venal, grasping, compassionless careerists.

I’ve been discussing it and sharing articles relating to it on Facebook a LOT over the last few weeks, but today I decided to put some music in the mix. I don’t write word-based music, instead I write a soundtrack to thoughts, ideas, feelings, and conversations. So here, in two parts, is my contribution to that. Which is sure to sway enough voters to clinch this for the Remain vote, right? :)

Enjoy!

and part 2:

Tags: Music News

First Look: Illuminated Loops project with Poppy Porter

May 16th, 2016 · 1 Comment

A few of you will already be familiar with my project with artist Poppy Porter. Poppy is a jeweller and painter who takes inspiration from her synaesthesia to create work that brings to the rest of us the vivid and beautiful visuals she sees in response to sound.

We had our first public outing for the project a few weeks ago, in Guildford. For a project that on a good night would require a 2 hour sound check and set up, it was a bit of a push to get things happening with less than 10 minutes to set up, but we did it, and this little bit of video came out of it. The event was a council showcase of science-y innovation-y stuff in the foyer of a theatre, which made for a really interesting first audience for us, and I responded somewhat cautiously with the music (I kept it pretty mellow and poppy (no pun intended) and used it as a vehicle for some sounds that might trigger interesting images) but you get a little glimpse into what we’re up to…

Next time round, we’ll get to do the proper set-up, do the full chat about what we’re up to, and get weird with the music and see what it inspires. Til then, this may pique your interest :)

Tags: Music News

2015 – A Year In Music

December 24th, 2015 · Comments Off on 2015 – A Year In Music

Right, let’s do a month-by-month recap, shall we?

January – Right at the start of the year, I had a lovely trip up to Leeds for an academic conference, which as well as involving a couple of REALLY important conversations about finally starting my PhD, gave me the opportunity to play with Ray Russell – a guitarist whose work I’ve admired for decades.
Then it was off to NAMM. A handful of lovely shows with guitar genius Thomas Leeb, and a one-off show with Artemis and Daniel Berkman made for a really enjoyable California trip.

February – back from NAMM, and my first gig back was at an amazing event hosted by Compass called Change:How? The gig itself was a fairly forgettable half hour of background music (I REALLY need to get better at thinking about logistics with gig booking), but the day itself was notable for a conversation with theatre maker Annette Mees that ended up defining a whole a lot of what happened in the rest of the year, and totally shifted the planned emphasis for the PhD… One of those ‘ahh, so *that’s* what I really do!’ conversations, for which I’ll be eternally grateful.

March began with a masterclass at the London Bass Guitar Show, which featured the amazing opportunity to play with one of my favourite bassists, Ruth Goller, and the chance to plan a future project with another of my bass heroes, Divinity Roxx… The following weekend was another lovely solo show at the Moffatt Bass Bash in Scotland. From those two shows came a lovely little EP for my Bandcamp subscribers – the track with Ruth and the first piece from the Moffatt show…
The last week of March was spent in Leeds teaching and talking PhD stuff, incorporating all the new shiny exciting focus that came from Annette’s input… A plan is taking shape! [Read more →]

Tags: Music News

New Solo Video!

December 10th, 2015 · 1 Comment

Another new video of me has just gone up on the BassTheWorld YouTube channel.

It’s called Same Time Next Year, and is another improvised piece from the Warwick Bass Camp this September.

It features the Quneo (my new lil’ MIDI controller that I’ve been using for drums and synth stuff on the last couple of albums) a little more than some of the other videos I’ve put up recently, so you can see a little more of how I use it… will be doing more videos with it as soon as possible…

And just for the reminder, here’s the other video filmed about 45 seconds after this one ended, that was released last month, called Better Than The Plan:

Both these tracks will be available for subscribers very shortly as a little pre-Christmas solo EP. Subscribe now to make sure you don’t miss out…

Tags: Music News

Solo Bass, Looping and the importance of hip-hop – a masterclass (video)

October 23rd, 2015 · Comments Off on Solo Bass, Looping and the importance of hip-hop – a masterclass (video)

I’ve done a couple of masterclasses recently, talking about the evolution of my approach to live playing, sampling, improvising and recording. One was for ScottsBassLessons.com which you can get if you’re  a subscriber over there, and the other was at Kidderminster College. The Kiddy College one is here in two parts.

Part 1, I introduce the Quneo and explain a little about the influence of two of my recent collaborators, Divinity and Daniel Berkman, and deal with a Looperlative fail (a fault I’ve now fixed! yay!) and end up with a lovely wonky hip-hop thing that’s a good example of where a lot of my music is going (comes in around 8:30) – if you can, listen on headphones, or Chromecast this to your TV :) :

In Part 2, I explain some of where the rhythmic stuff comes from historically, via turntablism and the influence of J Dilla, talk a little about the way it has influenced my playing with other musicians, then play another piece, that starts with a Quneo piano solo before evolving into a groove thing with a Posies/David Torn influenced solo and a lovely change of gear just before the end…

Note: Both the tracks here will be available as an EP for my subscribers soon. Today my subscription is a year old! Check out the subscription here and get LOADS of music for just £20 a year: http://stevelawson.bandcamp.com/subscribe – it’s by far the best way to support what I do :)

[UPDATE!] – There’s a third part to the video! It was, I think, still uploading when I posted this first time round :)

Here’s Part 3, which has a lot more talking, exploring a lot of ideas around improvisation and performance:

Tags: Music News

Question Time! – The Solobasssteve AMA

October 9th, 2015 · 4 Comments

So my lil’ tour with Jonas Hellborg is over – we did just three dates to test the water, with a view to doing lots more soon. And we had a great time. More of that soon – there are photos and video to be shared, and stories to tell, but for now, something else…

Hopefully by now you’ve had a chance to see the cover story in Bass Guitar Magazine this month. If you’ve not been able to find it in a shop, the digital edition can be bought from Pocket Mags.

So, the big question is, what did we not get to in the interview that you’re most interested to know? Any burning questions about basses, tech, approach, business, my career, my philosophy, improv, teaching.. anything really… This is where to ask them.

Post those questions in the comments here, and I’ll then compile a second interview to sit alongside the already-very-comprehensive one in the magazine (it really is one of the best interviews I’ve ever had – Joel asked a whole lot of questions that I’ve never explored in that way before at all).

This is the solobasssteve AMA. Sound good? Off you go :)

Tags: Music News

Atmospherics? Listen To The Radio…

September 24th, 2015 · Comments Off on Atmospherics? Listen To The Radio…

My week of rather lovely media exposure rolls on – last night a track from A Crack Where The Light Gets In was played on my favourite radio show ever. It’s not my favourite radio show because they played the tracks, it’s been that since before they started occasionally playing my music about 14 years ago.

Listen to last night’s Late Junction here.

Late Junction is, not to get too hyperbolic, an amazing example of what the BBC license fee does/did best… eclectic, joyous, and exploratory with none of the demographic limitations that commercial radio’s need to appeal to advertisers demand.

I’ve discovered SO much music through Fiona, and earlier on through Verity Sharp. To have my music played in that context is an amazing validation of what I’m up to. The technical side of it is never discussed, there’s no ‘ooh, it’s so clever for a bass player to do this!’ – just my music alongside a whole load of the most beautiful, wide-ranging wonderfulness from around the world. As a validation of purpose, it’s about as good as it gets.

The track that Fiona played last night was ‘Praxis’ from A Crack Where The Light Gets In – have a listen to the whole album below, but do listen to the show linked above – the new context for the track, between all the other amazing stuff, gives a different perspective on it… and you get to hear Fiona say it’s one of her favourite tracks of the year 😉

…and a free download to the first person to Tweet me and tell me the name of the album that the track referenced in the title of this blog-post is from 😉

Tags: Music News

New Albums, New Magazine Cover…. New Magazine Cover??

September 18th, 2015 · Comments Off on New Albums, New Magazine Cover…. New Magazine Cover??


So, as promised, my long-awaited new solo albums are released now
! There are two of them because I recorded WAY too much material for one, but after Sue Edwards (my trusty co-producer) compiled the first one, there was still at least one coherent album there. But they didn’t feel like a double. Two distinct experiences, telling different stories. So here they are.

They’re both live in the studio, none of it is pre-recorded loops, just me and my usual toys plus a Quneo for playing percussion and synth sounds – no overdubs and very little editing at all. Listen here:

I was going to be releasing them next week, but actually brought it forward a couple of days because Bass Guitar Magazine have just announced that I’m on the cover of their October issue, out next week!!

This is by far the highest profile bit of media I’ve ever had – it’s a really bold move for the magazine, in a world where the musician press are often pulled towards putting the members of famous pop bands on the cover in the hope of getting noticed in WH Smiths. To put someone on the cover who’s highest profile gig is playing completely solo is pretty bold. It’s also a fantastic validation of what I’ve been up to for the last 15 years. I’ve spent less time over the last few years courting the world of musicians, and more connecting with the people who want to listen to what I do, whatever their relationship with musical things is outside of that. So to be featured in the biggest bass publication in the UK would be great anyway. To be on the cover is amazing. Huge thanks to Joel and the team for choosing to do this.

So, feel free to reserve the mag at your local newsagent. We’ll have some competition fun with it once it hits the shops.

And go hear the new albums. If you like ’em, you can buy them, or subscribe and them both plus 12 other albums for just £20 a year…

Tags: Music News