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Steve's Blog: Solo Bass & Beyond



Entries Tagged as 'Random Catchup'

My response to Balance PR

December 24th, 2008 · Comments Off

money, that's what I wantHere’s the email I just sent to Balance PR: (read the full account of the story thus far here )

The money is finally in my account.

Thanks for the extra to cover the DAYS I’ve spent chasing you to finally actually get paid. Oh no, my mistake, there isn’t any.

God only knows how long it would’ve been if I hadn’t bothered.

Inexcusably bad service. I hope that anyone I know that you ask to do any freelance work for you in the future asks for the money up front, or writes some MAJOR late payment penalty clauses into the contract.

I wouldn’t have had time for that, because, if you remember that long ago, I dropped pretty much everything I was doing in that week to help you guys out. I postponed 2 days of teaching work, and didn’t demand to see a written contract, given that you only had 3 days to get it together. Even when you cut the amount of work in half, half way through the project, I didn’t kick up a fuss, just got on with what I was doing.

Sadly, your appalling contractor relations meant that I have now had to spend God-knows how long chasing the money from you – it’s not like it’s a lot of money in the context of PR – wasting time when I could have actually been WORKING.

I hope, for the sake of the freelancers you employ, you never pull a stunt like this again, never rack up this many missed deadlines and lies about when you’re going to make the payment, and that you just implement a simple policy of paying by bank transfer on or BEFORE the 30 day grace period after an invoice has been submitted.

For my part, I’ll be telling everyone in PR who cares to listen the story of your late payment, poor communication, lack of apology and failure to offer any recompense for my extra time.

Steve”

…let’s see what they say in response…

(photo at the top is by Jenn Jenn)

Tags: Random Catchup · Rant - Politics, Spirituality, etc.

Thunder and Rainbows – the heaven and hell of life on the road.

December 22nd, 2008 · 2 Comments

Thunder and Rainbows - from chrislev2001's flickr streamOK, before I start, this post is going to get VERY sad indeed. So if you’re just reading this for a light-hearted update of what’s going on in my life, during your lunch hour at work. Probably best to leave it til later. Bookmark it and come back.

So anyway, we’re 2 shows into our house-concert tour now. Currently in Milwaukee, with the very lovely Tracy Apps. we played a house concert here last night. More on that in a moment.

The night before, we were in Toledo, at the home of Steven Guerrero – an amazing solo bassist and good friend who helped us find a gig last time we were in the area, and this time offered to host the house concert. He had another solo bassist friend – Trentin Lee Manning – that they’d been planning to do a house concert with, so it seemed perfect to hook the two up and do a solo bass (+ lobelia) night. I’d not met Trentin, but had heard really good things about him and was looking forward to meeting him and hearing him play.

We got there and set up, but no sign of Trentin. We left messages on his phone, but gig time arrived and we’d heard nothing, so got on with the show – maybe he’d canceled but run out of battery on his phone. Whatever, we were sure we’d find out later.

The gig went SO well – I’d not seen Steven play before, and was genuinely floored by how good his set was. Great sounds, great playing but above all, some seriously beautiful melody playing and writing. Some of my favourite solo bass stuff I’ve heard in a long time.

Lo and I played a great gig too – really lovely audience, great connection, all good.

That is, until about an hour after the show when I checked my email to find a message from Pete Skjold, the bass builder that Trentin had been visiting on his way to see us, saying that Trentin had been killed in a car accident that afternoon. As you can imagine, the four of us (Lo, me, Steven G and his wife) were so shocked. What on earth do you do with that? Steven rang Pete, and got a few more details, but the shock was overwhelming. What a horrible, tragic, awful thing to happen. Trentin was 22 years old, Steven had met and played with him, and had been telling us how great a player he was, how much potential he had. Now we’d never get to meet him.

And for his family… Beyond words. We were shocked, upset and saddened. Their lives would never be the same again.

So we were there still feeling the warmth and friendship of our amazing hosts, glowing from such a lovely gig to such friendly people and now reeling from such a tragic and shocking piece of news.

And what’s more, we had hundreds more miles of snowy driving to do. Not really the best prospect to face after news like that.

So it was with some trepidation that we made our way back out onto the roads the next morning, still unable to properly process the news of the night before. I’m not sure there is a place to properly file all the feelings associated with such a random even, such a tragic event of someone you nearly met.

Thank God, the roads were as clear as can be all the way from Toledo up here to Milwaukee. We were late arriving, but we weren’t about to rush it.

So we walked in and the looping ideas/solo performance masterclass started as soon as I’d taken my coat off. I talked while setting up my gear about what a whole range of things relating to the possibilities, pitfalls and audience engagement ideas of looped music (and looped video). A really fascinating conversation with a lovely diverse group of musicians and performers. Great stuff.

Great stuff, followed by another really lovely gig. One in which we were able to talk a little about the tragedy of the day before. It’s one of the things I love about house concerts – it’s a conversation between performer and audience in a way that bigger gigs can’t be. You can chat, you can change things around, you can hold a conversation about things that matter. (the entire gig is archived here) – again, we played pretty well, and got to hang out with a load of lovely, interesting, engaging friendly people. In the midst of the sadness surrounding Trentin’s passing, we have two amazing shows, make lots of great new friends and find that the significance of what we do, both for us and in terms of the people it brings us into contact with, is huge. This really is the best playing environment I can imagine, especially when you have to deal with the ‘thunder and rainbows’ that life throws at us, even when on tour.

And today we got to spend the day with Tracy – we’ve known tapps for a long time in the virtual realm, but getting to sit round and chat, eat, and even play some music at her church this morning brings friendships to another level. It’s been another great day.

Tomorrow we drive to Chicago, for gig #3. Another amazing group of people no doubt await, but, God-willing, no more tragedy.

Our thoughts and prayers are with Trentin’s family and friends. Listen to him and read more about him on Myspace.

…oh, and the title? That’s from a song by Martyn Joseph (the words are, I think, by Martyn Joseph and Stewart Henderson) – I can’t find a link to the song or a paid download of it, though it may be on iTunes. here are the words:

The light or the shade, concealed or displayed
Enemies, friends, opposite ends
Bitter or sweet, ruffled or neat
Feathers or lead, silent or said
Generous or mean, corporate or green
Vagrant or lord, the dove or the sword
Distinct or obscure, prosperous or poor
Devil or saint, we are and we ain’t

Intricate mysteries
Life’s secret code
Cul-de-sac signposts
On yellow brickroads
Ambiguous answers
The question’s still “Why”
Thunder and rainbows
From the same sky

Champagne or dust, banquet or crust
Authentic or fake, angel or snake
Flower or thorn, prestine or torn
Desert or sea, the throne and the tree

Intricate mysteries
Life’s secret code
Cul-de-sac signposts
On yellow brickroads
Ambiguous answers
The question’s still “Why”
Thunder and rainbows
From the same sky

The light or the shade, concealed or displayed
Enemies, friends, opposite ends
Flower or thorn, prestine or torn
Desert or sea, the throne and the tree

Intricate mysteries
Life’s secret code
Cul-de-sac signposts
On yellow brickroads
Ambiguous answers
The question’s still “Why”
Thunder and rainbows

(and the photo at the top is by ChrisLev2001 – here’s a link to the original )

Tags: Gig stuff · Random Catchup · travel

British Airways wrecked my bass :(

December 18th, 2008 · Comments Off

So, we’ve arrived in Ohio, hanging out with Lobelia’s family.

We flew into Newark airport at the weekend, with British Airways, the plane was very late taking off, late getting into the airport, and we took ages getting through immigration. As a result, I was exhausted and didn’t check my bass out at the airport, cos the case looked fine.

Fast forward to this morning, and this is what greeted me -

Weird thing is, it's still in tune & plays OK - here's the cr... on TwitPic Here's the jack socket. All smashed up. on TwitPic

yup, proper smashed up. A crack from the end of the neck to the jack socket, right through the top. Yes, I was proper shocked. Shocked to the point of zen-like calm initially, which morphed into post-shock shaking pretty quickly.

This is the bass I’ve played for nearly 10 years. It’s unique. it’s perfect. It is, without a doubt, my favourite instrument I’ve ever played, seen or dreamt about.

And British Airways have destroyed it. So I started the process of getting in touch with them. Called the US number on the site ‘file a claim when you get home’… er, no, I’m here til the end of January ‘OK file the claim on the website’. Filled in the website form. got an email back,

” sorry your guitar is broken, please send us your fragile take and bubble wrap receipt.
Fenil Krishikar
British Airways Customer Relations”

So I write back “huh? Bubble Wrap receipt? what use is that? It was in a CASE. A case that has flown round the world dozens of times.”

My guess at this stage is that the bubble wrap and fragile tag bits are basically entrapment – they have clauses in their insurance terms that exclude them from liability if your bass doesn’t have bubble wrap on. Was this mentioned to me at the airport? nope. Did I sign a waiver of liability? of course not.

So we’ll see what happens, whether BA do the right thing, pay up, and help me get it fixed. Or if they don’t, we’ll get to work with the email and phone calls, right team?

Tags: Random Catchup · Rant - Politics, Spirituality, etc. · travel

What to do when companies don't pay – my dealings with Balance PR.

December 17th, 2008 · 12 Comments

Scrooge - perhaps he's doing the accounts for Balance PRHere’s the story – about 2 months ago, I did some freelance PR work for Balance PR, working on a music promotion thing. The job was at incredibly late notice, but they needed something doing that I was in a very good position to help them with, we agreed a fee and I got on with it.

For various reasons, the job with Balance PR was curtailed half way through, but the work that I’d done had gone well, and I invoiced according to the hourly/daily rate we’d agreed, on the 16th October. that makes the due date 15th November.

Fast forward over 2 months and I still haven’t been paid, despite email and phone assurances from them that I’d be paid, and even that I’d BEEN paid. ‘The cheque will go out monday’, ‘we’ll make a bank transfer tomorrow’, ‘the cheque has been sent by registered post’. Continuous failure to complete the payment has meant that I’ve come away to the USA without the money for the job, and I’ll have to file an LBA from here.

I had a couple of lame reasons for non-payment, a couple of what sounded like heart-felt apologies, and a whole load of ‘I’m sorry, Ryan isn’t in the office at the moment’ followed by a never-answered mobile call. No meaningful explanations, no offers of compensation, just lots of fielded calls and missed payment deadlines.

So, my advice is, if you ever get asked to work for Balance PR is to ask for the money up front or write very stiff non-payment clauses into your contract with them, and have it signed and witnessed. Whether or not this is systemic in the company, I’ve no idea. But I do know a couple of other people that have had to wait for a long time to be paid – way past the due dates of the invoices.

Companies that treat freelancers like this need to be exposed. It’s a stupid, petty and illegal thing to do, and makes life harder for everyone. What have Balance PR got out of not paying for me? About 75p in interest in the bank on what they owe me? Bollocks, it’s just piss poor practice.

There are contact details on Balance’s website should you wish to email or call them and suggest they sort out their business practice.

So, Freelancers, please use the comments to list things you’ve done to get payment, and also to list companies that haven’t paid and how it was resolved – please do only list your own verifiable experiences (I’ve got the email trail for all of this, with lists of missed dates and broken promises),

And if anyone from Balance PR wants to publicly apologise, explain, be contrite, etc. Feel free. The floor is yours. I’d rather you just paid me though, plus an extra £100 or so for the time I’ve spent having to chance the invoice due to your incompetence.

The reason I’m writing this publicly is because Balance are a PR company. That’s public relations. We are the public. and if you piss off the public, lie to them and break legal contracts, they tend to ‘go public’. It’s just the way it is.

The life of a freelancer can be amazing. We’re in a position to do what we do best for a whole range of people. Balance are in a position to use some of the amazing pool of freelance knowledge in London. Let’s face it, if you’re in PR, you need specialists to call on. So why make their lives more precarious because you can’t be bothered to make a bank transfer to pay an invoice? The money’s tiny in PR terms. For me, it’s a lot, and it could end up the difference between going overdrawn or not at the bank. I have to budget well to live on what I earn, and my budgeting shouldn’t have to compensate for the lack of business ethics of the people I’m working with.

It’s a shame really, because the job itself was a fun one, and with a few more weeks notice, could’ve been great. Will I be working for Balance PR again? not without cash up front…

[EDIT] this was finally all settled, without the need for legal action… just. Case closed :)

Tags: Geek · Random Catchup

Blog-silence…

November 11th, 2008 · Comments Off

Apologies for the blog-silence – life has been v. busy of late, mainly with moving house (if you’re a student of mine and didn’t get the email, drop me a line and I’ll let you know the details!)

Anyway, one of the up-shots of moving is that we’ve had limited access to the internets, so blogging, video stuff, feed-reading all all kinds of other fun stuff that I usually get to do online has gone by the way-side…

But we should be back in action ASAP. And I will write Social Media First Principles Pt III. I promise :)

Tags: Random Catchup · teaching news

Back from Italy… Finland-bound..!

September 10th, 2008 · Comments Off

grapes, selva capuzza, italyGot back from Italy yesterday, having had a fantastic time. Check out the photos on Flickr or my latest video on Qik for more on that – a lot of the photos were uploaded direct from my N95 phone, via wifi, and the Qik post was streamed direct to the site from the phone, leaving me feeling like I really don’t need to take a laptop with me on trips like that anymore – I was checking my email where possible (wifi access is pretty sporadic in Italy – next time, I think I’ll buy a local sim card), updating twitter and collecting lots of groovy photos and videos. Lobelia took LOADS of great video, which hopefully she’ll get uploaded soon (rather than streaming the lo-res versions to Qik, she recorded at hi-res, so hopefully she’ll put them up on Vimeo or some other service like that v. soon).

And tomorrow I’m off to Helsinki, to The Nokia Open Lab organised by Nokia/WomWorld all about this mobile social media stuff. I got back to find a Nokia E71 waiting for me. I’ve been using the Nokia N95 8gb since Greenbelt, and
LOVE it. It really is the ‘laptop killer’ for most daily use. Email, photos, video, even short-form blogging on it is a treat. The screen is big enough for reading long emails, blog posts, news etc, and with the TV-out you could even carry ripped films with you to watch on a TV wherever you were going… I’m a big fan of T9 predictive text, so have little problem typing about as fast on a T9-enabled numeric phone keypad as I can with one hand on a normal keyboard (I can touch type, so the ideal for me would be a bluetooth portable keyboard, but we’ll get to that eventually).

So to the E71 – first impressions aren’t great. It’s a ‘blackberry-style’ device, with a mini-qwerty keyboard, designed for lots of writing, emailing etc. I’ve never been a fan of that kind of interface, and while the design of this is better than any other that I’ve tried thus far (the raised keys and layout mean it’s fairly quick, but still WAAAAY too small for my bass-playing fists). The camera is not up to the N96/N82 standard, and so far, the web-browsing experience doesn’t match up. It’ll be great to get to talk it over with some of the other geeks out in Helsinki. I’m REALLY looking forward to checking out the N85 too – sounds like the business.

At least as interesting as the hardware stuff will be the conversations about the future of mobile, both social media applications and what it means for musicians (I’m not sure if this is built into the program, but I’ll be talking about it, blogging about it, streaming video about it, and generally making a noise about it :) ) – there are some great people going, including James Whatley and Phil Campbell.

So, there’ll be lots of mobile chat here over the next few days, hopefully some fun stuff to look at and listen to for those of you who couldn’t give a shit about the geekness of it all, and THEN some new music… (I am SO overdue getting the Lawson/Dodds/Wood album up online for sale – the thought that it would get lost in a flurry of geeky-stuff is terrible, given that it’s such a fantastic album… Will focus on that lots ASAP, I promise!!)

Tags: Geek · Random Catchup

Video, Greenbelt, blogging and being yourself

September 2nd, 2008 · Comments Off

OK, I promised a greenbelt round-up, and that’s still on the way, but first (this is backwards, I know) some thoughts on how video worked for us at Greenbelt. By ‘us’, I mean the social media monkeys that were trying to get Greenbelt’s web-presence away from just being a static website into something a little more granular, diffuse, community based and embeddable as conversation-starters…

Greenbelters have been using Flickr in a co-ordinated way for years – there are over 15,000 photos tagged at Greenbelt2006, Greenbelt2007 or Greenbelt2008! But the festival presence hadn’t really gone beyond that. So I, along with JennyBee, James Stewart, Lobelia and Mike Radcliffe set about building a video presence for the festival.

Jenny was already involved in a more structured, formal process of collecting video interviews and whatnot for promotional usage, but we were all looking for a much more guerilla feel to our social media footage: lots of chatting to camera, unedited interviews, fun stuff from around the site. And, crucially, we wanted a fair bit of it to be watchable live.

After about a month of trying, we finally found a contact at WomWorld – a Nokia promo blog, who would lend us the hardware we needed to do the project – namely, 4 Nokia N82s and one Nokia N95. Yay for Nokia and their lovely bloggers! It all happened so late in the day that the phones were sent direct to the festival site, and we had very little time to trail what we were doing, or to get conversant with everything that the phones could do. Still, we’ve managed, so far, to rack up well over 8000 views on the Greenbelt Group at Qik.com and Mike opted to record video at higher quality and post it to his YouTube Channel – he produced some great video.

Here’s my Qik Channel - the first 50 vids on here are from the festival:

So I did all the interviews you’ve seen embedded here over the last 10 days, and a whole load more footage, had some great feedback to it all, and it’s already cropped up being embedded and linked to on a range of sites, providing a talking point for those who were and those who weren’t at the festival.

It was a fantastic validation of two things – firstly, the importance of embeddable, linkable social media for starting conversations about any event. And secondly, the importance of video in getting the ‘feel‘ of any event across. blogging, texting, tweeting, even audio recordings go some way to creating a ‘buzz’, but nothing has the impact that video has… if Greenbelt are bright, they’ll get behind this nexy year, resource it, promote it, and they could have a virtual attendance bigger than that actual attendance…

I’ve just written a post about the honesty of video for Creative-Choices.co.uk, and started a discussion about it at Phreadz. Sadly you can’t embed video on the Creative Choices blog, but here’s the Phreadz conversation about it -

The question at the end of the Creative Choices blog is ‘how is video working for you?’ – feel free to drop by over there and answer it

Tags: Geek · Managing Information Streams · Random Catchup

New posts up on Creative Choices…

August 29th, 2008 · Comments Off

The Creative Choices blogging job is producing some really excellent articles. Christian Payne and Lloyd Davis both posted things today about the more spiritual/metaphysical side of creativity -

Christian’s post is here and Lloyd’s is here

My own latest couple of posts have been fairly disparate in their inspiration – last week I wrote about Creative Copying – the way that channeling influences creatively can be a vital part in us learning the craft of what we do, and circumventing the ruts we get stuck in.

Then today I added a post about The Joy Of Fragmentation – contrasting old media broadcast models for the arts and media (whether that’s releasing records, writing newspapers or telling a story) and the new model that involves breaking things up into chunks that can be discussed and shared. So for me, whether it’s comments on the blog (every one of which I treasure – it’s always so good to hear from you lovely readers) or people sharing links to my tunes on last.fm or reverbnation, I benefit greatly and cherish the discussion around what I put out.

There’s a whole load of great stuff on the Creative Choices blog. Read it all here and if you want to find the archive of my posts on there, click here

More coming soon. (and yes, I still owe y’all a proper round-up of Greenbelt – it’s on the way)

Tags: Geek · Random Catchup · tips for musicians

Post-greenbelt. How Was It For You?

August 27th, 2008 · Comments Off

We’re home from Greenbelt. Will do a proper blow by blow account soon, but for now, a few thoughts on a Qik video (I am as tired as I look in the vid :) )

Please post links to your own Greenbelt blogs, videos & photos in the comments below…

Tags: Geek · Musing on Music · Random Catchup

What Is Greenbelt?

August 22nd, 2008 · Comments Off

Here’s my attempt to answer the question, ‘What Is Greenbelt?’, for those of you that have been wondering. :)

Tags: Geek · Random Catchup