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Entries Tagged as 'travel'

Finding Inspiration In Denmark…

May 30th, 2015 · Comments Off on Finding Inspiration In Denmark…

[this is a VERY long write-up of four days I spent in Demark last week. Hopefully it’ll be worth the effort]

-o0o-

From whence cometh inspiration?

No idea. Not a clue.

I really don’t have a handle on where inspiration actually comes from. Or what it actually is.

But I do know that I can massively increase the chances of stumbling into it by surrounding myself with curious people, especially those who are working in fields other than my own.

Being primarily an instrumentalist, I’m constantly working with an abstract/concrete duality. The purpose/message/inspiration of a particular piece may be concrete, but the interpretation – if it happens without some kind of written/spoken introduction – is at best culturally mediated and often entirely abstract. That so many people seem to hear something of my intention in my music is itself an amazing affirmation that I’m not insane to see it as having a ‘purpose’.

What’s this got to do with the 2nd Inspiration Lab at Cantabile 2 in Stege, Denmark?

Well, everything. The limits of my own musical practice are always where the interesting stuff happens. I’m interested in edge spaces, overlaps, the bits where the circles in the Venn diagram of humanity change colour as they overlap in different combinations.

In the arts, we often gravitate towards influences and influencers who can obviously help shape our own work. Songwriters get into other word disciplines easily, musicians who make records are inspired by films – time delineated documents of a series of events, easy to mulch into a musical expression of a similar aesthetic… it’s often the music in the film that starts the process anyway… [Read more →]

Tags: Random Catchup · travel

Tour blog Pt 2 – This is The End (or ‘how we lost money on a successful tour’)

July 8th, 2011 · 7 Comments

So we’re back in England, tired, jetlagged, weirded out by being away for 2 months. It’s the longest I’ve ever been out of the UK in one stretch, for sure.

So let’s look at some tour facts ‘n’ stats: [Read more →]

Tags: Gig stuff · Music News · travel

First Leg of The House Concert Tour over…

December 24th, 2008 · Comments Off on First Leg of The House Concert Tour over…

Photo by the fabulous Tracy AppsWe’re back in Northern Ohio for Christmas, having played three amazing shows, (overshadowed by the tragedy before the first of the shows).

The picture on the right there was taken at ‘Divine Word Lutheran Church‘ in Milwaukee on Sunday morning, where Lo and I played a couple of songs and some ambient goodness for the assembled lovelies.

I’ll write more about the third gig soon, but for now, here’s a Flickr slideshow of the gig at Tracy’s, and then the embed of the UStream archive of the entire show!

Enjoy…

…and if you enjoy the show enough, you can still head to LivingRoomSessions.com and contribute to the ‘chip-in’.

Tags: Gig stuff · Music News · travel

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 on British Airways wrecked my bass :(

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

Coming to America…

December 10th, 2008 · Comments Off on Coming to America…

Steve Lawson and Lobelia a live photograph taken in Hounslow, London.A week from today, Lo and I will be in New York! How exciting is that? Well, for us, very exciting. For you, probably less so. :)

But what may be of a little more interest is the series of house concerts that we’re doing. Being house concerts, I’m not putting the addresses up online, but if you want to more info on any of these please do drop me an email via the contact tab, or normal email if you’ve already got my address!

There are a couple of things still pending, so do keep an eye on the blog, especially if you’re in California or Philadelphia.

So here’s the list:

Dec 19th – Toledo, Ohio
Dec 20th – Brown Deer, Wisconsin (near Milwaukee) – details
Dec 22nd – Chicago Illinois

Jan 5th – Nashville (this will be a gig in the evening and a future of social media masterclass during the day – lots of details on request!)
(in here there could be a bass masterclass in Philadephia and there will be a future of social media for musicians masterclass in the LA area – more deets ASAP!)
Jan 15th-18th – NAMM Show, Anaheim California (demoing for Looperlative, Modulus and AccuGroove)
Jan 19th – gig, Long Beach, California, also featuring Vicki Genfan (she’s so good, it’s scary) – details
Jan 23rd – House Concert, San Jose
Jan 24th – House Concert, San Jose

There you go – that’s quite a lot of stuff going on, and may well be lots more… if you can see a hole in the calendar, and can think of something cool for us to do, be it a gig or a music masterclass, or a seminar/session on the future of the music industry, do get in touch. We’re open to offers :

Tags: gig dates · travel

Sustainable Touring Pt 1 – planning a house-concert tour.

September 25th, 2008 · Comments Off on Sustainable Touring Pt 1 – planning a house-concert tour.

I’ve just written a piece for MusicThinkTank.com about Sustainable touring, inspired by an interview on BBC 5Live with Geoff Hickman, the manager of Paris-based band, Televox – here’s the interview, and the video discussion that’s happening off the back of it on Phreadz…

The Music Think Tank post will go live in a few days (they have a new queuing system for new posts, where things get posted at more regular intervals – good idea, perhaps I should learn from that. :) )

I don’t want to pre-empt what I wrote there, but one of the things that I do want to highlight at this point is that Lobelia and I are planning a house concert tour for early December – if you’re interested in hosting one, and are somewhere in or near the Southeast of England, please drop me a line. They are easy to organise, the logistics just being

  • travel,
  • an audience (can be any size),
  • some way of us getting paid (either ticket/donation, guarantee or a sponsor – we can sort that out by email)
  • a date!

For now, if you have any thoughts on the idea of sustainable/eco-touring, please throw them into the comments – would be nice to get your thoughts before mine go live on the MusicThinkTank blog for a change…

Tags: Music News · Musing on Music · New Music Strategies · tips for musicians · travel

[real life] – no more car?

May 24th, 2008 · 7 Comments

Question: could you live without a car? (DO you live without a car?)
Ancillary Question: could you live without a car as a gigging musician?

This blog may end up being the ongoing forum for me answering those two questions after my car died this morning… It’s been problematic for a while (frustratingly, only last week I spent £130 on a new exhaust!), but today I took it in for an oil change and saw that the head gasket has gone. Water in the engine. For the second time. I’ll call my garage who did the repair last time and see if there’s any warrantee on the parts, but I’m not holding my breath. It’s a known issue with Rover cars.

Anyway, I REALLY can’t afford to either get it fixed or replace it right now, so unless something magical happens, it looks like for a while we’re going to be car-less. Will be interesting to see how that works, given that we’ve got a few gigs coming up that look like they’ll need a car for sure… or will they? We’ll find out. This part of London isn’t a-wash with decent cheap car hire firms, but there are car-clubs springing up all over the place, so that might be an option…

Either way, I now need to find out where I can sell my car for scrap – it still just about drives (though it did cut out four times on the way home yesterday from a gig at the design museum – more on that later…)

So, sans-car in London. How’s that going to work?

Tags: Random Catchup · travel

Traveling with music gear – prepare for the worst!

February 3rd, 2008 · Comments Off on Traveling with music gear – prepare for the worst!

One of the favourite points of discussion amongst touring musicians is the whole twisted world of planes and instruments. From baggage limits to carry-on details, plane-side checking of bags, to buying extra seats for cellos, there are a million different takes on it, thanks to airline policy being so utterly baffling most of the time.

For years, I travelled everywhere with my bass in a standard lightweight gig-bag, and took it onto the plane. I even managed to get my bass onto Ryanair flights, but smiling, looking horrified if they suggested checking it, and in one instance, having a friend hold it while I checked in my luggage, but then taking it with me through the screening thing…

then a couple of years ago things started to tighten up, initially, i think, due to fuel price increases (and the ensuing panick about plane weight) and then it all went nuts after the london bombing (it had actually settled down a lot after Sept 11th, only to be reignited by London).

At that point, I switched to a foam bass case – I serendipitously lucked into a really nice lightweight case when a student of mine wanted me to help him sell his bass, which I did on the condition that I could keep the foam case and sell it with a gig bag instead… So I had that for a couple of years, and a great case it was too.

Then last year at NAMM, I picked up an InCase gig-bag – it’s a backpack style gig-bag, with shoulder and waist straps, but is more than padded enough to go in the hold. Since then I’ve been checking my bass in the hold, but carrying my rack-gear in a carry-on suitcase, and it’s proved to be pretty effective – no damage at all to my bass since I started doing it, and the case itself is holding up really well too.

Effective, that is, until flying back from California to Ohio, and the plane being completely full, so they checked my carry-on suitcase in the hold, and not via the usual ‘pick it up on the gangway’ method, but actually sending it through via checked baggage to my destination.

Because it was intended as hand luggage, I hadn’t packed the stuff in it all that well, and was pretty horrified by the idea of them checking it. I kicked up a fuss, told them what the contents were worth, but after a half-hearted attempt to find space in the plane, my bag was taken and checked.

I got off lightly, really – at the other end there were some marks on the faceplates of both the Looperlatives, but all the gear in it works fine.

It could’ve been a lot worse. A LOT worse. So what’s the moral of the story? Prepare for the worst. That’s part of the reason I started checking my basses in the first place – just couldn’t risk them putting a gig bag in the hold again. But now I need to do the same with my carry-on bag. Wrap the gear in clothes or towels, pack everything tight so it doesn’t rattle, and make sure that your travel gear is as SMALL AS IT CAN BE. I have a friend from California who toured Europe a couple of years ago, and got stung with a MASSIVE baggage overweight fee on the way from Sweden to Scotland… The worst I’ve had is about £30 on the way from London to Italy, back when I was trying to carry two Echoplexes in my bag (those things weighed a tonne!)… There are loads of bits of gear I’d dearly love to check out and use, but I stay away from as I don’t want my rig to become non-portable. and portable means ‘can fly with it on a cheap-ass airline’.

Anyway, for reference, if you’re flying in Europe, Easyjet have a ‘no weight limit on hand baggage within reason’ thing going on – if your bag fits the size restriction, they let you take it on. I think it’s because it saves them money on ground staff dealing with checked luggage, but it’s great for us, as you can pack the heavy fragile shit into your hand luggage. No such generosities from Ryanair, who have very tight weight limits.

Within the US, limits are generally much more generous than in Europe, but it’s definitely worth checking on policies, and PREPARE FOR THE WORST.

Also, for the americans reading this, you may well find that trains in Europe work out cheaper and easier than planes – there are no baggage weight limits (though if you turned up with 15 basses and a couple of ampeg stacks, you’ll probably get stopped!), and your gear stays near you. Look into Eurail passes for touring – it’s a great way to get to see the continent, and you aren’t penalised for changing your travel plans if a gig gets cancelled or swapped like you would be if you’d booked it all by plane…

Tags: tips for musicians · travel

Mike Watt gets it right (or why Econo-touring is the way to go!)

November 8th, 2007 · 1 Comment

Punk bass Godfather Mike Watt has an expression for low-budget touring – he calls it ‘jamming econo’ (the recent film on the history of his seminal band The Minutemen is called We Jam Econo).

As a solo bassist, I don’t really have much choice but to jam econo – it’s not like I’m at the big budget tours end of the gigging spectrum, so it’s low cost all the way. But it would be a mistake to feel short changed and to aspire to the hotels ‘n’ limos end of things, as the econo-life brings with it a whole host of adventures that you just don’t find in hotels.

I’m just back from a less-than-two-day jaunt to Madrid, to play a show and a masterclass with Spanish bassist Charlie Moreno – Charlie’s an excellent bassist and has become a good friend over the times we’ve met on shows, and he helped Lo. and I to find a couple of shows in Madrid back in March.

He booked a show for the two of us at a cool venue in Madrid, on Tuesday. We had planned to do three or four shows, but the vagaries of concert booking took over and it became one show. So econo was clearly the only way to go. It meant that I couldn’t afford to get the train there, so I had to opt for a short-haul flight – something I’m generally loath to do, but was kinda stuck… So I flew into Madrid, got the metro to Dani’s house (Dani is the singer in Nonno), hung out, got lunch, and then Charlie arrived and we headed to the venue. The masterclass shifted emphasis as a fair few of the people there weren’t bassists, so I got to talk a bit more about what looping allows a performer to do, and how it changes the relationship between performer and audience as compared to using a backing track or triggered samples. Charlie did an amazing job of translating some pretty deep concepts,all of which contained myriad layers of metaphor that relied heavily on the words themselves to make sense, requiring him to work out the meaning and translate the intention into Spanish – a tough gig, but one he handled like a pro!

After the gig, Charlie had arranged for me to stay with a friend of his, who lived about a 10 Euro cab ride away (actually, I think I was stung by the cabbie, as from Carlos’ description the next day, his house was only 15 minutes walk from the club, so not the 15-20 minutes the cabbie took to get there.)

In the morning, I had breakfast and spent some time sorting out email things (my first time using a Linux Ubuntu instillation – wow! I need to get me an Ubuntu partition on one of my machines!), I also got to watch a cool Niacin live DVD, and hang out with Carlos, a sound-engineering lecturer, and badass live and recording sound-monkey, much in demand in Madrid. We went for lunch, went shopping for jeans (my fave cheapie jeans shop in the world is in Madrid) and he then came out to the airport to help me carry my bass….

…the point of all the trivial nonsense detail is that most of that is stuff I’d have had to pay some anonymous person for if I’d been flying in, staying in a hotel, eating in restaurants, travellin in a tour bus, whatever… as it was, I got to hang out with some fascinating locals, eat cheaply in cool real spanish places (not the touristy stuff on the high streets), find out more about the local scene, and get to know bunch of lovely people. AND I came home having netted a sensible amount of money on a gig that grossed less than €400. So I had a better time AND spent less money. It really was, as the saying goes ‘all good’.

It’s easy to be seduced by the BS of the industry, to be taken in by some lame record deal just cos they send a limmo to pick you up, or offered to put you up in a hotel after a showcase gig (you’ll have paid for it out of the record advance anyway…) – there is definitely something about having someone else pay for your hotel that for some weird reason makes it feel like you’ve acheived something. But it spoils the fun of touring. It really does. I’ve had so many great experiences by living the econo-life on tour, have met so many cool people, played loads of shows that I could never have played had I been demanding hotels and taxis everywhere. Instead, I keep it minimal, flexible, mobile and exciting. And everybody wins. :o)

Tags: Gig stuff · Musing on Music · tips for musicians · travel