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Steve's Blog: Solo Bass & Beyond



Entries Tagged as 'Uncategorized'

Thoughts on ECM joining the streaming world

November 10th, 2017 · No Comments

Today’s big (ish) music economy news is that ECM are sticking all of their stuff on the various streaming services v. soon.

I’ve never really understood ECM’s economic thinking – I get that they have a historic and aesthetic attachment to CDs and vinyl, but their delving into digital has been seemingly pretty haphazard. For quite a while they had massive parts of their catalogue (perhaps all of it, I never checked) on eMusic – them removing their stuff from eMusic was one of the deciding factors in me cancelling my eMusic account yesterday, after 10 years.

They’ve recently stuck a few things on Bandcamp, but have priced them so high that they’re positioning themselves well outside the mainstream of Bandcamp’s internal economy (as an aside, in the last couple of years, the cost in real terms to a customer in the UK of a download that costs $10 on Bandcamp has jumped from around £7 to around £9, thanks to Brexit trashing our currency, and VATMOSS adding $2 to the price before we even get to that…)

Anyway, so ECM have pulled their stuff from eMusic (where I would pay between about a pound and maybe £3 or 4 per album, depending on the number of tracks) and put it on Spotify, and have put massively overpriced versions on Bandcamp.

Which at face value begs the broader question, why are SO many music people still so utterly binary in their thinking about music distribution? It’s either collect the scraps from streaming and hope that you can magically generate a big enough market to make it meaningful, or charge £10+ per album for CDs AND THE SAME FOR DOWNLOADS ?!?! [Read more →]

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PS, You Are Brilliant – New Steve Lawson Solo Album Out Today

October 30th, 2017 · No Comments

Finally! My new solo album – my NINETEENTH full-length solo release – PS, You Are Brilliant, is out today. You can listen to it and download it exclusively on Bandcamp – This is NOT on iTunes, Spotify, Google Play etc. You can only hear it and download it from Bandcamp (or anywhere that has the Bandcamp player embedded, like here!). You can stream the album in full and if you like it and want to buy it, it’s pretty inexpensive :)

Keeping it on Bandcamp is the musical equivalent of only selling your produce in a farmer’s market. It’s a better deal for artists, a better deal for listeners, and you get to choose better-than-CD quality audio if you like at no extra cost. Everybody wins!

If you dig it a lot, and want to investigate further, PS, You Are Brilliant is also available to my Bandcamp Subscribers – I recently passed the 3 year anniversary of the introduction of the subscription, a mechanism for releasing music whereby subscribers pay a flat fee per year and get everything that I release. This year so far, they’ve had 8 albums and an eBook, plus a load of subscriber-exclusive video. [Read more →]

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Two New Albums Released Today!

July 17th, 2017 · No Comments

I’ve got two albums coming out today! They’re being released in different ways, and the releases are connected, so read on to find out how to get both!

First of all, the first Illuminated Loops recording is coming out. Illuminated Loops is my project with visual artist Poppy Porter. Poppy is synaesthetic, which means she ‘sees’ sound. So for this, I improvise, she draws what she sees and I then treat the drawings as a graphic score. It results in a lot of truly beautiful art and some really surprising and lovely music – it’s very much recognisably me, but definitely draws me in new directions and inspires choices that I wouldn’t have made had I just been focused on playing… There’s an awful lot more to be said about the process, which is why the album comes with extensive PDF sleeve notes.

Now, the album will only initially be available to my Bandcamp subscribers. They are the people who pay £20 a year (or more, some of them voluntarily contribute over that) to get everything that I release in the year. They are the reason I’m able to make music the way I do. Last year I put out 7 albums. Some of them were subscriber-exclusives, all of them were released to subscribers a month or so before they became public. And when you first subscribe, you get a massive windfall from my back catalogue – over 30 albums, including every solo album I’ve ever made and a load of subscriber exclusive collaborations too. There are albums in there with Michael Manring, Jem Godfrey, Bryan Corbett and others that are unavailable elsewhere. It’s a crazy bargain, and if you decide to join them today, you’ll get all that music right now, and at some point today, you’ll get the Illuminated Loops album. [Read more →]

Tags: Music News · Uncategorized

Decorating Tips For Musicians (How To Learn Like A Painter)

May 24th, 2017 · 1 Comment

I’ve been teaching bass now for almost 25 years. I’ve taught thousands of students, and given masterclasses and seminars to many more in universities and colleges all over the world. In that time, I’ve never stopped trying to refine my method, my process, my ability to help a student get where they need to be. And one of the things I’m always searching for is better metaphors for what it is we’re trying to do.

So, today we’re going to talk about painting and decorating, OK?

Imagine you were asked by someone to decorate their house – to paint all the rooms, the stairs, hallway, all the doors, fittings. Everything needs doing. There’s a lot of work there, and you’ve not really done any painting before…

There are a number of ways to approach it, so let’s break them down, then you can look at their parallels with learning an instrument: [Read more →]

Tags: teaching news · tips for musicians · Uncategorized

New USB Stick Design Now Available – 33 albums for 30 Pounds!

September 26th, 2016 · Comments Off on New USB Stick Design Now Available – 33 albums for 30 Pounds!

Ever since Lobelia first bundled up her back catalogue on a USB Stick when we were on tour about 8 years ago, and I copied her, it’s become by far the most popular way for people to get hold of my music. When we first started, we were buying USB sticks out on the road, calling into Office Max or Fry’s to see what we could find (on one tour, I had a load of superhero figurines!), but a few years back I started custom designing them, in limited edition batches of 50. Once they were sold out, that was it, move on to a new design.

Today the latest design arrived – it’s actually very similar to a previous one, in that I’ve gone with the faux-mini-vinyl look again, only this time I’ve added a turntable arm to the image just for fun.

click here to buy the Steve Lawson Complete Works USB Stick - the image is a picture of the usb sticks which are circular and designed to look like mini vinyl

However, what’s inside is the thing that keeps growing, It’s now 33 albums for just £30 and the collection of music has got so big that the accompanying live concert video is now on the stick as a download link rather than the file itself. I’m going to have to go bigger than 4Gb next time!

So this includes all my publicly released work up til now – the only things that aren’t on here are the subscriber-only releases from the last two years. If you want those as well, the best value offer is to subscribe for £20, then use the subscriber only merch offer on the site to get the USB stick for £18 – so for £38, you get something insane like 50 albums (I really ought to count them 😉 )

…anyway, that’s a lot of music for precious little money, and it sustains the music that I make in ways that streaming services and YouTube royalties could never ever achieve. If you’re going to make niche music (and let’s face it, playing bass on your own is about as far outside the pop mainstream as you can get, regardless of how catchy some of the tunes are) there’s not yet been a version of the streaming economy that leads to a sustainable music making life.

But likewise, there’s also no reason why you should have to pay £10 for a CD every time I make some new music. I make a LOT of music, and I’ve already made a lot of music, so if I can bundle it up in useful ways, so much the better.

So, if you want to get on board, and get all the new stuff that’s coming out over the coming years, go and subscribe, then order the USB stick via the subscriber only link…

enjoy!

Tags: Uncategorized

2 New Videos (OK, THREE new videos… :) )

September 25th, 2015 · Comments Off on 2 New Videos (OK, THREE new videos… :) )

Yup, this week hasn’t let up on the awesome – we’ve had magazine covers, new albums, radio play and now two great new videos appearing online...

Firstly, here’s the latest video of me shot by Gregor at BassTheWorld.com – filmed at the Warwick Bass Camp a couple of weeks ago. It’s sort of an improvised baroque counterpoint piece, that morphs into a meditation on the serendipity of just letting things unfold. It’s called Better Than The Plan and it’s here:

The 2nd one is a long awaited clip of the first time the brilliant Divinity Roxx and I played together live. The first track from our first ever gig, at Kidderminster College. This bodes very well for our ongoing project, dontchathink? :)

…OK, how about a bonus video, because I don’t think I actually blogged about this last one when it was posted… From the gig earlier this year with Beardyman at the Jazz Cafe in London. This is the first bit of it to appear online, and it’s basically a 3 minute bass solo. Which is rather lovely. Playing with this quartet was a whole lot of fun. I’m really looking forward to doing more with Beardyman soon…

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Competition Time!

September 21st, 2015 · Comments Off on Competition Time!

OK! The next month is getting really exciting – two new albums out now, Bass Guitar Magazine‘s October issue with me on the cover is in shops now, and the tickets for my October tour with Jonas Hellborg are selling well.

There’s a brand new design for the ‘everything’ USB Stick, a limited edition square one, featuring the artwork to both the new albums.

So, Competition Time! I’ll be giving away three of these USB Sticks in October to people picked at random from anyone who posts a selfie with their copy of the new issue of Bass Guitar Magazine with me on the cover. A few people have done this already, which is really lovely to see. Take a pic, post it on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook and tag me in it, and I’ll stick all the names in a hat in October and send out 3 USB Sticks.

If you can’t wait that long, You can order one now for £25, OR, for the bargain of the century, subscribe for £20 and then buy the subscriber-only offer on the USB stick for £13 – you then also get the 10 album FingerPainting set included too. So that’s 40 albums (seriously, 40!), a live video and my novel, PLUS a year’s worth of new releases with the subscription, for £33 plus postage.

Which is nuts, right?

So, get snapping and tagging.

And if you’ve bought the new albums, please do post a review on Bandcamp and share the link to them around on Twitter.

Hope you’re enjoying the magazine article. More fun stuff on the way!

Tags: Uncategorized

Big News: Two New Albums, October Tour with Jonas Hellborg

August 24th, 2015 · 1 Comment

Right, It’s shaping up to be a very active autumn and winter in Steve-World. The new album I’ve been working on for a while has turned into two new albums! I recorded about 3 hours of new music for it, intending to put out one album of it. Having asked producer/promoter/manager/music maven Sue Edwards to help sequence the album, she came up with a beautifully coherent record, that only had two tracks overlapping with my shortlist of eight for my version… So we’ll release both. The second album took some rejigging to tell the right story, but it’s there, and I love them both.

The titles are A Crack Where The Light Gets In and The Way Home. You’ll recognise The Way Home, as the title track was released as a single last week. listen to/download it here: http://music.stevelawson.net/track/the-way-home

News Part Two is VERY exciting – in October, I have three live dates with one of my favourite bassists in the world, Jonas Hellborg. Jonas’ music has been a constant source of inspiration throughout my solo career, both as a solo bassist and a collaborative improviser looking to stretch the role of the bass guitar beyond the expected confines. We’ve been friends for years, but this’ll be the first time we’ve played shows together.

The dates are:

Sunday Oct 4th: Birmingham, Tower Of Song (ticket link)
Monday Oct 5th: London, The Vortex
Tuesday Oct 6th: Leeds, Left Bank (ticket link)

Here’s the press bit: 

Two of the world’s leading solo bass guitarists together on one stage.

Crossing musical boundaries and blowing listeners’ minds for over 30 years, Jonas Hellborg is one of the great innovators of the bass guitar. From the pyrotechnic flamboyance of his early solo electric albums, to his unique exploration of the richness and depth of the acoustic bass guitar, Jonas has changed the way people think about – and play – the bass.

Whether as a solo artist, or collaborating with many of the most respected names in music, from John McLaughlin to PiL, Ginger Baker to Shawn Lane, Jonas’ signature sound and uncompromising creative philosophy have produced an unparalleled body of work, mostly on his own Bardo label. Lauded by press and public alike, this is a rare opportunity to hear Jonas up close in the UK.

Steve Lawson is one of the most celebrated solo bassists in British music history – early in his career, he opened for Level 42 on their first Greatest Hits comeback tour, placing his unique take on melodic looping-based live performance in front of tens of thousands of bass aficionados. 15 years of regular gigging across the UK, Europe and the US solidified his place as a leading exponent of solo bass. Steve’s sound-world borrows liberally from electronica, jazz, pop, rock, ambient and experimental music, to form a sonic fingerprint as compelling as it is unique.

Following on from two years of wide-ranging collaboration, playing alongside musicians as diverse as Reeves Gabrels and Beardyman, Andy Gangadeen and Divinity, Steve is back with a fresh exploration of what the bass can be in the 21st Century.  With the imminent release of his 12th and 13th all-solo albums (on the same day!) Steve is set to push the notion of what the bass guitar can be in 21st Century further still.

Tags: gig dates · Gig stuff · Music News · Uncategorized

The Evolution of Sound

November 13th, 2014 · Comments Off on The Evolution of Sound

‘This is a journey into sound…’ – thus sampled Eric B and Rakim. That’s pretty much the definition of my musical journey thus far. Perhaps because I’ve always been drawn to texture as much as to harmony and melody in music, it was inevitable that I’d end up pursuing an approach to music that put the sonic palette on an equal – or often superior – footing to the notes… The development of my technique was always primarily about tone rather than dexterity. Switching to playing melodies on my fretless bass with the side of my thumb slowed me down a LOT, but gave me the sound I was looking for, so it stuck as my dominant technique. Using the Ebow and the slide, while quirky-looking on stage, result in music that is generally more languid and moved my music further away from the muscular fusion many expected from a solo bassist back in the late 90s.

As a result, my gear choices have also been mostly governed by the possibility to broaden, deepen and enrich that same palette of sounds. To give me a broader base of colours to paint with, a greater range of contrasting textures with which to create the layers in my looped improvisations and compositions. Indeed, the very definition of a ‘composition’ for many of my solo pieces was ‘key plus set sequence of sounds’ – they were improvisations as far as the specific notes were concerned, but the sequence of sounds to be layered was way more consistent.

The 20 year (thus far) journey into that particular set of priorities has lead to a few interesting outcomes – I’ve mostly had wonderful relationships with the companies whose equipment I use, and have been able to have useful practical input into the development of quite a few unique products and product developments over the years. It has also meant – in combination with the platform my journalistic work gives me – that I punch WAY above my weight in terms of the influence I have over other people’s perceptions of music gear. That’s a responsibility I take very seriously, given the potential for someone to invest an awful lot of money in gear at least partially directed by my own choices.

For that reason, I tend to only change my gear when the sound dictates that it be the wisest choice. I’ve avoided paid jobs as ‘the demo guy’ – partly because it’s just not a job I want, but also because they’ve never been offered for the gear I really believe in. I’ve had long standing relationships with a small number of companies that I work with. The one area of my rig that HAS changed the most over the years – and even then only when the music demanded it – is amplification.

It’s also, not coincidentally, one of the areas of music gear development that has changed most in the last 15 years. The advent of super light, efficient, powerful, full spectrum bass cabinets, and REALLY great sounding lightweight power amps was a long time coming, but we’re definitely in that age now.

I’ve always been fascinated by the conversation about amps, and was for a time pre-occupied with the notion of things being ‘flat’ – I wanted uncoloured sound, just my sound back through a loud lightweight amp. With that in mind, I switched to a high-end pro audio PA set up about 7 years ago, leaving ‘bass’ amps behind for a couple of years.

The need for more volume – and the advent of the Markbass combos that I’ve been using for the last few years – brought me back to bass amps, and a sound that was definitely not ‘flat’ but was ‘full range’ and has a tonal imprint I liked.

Freed from the tyranny of spec sheets and response graphs, I was able to explore the notion of ‘good’ sound without the interference of notions of ‘correct’ sound. That was helpful.

If you’ve seen any of the pictures I’ve posted of late of my rig, or seen me live over the last month or so, you’ll see that I’m now using an Aguilar amp set-up… ‘dude, I thought you really dug the Markbass combos??’ said lots of bass players. And I do. They haven’t suddenly stopped sounding good. They’re cool amps that definitely did the job.

So how did the Aguilar thing come about?

Dave and Justin at Aguilar have been friends of mine for over 15 years. we go back to my very first NAMM show in 1999 – they are great friends that I care about a great deal and hang with as much as possible. As a clear testimony to their integrity, neither of them over the years tried to get me to switch amps, but after using an Aguilar house rig at the jam night at this years London Bass Guitar Show, I was interested to find out what they would sound like for my solo stuff – it’s one thing having an amp that sounds great for ‘normal’ bass playing, it’s quite another to be able to handle the huge array of sounds I make, and to deal with all the other instruments that go through any system I use on collaborative gigs (including electronic drums, and vocalists!)

So I arranged to try a rig out – the SL112 cabinets and Tone Hammer 350 heads that I now have. A stereo rig, the same as I’ve had since 2003.

I set them up to A/B them with my existing set-up, and was absolutely blown away. I had NO idea they’d sound the way they did. Clear, full, warm, present… just amazing. Exactly what I was looking for. It was very much a case of not knowing that I wanted to change – I hadn’t really felt unhappy with my other system, but on a straight A/B, the suitability for my music was clearly with the Aguilar rig. I ran iTunes through it, to hear what it was like for full-range playback. Added a very slight EQ in my MOTU Ultralight and found that it sounded richer and clearer than even my (admittedly rather cheap) studio monitors. Like a high end 70s Wharfedale hifi. Properly jaw-dropping stuff.

This experience was confirmed again and again as friends and colleagues and students got to experience the sound. Wide eyes and big smiles were the unanimous reaction.

So I found myself changing amps for the first time in a lot of years. I’ve never been a fan of changing gear for the sake of it, I’ve never tried to deal with frustrations in my playing by getting new toys. It’s only when a clear and obvious choice to move to something that better represents the sound I hear in my head is presented that I’m left having to shift.

I’m deeply grateful to Markbass and Markaudio for the many years of great bass sounds (and am still utterly reliant on their MiniDIST overdrive pedal every single time I play), but if you see me playing shows from now on, you’ll perhaps be able to hear why I made the switch to the greatest sounding bass amp I’ve ever played through.

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Birmingham solo gig, with Vicki Genfan, Sept 28th!

August 30th, 2014 · Comments Off on Birmingham solo gig, with Vicki Genfan, Sept 28th!

Right, after months of awesome collaborative playing, with Andy Edwards, Julie Slick, Briana Corrigan, Jem Godfrey et al, I’ve finally got another solo gig in Birmingham, on a double bill with one of my favourite guitarists in the world, Vicki Genfan:

You’re familiar with Vicki, right? Wait, what? Some of you aren’t?? Wow, OK. Try this:

Yeah, she’s amazing. Oh, and she sings:

Vicki and I have played on the same bill a few times over the last decade, and hung out whenever we can. She’s a great friend, musical inspiration, and YOU REALLY DON’T WANT TO MISS THIS. Trust me.

Click here to buy tickets from Bandcamp.

Tags: Uncategorized