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Steve's Blog: Solo Bass & Beyond



Future music stats….

December 10th, 2007 · Comments Off on Future music stats….

Sarda just sent me a fab link to zdnet’s blog of digital music industry facts and figures – here are three at random –

1. Top music retailers in Q1 2007: Wal-Mart, Best Buy, iTunes, Amazon, Target
2. 72% of online Americans listen to music on their PCs
3. 10% of all music sold in Europe in 2007 will be digital music

Piecing together anything coherent by way of a response to these will require a lot of reading, extrapolating of trends, and a look at what’s happening outside the mainstream (I doubt that I’ve lost that many sales because people have gone into Walmart or Target hoping to buy my CDs and been disappointed…)

But the blog is well worth a read if you’re interested in the trends and stats in the monetization of music…

Tags: New Music Strategies

Early Christmas presents – your virtual gifts here…

November 20th, 2007 · Comments Off on Early Christmas presents – your virtual gifts here…

It’s something we’ve done in a small way over in the forum for a couple of years, but I thought I’d copy it over here as a comment thread this year – giving Christmas presents is often expensive and perhaps almost as often, pointless. You spend ages trying to find something that is adequate as a gift, not that is either useful or of benefit, or something where the purchasing in the first place is for the greater good…

We can talk about fair trade presents (and beautiful solo bass cds) later but for now, we’re looking for free online pressies. They can be as simple as recommendations for cool websites, or links to sites with free (legal) MP3s, or cartoons, films. Please don’t post links to anything where the legality or morality of the derivation is questionable, like MP3 blogs not sanctioned by the artists etc. but links to last.fm pages with free mp3s are good, or even last.fm pages where albums are streamable if not downloadable.

This is your chance to offer a free gift of something fun and useful and artsy and cool to all the readers of this ‘ere blog…

So here are my three for you – one or two of which I may have mentioned before –

The End of Control – on ongoing ebook, readable as a blog or downloadable as PDF chapters, on the changes in the music industry.
Free Culture – another e-book about the nature of copyright, ownership and the proliferation of ideas and content in a digital age.
New Music Strategies – a third e-book about the changes in the music industry. More deeply thought out stuff on where it’s all going.

So there you go, three books for Christmas (or for you Americans, you can see them as a Thanksgiving present too, should you wish to, along with this thought and this thought about what Thanksgiving is).

So post away, comments are open – give a freebie web-gift for Christmas! :o)

Tags: cool links · New Music Strategies · Random Catchup · tips for musicians · website recommendations

Doug Pinnick interview from March 1999

October 16th, 2007 · Comments Off on Doug Pinnick interview from March 1999

I’ve just been listening to King’s X, which reminded me I’ve yet to re-post my interview with Doug Pinnick. Doug has been one of my biggest bass heroes since I first heard Out Of The Silent Planet back in the late 80s – I was and still am a massive King’s X fan, so interviewing him was a bit of a dream come true. And it was made all the more enjoyable and memorable by the kind of conversation we had – he’d just come out as gay, which had massively upset the conservative end of their christian fanbase in the US, but on the upside had inspired an amazing album in Dogman… So we talked about all kinds of stuff – american culture, theology, bigotry, etc. etc. for hours. And with about half an hour to go i remembered that i was supposed to be getting a load of information for bass geeks, and that’s what this bit is! I’ve probably got the tape somewhere with the rest of it on, and maybe one day I’ll get round to typing it up, will run it by Doug and put it up somewhere if he’s OK with it… But for now, here’s the bassy bit of the interview, which is still pretty interesting! :o)


At the tail end of the 80s, the rock world underwent a bit of a shake up, as a handful of groups arrived on the scene, combining hard rocking guitars with such disparate elements as soulful vocal harmonies, funky bass lines and a sharp line in observational lyrics that were a far cry from the sword ‘n’ sorcery stuff that most of the HM fraternity were prone to churning out.

Bands such as Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Living Colour, Faith No More and, of course, Kings X, took over the pages of both the metal mags and the ‘serious’ music weeklies, hailed as the saviours of hard rock, and, for the most part, made a sizeable dent in the charts.

However, despite combining crushingly heavy guitar riffs with radio-friendly three-part harmony vocals, and enjoying some very favourable reviews, Kings X have so far managed to skirt round the edge of the mainstream without yet finding that elusive crossover hit.

Now, with a new King’s X album, ‘Tape Head’, in the shops and ‘Massive Grooves” by Doug’s solo project, Poundhound available, Kings X are finally coming back to the UK.

‘I always wanted to play bass, for as long as I can remember,’ begins Doug. ‘Eventually, I got lucky – a friend of mine gave me a bass. I grew up in the ghetto, and we were pretty poor. I never even thought I’d be able to play but this friend of mine loaned it to me and I wouldn’t give it back to him! I started playing and I was so happy! I mean, just one note made me ecstatic, and from that day on I’ve just played and I love it! I don’t remember learning how or really working at it because, even though I did, it was so much fun. Every new lick, every new note, was like “yeah!”‘

Thus begins the tale. But what kind of things were you playing along to back then?

‘It was the early 70s when I started playing bass, so I jammed along with records by Led Zeppelin, Sly And The Family Stone, Deep Purple, Yes, Kansas – that kind of stuff. I was a music-aholic! Anything I bought I would put on and play along and try to learn the licks. I did that for about two years and then started playing in bands. After that I never tried to copy anybody else – I was too busy having fun, writing music and stuff.’

What were those first bands like?

‘They were all pretty much garage bands. I wanted to just play bass but ended up singing in all of them. I thought each band was going to make it, but they all sucked! It was a good learning experience!’

How did you make the jump from garage band to Kings X?

‘I moved to Springfield, Missouri, to look for work and I met Jerry (Gaskill: KX drummer), and Ty (Tabor: KX guitarist). We formed a four piece with another guitarist for a couple of years, but it soon became evident that we were meant to be a trio!

‘After that, we played cover tunes for about five years, and then moved to Texas. We had dealings with a couple of small Christian labels before signing to MegaForce/Atlantic and releasing the first Kings X album. Since then we’ve been making records, doing gigs and going through everything everybody else goes through.’

That is, if “everything everybody else goes through” is releasing seven critically acclaimed albums, and doing regular arena tours both as headline act and as support act to some of the biggest names in rock!

There was a big change in the Kings X sound with 1994’s “Dogman” album. What happened?

‘Sam Taylor, who produced our first four albums, had a big influence on our sound, but he never managed to capture on record how heavy we are live. When he left us after “Kings X”, we got Brendan O’Brien in to do “Dogman”. He’s one of my favourite producers. He gets a really dry mix, and that’s what I wanted to go for. There’s one song on “Dogman” called Black The Sky, that is now my standard to mix to. That’s the sound on the Poundhound album – big and fat – more like our live sound’huge!’

Anyone doubting just how huge the Kings X live sound is should take a quick look at Doug’s live rig. Any queries will soon be laid to rest:

‘I use 6 Ampeg SVT 8×10 cabinets and I’ve got two double stereo Ampeg power amps – you can hook eight speakers up to each amp. They’re split in half with two electrical plugs on each amp, to cope with the power! I use an SVT pre-amp for my low end and a Fender Dual Showman for the high end, then run them both into a little mixer, through an EQ and into the power amps. Then I turn it up!!

‘People ask why I use so many cabs. It’s mainly because I like to get 40Hz and lower, to get that church organ kind of sound, so that when I hit a low note there’s that rumble that just shakes the building!’

You’ve been long associated with Hamer basses, and particularly with their 12-strings. I guess you were a Cheap Trick fan?

‘Yes, Cheap Trick was one of my favourite bands, and Tom Pederson is still one of my favourite bassists. We opened for them when “Out Of The Silent Planet” came out, and he let me play one of his 12-strings. Even though it was right-handed, it felt and sounded amazing, and he said, ‘just call Hamer up and get one.’

‘Hamer wanted to work with (King’s X guitarist) Ty’ and I said ‘What about me?!’. They replied, ‘We’ll make you some basses too, Doug!’, so I started using the 12-strings. The company started getting calls from people saying they’d see us play and were interested in them, so Hamer were quite happy to keep the thing going.

‘Ever since then, I’ve been using Hamers. They’ve made me about 12 basses, all of which have been custom-built for me. I have really long hands so I go for wide but shallow necks. I also have Seymour Duncan pickups with a power booster inside, so anything I plug into distorts. It’s my sound. The bass, the amp, the strings – which are DRs – and my hands’that’s my sound.’

Recently though, you’ve reverted to four stings’

‘On the last two Kings X albums, and even the Poundhound album, I’ve used predominantly a four-string. The 12-string is a weird animal to play, it didn’t quite fit with some of the Kings X stuff. Ty felt that it weakened the sound of his guitar, and I finally got tired of the power struggle and gave in for the sake of the overall sound. If I write a song on the 12-string then I can work the rest of the sound around it. Like Jeff Ament did on Jeremy with Pearl Jam – the 12-string carries the whole song. Human Behaviour on “Dogman” and Faith Hope Love were both written and recorded on the 12-string. I can actually play the whole of Faith Hope Love with the harmonics and arpeggios and everything on the 12-string, I don’t even need the guitar!!’

Kings X have always been known as a musicians’ band, and have been more influential than your record sales might suggest. Is that frustrating?

‘Not really. It’s great to be recognised by other musicians and we’ll always go down as the musicians’ band. It’s amazing how our name comes up in the strangest places. All across the board – jazz musicians, pop musicians and everything. But we’ve still never sold that many records. I think that was down to bad promotion. When ‘Dogman’ was released, New York radio stations were playing the title track all the time and we sold more records there than anywhere, but there still wasn’t a major single release of any of the tracks.

‘Jeff Ament from Pearl Jam was quoted on MTV as saying that as far as he’s concerned, King’s X invented grunge! When “Out Of The Silent Planet” came out, no-one else seemed to be doing D-tuned riffing like that. Then we went away for 18 months touring, got home and everyone was D-tuning, which was weird. We’re just one of those quirky weird bands, like Jane’s Addiction, Red Hot Chilli Peppers and Faith No More that were around in the late 80s, so I feel we were inspirational somewhere along the line.

‘As far as influencing bassists is concerned, I think my tone is what I’m known for, which is fine by me. Chris Squire from Yes is my hero, and he had such a great tone. Roundabout and America were two of the first tunes I ever really sat down to work out all the way through.

‘I’m not really impressed by fast players any more. I don’t cut them down, because that takes a lot of work. I admire someone like Yngwie Malmsteen who can sit and play like that, but I’ve stopped writing to be clever, the gigs were ending up too much like hard work!’

With Kings X signed to a new label and things looking rosy for the band, why choose now to start a solo project?

‘I’ve written about 100 songs in the last two years, and when I write for Kings X there are usually a few songs that don’t work in that format, so as an outlet I decided to do my own record. The album is out on Metal Blade, with me playing bass and guitar and do all the vocals with a few different drummers. It’s the dark side of King’s X.

‘Most of the material is real heavy but melodic as well. I’ve gone for something between Sly Stone and Hendrix, using the C-tuned/B-tuned Kings X style riffs, but with a kind of Neil Young approach too, sometimes. I’m making it real rootsy. I’ve got all the guitars tuned down to C, so it’s real low but with my usual Gospel-y vocals. It’s completely me, this is my record. I’m a control freak and this is my way of doing everything.’

Tags: journalism

GWB's room full of Elephants

September 29th, 2007 · 1 Comment

So soon-to-be-gone President Bush has called the Burmese Regime Brutal“Every civilised nation has a responsibility to stand up for people suffering under a brutal military regime like the one that has ruled Burma for too long.”

Now, did any of the journalists at the press call after this manage to fit into the White House, what with all the unmentioned elephants in the room? Guantanamo, Iraq, The death penalty for kids, and going further back the CIA involvement in supporting a who slew of unelected ‘brutal military regimes’ in Central America in the Reagan years.

Yes, as I mentioned the other day, I think the international community has to do something about Burma, but they also have to do something about Iraq!

The whole thing is such a mess – what do we do? You’ve got one prosectable war criminal (if Iraq ever makes it to the Hague, there’s no way Bush, Blair, Rumsfeld et al are going to get away with the clear trail of breadcrumbs leading up to a load of made-up BS about WMDs) calling on China, who are now fast approaching their 60th year of illegal occupation and brutal repression in Tibet to condemn the Burmese.

I’m torn. On the one hand, I’m inspired by the passion of Jyoti’s blog on the lunacy of Bush condemning Burma, and am stunned at the hypocrisy of Bush’s statement. But I’m also deeply concerned about the real possibility that without quick intervention of some kind, the Burmese thing could escalate into a massacre, and that requires the US and the Chinese to apply some pressure.

I guess we end up like one of those cowboy films where the good and bad guys get together to fight the momentarily-even-worse guys before getting back on with their own squabbles once the matter in hand has been taken care of. So right now, everyone tries to stop the killing in Burma, and then we turn it round and make a big ole flap about the hypocrisy of the ongoing killing, occupation and human rights desecration going on in Iraq.

Damn, this world is a mess!

Tags: Rant - Politics, Spirituality, etc.

It was 30 years ago today…

September 21st, 2007 · 6 Comments

…actually, it was 30 years ago in February, but for some reason, someone over on the guardian music blog saw fit today to post a piece in defence of the wonder that is Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours – a pertinent post round here as Lo. thinks it’s a load of old balls, and I love it. Really love it. Dancing-around-on-the-tube-singing-along-even-though-people-think-I’m-a-mentalist love it. It’s an album fueled by extreme tensions within the band, but one possessed of a number of the most gorgeous tender love songs I’ve ever heard (‘You Make Loving Fun’ is in my all time top 20 or so songs).

As the Guardian bloggist says, ’77 is seen as the year of Punk. It was also the year of ‘Bat Out Of Hell’, ‘Saturday Night Fever’ and ‘Rumours’. The biggest bands of the late 70s weren’t the Clash or The Pistols, but the Mac, Queen, ELO, and in the US, the stadium behemoths of Journey, Boston, Foreigner etc… Of course punk was significant, it just didn’t wipe the slate clean in any way at all. It offered an alternative, but thank God it wasn’t the tsunami of disco-crushing, prog-destroying, MOR-trampling destruction that the tainted hindsight of most music journos would have you believe. I’d still rather listen to Chic than the Pistols any day. Sure, I like the Clash, but I’m still not averse to a quick listen through Mr Blue Sky either.

No, the late 70s was no more an artistic monoculture than any other time in music – it was as much about the creative tension-laden folky MOR-ness of the Mac as it was about the New York Dolls rip-off that was the Pistols (I still contest that – aside from The Clash – Americans did punk way way way better than the UK, from The Stooges, and the Dolls through The Minutemen, Blondie and Talking Heads, up to Big Black, Black Flag, Husker Du and on up to Green Day, Rancid and the fake-but-tuneladen pop punk of today.)

So, go and listen to Rumours. With pride. Revel in it, embrace the genius that is the Fleetwood/McVie rhythm section, bask in how Songbird is meant to sound when it’s not being overcooked by Eva Cassidy. Ditto Dreams and The Corrs. And remember that the middle bit out of The Chain is probably the most financially lucrative bit of bass playing in the history of the world, thanks to someone at the BBC’s Formula One production team. Dummmmmmmmm, De-De-Dum De-De-De-De-Dum Dummmmmmmmmmmmm.

Tags: music reviews · Musing on Music

Captive State II – the follow-up

September 4th, 2007 · Comments Off on Captive State II – the follow-up

George Monbiot’s 2001 book Captive State was a masterful work – a fantastic dissection of the fallacy of PFI – the ‘private finance initiative’ which this government copied from the last tory government as the way to fund public projects like hospitals and schools.

Even in 2001, Monbiot was able to show what an utter disaster the project has been in terms of the amount of government money squandered on projects that fail the end user and line the pockets of the directors of the corporations responsible for the projects – projects that were frequently late, over budget and woefully inadequate. The technical term for this in political and economic circles is a right royal fuckup. It’s been a disaster.

And how much of a disaster – in today’s Guardian, George posts this follow-up to the story of coventry hospital, or rather what was coventry hospitalS – plural – until the cost of refurbing them was deemed to low and the returns to slight to get any big money investors interested so they scrapped them both and built a new one out of town… initial budget – £174m. Cost of refurbing BOTH the existing hospitals? £30m. As George notes in his article – ” In March 2007, the Birmingham Post reported that the final cost was £410m.”

Go and read it, and be outraged. It’s sick. It’s even more sick that it’s a so-called labour government that did it. At a time when our American cousins are becoming increasingly aware of how having nationalised health care doesn’t mean you become Stalinist Russia, any more than not paying a policeman every time he arrests a crim on your behalf would, we’re letting the government dismantle public services on behalf of big business by not holding them to account for their false duality in presenting us with the options – we were told that we could either have old beaurocratic crumbling NHS (which wasn’t really all that crumbling after all) or new shiny PFI one run by shitheads in board-rooms. It’s a lie, of gargantuan proportions, when a proper publicly funded and transparently consulted and reported overhaul of the NHS would have been both cheaper AND better.

Read George’s article about the balls-up in Coventry, then multiply that up by the number of hospitals, schools, bridges, road-schemes, that have been funded, scale it up over the next 30 years of GUARANTEED revenue, and then throw in British Rail and the BBC as more projects that were sold off under the same false assumption that the options were business-as-usual or sell it off… the cost, both in financial terms and the degradation of public services is astronomical… ‘ever feel like you’ve been cheated?’

Tags: Rant - Politics, Spirituality, etc.

wednesday night's gig recommended in Time Out

August 21st, 2007 · Comments Off on wednesday night's gig recommended in Time Out

Just found this entry on the time out website – a very nice write up for our gig on Wednesday – all the more reason for you to be there!

here’s what it says –

Steve Lawson/Lobelia + Monk AKA Ric Hordinski
Recommended
Wed Aug 22 , Chilli Fried at Darbucka, 182 St John Street, EC1V 4JZ

Ambient folk-ish jazz from bassist and loop/electronics master Lawson and American singer-songwriter Lobelia, playing a set of bittersweet and melancholic music. Support comes in the form of a solo set of hauntingly powerful ambient/soundscapes from singer-songwriter and guitarist Hordinski.

not sure how ambeint Ric’s set will be, and it’s not a Chilli Fried event, but those are some lovely things to write… :o)

Tags: gig dates · Music News

Not been to the Onion for a while…

July 27th, 2007 · Comments Off on Not been to the Onion for a while…

I so need to visit the Onion more often… I was given the heads up to this story by the lovely and wonderful Bananie, and currently have tears in my eyes…

New Starbucks Opens In Rest Room Of Existing Starbucks.

Gawd bless ’em.

Tags: Random Catchup

The end of the hippie dream

June 28th, 2007 · Comments Off on The end of the hippie dream

Altamont – just the name carries so much resonance. The place where the dreams of flower power and the 60s summer of love, woodstock and hippies all went to shit because The Rolling Stones didn’t realise that – unlike in England where ‘Hell’s Angel’ just meant ‘biker with a beard and a personal hygiene problem’ – American Hell’s Angels were largely racist outlaws, who took great delight in stabbing a black dude to death at the gig.

Anyway, that was a completely different Altamont, given that it was in California, and we’re in Illinois. However, there must be some sort of spiritual link between the two, as the shitty motel we’re in definitely feels like the kind of place where a nasty murder could take place…

Still, cheer yourself up by watching this YouTube vid of me playing at the house concert we did in Dallas – Brian who organised the gig owns a Rick Turner Model 1 bass, which I HAD to play… the improv in question is a variation on the ii-V funk guitar thing that I used for the loop demo vid on YouTube, with a bit of the melody from Chameleon by Herbie Hancock in the middle of it, and lots of gratuitous shredding, but it’s a great sounding bass!

Tags: Random Catchup

…did you just call me Pardner???

June 12th, 2007 · Comments Off on …did you just call me Pardner???

We’re here in Texas. Plano, just outside Dallas to be precise. It seems like a rather lovely place – still strip-mall-based, like so many american cities, but definitely a better class of strip mall than most (and a huge Whole Foods market to be explored…)

We’s here for a house concert tonight – the house is gorgeous, and the concert is going to be marvellous.

Now where did I blog from last? Ah, yes, Nashville – well the Nashville house concert at Sarah and David’s was a whole lot of fun – we set up on their front porch, blankets were laid out in the yard, and we played for lots of lovely friends, surrounded by fairy lights, candles and the sounds of crickets between songs. A most enjoyable evening was had by all, and the duo stuff between the lovely L and I just gets better and better. Her ability to ‘learn’ a loop after one listen is uncanny, and to stack harmonies on something that seems pretty random… She also bought a gorgeous new guitar – a nylon-strung takamine that sounds incredible. Really relaly lovely, and got for a fantastic bargain at Nashville Used Music, or whatever that big shop out on Nolansville road is called.

So favourite things about Nashville? the people, Fido’s, Baja Burrito, the gig, TOGH being there, The Belcourt (Sheriff ElRon and I went to see Rock The Bells – a film about delusional people putting on the last ever gig by all the members of the Wu Tang Clan (though even with ODB being dead, I’m sure they could just get Shane McGowan to fill in, and people would just think Dirty was looking a little pasty…)… Nashville is a town full of good things (and rubbish, it is the home of CCM too, and therefor plays host to much of the most mediocre nonsense ever produced in the name of popular music, as well as the occasional gem…) and certainly somewhere both L and I could live if pushed…

From there we embarked on what i think is the longest drive of my life (yup, I just checked, this was the previous winner) – 700 and something miles from Nashville to Lake Charles Louisiana. Which was, to be honest, a pretty easy drive. Freeways here are much much clearer in general than motorways in the UK, (if you’re not in or around NYC, LA, Chicago or San Francisco), so we never seem to hit much traffic, and just drive from one place to another at 70 mph all the way. In our extensive research, we’ve discovered that IHOP and Denny’s do the best options for vegetarians on the highways of the US. TGI Fridays is shit, Waffle House isn’t actually food, and the burger places are all horrible, with indie places being either non-existent, or really risky in their quality… so we’re happy for IHOP and Denny’s.

The trip to Louisiana was for a house concert at Trip Wamsley’s house – Trip, as y’all know, is one of my most favouritest solo bassists in the world, and fun to hang out with too… it was nice to witness him in his natural habitat, for sure.

The gig was really lovely – Trip played first, and played really well, as always, then L and I got to do our thing, and had much fun, sold a load of CDs, and all was good.

On Sunday, i put down a load of bass tracks for a track on Trip’s new album, and realised just what a HUGE improvement putting this ART tube preamp in the FX loop on my Lexicon has made. It sounded incredible. I can’t wait to hear what Trip does with it. The evening was spent watching Ross Noble DVDs, and hanging out. Much fun at the Trip-house with Trip, Mrs Trip and lil’ Bubba Trip.

And so on into Texas, heading from Chez Trip to Plano TX, from where I’m writing this, trying to decide whether to walk or drive to Whole Foods – how far was it again??

Oh, and the title? We stopped in a auto-mart or some such place, to get directions, and the dude behind the counter actually called me ‘Pardner’ (as in Partner with a silly accent, for all you Englishes) – indeed. He sadly didn’t say ‘you ain’t from around here are you boy?’, but there’s still time for that…

Tags: Music News