stevelawson.net

Steve's Blog: Solo Bass & Beyond



Interview – from BassRocket.com (Jan 2005)

May 12th, 2008 · 1 Comment

Steve Lawson has been one of the most inspiring and creative solo bassists to come out of the UK in recent years. His solo albums and collaborative projects have been the talk of the world-wide bass community and have drawn enthusiastic reviews in the press. His latest album ‘Grace And Gratitude’ finds him searching a theme in his own enigmatic way. I spoke to Steve recently and began by asking him about this album.

– ‘Grace And Gratitude’ seems to have been given a good reception in the
press. What kind of response have you had from the fans?

“The response has been fantastic, I’ve been really pleased with how well it’s gone down, especially given that it contains some of the most challenging music that I’ve recorded, and is pretty diverse! I was expecting to get a few e-mails of complaint about the second track (Journey Of A Thousand Miles), as it gets very dissonant, and is quite a big leap on from anything I did on ‘Not Dancing For Chicken’, but my audience have surprised me once again with their broadmindedness!”

– What led you to explore a thematic concept for this latest album, and
how do you set about creating a themed album of instrumental music?

“That’s a really good question, and a tough one to answer! The prompting to explore the theme was that it was a continuation of the way I always write – trying to soundtrack whatever is going on in my head at that time – but discovering that my thoughts at that time were a little more focussed and coherent than when I’m usually making a record. The catalyst for that was the European elections here in the UK. I was insensed by the selfishness and ingratitude of so many on the political right-wing who were blaming people fleeing persecution and destitution in their own countries for coming to England to find something better, and attempting to use them as a scapegoat for all of society’s ills and to gain political ground against those who saw the issues in a more complex and grown up way. But instead of doing an angry record, I decided to channel that thought process into looking at the things that I’m most grateful for, and recognising that I haven’t earned any of them – they are all a gift, which is where the ‘grace’ part comes in.

“So ‘Despite my Worst Intentions’ stems for a feeling of gratitude that none of the really stupid things that I did in my teens managed to ruin my life. ‘The Kindness Of Strangers’ is a fairly obvious one – it’s something that all musicians rely on heavily! ‘The Journey Of A Thousand Miles’ is more about recognising the smallness of everything we do, seeing life as a journey comprised of small steps, and we need to tread carefully. And so on…

“It’s pretty much impossible to pin down the connection between the theme and the music beyond some people just getting it! It’s a feeling, an emotion, it’s ephemeral, and I guess it’s something that is going to connect with people on myriad levels. It’s also highly likely that people are going to hear completely different things in there, and that’s fine too.”

– What’s your favourite piece on ‘G&G’ and why?

“Oh boy, it changes from day to day – I think at the moment, it’s ‘What Did I Do To Deserve This?’ – I just really like the melodic line, and the change in texture as the piece goes on. But I’m also particularly proud of ‘You Can’t Throw It Away (There’s No Such Thing As Away)’ – the way the track develops took me by surprise! That’s the joy of improvising music in the studio – you can hear new things in it as you listen back the same way that the audience does. It’s not all planned out, so there are things that you miss the first time round that grow on you as time goes on.”

– Those of us who bought the album shortly after it’s release were
treated to a superb bonus disc. Please tell our readers how they can
now get hold of that CD for themselves?

“That CD was called ‘Lessons Learned From An Aged Feline Pt II’ – each time I do a CD, I release a second bonus CD for people who order the record in advance of the official release date. This works for two reasons – firstly as an insentive to people to order the CD early on, and thus helping me to recoup my costs quicker. But it’s also a way of me getting some of the enormous amount of music out there for people to hear. I tend to record hours and hours of music for each CD before I decide on which tracks to release. Some of it is pretty bad, so that gets scrapped, but for each CD, I end up with at least two albums worth of release-quality material, so this enables to get that out.

“Now that I’ve got a web-shop that can handle download sales, I’ve been able to put ‘Lessons Learned Pt II’ up as a download sale, so people who’ve only discovered what I’m up to since the new album has been released can go back and start to fill in some of the blanks in their CD collections. It’s also meant that I can keep my debut solo album, ‘And Nothing But The Bass’ available, even though it’s sold out. Instead of repressing, I’ve just made it available as a low-cost download.”

– In the past few years you have alternately released solo albums
followed by albums of collaborative duets. Does this mean we are due
another duets album and if so what’s in the pipeline?

“At the moment I’m not certain what I’m going to do next. I do have a lot of duo material recorded with pedal steel guitarist, BJ Cole. BJ and I have been playing together for over a year now, and been experimenting with various approaches to combining out sounds. It’s not been an easy one, given that both of us are capable of making so much noise! But we’re beginning to find the right combination, so that might happen.

“I’m also planning to try some gigs with Theo Travis, but with a drummer added to the mix. We’ve a couple of people in mind, and will be experimenting over the new couple of months. The tracks that we recorded on ‘For The Love Of Open Spaces’ have been evolving on the live gigs that we’ve done, and it’d be great to try taking them to another place with a drummer.

“And work has also begun on Jez Carr’s debut all-solo album – so while I won’t be playing on that, I’ll be helping to produce that with him. Jez is an amazing musician, and looking forward to being able to follow up Conversations within the next couple of years too.

– Have you any plans for making a duets album with another bassist and if
so who?

“I’ve been gigging a lot over the last couple of years with Michael Manring, who is quite simply one of the most amazing musicians I’ve ever heard, let alone shared a stage with, and also one of my favourite people. We’ve made various attempts to record our duo gigs, but so far haven’t had much that’s been release quality, just in terms of the sounds. But we’re both keen to get something happening, so I’d guess that will happen at some point. We’ve even had offers from record labels wanting to fund it, but it’s something that we’re going to take our time with. For starters, Michael’s got a new solo album coming out in the next month or so, so will be promoting that over the next few months.

“But I do love working with other bassists – we think slightly differently from other musicians, and I find that bassists often (not always) make great listeners. I’ve done a few gigs – including the European Bass Day – with John Lester. He’s a singer/songwriter solo bassist from California, now living in Amsterdam, and is a dream to play with – another great musician who’s also a really lovely person.”

– OK, so if you could make a duets album with any musician from history
who would that be?

“To be honest, I feel really fortunate to be working with the people I’m working with. I think the main ones on my ‘wish list’ would be singers like Joni Mitchell, Bruce Cockburn and Jonatha Brooke, but of the three the only one I’ve met is Bruce. I have two main criteria for working on a project like that, there needs to be a musical hook-up, obviously, but it also has to be with someone that I could travel round in a car with for three weeks at a time – life’s too short to work with people you don’t get on with. So once I’ve formed a list of people I’d love to work with, I then have to meet them, and see if I get on with them, as well as there being some mutual musical appreciation!”

– Aside from listening to other musicians, what do you find in life that
inspires the creative process?

“Desperation! I think that when you do music for a living, there’s a fine balance between seeing it as a job and getting tired of it, and feeling liberated by the absence of other things getting in the way. I cross that line fairly regularly. The main thing that keeps me focussed on how lucky I am is practising. I love playing, I love getting together with other musicians to try things out and I love doing gigs. Music is in and of itself inspiring, and not just in a notes and melodies sense. There’s something about being around creative people that makes you pursue creativity.

“Beyond that, I find that most things will feed into my music – politics, relationships, faith, films, art, history, fantasy… Loads of things.

“That said, one of my biggest influences is cats – we’ve recently got two new ones, as the Aged Feline, after whom the two ‘Lessons Learned’ CDs were named, passed away in the summer. The new ones can’t replace him, but they are rescue cats, and needed a home. They’re both lovely, and are now the ‘Fairly Aged Felines’, who will no doubt have their own line of CDs coming out soon!”

– What nifty little toys have you currently got in your arsenal of
effects?

“The current live set up for gigs in the UK is pretty involved – I now have two Lexicon MPX-G2 processors, two Gibson Echoplex Digital Pro + looping devices, a Mackie 1402 desk, and a Korg KP-II Kaoss Pad. It gives me so many great options and allows me to loop and process the musicians I’m working with as well! The move to a stereo set-up, and the switch to AccuGroove speaker cabinets has made my whole sound much clearer and less coloured. I’ve used the PA for voice, sax, piano and classical guitar as well, and it sounds better than any equivalent sized PA that I’ve ever used!

“Throw in three Modulus basses and an E-Bow and you’ve got my live rig.”

– What are the plans for any live dates in the near future?

“At the moment, I’m sorting out some dates for California in late January. For the UK, I’m working on some dates in March with Matthew Garrison, and will hopefully have some dates later on in the year with acoustic guitarist, Eric Roche, as well as a smattering of other solo dates here and there.”

You can check out all of Steve’s albums (and buy them!) at this website www.stevelawson.net, there are some free download tracks there and plenty of interviews and reviews to read.

Andy Long

Tags:

Dark days in London town.

May 3rd, 2008 · 4 Comments

C’mon, joke’s over, Boris didn’t really win, did he?

Oh shit, yes he did. A victory for disillusionment, celebrity and the power of the protest vote. He’s not even a convincing tory.

The animosity towards Ken is startling, and he’s largely brought it on himself of late by behaving as though he was born to rule. His posturing covered over his remarkable achievements as Mayor, particularly in relation to public transport and the environment.

The only possible consolation from all this is that Ken had to flight bloody hard for just about every significant change that happened, from increases in buses and on-the-beat policing to the congestion charge. I honestly don’t think Boris cares enough to do what he’s pledged to do to reverse some of those policies. He’s a preening elitist, in the worst sense of the word, and has precious little track record as an effective politician read this article from The New Statesman for more.

What’s perhaps even worse than Boris as a reflection of the protest vote culture is that the BNP have a seat on the London Assembly. Yup, seems like all those other countries we thought were nuts for electing insane, racist hate-fueled, holocaust-denying fascists were just ahead of the game when it came to electoral fuckwittage.

Are all BNP voters fascists? No, clearly not. A lot of them are quite understandably disillusioned with a political landscape that has seen the three major parties merge, removing the old allegiances of ‘old labour’ socialism, or ‘old tory’ nationalism… Now it’s different flavours of centre right economic liberalism, and ever increasing marginalisation for those either not on the property ladder, or not willing or able to wade through the mire of spin and marketing BS to find out what else is going on underneath the heinous tabloid-fuelled political sheen…

Today’s protest voters are Thatcher’s legacy, are those who don’t remember what the far right did in the 70s/80s, who don’t realise that the BNP formed as an even further right version of the National Front, who don’t know about the BNP’s recent obvious attempts to distance themselves from the odious views of so many of their leaders and members.

Fortunately, the BNP will probably be ‘given enough rope’ by being placed on the London Assembly, that they’ll do what happened when they won 17 seats in local elections last time round… – to quote from the Mark Thomas article:

“Out of the 17 councillors, according to the anti-fascist magazine Searchlight, Luke Smith resigned from Burnley Council after attacking a man with a bottle; Maureen Stowe left the party claiming the BNP “did not care for Burnley at all”; Robin Evans, a Blackburn councillor, left too, amid claims that drug dealers and football hooligans were in his branch; and John Savage, BNP councillor in Sandwell, was so bewildered by council debates and voting that he ended up supporting a pro-asylum-seeker motion. That surely has to be a first – a BNP councillor so stupid that he couldn’t even be a proper racist. Many BNP councillors have not attended council meetings and those who have, rarely – if ever – speak there.”

It’s sad that disgruntled voters with legitimate grievances that politicians have failed to address have banded together with nu-BNP – smiling, waving, fascists – many with a violent thuggish past at odds with the spurious ‘law and order’ rhetoric of the party – to give them a space on the London Assembly… Hopefully the oxygen of publicity will just reveal them to be the cynical opportunist racists that they are…

(for reference, have a look at the Mirror’s 10 reasons not to vote BNP – just wish the red-tops would provide wiki-style citations for such things… they’re collectable, but would be nice to have them in the article.)

In the meantime, hold tight, London, it’s going to be a bumpy ride…

Tags: Rant - Politics, Spirituality, etc.

Londoners – don't forget to vote tomorrow!

April 30th, 2008 · 2 Comments

It’s the London Mayoral Elections tomorrow, and our chance to choose between the different flavours of turd on offer… As much as I think Ken has overstayed his welcome, the idea of Boris as London mayor is too horrific to consider. Not because of his affable buffoonery, but because of his horribly reactionary politics. He’s tried to rebrand himself as a Cameron-esque new Tory-Of-The-People, but it’s bollocks.

Brian Paddick just doesn’t have anything like the track record or spirit to be London Mayor, which of the serious candidates leaves Sian Berry of the Green Party – I’m pretty sure I’ll be voting Sian 1, Ken 2…

Here’s how it works – in London we have Proportional representation in this election, which means that EVERY VOTE COUNTS. This is great in terms of us feeling represented, but the downside is it means the BNP will benefit greatly from a low voter turn-out driven by the apathy towards the two main candidates.

Put simply, if you don’t vote for SOMEONE, it’s a step closer to the BNP getting onto the London Assembly. So vote. Get out and vote for the person you believe in. This is one election where voting Green actually means something in tangible terms. The Greens already have two members on the London Assembly, who have been integral to the environmental steps forward in the city. They’re looking to double that, so if you’re a green supporter, get out and help them do that.

For more on why the BNP are such a tragic option for any political situation, see hopenothate.org.uk. A lot of people are disgruntled with the way the political situation has gone in the UK of late, and the cynical opportunists at the BNP have targeted those disaffected voters with their hateful message. Don’t give them a foothold.

VOTE!

Tags: Rant - Politics, Spirituality, etc.

Statistics relating to the website redesign…

November 4th, 2007 · Comments Off on Statistics relating to the website redesign…

Just a quick observation on the redesign of my main website – whil the number of visitors to the site is pretty much the same now as it was before the redesign, those visitors are sticking around for longer and looking at more pages than before… That’s good news! :o)

As for the blog, a heck of a lot of the traffic to my blog now comes from the front page of stevelawson.net, though the number of visitors is in general lower than it was a couple of years ago… maybe people preferred it when I was blogging about cats and european elections. :o)

Stats break over – back to whatever it was you were doing before…

Tags: Geek · site updates

File sharing and the musical diet…

October 7th, 2007 · Comments Off on File sharing and the musical diet…

Been doing lots of gigs that I’ll blog about in later on this evening – just running out the door to another gig – but a couple of thoughts first on the relationship between file sharing and musical diet. Specifically in relation to the value we place on things that cost us money.

Back when I had very little money (ooh, that’ll be, um, about an hour ago?) – no, VERY little money, when I was living in Lincoln and earning student-grant-level wages (oh yes, young peoples, there was a time when the government actually GAVE you money to go and study… not a huge amount of money, but it was a grant not a loan, so when you left university, you were free to head off and do idealistic things like VSO or working in a community art project for a year, instead of taking the highest paid job you possibly can just to pay off your £30,000 debt. Oh, how times have changed.) – back then, I had an odd mixture of fearless abandon and meticulous selection when it came to choosing the music I parted with cash for. I was pretty fearless as to the style of what I was buying – might be prog, might be free jazz, might be electropop, orchestral, metal, punk, indie, acoustic – whatever. But because i had limited funds, it had to be great. it had to be the best of its kind. I learnt pretty quick that the recommendations of magazines like Q and the NME were pretty much worthless as they tended to relate to the current coolness factor of a band or project, rather than its status against the canon of work with its field. There were a couple of Q reviewers whose opinion intrigued me, but most of the time when I was swayed by a review, I ended up being disappointed. So I stopped doing that. But it meant that I had a hugely varied record collection, but also one where I had top notch stuff in each category, much of which I carry with me to today, both in terms of affection and influence.

I suspect, had I had much more money, I would have bought in a much less considered way – I’m sure being a Child Of Peel, I would still have had the eclecticism, but I’d have gone out and bought everything. I loved music. I still do. I adore the process of making it, listening to it, thinking about it, imagining what it can be… Without the constraints of availability and cost, I may have ended up with a much bigger collection that less filtered in terms of quality, and where I was less familiar with much of the material. Having recently started listening to much of my vinyl collection again via the magic of the digital realm, I’ve been really surprised at how much of my record collection I know pretty much word for word. Most of the Smiths, The Cure, Lloyd Cole, Joni Mitchell, James Taylor, The Pixies, The The… even Yes and Genesis records, I can sing along to with a level of memory much higher than almost anything that’s been released in the last 8 or 9 years. What happened 8 or 9 years ago? I started making more money, and – crucially – started being sent LOADS of Cds for review, or just because bassists wanted me to have their CD, wanted my endorsement. So my listening got far less precious, and it took me quite a while to start to filter out the wasted time.

It’s not that I don’t listen to unknown quantities any more, it’s just that I’m much more choosy again about what I spend my listening time on. Thanks to the miracle of the iPod, I have way more listening time now that I’ve had for about a decade, so I’m getting back into a routine of four-square-musical-meals-a-day. Digesting music, mulling it over, repeat listening, listening to two or three albums by the same artist back to back. Making sure that I get from it what I need, what I want, what is there to be had.

In the last couple of days I’ve listened to a lot of Kelly Joe Phelps and a lot of John Coltrane. And I’m thinking about my own music in the light of how their music makes me feel. And it’s exciting to think where it’ll go as a result. And being excited about music is vital. Excitement is the life-blood of the process. Getting worked up about the joy of making music, being inspired by great music, being in awe of great musicians and writers and wordsmiths and storytellers. It’s all good, very good. And it’d be a tragedy to see it disappear into a world where total access to any music meant that those filters weren’t there.

Which only goes to say that we need filters. It doesn’t prove the monetary filters are the only ones, or even the best ones, but it does suggest that we need a way of making sure we doing overdose on junk-music.

Tags: bass ideas · New Music Strategies · tips for musicians

Ned Evett Trio At The Troubadour

October 4th, 2006 · Comments Off on Ned Evett Trio At The Troubadour




Ned Evett Trio At The Troubadour

Originally uploaded by solobasssteve.

Back-pedalling to Monday night, I headed down to the Troubadour (home of my first ever solo gig) to see Ned Evett play with his trio. I’d only ever seen Ned play solo before… actually, that’s not true, i did see Ned with a couple of other musicians when I first met him at La Nuit De La Fretlesse in Mende, France, back in… 2001?

anyway, it’s a long time since I’ve seen Ned play with a band, so it was great to hear what he sounds like in that setting. The only problem was that their bags were lost on the flight over, so Ned was completely without his pedal board and two of his guitars. Yup. My. Worst. Nightmare. Well, not quite on a par with world war, or UKIP winning a general election, but still a pretty fearful thought for any musician.

Still, Ned did a fabulous job with just his one guitar, a rented amp and a delay pedal. The juxtaposition of Ned’s fretless guitar and the upright bass is an inspired combination, and Ned’s well developed dynamic control with his voice was ably supported by the rhythm section. A great night out.

If you get a chance to see them play, don’t miss it!

Tags: Uncategorized

Myspace gone??

July 28th, 2006 · 3 Comments

My myspace page has vanished! As has the Recycle Collective one… I’m pretty sure it’s a technical problem with the site, not that I’ve actually been erased, as there are loads of people who’ve lost there’s including The Lovely Rev. G, Unknown Public and Pete Levin – too random a selection of lovelies for it to mean anything in terms of a deletion policy.

So I’m now waiting for it to reappear… come on!

Tags: Geek

Barking and Dagenham – England's new fascist heartland.

May 5th, 2006 · Comments Off on Barking and Dagenham – England's new fascist heartland.

The local elections yesterday were definitely a triumph for the right wing – Conservatives made pretty big gains in most places, and most scarily the BNP picked up a load of seats. In Barking and Dagenham they’ve now got 11, possibly 12 seats. How on earth they’ve managed to convince that many people that their disgusting, pernicious, racist, hate-fuelled filth is worth electing is anybody’s guess. Are there really that many people who are actively violent racists, or are the people there just so fucking stupid that they think that the BNP is an acceptable ‘protest vote’?

The record of the BNP in local elections is risible – their last ‘councillor’ in Barking and Dagenham quit after two months, their councillors in Burnley never turned up for council meetings and contributed nothing to local democracy. A huge number of their candidates last time had convictions for racist attacks and football violence. They are scum, pure and simple, and anyone moronic enough to vote for them should hang their head in shame. The only upside is that their councillors are unlikely to turn up to meetings, won’t get anything done (because the council is still controlled by Labour anyway) and my guess is half of them will quit by Christmas… The Stop The BNP campaign tried hard, but it looks like the BNP will have to be left to shoot itself in the foot.

Overall, it was a disastrous night for the Labour party, who were hemorrhaging seats across the country. There’s a cabinet re-shuffle taking place at the moment… let’s see who goes.

Tags: Rant - Politics, Spirituality, etc.

Quick Political comment…

April 30th, 2006 · Comments Off on Quick Political comment…

Just a quick political thought or two…

it’s been a pretty disastrous week for the Labour party – John Prescott’s affair with his secretary was gruesome misuse of power (and a sackable offense in just about any other area of work), Clarke letting thousands of foreign prisoners free was laughable for a home secretary of such draconian ideals, and Patricia Hewitt being laughed at and heckled for suggesting that this has been the best year ever for the Health Service, mere days after thousands of job cuts were announced was the icing on the cake…

The party is imploding, the government is falling apart, and even for those of us who think they’re a waste of space, it’s pretty bad timing, given that we’ve got local government elections coming up this week, and one place that a lot of disaffected voters from all parts of the political spectrum seem to be turning is to the BNP. Oh yes, racists seem to crop up all the way from left to far right, and for some reason, the pathetic bunch of political ignoramus convicted violent criminals that populate the BNP seem to be enticing them. The mind truly boggles at the lunacy of such thinking. I mean, even if you’re a racist, surely the Tories offer a slightly more coherent brand of thinly veiled white middle class straight male hegemony than the BNP.

Which brings us to the thing about voting. It’s vital. It really is. Given the profile of the BNP of late we all need to get out and vote for anyone but them. Find out who’s on your council at the moment, and who the nearest challengers are and vote for them if there’s no other sensible option. Anyone but the BNP. The rise of fascism in Britain, however small their actual support base may be, is something that needs to be fought at every turn. Right now we’ve got a government that are implementing a load of laws that if not directly fascist in their application right now, hand a dangerous level of information and power over to whoever happens to be in government. Under UK law, they work for us, they’re trying to reverse that. One look at the rise in popular support for the BNP shows why ID Cards and laws against the right to protest are so dangerous.

We’ll get back to fighting the Labour party on the 5th May. Election day is the 4th, and that’s the day to stop the BNP.

Anyway, head over to The BBC news page about the local elections, find out about your area, vote, and stop the fascists.

Tags: Rant - Politics, Spirituality, etc.

Our apathy is their greatest strength…

April 10th, 2006 · 1 Comment

This story in The Guardian highlights a whole load of ways that the UK government are fundamentally reshaping our relationship with the state. The reminder that ‘they work for us’ is sounding increasingly hollow, given the way that they are removing all the restraints on the goverment to intrude into our lives, indulge in surveillance on any level they see fit and even prevent us from saying we’re not happy about it.

This chunk from the article, as quoted on the lovely Andy’s blog is indicative of the scariness –

“The government is briskly and fundamentally reshaping the relationship of the individual to the state, of the Lords to the Commons, and of MPs to ministers. The ID cards bill will allow the authorities unprecedented surveillance of our lives, and the power to curtail our ordinary activities by withdrawing that card. The legislative and regulatory reform bill, now entering its final stages, will let ministers alter laws by order, rather than having to argue their case in parliament.”

What are we going to do? Mass protest does seem the only route. Civil disobedience seems logical and ethical… What the hell is Blair up to? The distance between the new-labour police state that he’s building at the moment and the lovely utopian ideals put forward when labour won the election back in 97 is a gulf of unimaginable proportions. Was this the plan all along? Is he as much of a lying conniving bastard as it seems, or just one of those politicians who make really stupid assumptions about the importance of civil liberties when faced with some kind of supposed ‘challenge to national security’. Surely this kind of draconianism is a bigger challenge, no?

Anyway, back to recording for me – maybe I’ll just call the new album fuck blair, and list the names of the dead British soldiers on the sleeve, and post copies to MPs, thereby causing them to break the law just by reading the sleeve-notes – can’t have mention of the catastrophic consequences of Blair’s disastrous military cock-up in the gulf actually read in parliament, can we now?

Tags: Rant - Politics, Spirituality, etc.