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Steve's Blog: Solo Bass & Beyond



More New Music: Video of a Looperlative Glitchy Bluesy Electronica Experiment

May 6th, 2009 · Comments Off on More New Music: Video of a Looperlative Glitchy Bluesy Electronica Experiment

screen grab of the Vimeo page for the video embedded in this blog post at stevelawson.netHere’s another new ‘public beta’ video – this time, I’m experimenting with some new functions that’ve just been added to the Looperlative LP1. (that’s the looping device I use…)

The new tricks are around the idea of ‘replacing‘ bits of a loop, with other audio, giving it a chopped up, glitchy feel. The main effect I’m using is a ‘quantise replace‘ function, that replaces bits, but switches on on and off on the beat, so when I hit the button it waits for the next exact subdivision of the loop (in this case, 1/96th of the whole loop time) before doing anything, and again to switch off again. [Read more →]

Tags: looping · Music News

Design Museum gig last friday…

May 27th, 2008 · Comments Off on Design Museum gig last friday…

About two weeks ago, I got an email from electronic drum-monkey extraordinaire, Andrew Booker, asking me to do a gig with his improv collective Improvizone, at the design museum. This appealed on a few different levels – firstly, Andrew’s a fantastic musician and top bloke. Note that the first time I saw Andrew live, I was stood next to Brian Eno who’s comment on Andrew’s playing was ‘have you got his phone number?’… yup, he’s fab. Secondly, I’ve been reading about Improvizone for a long time on his blog, and love the idea – it’s quite Recycle Collective-ish in its concept, but tends to be a little more electronica-led and not quite as structurally defined [Recycle gigs are always 3 sets, 3 musicians, 3 lots of solo/duo/trio performance].

I then find out that while the gig doesn’t pay (I knew that, no problem), the event we were playin at was a ticketed thing, with peoples paying money to be there… uh-oh. That’s not so great: I’m working on a ‘creative commons’ type manifesto for these kind of gigs (more on the blog soon), and that clearly went against that idea – offering my music free to soundtrack someone else’s money-making didn’t sound good at all… Quick chat with Andrew, and it seems there’s some expenses available, so not completely free and that, combined with the enticement of great people to play with and some connections at the venue for further gigs makes me stick with the gig.

I’m rather glad I did, as it was musically a hugely satisfying experience – the line-up was completed by laptop twiddler Os, who, as well as triggering and manipulating samples of guitarist Michael Bearpark (some great sounds there!), would be processing and looping me, in Ableton Live.

Now, after a chat a few years ago with David Torn about group loop-infected improv, I generally take Torn’s view that it makes most sense to have a ‘master looper’ in a band, and have them take the most responsibility for that side of things. This doesn’t preclude other looping, it’s just like having a producer on a record… the Recycle Collective usually works like this, even with all the other musicians looping and processing up a storm…

The nice thing about Os looping me is that a) he’s very experienced with looping ideas b) he had headphones available for previewing stuff rather than just randomly processing things that may or may not work and c) Ableton Live is a pretty versatile platform on which to loop things.

So the upshot was that I played less than usual, often tossed a bassline and some ambience in Os’ direction at the beginning of a tune and then had him grabbing snippets of melody as we went on. If I was playing a ‘normal’ bassline, he’d quite often tell me he’d grabbed that, and I could move on and do all kinds of interesting Looperlative mangling of my own, while he looped and processed what was coming out… All kinds of fun. And his Ableton set up was sending a click track to Andrew on drums…

All lots of fun, and it made for some fabulous, enjoyable, freewheeling and at times downright funky improv!

And, what’s more, the venue loved it, and want us back. We’ll have to negotiate on money, clearly, as their expectations may well be tainted by the ‘freeness’ of the first gig, but they know what we do, how well it works in that setting so we have known skillz to bargain with. Hurrah!

And, once again, I’ve got another gallery show experience to throw into the pot for the new album ideas, to combine with all the twisted country stuff that came from the Rob Pepper Gallery show… twisted country electronica, anyone?

Tags: bass ideas · Gig stuff · looping · Music News · Musing on Music · tips for musicians

Steve Lawson Biography

May 5th, 2008 · 5 Comments

Steve Lawson – wonky-beat-infused new-age electronica, post-rock, ambient-jazz, solo-bass… It’s a little tricky to pin down what he does, given that, as those hyphenated descriptions begin to tell us,

  • he’s the UK’s most celebrated solo bassist, who spends a lot of his time making very unbasslike noises.
  • He’s an ambient experimenter who likes pop tunes too much to go strictly soundscape, but is way too atmospheric to sit comfortably in the ‘instrumental rock’ category.
  • His electronica leanings produce some amazing hi-tech sounds, but even the beats are played live, and owe more to hip-hop than the usual sources,
  • making the eventual hybrid of jazz, electronica, ambient, new age and ‘new acoustic’ influences infuriatingly hard to pigeonhole.

It may be a deeply uncommercial move to be so diffuse, but Steve’s entire career – whether live or in the studio (and there’s a significant crossover between the two, thanks to Lawson’s focus on live recording) has been an ongoing experiment in making the music that means something to him, and then using the Internet to make that available to like-minded listeners. With 21 solo albums and 24 collaborative albums under his belt, there’s a definite ‘Steve Lawson’ sound to just about everything he plays on. Playful yet melancholic, possessed of a naive melodic quality whilst flirting extensively with dissonance and darker timbres to create this soundtrack to the inside of his head. He has through his completely improvised live show gained a formidable reputation as a fearless experimenter, creating music from the most unlikely influences and sonic combinations, taking the audience on an unforgettable journey.

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This ‘music first, marketing later’ approach has lead to him being greatly in demand as a writer, thinker and consultant on the present and possible future of the music industries, splitting his teaching time between University and College lectures on looping, improvising and bass techniques and further lecture tours on the sustainability of making the music you love. He also occasionally writes biographies about himself in the third person.

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With the eighteen year success of his on-going project to keep making the music that matters to him – and considerable acclaim by press and peers alike – the future looks just fine. In just the last three years, he has released 11 solo albums, (many of them exclusively available through his flagship Bandcamp Subscription offering), and 12 collaborative albums, was featured on the cover of the October 2015 edition of Bass Guitar Magazine, has received copious radio play from BBC Radio 3 and BBC 6Music, he has played shows with Jon Thorne, Rob Turner (GoGoPenguin), Jonas Hellborg, Reeves Gabrels & Jason Cooper, Divinity, Bryan Corbett, Corey Mwamba and Thomas Leeb, maintained a monthly column for Bass Guitar Magazine, and started a PhD looking at his audience’s experience of improvisation. And it only gets busier from here… Enjoy the ride.

Quotes

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I’m happy for this page to be a collaborative effort, so if you wish to add some biographical detail that seems relevant, or a quote of your own to supplement the ones in the box, you can do so in the comments below:

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