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Steve's Blog: Solo Bass & Beyond



Reviews

May 2nd, 2008 · No Comments

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I’ve had loads of great press for my solo albums and gigs – have a read of some of it below!

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Behind Every Word CD Reviews –

Grace And Gratitude CD Reviews –

For The Love Of Open Spaces CD Reviews –

Not Dancing For Chicken CD Reviews –

Conversations CD Reviews –

And Nothing But The Bass reviews –

Gig Reviews –

Interviews –

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Managing information streams (Pt 1)

March 7th, 2008 · 7 Comments

This will (I think) be the first in a series of posts about this, mainly because it’s an ongoing struggle and area of conceptual development.

So, I’ll start by saying where my problem lies – a lot of the stuff online about being overwhelmed by email starts by talking about spam. Apart from when I’ve had my domain-name spoofed by spammers and suddenly had 3000 ‘user not known’ replies, spam has never been a big problem for me. If you’ve got your email on a dedicated server, then there are various very effective and ‘teachable’ spam filters out there. the Gmail one seems pretty damned good too. (if you’re still using Hotmail as your primary email interface, you’re probably sorting through spam now and not reading this…)

So, what is my problem with email? it’s largely two fold – one, it’s filtering the mass of information I get on a subject so that I get only the best information, and two, it’s how to process info as it comes in.

I’m on a few different email discussion lists, which are seeming increasingly anachronistic as a way of doing group interaction. With the web forums I read, I tend to browse via keywords in the search box on the really busy ones, and glance at the recent posts every few days on the less busy ones. That doesn’t take long, and means I can track where the things I’m interested in are being mentioned. I also have google alerts, and technorati alerts for certain words cropping up in other places. But the email ones still take time to filter.

I get a fair bit of info that relates to gigs and teaching that tends to get lost as I put it to one side while I consider what to do with it, or juggle my diary so I can fit it all in… then someone emails me and says ‘are we still on for tomorrow’s lesson?’ and I panic as I try to make it all fit… so I need a new system there, for sure. the Search box in Macmail helps a lot, as I can just do a search for ‘lessons’ or ‘tuition’ to find all the bass lesson related stuff… Maybe I should try the ‘smart mailbox’ thing.

My other big problem with email is that replying quickly creates an expectation that this is your norm, so people use email for things that are urgent. I REALLY need to get away from that… Tim Ferris has written some really useful stuff on this topic here

Anyway, I’ve not got very far with managing my information, have I (though I did just go and unsub from a couple of lists I receive but never read, so that’s good…) – as my friend Karen would say ‘Land the plane, Steve!!’

It’s about filtering. I’ve written about this WRT music recently, but it applies equally to information – the problem isn’t a lack of it, it’s a lack of quality control. If I want to keep track of what’s happening in the bass-world, I could spend all day every day reading stuff on forums, blogs, email lists, digests…. And even for an info-geek like me, less than 3 or 4% of it is useful or even particularly interesting. So I need to be able to target my info. Here are a couple of suggestions for how WE can do it.

#1 – collaborate – if you want filters, be a filter. Google shared items is such an amazing way to get someone else to filter for you. I’ve read SO many great stories that I’d have missed thanks to following Jeff Schmidt and Jyoti Mishra‘s shared items. Some of the blogs I them subscribe to, often I just leave it to them to filter them for me.

Same goes for futuremusictalk.com – a GENIUS filter for stuff about the future of the industry. Not all the info, just most of the best info. And it gets better every time sarda tweaks it. He’s a genius, and lovely, and very busy, not surprisingly.

So using ready-made filters (here are my shared items for those of you who want them) – let others do the legwork.

If you have a very specific search criteria, use Google Blogsearch – put the searc term in, then grab the feed. Google rules. Technorati provide a similar service, but it’s hopelessly flakey…

So, get google reader, and start sharing – let me know when you do, and I’ll watch what you’re linking to… and then…

#2 – be ruthless. If you subscribe to a feed that you find yourself continually paging down past, delete it. Don’t clutter your reader. get rid of it, and let the google blog or news search watch it for you for keywords. (note to self, must see if google blogsearch can handle boolean commands). Don’t put up with duplicate feeds – if you subscribe to a feed that is fed straight into futuremusictalk.com, delete the feed (with some blogs, including mine, only certain posts are cross-posted. With others more specific blogs, everything is aggregated there). I did this recently with news feeds – the beeb cross post a lot of articles to world and UK news, so I deleted one of them. Same with the guardian. strip it back, get the info you need, don’t sweat about missing some stuff – if it’s that good, someone else will share it anyway (thanks Jyoti for the political filter stuff – you rule!)

#3 – set limits. This is the bit I’m worst at, and the bit that from next week is going to get experimental. Have set times for this stuff, then click ‘all read’ – use the starring thing in google reader (do you get the idea that I think Google Reader ROCKS??) to come back to things at a later date, or share it then go read your own feed… But stick to them. I’m definitely writing this for myself now, I’m terrible at this. One thing I’ve started to do is not have feeds loading in the background. Using FluidApp.com I’ve turned Google Reader into it’s own application. I read, then close it, so its not giving me alerts all the time. I read it like a newspaper in the morning or evening. I also set my email to only check once every 30 mins, so I do it in batches. Soon, I’m hoping to switch to twice a day email too… we’ll see if that works.

And here’s the clincher, and the link to the next post (later) – I’m using twitter to do a lot of my filtering. Twitter deserves its own post, but so far my online presence has gone through the roof as a result of using it (even with a fairly modest number of followers) but I actually spend LESS time on that than I used to on forums, IM and email… next post will explain how and why.

I hope that lot helps – PLEASE post suggestions – I’m still working this one out. Blog about it, and post a link in the comments, ask questions if I’m using geek terms you don’t get. This shit is important because it threatens to swamp our time to be human, creative and alive. Help me out here…

Tags: cool links · Geek · Managing Information Streams · New Music Strategies · Random Catchup · tips for musicians · website recommendations

stop the war protest, London, Oct 8th

October 9th, 2007 · 2 Comments

So yesterday was the Stop The War protest in London. Starting with a rally in Trafalgar Square, and then a march down Whitehall to Parliament Square. It was a relatively small affair (relative to the 2 million who descended on london on the eve of the war back in 2002), but the ranks were swelled by the Government’s attempts to declare it illegal – something on which they wisely made a u-turn at the last minute.

The speeches were the typical ‘preaching to the converted’ arrangement – does anyone go to a rally like this to get information? To have their opinions changed? I guess they have value as part of the process of disseminating information, statistics and updates on things that haven’t been in the press, but having lots of lovely trade unionists shouting at a government who aren’t listening to ‘get out of Iraq’ seemed a bit of a waste of time… Anyway, Mark Thomas and Mark Steele were both good value as always, George Galloway was as self-aggrandising as usual, and the former-SAS soldier was rather poignant. I didn’t get to hear Walter Wolfgang or Brian Haw, but I guess they were probably interesting too.

The march then proceeded down Whitehall, which was fine til we arrived at Parliament Square to find the square itself fenced off, and the police blocking the road and not really explaining to anyone what was going on. I asked a friendly looking officer, who told me it was ‘probably to get the people through into the square in larger groups’, as opposed to the stretched out nature of the march… Fair enough, would’ve made sense to let people know.

So they proceeded to let the march through in chunks, and herd people off down Millbank, instead of allowing them to assemble in the square, which quite understandably pissed off a lot of people. There didn’t appear to be any reason not to allow people into the square. Tempers flared a little, and a group of anarchists staged a sit down protest in the middle of the road at the junction between whitehall and the square. Nothing major kicked off, but it did expose the lack of a plan that the police had…

Anyway, a few observations… As Jyoti very wisely points out, while the minor altercations between the police and anarchists in the square became a protest about the right to protest, the main purpose of the day was to continue to voice the need for the UK government to a) be held to account for their part in the political disaster and human tragedy that is Iraq, b) to call for the withdrawal of troops who only seem to be rubbing salt into the wounds of a deeply lacerated country, and c) to call on the government to be unequivocal in condemning the disastrous idea of a US or Israeli military strike on Iran. Those are not, by their nature partisan political demands. They don’t require a subscription to a particular doctrine or left/right divide. So it’s a shame that the terms of engagement are defined by the old school left, the trade union movement, and the constituents of the march itself were largely dominated by the ‘usual suspects’ – trade unionists, students, hippies, religious activists and leftie political groups.

This is certainly to the shame of the anti-war contingent to the centre and right of the political spectrum, but is also a reflection of the culture within which such protests are formulated and implemented. In this ultra-brand-conscious times, the Stop The War coalition is only a partial coalition, of the aforementioned groups, and has managed to marginalise those whose opposition to the war is through a broader ethical and humanitarian framework, and less through a strongly held belief in the democratic right to protest in the tradition of the post-Marx left, trade unions and the ‘real’ Labour movement…

I’m not sure what needs to be done to change this – perhaps such people enact their democratic right to protest in other ways, via web activism, personal lobbying of MPs, signing petitions etc. But as a show of strength of opinion, few things carry the same weight in media-savvy times as footage of hundreds of thousands of people on the streets. I’m not sure how many were there yesterday – 10,000? perhaps. As a percentage of the number of people who distrust the government over their actions on the middle east, it’s paltry. Still enough to make a noise, but certainly evidence that a hell of a lot of people don’t feel inspired by or included in the Stop The War Coalition…

Anyway, it was good to be there, very lovely to see Jyoti again, and important to be a part of such a thing, and lend my support to such an obviously positive message.

click here to view a slideshow of my pictures from the day

Tags: Rant - Politics, Spirituality, etc.

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.

Jyoti's 10 year anniversary…

January 26th, 2007 · Comments Off on Jyoti's 10 year anniversary…

The lovely Jyoti Mishra just posted this blog post about the 10th anniversary of his massive hit single – it was 10 years ago yesterday that he went to #1 in the UK with ‘Your Woman’. It’s an interesting post, and an anniversary well worth flagging up – I don’t have many friends who’ve had #1 singles, and one one who had one with a song he made in his spare bedroom!

Tags: Musing on Music

Coupla gigs this week (seen not played)

November 10th, 2006 · Comments Off on Coupla gigs this week (seen not played)

Been to a couple of great gigs this week. Firstly on Tuesday I went to see Patrick Wood’s band The Works – who, long term bloglings will remember, released one of my favourite ever British Jazz records a year or so ago, called Beware Of The Dog (get it, it’s great). They were playing at the 606 in Chelsea – a bitch of a place to find, but with a lovely policy of letting MU members in for free. Thanks to teaching, I only got there for the second send of The Works, but they were fantastic, and have two special guests augmenting the usual quartet – Bosco D’Olivera on percussion and voice, and Mick Hutton on steel pan. Mick’s pan playing was a revelation – Mick’s much better known as having been one of the finest double bassists in the country for years, but some major trouble with his hands has stopped him playing that altogether – a major loss to bass playing, but bass’s loss is steel pan’s gain. He’s a great musician, and fitted in perfectly with The Works.

So their set ended, and I thought people would start leaving, but another band were setting up. 11pm? another band? WTF? Now a dilemma – should I stay or go, the band featured some amazing musicians (Dudley Philips on bass, Julian Seigel on sax and Winston Clifford on drums), but I had an hour’s drive home, was utterly knackered, and really couldn’t sit through a whole other set. Which is a shame, cos I’m sure the whole gig was marvellous.

And then, last night I went to Koko for an album launch gig by Alexander’s Annexe – an intriguing trio of Sarah Nicholls on piano, Mira Calix on laptop and noises, and David Sheppard processing and manipulating the acoustic piano. The music was amazing – proper spikey weirdness, but with a strange beauty to it. Sarah’s a brilliant pianist, and thus gave David a whole range of lovely stuff to work with.

the big problem was the venue – Koko is a pretty big space, and they had it laid out with tables and chairs downstairs. The lack of a compere, and the drift from one musical act into another meant that the audience didn’t really stop talking when the music was on, which with this kind of thing was pretty ruinous. Next time you do a gig like that, David, gimme a mic and I’ll tell people to shut the fuck up before you start playing… ;o)

Anyway, the other fantastic revelation of the night was an ‘act’ called ‘Mr Hopkinson’s Computer’ – a laptop doing covers of 80s and 90s indie tracks that was just heartbreaking. Here’s are three myspace pages with examples – the first one has his versions of ‘Fake Plastic Trees’ and ‘Where Is My Mind?’ on it. I rang a coupla friends while it was on who I knew would dig it, and they did! Jyoti, you so need to check this stuff out if you haven’t already…

Anyway – MySpace Page 1, MySpace Page 2 and MySpace page 3. go there, it’s beautiful.

Was supposed to be going to Paul Simon at Wembley tonight, but it doesn’t look like my ticket-spy has been able to secure the moychendyz. Ah well, I’m exhausted so could do with a night in.

Tags: Musing on Music

Death toll in Iraq – officially not really newsworthy…

October 12th, 2006 · Comments Off on Death toll in Iraq – officially not really newsworthy…

A couple of days ago, I got an email from Doug Lunn in LA, with a link to an article about a report about to be published in The Lancet saying that the death toll in Iraq is likely to be as high as 655,000. The horror of the figure led Doug to say that he wasn’t going to circulate it til he had more confirmation of where the figure had come from etc.

Today, The Independent have it on their front page – clearly deeming it credible enough to run with it. After all, it’s not some crazy fringe website that’s claiming this, it’s The Lancet! Hardly known for it’s rabid anti-zionist, anti-western stance. It’s a medical journal.

here’s a chunk from the article –

“The new figure is much larger than all previous estimates – more than 20 times higher than President George Bush claimed 11 months ago – and will add considerable weight to the calls of those seeking a withdrawal of troops.

The 654,965 deaths estimated to have resulted from the invasion represent about 2.5 per cent of the Iraqi population. It means people have been dying at a rate of about 560 a day, equivalent to one death every three minutes, or less

Two years ago, a study by Dr Les Roberts and a team from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, estimated that at least 100,000 Iraqis had been killed as a result of the war. This new survey, conducted by the same team and based on similar methodology but using a larger sample, suggests the situation is getting worse rather than better – a conclusion at odds with claims made by President Bush.”

So why the hell isn’t this everywhere? the lovely Jyoti raises this point, and it’s a scary one – why, if this is a credible report (which it clearly is) isn’t this on every front page? Operation Enduring Freedom and its conjoined sibling Operation Gargantuan Fuck-up have lead to the deaths of 2.5% of the population – most attempts at Genocide don’t do such an efficient job of wiping out sections of a population!

Meanwhile, has anyone in government on either side of the Atlantic apologised? or acknowledged the report? Here’s Bush’s response from the same article –

“Yesterday, Mr Bush sought to dismiss the survey, claiming without elaboration that its methodology was flawed. “I don’t consider it a credible report. Neither does General George Casey [the commander of US forces in Iraq] and neither do Iraqi officials,” he said.

“I do know a lot of innocent people have died, and that troubles me. And it grieves me. And I applaud the Iraqis for their courage in the face of violence.”

So the guys responsible for the slaughter don’t consider it credible, so we’ll just let it go. Nice of him to applaud people for their courage in the face of violence that he commissioned… Like a murderer bigging up his victims for the struggle they put up.

The problem with numbers like this is that whether the report is validated or not, it gives the hawks a reference against which to say ‘look, other figures say that only 100,000 people have died – check out our wikkid humanitarian skillz’ – as though 100,000 would be OK.

However it’s spun, we’re left with a government in the UK and US that in the style of King Kanute, stands in the face of a tidal wave of evidence against them and says ‘well, we’re in power, and we’ll keep doing what we’re doing until you start believing us, regardless of the consequences.’

Is there a way forward from this? what’s the best thing that could happen? You know, I’m not at all sure (like that’s a surprise, me with my PHD in Islamic Peace Studies ‘n’ all… ;o) ) – but various people who do know have offered suggestions, and all of them favour getting the troops the hell out of Iraq. Some say immediate withdrawal, some say timed but quick withdrawal. All say that the western military presence is making it worse not better, leading to more deaths not less deaths, giving a voice and legitimacy to those who seek to destroy Iraq from the inside, and provoking the understandable anti-western guerrilla response – the so-called insurgents. The western military presence makes it impossible to discern the difference between those who are fighting the occupation, and those who are just crazy warmongering loons on the rampage. If the troops pull out, those fighting the occupation would clearly stop, because there’d be no occupation, and those carrying on would be opposed from within as the Iraqi people get back some sense of ownership of their own nation and destiny no?

perhaps I’m being too simplistic (I’m definitely being too simplistic), but given the choice between two simplistic answers – keep fighting so we can blame ‘them’ for the war, or pull out so we can expose ‘them’ for their ulterior motives. I’d take the second…

But back to the initial question – why the hell isn’t this front page news everywhere???

Tags: Rant - Politics, Spirituality, etc.

Happy Birthday Jyoti

July 30th, 2006 · 1 Comment

Jyoti is 40 today – happy birthday, sir! Have a marvellous day, and many more years of music making and curmudgeonly ranting about the state of the world.

Tags: Random Catchup

Rock is Dead?

July 15th, 2006 · 1 Comment

A fabulous post this morning by Jyoti on Why Rock Is Dead.

I emailed him about it, and it seems the tipping point for him was the same band that I was despairing at on the T in the Park coverage last night – WolfMother. How much more could they want to sound like Led Zep? How much more heinously anachronistic could it be to write ‘new’ songs like that in 2006? Is one of them about to buy Alistair Crowley’s old underpants, just to be like Jimmy Page? A really tragic show, and why on earth are they given such a huge platform?

Jyoti’s right – mainstream rock has become hopelessly derivative, retrogressive and stultifying, the record companies having latched onto a certain lazy section of the music buying public’s desire for perceived novelty and nostlagia at the same time. And it’s balls.

What’s worse – a thousand times worse – is that they’re rubbish. They aren’t even 5% the band that Zep were. None of these bands improve on the blue-print, none of them ever take a 70s formula and end up sounding like the greatest band the 70s never had. They just sound like a half-arsed tribute band with copyright issues. It’s balls.

I’ve always said that it’s more important to be good than to be original. But I’m not talking about slavish cloning. The desire for completely new music can be just as asphyxiating as mindless hero-worship, but to do either without coming up with anything worth listening to is the worse crime of all.

Mediocrity is the single most offensive quality in music. Bands that take risks and end up being appalling get my sneaking admiration. Bands that aren’t great, but are stretching towards something don’t sound mediocre, they sound interesting. To be truly dull requires a level of mis-placed self-satisfaction that stops you from ever looking for more, from moving forward, from building on the innovations of your heroes and finding your own space.

My music isn’t completely new – I wear a few of my influences pretty brightly on my sleeve, and am delighted when someone spots that John Martyn or Joni Mitchell or Michael Manring are in there somewhere. But I don’t actually sound like any of them.

The reason for this is pretty simple – I love Joni’s music. Think she’s pretty much perfect. But I don’t want to write music that sounds like Joni – that would be derivative in exactly the same way she never was – no, instead I want to WRITE MUSIC THAT MAKES ME FEEL THE WAY JONI’S MUSIC MAKES ME FEEL. That has that same sense of being spoken to, being taken on a journey, where the narrative and the music are married perfectly without ever feeling like either is being tugged in a wrong direction by some other unnecessary influence. Joni had her influences, from Dylan to Lambert, Hendricks and Ross. She started out as a folk singer. But she always had her own story to tell, and always sounded like no-one but herself.

That’s the plan. Is Rock Dead? I don’t see why the behaviour of ‘the mainstream’ should be allowed to be seen as killing of an entire genre, but the challenge is certainly there to avoid sounding like the new wave of ‘Stars In Their Eyes’ shit photocopies of 70s and 80s icons, and instead to take the language of rock into somewhere new and interesting, to tell a post-millennial tale, and sound track the current world paradigm, not the three day week, rolling blackouts and the rise of Thatcherism.

Tags: Musing on Music

This disturbing case of Flt Lt Malcolm Kendall-Smith

April 13th, 2006 · 2 Comments

This has been in the news a lot of late, the case of an RAF Doctor who has refused to go back to Basra on moral and ethical grounds. Jyoti’s blog on this is a fantastic piece of journalism so go and read that first.

He was quoted from the trial, in The Guardian as saying,

“I have evidence that the Americans were on a par with Nazi Germany with its actions in the Persian Gulf. I have documents in my possession which support my assertions,” he told the court. “This is on the basis that on-going acts of aggression in Iraq and systematically applied war crimes provide a moral equivalent between the US and Nazi Germany.”

How much more damning could an assessment be? This isn’t some peacenik, this isn’t me calling the government fascist scum, this isn’t John Pilger getting all hot and bothered again about some foreign place where people are dying. No, THIS IS A MILITARY DOCTOR, WHO HAS ALREADY BEEN TO IRAQ TWICE. He’s seen this shit with his own eyes. He’s just put his total career on the line in order to follow his conscience, a conscience that previously led him to join the RAF. That is a huge huge thing.

And that the legal system in this country (I initially wrote ‘our country’ there, but who are we kidding?) would jail him for this rather than applaud him and have him head up an investigation into the war crimes he says he can document (along with those that are already only-too-well documented), is a tragic tragic indictment. What a hateful regime. How can that happen? He’s apparently appealing the sentence, I just hope he can appeal to a civilian court where he might get a fairer hearing at least, if not a standing ovation for exposing the corruption, murder and deceit that is the illegal occupation in Iraq.

Tags: Rant - Politics, Spirituality, etc.