It’s a truism that most solo bass struggles in ‘pure’ musical terms. It’s so easy to get caught up justifying our ‘right’ to play solo by doing clever acrobatic things that the meaningful deployment of those acrobatics, or the avoidance of them for more musical ends gets lost along the way, and YouTube ends up as a fumbling bass-circus.
For this reason, there are very few solo bassists in my list of musical influences. But those who are there are towering monuments to what’s possible on this amazing instrument of ours, and their influence on my music and musical outlook is massive.
So, in no particular order, here’s 5 solo bassists who shaped my musical world: [Read more →]
Each of my albums tends to have a different vibe to it, which often manifests itself in the way I use the technology at hand to make it happen… So here’s a few thoughts on how the looping part of the album played out. Half of this was written on the plane on the way over here, the rest, just now. Hit play now, so you can hear it while you’re reading… (and if you download it, you’ll also get the PDF that comes with it which has specific program notes for each track, as well as some further thoughts on the project as a whole)
It hadn’t really struck me until listening back to “11 Reasons” on the plane over here to the US that I’ve shifted away from ABAB form on this record.
Unlike on Behind Every Word (the title track and Scott Peck in particular), none of the tunes have a verse and a chorus. They all evolve and morph the way all my music did before I got the Looperlative.
What has changed to make possible this kind of ‘step forward into an old method’ is the degree of subtlety and complexity with which I can manipulate multiple unsynced loops of different lengths – there’s a LOT of that going on on this album, whether in the big ambient passages or while playing with multiple melodic lines and post processing them in real time (and, in some instances, adding some filter-delay afterwards – the privilege of having multiple outputs on the looperlative, and therefor being able to mix things quite specifically once they’ve been recorded). I’m also using more and more synced loops of different lengths (multiples of whatever the original loop is – Travelling North is a prime example)
It’s interesting for me to note this unconscious shift back to the evolutionary model rather than the more traditional “Lamarckist” jumping back and forth between distinct sections. Perhaps in noting the change, I’m setting myself up to do a project of highly complex multiple section loop tunes … you heard the rumour here first
Plans are now underway for us to return to the US this May/June and play some house concerts. We had such a great time last year on our visit, and we’ve already talked to many of our hosts from last year about return visits.
This week is when we start putting in dates and routing our trip - we’ll be flying into and out of New York, in at the beginning of May, out at the end of June/beginning of July. Aside from time with family and friends, what happens in between is largely reliant on people booking us for house concerts.
As you’re no doubt more than well aware, the whole process of real time looping is essential to the way I make music, whether it be live or in the studio, solo or collaborating – it’s a very long time since I last did a gig that didn’t have some element of looping in it. Certainly, one listen to my latest solo live album shows that – this is entirely live, there’s nothing added here, just the gig… (click the ‘buy’ button below to download the album and pay whatever you think it’s worth for it)
[Jan 2014 edit] And my latest project, FingerPainting is a duo (and sometimes a trio) that relies on multiple musicians looping at once and sometimes looping each other! Every note that Daniel Berkman and I have ever played together has been released – check it out in the sidebar there, or get all 10 shows for just £10 here.
The basic idea is this – a looper is an effect that allows the musician to record what they are playing and then loop it while they play over the top. Almost all looping devices allow you to do multiple layers on that loop, and some of them allow you to do fun things to the loop once it’s recorded – reverse it, slow it down, speed it up, stop it, restart it, remove some or all of the layers… [Read more →]
I’ve been uploading these over the last while - some are brand new experiments, a lot of them are things I’ve found on my hard drive recently, of indeterminate origin! I’ll keep adding to the set, but for now, you can have a listen to these (some of them are downloadable if you go to the individual track pages). And it includes my recording of Portrait Of Tracy that I did for Total Guitar Magazine.
There are another handful of tunes to go up – maybe more once I get the hard drive on my desktop computer back up and running. Goodness knows what’s hidden away on there.
The longest track on the album. A slow build with some pretty big transitions, and a Big Distorted Solo™. The only way to navigating those transitions is to rely on deep listening.
Trip and I have been listening to each other for over a decade. I’m always as happy to listen to him play as I am to be playing the music myself. That’s the key to improv – play with people who make nicer noises than you can imagine making yourself. Removes the tendency to over-play.
So we listen, we react, we surprise each other and play catch-up. But after a decade of listening, the surprises get easier to adjust to
There are some amazing moments in this tune, too many amazing moments to list them all here. And there are sounds that you’d be forgiven for thinking were me that are actually Trip. He really stretches out on this, and the blend between our sounds has never been more integrated and organic.
This was also the first track off the album made available to hear – over on Soundcloud, it’s annotated with who’s doing what
10 years on, and I’m less than 24 hours into the life of a brand new album, Slow Food, with Trip Wamsley. It’s been such an amazing journey, not least of all because what seemed like such a weird thing to do back then – to me and to everyone else – is now so normal. The internet is awash with people experimenting with solo bass, and looping crops up everywhere from coffee-shops to the top of the charts.
The gimmick potential diminished many years ago, for which I’m most grateful. It let me get on with making the music that mattered to me, via the method that made most sense.
Solo bass was never a circus trick for me.
I was never interested in looping as a way of showing how clever I could be.
It was a way of me getting the music inside my head out to the world.
I hear things in layers, I hear evolving texture not rock drums and last-chorus-key-changes.
The template is still much the same. I’m just much better at it. The vision is more refined, the tech is better (thank the baby Jesus for Bob Amstadt and the Looperlative) and yes, I’m orders of magnitude more developed as a musician – technically, theoretically, conceptually, melodically… I just make better music happen. At least, I make music happen that is ever-closer to the soundtrack to the inside of my head. And I’m still loving it.
I’m loving the collaborations this has all led me to – the albums with Jez Carr, Theo Travis, Lawson Dodds Wood, Mike Outram and now Trip Wamsley. The gigs with Lobelia, Michael Manring, BJ Cole, Cleveland Watkiss, Julie McKee… The myriad incredible musical moments of the Recycle Collective at Darbucka, The Vortex and Greenbelt.
And I’m grateful to every journalist that’s ever taken the time to listen to and write about the music, every radio DJ that’s ever played it, and every person who has played a CD to their friends and said ‘check this out’, or emailed them a link, burned a CDR for them, emailed them some tracks. It’s all great, and I thank you for it.
So, 10 years on, here’s the new album: Have a listen, enjoy, pay whatever you think its worth. For me, the last 10 years have been priceless.