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Steve's Blog: Solo Bass & Beyond



Timeline and Trivia

May 3rd, 2008 · Comments Off on Timeline and Trivia

Musical Equipment Used

Elrick Gold Series SLC 6 String fretted and fretless basses, Modulus Basses (6 string fretted and fretless and 4 string fretted), a Rick Turner 5 String Renaissance ‘Amplicoustic’ fretless bass, two Aguilar SL112 cabinets and 2 Aguilar Tonehammer 350 amp heads, A Jule Monique Preampthe Looperlative LP1 for looping, Keith McMillen SoftStep controller and Quneo controller, MODDevices MOD Duo for processing, MXR, Darkglass, and Markbass overdrive pedals, a TC Electronics HOF mini Reverb and Flashback delay, Aguilar Overdrive, Fuzz, Compressor, Octave, Chorus, Filter and Preamp pedals, MXR Reverb, Sub Octave Bass Fuzz, Bass Distortion, Bass Chorus Deluxe, Bass Envelope Filter, Bass Preamp & Bass Fuzz Deluxe, Subdecay Vitruvian Mod ring modulator, Pedal Train pedal board an E-Bow+, Latch Lake and Dunlop slides, Dunlop Super Bright strings, East-UK preamps, Evidence Audio cables, GoGo tuners, 2 Korg Mini Kaoss Pad s and a MOTU Ultralite Mk III Hybrid. And I carry my basses around in SlickBag gig-bags.

Musical History

1986 – got a bass and joined first band
1988 – broke arm, kicked out of first band, formed second band (EARS) – played first gigs
1989 – GCSE Music, Grade C
1991 – AS Level Music, failed – fine at composition, not so hot on history… :o) Somehow got into music college in Perth, Scotland. Teaching as head of bass at West Lothian Rock School.
1993 – left college, moved to Lincoln, tour with Canadian singer/songwriter Johnny Markin. Gigs all over Europe, played on three albums.
1994-96 – working as a pro in Lincoln, teaching, studio and live session work.
1996 – moved to London, more session work, including TV, Radio and theatre work, more teaching.
1997-99 – teaching at Drumtech and Basstech, West London.
1997-2000 – freelance reviewer/interviewer/columnist/gadget guru for Bassist magazine in the UK.
1999 – Toured Europe with Howard Jones. First completely solo gigs in London.
2000 – Released And Nothing But The Bass on Pillow Mountain Records. More solo gigs around England.
2001 – 2 Solo tours of California, including headlining the world’s first solo bass looping festival, and tour with Michael Manring and Rick Walker. Clinics for Ashdown Amps and Modulus Basses. Solo gigs in France.
2002 – Another tour in California, Released Conversations, duo CD with Jez Carr, on Pillow Mountain Records, 2 Major tours of UK Theatres and concert halls supporting first the 21st Century Schizoid Band then Level 42. Two shows at the London Guitar Festival. National TV and local radio appearances in the UK. Featured in the Sunday Times Culture Section. Released second completely solo CD, Not Dancing For Chicken. NDFC picked as one of the best CDs of the year by Aural Innovations
2003 – four week solo tour of California, gigs with Michael Manring and David Friesen, including the Anaheim Bass Bash, featured interview in Euphoria magazine, and review of NDFC in Bass Player (Feb issue). New recordings with Theo Travis, BJ Cole and Patrick Wood for future release. Duo gigs with Theo Travis. Gig at the barbican with orphy robinson. Recording in France with Vigroux/Cury/Rives for upcoming release. first italian solo gig and recording session in august. Duo CD with Theo TravisThe Arts Show, alongside Jenny Eclair and Barry Cryer. Acclaimed appearances at The Detroit Bass Fest and European Bass Day. Gigs in US and UK with Muriel Anderson. A second tour in England with Michael Manring in November.
2005 – another year another NAMM show, followed by a few promo gigs with Michael Manring in California. Dates with pedal steel guitarist, BJ Cole, and recording and gigs with singer Cleveland Watkiss, as well as more UK dates, the Edinburgh Festival and a trip to Italy. Started monthly music night, Recycle Collective.
2006 – back to California, NAMM again and some more dates and another day-long masterclass, Recycle Collective continues to be one of the best live music nights out in London, and features musicians such as BJ Cole, Cleveland Watkiss, Orphy Robinson, Seb Rochford, Todd Reynolds, Jason Yarde, Andy Hamill, Patrick Wood, Leo Abrahams, Julie McKee, Andrea Hazell. UK tours with Theo Travis, Muriel Anderson and Ned Evett. 4th solo album, Behind Every Word, released on Pillow Mountain Records. Recording in Italy with guitarist Luca Formentini. New duo formed with singer Julie McKee, for the Edinburgh Fringe. European tour in October, including EuroBass Day and European Bass Day, as well as an electronica festival in Italy. Behind Every Word makes a number of end of year ‘best of 2006’ lists.
2007 – guess where it started? Yay, NAMM!! Bass-Bash, two days of masterclasses, Modulus clinics and gigs both solo and with Muriel Anderson and Vicki Genfan. Much fun. First New York show too. European tour with Lobelia, including first time visit to Frankfurt Musik Messe and gigs in Italy, Spain, Germany and Denmark, 7 week tour of the US, 24 states, 7000 miles. Gigs at Greenbelt festival with Lobelia, Sarah Masen and Ric Hordinski. Recycle Collective relaunched in September. Playing on one track on Luca Formentini’s album, Tacet. First Amsterdam and Geneva gigs in November. Released live EP with Lobelia in December. Recorded improv album with Patrick Wood and Roy Dodds.
2008 – NAMM again, with Lobelia this time, playing the bass-bash and for Looperlative and Modulus. More California shows. Back to England, playing lots of ‘acoustic’ shows with Lobelia, London Solo Bass Night in March with Todd Johnson and Yolanda Charles, . Year ended with Lawson/Wood/Dodds album ‘Numbers’ released, and some LDW gig dates round London, followed by a whole string of house concert shows in England and the US with Lobelia. 2008 was also the year of social media – 10 years of running my music career online turning into a 2nd career teaching and consulting on how it all works, including Nokia flying me to Helsinki for their Open Lab, and working on the launch of Ucreative.tv at UCA in Rochester. Finished the year with a series of house concerts in the UK and the US with Lobelia..
2009 – …which continued into the new year on a trip that included a trip to NAMM, a masterclass at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh and a series of masterclasses in bass, looping and ‘social media for musicians’ in various people’s houses. But I did miss the bass-bash for the first time ever. Back to the UK for more bass masterclasses and other University-based projects around the future of the internet… look out for a new solo album at some point this year!
2010 – the first half was spent looking after our new born baby, but at the age of 6 months, we took him to the US for a 7 week, 6500 mile tour of house concerts, that took us from Brooklyn to Milwaukee, Massachusetts to Lake Charles Louisiana, via Texas, Tennessee and Ohio. Lo and I recorded a live album on the tour, featuring Todd Reynolds and Neil Alexander, and while in Louisiana I recorded TWO duo albums with Trip Wamsley, released in September. The end of the year featured a sold out London gig with Michael Manring, and speaking engagements in the UK and Berlin at grass roots music industry conferences. I also released another live album, celebrating the 10th anniversary of my debut album coming out.
2011 – first half of the year was focussed on getting my first new studio album in 5 years finished. 11 Reasons Why 3 Is Greater Than Everything was released and followed by a 2 month, 8000 mile US tour, which included shows with Julie Slick, Trip Wamsley, Tiger Darrow, Steven Guerrero, Darren Michaels, Neil Alexander, Trevor Exter and Catherine Marie Charlton. The trip also included me guest-performing at Victor Wooten’s Music-Nature Camp, teaching a bass masterclass in Virginia, and Lobelia and I being the only overseas musicians to be booked to play at the first Wild Goose festival. Oh, and  I also co-produced, mixed and mastered Lobelia’s new record, Beautifully Undone. We started selling our music on USB Stick, which has proved v. popular. A move to Birmingham in the late summer promises all kinds of new opportunities.
2012 – the year started with the release of Believe In Peace, an all-improv solo record, recorded in Minneapolis. January continued with a return visit to NAMM, 12 shows in 12 days including duo shows with Julie Slick, Michael Manring and Daniel Berkman, a recording session with Steve Uccello and a playing-and-speaking gig at Stanford uni, as well as a masterclass at LA Music Academy. The shows with Julie, Michael and Daniel were all recorded, so mixing and mastering work on those took up a lot of the following months, as well as recording for Californian singer/songwriter Artemis. May saw the relaunch of Beyond Bass Camp, and the remastering of 11 Reasons… 2012 also saw the formation of #ToryCore – a project that coupled the evil words of the Tory govt with twisted avant garde metal. One of my favourite ever musical projects.
2013 – started with NAMM and another 8 shows with Daniel Berkman, and this time Artemis joined us on vocals at every gig. It was one of the most amazing musical experiences of my life to play with them both. Which is why a large chunk of the year was taken up mixing, mastering and releasing EVERY show we’d done up to that point. All 10 of ‘em. Went out to Frankfurt to the Musikmesse, more ToryCore shows & a few more gigs with Alvin Stardust depping for his regular bassist. Started teaching at Kidderminster College, and ended the year with a lovely joint tour with one of my favourite bassists – Yolanda Charles, and with a duo show with Andy Edwards on drums.
2014 – Another NAMM trip, 11 wonderful shows with Daniel and Artemis (part of a run of 14 shows in 13 days for me!). Just before NAMM I was invited to speak at the Microsoft Social Research Symposium in NYC, which was one of the most brilliant few days of my life. The duo project with Andy Edwards expanded to become ‘Andy, Steve + 1’ and we played a couple of gigs with Julie Slick, made an album with Murphy McCaleb and gigged with Jem Godfrey and Bryan Corbett – we have further projects planned. Played a super-lovely duo show with Briana Corrigan, ex-of The Beautiful South, whose solo work I’ve been a fan of for 20 years. I released a new solo album – What The Mind Thinks, The Heart Transmits. Playing at the London Bass Guitar Show and inviting Jon Thorne to join me on my set led to the release of that as a new album – Diversion. Towards the end of the year, I launched a new subscription service via Bandcamp, with the aim of finding a useful home for the epic amounts of music that I record and want to release…
2015 – NAMM in January, of course, plus a handful of lovely house concert shows with guitar genius Thomas Leeb. Released LEY Lines with Andy Edwards and Phi Yaan-Zek, the first new thing that my subscribers got, which Phi released for everyone else. Did the London Bass Guitar Show again, and had another of my bass heroes Ruth Goller agree to play with me. That was fun. Formed a duo with Divinity Roxx – hip hop, improv, songs, stories, all rolled in. We had a week of playing and did a first gig in Kidderminster. The duo with Jon Thorne was expanded to a trio with Rob Turner, of GoGo Penguin, that band sounds amazing! In September, I release two new solo albums – my first proper solo album releases since 11 Reasons in 2011. A Crack Where The Light Gets In and The Way Home were really well recieved, and got played on Late Junction. In October, I was the cover star on Bass Guitar Magazine, almost certainly the only self-managed, self-releasing, self-everything solo bassist to ever get there without an association with any other artist. Still can’t quite believe it. The mag cover coincided with a mini-tour with Jonas Hellborg – we had a wonderful time playing in Birmingham, London and Leeds, and hope to do a bigger tour ASAP. By the end of the year, I’d released 7 albums for Subscribers, all of which I’m immensely proud of! The year ended with the recording of a second album with Phi and Andy, to be released early in 2016. The year also featured a few more Torycore gigs – a thing that gets better every time we do it, and more vital, sadly.

Current Musical Projects

Solo gigs and recording -::- Duo with Divinity -::- trio with Jon Thorne and Rob Turner -::- trio with Andy Edwards and Phi Yaan-Zek -::- performance duo with painter Poppy Porter  -::-  Torycore.

trivia

favourite artists. – these days, it’s lots of singer/songwriters, and death metal bands. So, alternately, Bruce Cockburn, Cannibal Corpse, Jonatha Brooke, Cattle Decapitation, Joni Mitchell, Job For A Cowboy, Paul Simon, Entombed, Emily Baker, White Empress, The Blue Nile, Soulfly, Nik Kershaw, Ihsahn…

Along side that, a bunch of other things – Hope & Social, Bill Frisell, D’Angelo, David Torn, Let Spin, Michael Manring, DJ Krush, Throwing Muses, Coltrane, Kristin Hersh, 70s Miles, Beauty Pill, Janet Feder, Jon Gomm, Kenny Wheeler, Trish Clowes, Divinity Roxx, Sweet Billy Pilgrim, J Dilla, De La Soul, Terje Rypdal, KT Tunstall, The Pixies, The Cure…

top 10 (or so) favourite(ish) albums

bass influences – Current favourites are Tony Levin, Ruth Goller, Michael Manring, Julie Slick and Matthew Garrison but there are literally hundreds. I suppose, in roughly chronological order, those players that have influenced me the most would be – John Taylor (Duran), Nick Beggs (Kajagoogoo/Iona), Chris Squire (Yes), Simon Gallup (The Cure), Pino Pallidino (everyone, but especially the D’Angelo stuff), Doug Pinnick (King’s X), Ewan Vernal (Deacon Blue), Steve Swallow, Abraham Laboriel, Jaco Pastorius, Scott LaFaro, Freddie Washington, Bernard Edwards (Chic), Ray Brown, Jonas Hellborg, Family Man Barratt (The Wailers), Verdine White (EW & F), Tommy Simms, Niels-Henning Orsted Pedersen, Jimmy Haslip, Danny Thompson, Eberhard Weber, Mike Rivard, Marc Johnson, Kermitt Driscoll, Mo Foster, Todd Johnson, Doug Wimbish, Yolanda Charles, Trip Wamsley, Divinity,  and loads more.

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The travel-pain of the ecomonkey

December 29th, 2006 · Comments Off on The travel-pain of the ecomonkey

So, as y’all know, I avoided a short-haul flight by taking the train/boat/train route to Belfast. Train, fine. Boat, hideous – the roughest crossing I’ve ever had, bar none. A veritable storm which had me retching into a sickbag, and falling asleep on the floor, unable to crawl back up onto my chair. The food was also appalling.

Still, I’m here now, with the lovely and wonderful Gareth, looking forward to a great New Year. Just don’t ask me to go on any boat-rides over the weekend…

On the bits of the journey where I wasn’t asleep or puking, I watched ‘I Know I’m Not Alone‘ again – the Michael Franti film, and read a big chunk of ‘As Used On The Famous Nelson Mandela‘ by Mark Thomas – an INCREDIBLE book. Vital viewing, vital reading. Just don’t try it on an Irish ferry in a storm.

Tags: Random Catchup

Call off the new year's honour…

March 2nd, 2006 · Comments Off on Call off the new year's honour…

OK, the Bus thing on Jez’ blog was a hoax. The evil Jez was clearly just bored and felt like winding people up. It was beautifully written, and given Jez’ very bizarre life thus far, easily believable – if you get the chance, ask him about his part in Mandela’s release… that one isn’t a hoax!

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Heroes in unlikely places

December 5th, 2005 · Comments Off on Heroes in unlikely places

Was watching a great programme on tele this evening – Dickens In America, presented by Miriam Margolyes. It was a fascinating premise anyway, following Charles Dickens’ journey into the heartland of America in the mid 19th century.

But the best thing about it was the presenter – I was reminded again why Miriam Margolyes is one of my heroes, and in my ‘most like to meet’ list along side David Attenborough, Billy Bragg and, um some other people (Peter Ustinov was on the list before he died… if the list were just a fantasy one, he’d still be on it…)

There’s just something about Miriam that I warm to, that I admire greatly, and that makes her seem like one of the most marvellous people on the planet. Every time I hear her interviewed she makes me laugh uproariously, she’s got a fantastic grasp of the english language and revels in the art of speaking (her recording of ‘the queen and I’, in which she plays every member of the British Royal Family is the biggest-selling audio book in the world).

It’s all a bit random really – most of my big heroes are political and spiritual figures – MLK, Mandela, Gandhi – same ones as everyone, really. But there are a handful of people who make me feel like Britain isn’t such a dreadful place after all, that there’s something uniquely wonderful in our heritage here, and Miriam is one of those people.

So raise a toast to La Margolyes!

Soundtrack – Abraham Laboriel, ‘Guidum’.

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…and the tosser of the week award goes to…

June 14th, 2005 · Comments Off on …and the tosser of the week award goes to…

Sean O’Kane, a ‘race relations worker’ who lives in Liverpool, who has been in California for the MJ trial, to lend his support to Michael

A couple of choice quotes –

“I came here because I couldn’t believe the injustice of it all.”

er, right… I wonder if he also went to Iraq to be part of the human shield, or has his flight to darfur booked…

“People have been talking about the similarities between Michael Jackson and Martin Luther King and Nelson Mandela.

I think that’s fair.

Martin Luther King got his message across through his speeches. Michael gets his message across through his music.”

Do I need to comment on that one?

“He’s a martyr – but the thing to remember is he’s still alive.”

So he died for his cause, but is still alive – nice logic there, loser-boy.

I’m still not convinced that all the muppets hanging around outside the courthouse weren’t paid (though it’s not like MJ has got any money left…!) – after seeing the way the Labour Party used fake crowds during the campaign in the run-up to the last election (more complete losers!), I’m willing to believe that anyone could hire themselves some flunkies to hang around and make it look like they have public support.

Is anyone so daft as to turn out to show their support for a singer they don’t know who may well be guilty? That’s really odd behaviour.

And to fly across the world, and then compare MJ to Mandela and MLK? Me thinks Mr O’Kane needs help. Fast.

Soundtrack – Egberto Gismonti, ‘Magico’.

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It's World Book Day

March 3rd, 2005 · Comments Off on It's World Book Day

Today is . So in honour of that, let’s do top three book recommendations – head over to The Forum and post your own.

Here’s mine, in no particular order;

Long Walk To Freedom – Nelson Mandela
Crime and Punishment – Dostoevsky
Life After God – Douglas Coupland.

what’s yours?

Soundtrack – John Coltrane, ‘Coltrane’.

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Before I post tour diary vol. II…

February 4th, 2005 · Comments Off on Before I post tour diary vol. II…

OK, I’m home, the trip was great, and I’ll post more about that tomorrow when my brain isn’t fried on jetlag. For now, though, here’s a quote from Nelson Mandela’s speech at the rally for the Make Poverty History campaign today in Trafalgar Square,

“Overcoming poverty is not a gesture of charity. It is an act of justice. It is the protection of a fundamental human right; the right to dignity and a decent life. While poverty persists, there is no true freedom.”

that first sentence again, in case you missed it –

“Overcoming poverty is not a gesture of charity. It is an act of justice.”

that’s one that needs to go on t-shirts, posters – anywhere until it’s tatoo’d on the hearts and minds of everyone.

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The Times They Are A-Changing…

December 8th, 2003 · Comments Off on The Times They Are A-Changing…

So last night we watched Bowling For Columbine. Tonight we watched the 46664 concert. Steadily the voice of those not happy with the top-heavy way the world is being steered, in favour of big business becoming bigger business and away from protecting the rights and lives of ordinary people is getting louder. There are now millions of ordinary people around the world who recognise that AIDS is a problem that won’t go away, that the invasion of Iraq was a criminal act of inconceivable proportions, that access to semi-automatic weapons is not an inalienable right, but rather a time-bomb in a country where hundreds of thousands of people are feeling increasingly disempowered and disenfranchised by the decisions of its government.

It’s not that these issues haven’t been there before – there have been people protesting against wars and injustice for millenia – but the numbers are growing, their voice is getting louder, and the look of your average protestor is no longer a crusty student with green dreads and a dog on a string. It’s doctors, teachers, musicians, actors, unemployed people, shop workers, police men and women, homemakers, students; people from all walks of life who aren’t believing the BS anymore…

just a cursory search of the net throws up the following sites for further info on what’s happening to make a difference –

www.46664.com – Mandela’s AIDS awareness initiative.
www.controlarms.org – campaign to regulate the arms trade.
www.amnesty.org/ – please tell me you know who amnesty are and what they do…
www.maketradefair.org – Oxfam-led initiative to push for trade laws that are fairer to farmers and producers in the developing world.
www.americanapparel.net – sweat-shop free sensibly priced clothing, made in the heart of LA. Go on, wear something that makes you proud.

So, instead of spending more time surfing round the same old bulletin boards, doing another google search on your own name or whatever other dodginess you usually waste your time with on the net, why not check out the sites that are seeking to make the world a better place for all of us. Work your way through that lot, and I’ll be back with another list of links next week…

Soundtrack – nuttin’

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Fresh Look At An Old Book

September 18th, 2003 · Comments Off on Fresh Look At An Old Book

Like many people – believers or not – who grew up with Bible reading in school or church, I suffer from over-familiarity with The Bible. Lots of the really radical stuff in there gets a bit lost when you’ve read it a thousand times and heard innumerable sermons on it of varying degrees of imcomprehensibility.

So recently, I started reading through The Message, a contemporary translation/paraphrase by a Eugene Peterson – written cos as a Greek Scholar, he saw that the students in his seminary class weren’t getting the same vibe from the text in english that he was in Greek!

Anyway, I’ve just got up to The Sermon On The Mount – one of the most oft-quoted bits of moral teaching in the history of humanity, and part of the direct inspiration behind the life and work of Ghandi, MLK, Mandela and numerous other great people.

I must’ve read it hundreds of times, and always dug it as some great advice, but the way that Peterson renders Jesus’ words in The Message version brings it totally to life, makes it easily applicable, and certainly gets rid of this crass image of Jesus that pervades so much of church culture as some kind of austere, pontificating bore. This is vibrant lively stuff, well worth checking out, regardless of your religious persuasion.

Soundtrack – still listening to Denison Witmer

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