stevelawson.net

Steve's Blog: Solo Bass & Beyond



Two Spearhead interviews

August 22nd, 2008 · Comments Off on Two Spearhead interviews

Oh yes. Oh yes indeed – me interviewing first Carl Young and then Michael Franti from Spearhead. Such lovely blokes.

Tags: Geek · Musing on Music

Tour update… finally!

March 25th, 2007 · Comments Off on Tour update… finally!

Right, we’re now in Amsterdam, staying with the marvellous and wonderful John Lester for a couple of days, between the Germany gigs and the Denmark masterclass…

Where did we leave it last time? On the train to Madrid… OK, Madrid – what a great city! I’ve not been to Spain since I was 17, and last time was to a little holiday resort on the South Coast where we went to english-run pubs and sat on the beach, so not really much of Spain was seen. So this was my first proper trip. Madrid’s gorgeous – we were in a hotel right in the middle (thanks to the wonders of Priceline.co.uk), so had ample opportunity to explore.

The first gig however, did not go well – it was booked at the very last minute (actually, it was booked, cancelled, and finally rebooked on another day at the last minute) and the venue hadn’t really told anyone about us being there… so no-one showed. Yup, no-one. A gig for the people who worked there. Who enjoyed it. But that really doesn’t pay the bills. Anyway, it was a good warm-up, and thankfully, the second gig was pretty full, very much appreciated, we played well, sold a load of CDs, and all was well. We’ll be back in Spain, again with the wonderful Charlie Moreno (whose set was excellent), in October… Got a bit of a shock when I had to send out all my CD orders from Spain – international postage rates from Spain are nuts! Note to self – never try and run a mail order business from Spain…

After that it was back to Geneva to see the lovely Paul and Rachel again for a couple of days, then onto Magdeburg, where L had organised a gig through some friends of hers – the marvellous blokes of Studio 201, who were fantastic hosts, great fun, and exemplify the concept of ‘work hard, party hard’ like nobody I’ve ever met before. Deadly serious about having fun, as Michael Franti might say. Anyway, the gig was at UrBar, a very cool music bar/venue in the gorgeous city of Magdeburg, and much fun was had, CDs sold, and plans for a return made. Favourite thing about Magdeburg was Green Citadel, designed by Friedensreich Hundertwasser – definitely in my top 5 wishlist of places to live one day!

From Magdeburg it was to Kleve and a return trip for me to the truly marvellous XOX Theatre – I played there last October, and it was such a treat to go back and take L. with me. I did the first set solo (including a massively extended improv on the end of Amo Amatis Amare – will be doing that one again!) and then L joined me for the second set, which went amazingly well – once again lots of CDs sold, and amazingly for me (cos I hate the damn things) we did two encores, the second one being a very impromptu version of Stand By Me (!!)

So some fab gigs, lots of lovely people, a whole mix of languages (French being the most comfortable, my German was coming back after 4 days there, Italian I’m still working on, Spanish was pretty much a right-off, given that the Spanish L. learnt at school was Mexican Spanish which is very different from Madrid Spanish, and now dutch where I know how to say please, thankyou and byeee!)

And tomorrow we head to Denmark for a couple of days… We’re racking up the miles, and definitely getting the most from our interrail tickets, watching a lot of films on the laptop on the train (I’d forgotten just what a great film The Hudsucker Proxy is!!)

So, films watched so far – The aforementioned Hudsucker Proxy, Withnail and I, Harry Potter and the Goblet Of Fire, Peep Show series 1, Wedding Singer, Dodgeball, The Life Aquatic and Jump London.

Tags: Music News

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

Spearhead, Sessions and tonight's gig

December 7th, 2006 · Comments Off on Spearhead, Sessions and tonight's gig

Tuesday night was Spearhead night – my 5th time seeing them play, this time at Shepherd’s Bush Empire. They are, without doubt, my favourite live band in the world. It’s funky, celebratory, the tunes are great, the playing’s amazing and the lyrics make you feel like the world isn’t quite as lost as it seems to be if you just turn on the TV and watch… Michael Franti has a Shamen-like presence, encouraging the whole room to celebrate together, to encourage the celebration of differences, exhorting religions to focus on their similarities in order to work for a common aim, firing us up to get politically and socially active. All this under the distince haze and odour of many a spliff – bring on the smoking ban… ah well.

Anyway, I got there half an hour after they started due to teaching schedule and a remarkably early start time (headline band on at 8.30??) But the other hour and 45 was incredible as always. The new album, Yell Fire, has a strong reggae influence, and it gives another spin to the protest angle – Reggae, like Hip-hop has it’s origins in defiance, protest and inspiration for the poor and dispossessed (just have a listen to any Bob Marley, Steel Pulse or Linton Kwesi Johnson track for evidence), and like Hip-hop it’s been mostly hijacked by ‘bling’ culture, with so many reggae stars toasting about guns and booty… So it’s great to see it reclaimed as a medium for changing the world.

At the aftershow party, Franti was clearly enamoured with my coat, wondering which muppet I slaughtered to make it, but stroking my arm the whole time we talked. :o)

Yesterday was a heavy teaching day – yay! And today started with teaching and has moved on to recording. I’m in the middle of two remote sessions – one for Lobelia, a fantastic singer/songwriter from Montreal, and the other for Andrea Nones AKA DubNervous – a great electronica artist from Italy. Very different projects, equally enjoyable and challenging. Hurrah!

And tonight I’ve got the gig at the Enterprise in Chalk Farm, opening for BJ Cole and Emily Burridge – doors 8pm, tickets £8/£6 – see you there!!

Tags: Musing on Music

I Know I'm Not Alone

September 11th, 2006 · 1 Comment

Just found the perfect way to focus my thoughts about world politics on a day when everyone’s talking about it. I watched I Know I’m not AloneMichael Franti’s documentary about his time in Baghdad, Israel and the Occupied Territories. It’s a fantastically well made documentary, especially for a first time film maker – fabulously put together, brilliantly edited and profoundly moving.

Franti’s commentary is as you’d expect – insightful, wise, observant, and full of choice quotes about our reponse to conflict, war, and the search for peace.

He says towards the end ‘If I’ve learnt anything from this trip it’s that I’m not on the side of the Americans or the Iraqis or the Israelis or the Palestinians – I’m on the side of the peacemakers, wherever they come from.’ Sounds kind of sermon-on-the-mount-ish, dontcha think?

A blessing be upon the head of Michael Franti for his gift to us of this film. Buy a copy, watch it and take it round to your friend’s houses. And while you’re at it, buy the new Spearhead album, ‘Yell Fire’. It’s amazing.

Tags: Rant - Politics, Spirituality, etc.

more on hunting

February 14th, 2006 · 4 Comments

So tonight’s episode of holiday showdown had a gun toting military family from Lincolnshire going on a holiday-swap with a bisexual anarchist ouple of video artists.

The military monkeys took the anarchists to Texas on a holiday of shooting guns, trying to shoot boar and roping cattle.

then the bi people took the Lincolnshire rednecks to San Francisco for a week of hanging out with trannies, filming the streets of SF for a VJ gig.

What was startling was seeing a bloke, who thought nothing of whooping his teenage son into a testosterone fueled frenzy over a huge gun, describe two men kissing as disgusting and something that no decent person would let their children see… but aiming a Magnum at a human-shaped target (or boar, or deer) was fine.

We’re back to the topic of moral equivalence. OK, so it was intentionally car-crash TV, but the juxtaposition of gun-toting misogyny with anarchist sexual liberalism was a really interesting one, given that bigotry, intolerance and downright nastiness of the Lincolnshire smiling militia.

Shooting good, lovin’ bad. Very odd equation, that one.

As Michael Franti sang – ‘it’s not about who you love, it’s all about do you love’.

As it happens, the wife of trigger happy dan (with his remarkably gay moustache, that made him v. popular in SF!) actually took to the VJ gig really well, but she also couldn’t deal with transgendered dancers in a club. That I’d have had a problem with as well – not because they were transgendered, but just from a human rights angle, I’m not into exploitation at all, and I don’t think transgendered people should be objectified in that way any more than I think women should be. There were a few things in the SF scenes that I’d have issues with, but none of it because it was ‘sick’ or because they were ‘woofters’, more that that level of sexual-obsession tends to stem from either hurt, poor self image or narcissism, none of which need celebrating, just understanding.

But of the two holidays, I’d take a week with the lovely freaky drag-queens of San Fran over a week with the gun totin’, wife subjugatin’ rednecks any day… All the freaky people make the beauty of the world, to quote the lovely Franti again…

Tags: Rant - Politics, Spirituality, etc.

Me in Bassics magazine

September 28th, 2005 · Comments Off on Me in Bassics magazine

I posted a thing about this on my NewsFeed page a while ago, but I finally got a copy of Bassics Magazine through today, with the interview with me in it. It’s the biggest interview I’ve done in print (there are a couple of big ones on the net with various e-mags), and looks great. The questions were pretty good so it’s well worth a read if you should see a copy in your local newsagent/borders/barnes and noble/wherever you buy mags.

The cover star of the issue is Michael Manring, so it’s a fine solo bass filled issue. There’s also a track of mine on the cover CD, as well as some video footage, which I’m looking forward to seeing again – the Cheat and I filmed it at St Luke’s at the start of the year. We wanted to do it at St Luke’s cos we could do it in front of the big purple curtains in the main church, but the day we booked it they were installing a new PA, so we had to film it in the back hall, which means the backdrop is a yellow-painted brick wall. It looks like I’m filming it in prison! Hopefully my wikkid skillz will obscure any reservations people might have about learning from a convicted felon serving time at her majesty’s pleasure.

I’ve been a busy boy this morning, putting together the press release for the John Peel Day gig with Riseclick here for the PDF. That’s now been mailed to all the relevant media peoples so now we wait for some coverage and a huge crowd!

Soundtrack – Michael Franti and Spearhead, ‘Everyone Deserves Music’.

Tags: Uncategorized

end of year roundup top 5s

December 21st, 2003 · Comments Off on end of year roundup top 5s

So we’re rapidly approaching the exit of 2003 and the entrance of 2004, to take up the batton of time for it’s year in the spotlight. It can’t really be much worse than its younger sibling on a world scale (well, I guess it could, if the bush/blair axis of evil decide to invade more countries, and don’t realise that they really have no place being in Iraq… but I digress…)

Anyway, there have been some cool things this year, so here’s a series of top 5s to sum up my year (each of them is in no particular order…) –

top 5 albums from this year –

Athlete – Vehicles and Animals
Bill Frisell – The Interncontinentals
John Lester – Big Dreams And The Bottom Line
Bruce Cockburn – You’ve Never Seen Everything
Kelly Joe Phelps – Slingshot Professionals

Top 5 albums I got this year but were released ages ago –

Theo Travis – Heart Of The Sun
Rob Jackson – Wire, Wood and Magnets
Denison Witmer – Philadelphia Songs
David Torn – Tripping Over God
Medeski Martin And Wood – The Dropper

Top 5 musical collaborators this year –

Theo Travis
Orphy Robinson
Patrick Wood
Luca Formentini
BJ Cole

Top 5 fave gigs I went to –

Athlete – The Astoria
Bill Frisell – The Barbican
King’s X – The Mean Fiddler
Kelly Joe Phelps – The Stables
Bruce Cockburn – The Stables

Top 5 fave gigs played –

National Theatre Foyer (with Theo Travis)
Greenbelt (with Patrick Wood)
Derby Dance Centre (with Orphy Robinson and Corey Mwamba)
Constable Jacks (California – with Michael Manring)
Anaheim Bass Bash (with Michael Manring)

Top 5 International Destinations –

California (USA)
Garda Lake (Italy)
Le Monstastier (France)
Amsterdam (Holland)
Copenhagen (Denmark)

Heroes –

Tony Benn
John Pilger
Michael Moore
Michael Franti
Scott Peck

Villains –

Bush
Blair
Blunkett
Richard Desmond
Max Clifford

would’ve done top books and top films, but haven’t seen enough of either to
come up with a convincing list of good ones.

I’ll add more as I think of them, but that’s it for now…

Soundtrack – yesterday I downloaded the new version of WinAmp – WinAmp 5, and have been listening to various Shoutcast radio stations ever since!

Tags: Uncategorized

Easy access to new music

April 29th, 2003 · Comments Off on Easy access to new music

If you’ve got a couple of weeks to spare, you can have a trawl through the archives of ‘Morning Becomes Eclectic’ – the daily live music show on KCRW radio.

There are some stellar acts in the archive, including David Torn, Charlie Hunter with Norah Jones (before her big success, but still sounding wonderful), Michael Franti, Coldplay, Travis, Howie Day, Gail Anne Dorsey – loads of GREAT stuff. Do yourself a favour, and have a listen…

Soundtrack – Michael Franti on KCRW

Tags: Uncategorized

Weapon Of Mouse Destruction

March 16th, 2003 · Comments Off on Weapon Of Mouse Destruction

Just been up to see my mum for a few days – very nice it was too. My mum’s cat is called Gizmo. Well, technically, he’s my brother’s cat, but he’s moved out, and the cat stayed… anyway, Gizzy is the cutest friendliest cuddliest little beasty on the planet… so long as you’re human. If you happen to be any kind of warm blooded furry or feathered thing, and smaller than a tiger, she views you as potential dinner. Mice, rats, voles, moles, rabbits, hares, pheasants, and all manner of garden birds. She’s lethal. A one-feline environmental disaster area. How can one so seemingly cute be such a cold-blooded killer?? Guess the various smiling faces telling us about how they plan to rid the world of evil, whilst perpetrating muchos evil of their own have been taking lessons… Indeed, she’s a veritable Weapon Of Mouse Destruction…

(BTW, Tonight there’s a round-the-world candle-lit vigil for Peace, called for by Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Check and see if a church near you is involved and head along there…)

Anyway, whilst in Berwick, managed to catch up with Heath – first known as ‘the boy next door’ when we first moved to Berwick (1986), soon became the drummer in the first band I was in (called various things, I think Mother’s Legs was the longest lasting name, though we never did a gig.) Heath then went to the same college as me, and now works in a theatre just north of London. He’s a very nice bloke, and it was a lovely surprise that he was ‘home’ at the same time as me…

Got a couple of days in the studio this week, with Chris Bowater (gospel singer/worship leader guy from Lincoln that I used to do loads of gigs with) – very much looking forward to that. Playing with Chris was always a fun challenge – he’s got an amazing sense of harmony, and is a great piano player. Other than that, it’s lots of teaching, and getting to grips with Fruity Loops – been programming drum beats, and learning how to automate effects changes and mutes etc… all good stuff…

Hang on, forgot to mention rather fabulous and eventful gig last Tuesday night – I was playing at Delicattesen in Reading (see link on left hand side), with Julie Lee (who I played at Greenbelt with last year), and with Pierce Pettis (who I’d not played with before, but who is marvellous) – I was only doing a couple of songs with each of them… That all went well, but half way through Pierce’s set, some poor bloke collapsed, fell off his chair and had a fit! Didn’t look like Epilepsy, and he came out of it pretty quick. We sat him up, and tried to talk to him, but he was still pretty out of it, and couldn’t stand up to leave the room. So we called an ambulance which arrived in LESS THAN A MINUTE!!! – you can say what you want about the national health service, but that’s what I call speedy response!! They took him in for observation, but the medics said he was in no immediate danger. Anyway, if by some quirk of fate you’re reading this, Mr-Looks-Like-Kenny-Rogers-And-Falls-Over-At-Gigs, I hope you’re feeling much better…

Aside from that it was a stunning night’s music – same line up as the 12 Bar Club gig the week before – Julie and Pierce, with Brian Houston on before them. All three are seriously world-class headline act stock, and if you get any chance at all to see them, jump at it!

One of the best things about the evening was Pierce’s between song banter, which is excellent – very very funny indeed.

so here’s my top 5 banterers (in no particular order)

  • Pierce Pettis
  • Michael Manring
  • Ben Castle
  • Martyn Joseph
  • Mo Foster

In fact, Mo’s stories are so good, he’s written a book – 17 Watts – full of his marvellous rock ‘n’ roll anecdotes, which is required reading for anyone with an interest in the birth of rock ‘n’ roll in the UK, and the growth of the music industry here through the 60s and 70s…

Soundtrack – currently, listening to more of the stuff by me and theo (hopefully the street-teamers will have some of this to listen to soon…), and whilst away, the soundtrack was Michael Franti – ‘Songs From The Front Porch’, Scritti Politti – ‘Cupid and Psyche’, Francis Dunnery ‘Man’, Lifehouse ‘Stanley Climbfall’, ‘Pierce Pettis ‘Everything Matters’ and ‘Making Light Of It’, and Juliet Turner – ‘Burn The Black Suit’ – all very fine stuff. The drive home from Berwick was mostly soundtracked by Radio 4 (always fun to learn new stuff just by sticking the radio on – doesn’t happen too often with the TV), and then a documentary about Elvis Costello, ensuring that sometime this evening ‘Armed Forces’ will go on…

Tags: Uncategorized