So, as you know, the saga so far is that British Airways smashed up my bass on the way over here back in Mid-Dec. I emailed them and rang them and was told to ‘send them the fragile tag and the bubble wrap receipt‘ – fragile tag was a generic piece of cardboard, and the request for bubble wrap receipt came off like a sick joke, if you’d seen the damage done…
Anyway, over the course of NAMM weekend, quite a few bass builders looked at it, most with a look of horror on their faces. All said it wouldn’t repair adequately, and at best would need to have the spruce top sliced off and replaced. Not good. That’s a few grand’s worth of work.
Fast forward to yesterday, and I finally get to visit the lovely geniuses at Modulus Guitars, who made the bass (and every other solid bodied electric bass I’ve played in the last 16 years). I showed the bass to their chief bass builder, designer and all-round bass building ninja-dude, Joe Perman, and he basically wrote off the body. Because the crack goes ALL THE WAY THROUGH THE BODY by the jack socket, and is right across the grain through the top, any repair is going to be a botch job at best. He said he could make it better, but not great.
So we start discussing other options, after deciding it needs a new body. At this point, the willingness of Joe and Modulus A & R guy and dude-who-sorts-things-out Anderson Page to bend over backwards to help was astounding. Ideas were thrown around, including putting the neck and electronics from my bass on a completely solid body until they had time to build a new one, and even shipping me the body to have Martin Peterson assemble it in London…
But then a Joe has a light-bulb moment, remembering that there was in fact a semi-hollow Q6 body that had a tiny blemish (I couldn’t even see it!) that meant it couldn’t be sold (their quality control is exceptional). I looked at it, and loved the idea…
‘can I take it home on Thursday then?’ – er no, it’ll take a coupla weeks to get it finished and sprayed and for the lacquer to dry… which reminded me of a conversation I’d had last week with Steve Azola, maker of the incredible Azola upright basses, who was wondering what my bass would be like with a rubbed finish, rather than the heavy lacquer finish. “if we did that kind of finish, would that work?”
Joe’s eyes lit up – it was a plan that allowed them to use a body that couldn’t be sold, to experiment with a new finish for their basses AND I get a perfect working bass to go home with. The old body on mine becomes a write-off, but the new bass will be a whole other bass adventure for me. The wood combination is different (walnut top on an alder body) so will add a different flavour to my music. Always a nice game to play
As you can see in the photo at the top, part of me is loathe to let go of the bass that has been MY sound for a decade. It’s what happens at the end of my arms, a new limb… But that’s not going to happen, it’s not going to be fixed, BA saw to that by completely trashing the old one.
Good job bass manufacturers don’t function like airlines.
We’ll be heading back to Modulus tomorrow morning to see how they are getting on with it… More photos and blog posts then!
Steve Lawson has been one of the most inspiring and creative solo bassists to come out of the UK in recent years. His solo albums and collaborative projects have been the talk of the world-wide bass community and have drawn enthusiastic reviews in the press. His latest album ‘Grace And Gratitude’ finds him searching a theme in his own enigmatic way. I spoke to Steve recently and began by asking him about this album.
- ‘Grace And Gratitude’ seems to have been given a good reception in the
press. What kind of response have you had from the fans?
“The response has been fantastic, I’ve been really pleased with how well it’s gone down, especially given that it contains some of the most challenging music that I’ve recorded, and is pretty diverse! I was expecting to get a few e-mails of complaint about the second track (Journey Of A Thousand Miles), as it gets very dissonant, and is quite a big leap on from anything I did on ‘Not Dancing For Chicken’, but my audience have surprised me once again with their broadmindedness!”
- What led you to explore a thematic concept for this latest album, and
how do you set about creating a themed album of instrumental music?
“That’s a really good question, and a tough one to answer! The prompting to explore the theme was that it was a continuation of the way I always write – trying to soundtrack whatever is going on in my head at that time – but discovering that my thoughts at that time were a little more focussed and coherent than when I’m usually making a record. The catalyst for that was the European elections here in the UK. I was insensed by the selfishness and ingratitude of so many on the political right-wing who were blaming people fleeing persecution and destitution in their own countries for coming to England to find something better, and attempting to use them as a scapegoat for all of society’s ills and to gain political ground against those who saw the issues in a more complex and grown up way. But instead of doing an angry record, I decided to channel that thought process into looking at the things that I’m most grateful for, and recognising that I haven’t earned any of them – they are all a gift, which is where the ‘grace’ part comes in.
“So ‘Despite my Worst Intentions’ stems for a feeling of gratitude that none of the really stupid things that I did in my teens managed to ruin my life. ‘The Kindness Of Strangers’ is a fairly obvious one – it’s something that all musicians rely on heavily! ‘The Journey Of A Thousand Miles’ is more about recognising the smallness of everything we do, seeing life as a journey comprised of small steps, and we need to tread carefully. And so on…
“It’s pretty much impossible to pin down the connection between the theme and the music beyond some people just getting it! It’s a feeling, an emotion, it’s ephemeral, and I guess it’s something that is going to connect with people on myriad levels. It’s also highly likely that people are going to hear completely different things in there, and that’s fine too.”
- What’s your favourite piece on ‘G&G’ and why?
“Oh boy, it changes from day to day – I think at the moment, it’s ‘What Did I Do To Deserve This?’ – I just really like the melodic line, and the change in texture as the piece goes on. But I’m also particularly proud of ‘You Can’t Throw It Away (There’s No Such Thing As Away)’ – the way the track develops took me by surprise! That’s the joy of improvising music in the studio – you can hear new things in it as you listen back the same way that the audience does. It’s not all planned out, so there are things that you miss the first time round that grow on you as time goes on.”
- Those of us who bought the album shortly after it’s release were
treated to a superb bonus disc. Please tell our readers how they can
now get hold of that CD for themselves?
“That CD was called ‘Lessons Learned From An Aged Feline Pt II’ – each time I do a CD, I release a second bonus CD for people who order the record in advance of the official release date. This works for two reasons – firstly as an insentive to people to order the CD early on, and thus helping me to recoup my costs quicker. But it’s also a way of me getting some of the enormous amount of music out there for people to hear. I tend to record hours and hours of music for each CD before I decide on which tracks to release. Some of it is pretty bad, so that gets scrapped, but for each CD, I end up with at least two albums worth of release-quality material, so this enables to get that out.
“Now that I’ve got a web-shop that can handle download sales, I’ve been able to put ‘Lessons Learned Pt II’ up as a download sale, so people who’ve only discovered what I’m up to since the new album has been released can go back and start to fill in some of the blanks in their CD collections. It’s also meant that I can keep my debut solo album, ‘And Nothing But The Bass’ available, even though it’s sold out. Instead of repressing, I’ve just made it available as a low-cost download.”
- In the past few years you have alternately released solo albums
followed by albums of collaborative duets. Does this mean we are due
another duets album and if so what’s in the pipeline?
“At the moment I’m not certain what I’m going to do next. I do have a lot of duo material recorded with pedal steel guitarist, BJ Cole. BJ and I have been playing together for over a year now, and been experimenting with various approaches to combining out sounds. It’s not been an easy one, given that both of us are capable of making so much noise! But we’re beginning to find the right combination, so that might happen.
“I’m also planning to try some gigs with Theo Travis, but with a drummer added to the mix. We’ve a couple of people in mind, and will be experimenting over the new couple of months. The tracks that we recorded on ‘For The Love Of Open Spaces’ have been evolving on the live gigs that we’ve done, and it’d be great to try taking them to another place with a drummer.
“And work has also begun on Jez Carr’s debut all-solo album – so while I won’t be playing on that, I’ll be helping to produce that with him. Jez is an amazing musician, and looking forward to being able to follow up Conversations within the next couple of years too.
- Have you any plans for making a duets album with another bassist and if
“I’ve been gigging a lot over the last couple of years with Michael Manring, who is quite simply one of the most amazing musicians I’ve ever heard, let alone shared a stage with, and also one of my favourite people. We’ve made various attempts to record our duo gigs, but so far haven’t had much that’s been release quality, just in terms of the sounds. But we’re both keen to get something happening, so I’d guess that will happen at some point. We’ve even had offers from record labels wanting to fund it, but it’s something that we’re going to take our time with. For starters, Michael’s got a new solo album coming out in the next month or so, so will be promoting that over the next few months.
“But I do love working with other bassists – we think slightly differently from other musicians, and I find that bassists often (not always) make great listeners. I’ve done a few gigs – including the European Bass Day – with John Lester. He’s a singer/songwriter solo bassist from California, now living in Amsterdam, and is a dream to play with – another great musician who’s also a really lovely person.”
- OK, so if you could make a duets album with any musician from history
who would that be?
“To be honest, I feel really fortunate to be working with the people I’m working with. I think the main ones on my ‘wish list’ would be singers like Joni Mitchell, Bruce Cockburn and Jonatha Brooke, but of the three the only one I’ve met is Bruce. I have two main criteria for working on a project like that, there needs to be a musical hook-up, obviously, but it also has to be with someone that I could travel round in a car with for three weeks at a time – life’s too short to work with people you don’t get on with. So once I’ve formed a list of people I’d love to work with, I then have to meet them, and see if I get on with them, as well as there being some mutual musical appreciation!”
- Aside from listening to other musicians, what do you find in life that
inspires the creative process?
“Desperation! I think that when you do music for a living, there’s a fine balance between seeing it as a job and getting tired of it, and feeling liberated by the absence of other things getting in the way. I cross that line fairly regularly. The main thing that keeps me focussed on how lucky I am is practising. I love playing, I love getting together with other musicians to try things out and I love doing gigs. Music is in and of itself inspiring, and not just in a notes and melodies sense. There’s something about being around creative people that makes you pursue creativity.
“Beyond that, I find that most things will feed into my music – politics, relationships, faith, films, art, history, fantasy… Loads of things.
“That said, one of my biggest influences is cats – we’ve recently got two new ones, as the Aged Feline, after whom the two ‘Lessons Learned’ CDs were named, passed away in the summer. The new ones can’t replace him, but they are rescue cats, and needed a home. They’re both lovely, and are now the ‘Fairly Aged Felines’, who will no doubt have their own line of CDs coming out soon!”
- What nifty little toys have you currently got in your arsenal of
“The current live set up for gigs in the UK is pretty involved – I now have two Lexicon MPX-G2 processors, two Gibson Echoplex Digital Pro + looping devices, a Mackie 1402 desk, and a Korg KP-II Kaoss Pad. It gives me so many great options and allows me to loop and process the musicians I’m working with as well! The move to a stereo set-up, and the switch to AccuGroove speaker cabinets has made my whole sound much clearer and less coloured. I’ve used the PA for voice, sax, piano and classical guitar as well, and it sounds better than any equivalent sized PA that I’ve ever used!
“Throw in three Modulus basses and an E-Bow and you’ve got my live rig.”
- What are the plans for any live dates in the near future?
“At the moment, I’m sorting out some dates for California in late January. For the UK, I’m working on some dates in March with Matthew Garrison, and will hopefully have some dates later on in the year with acoustic guitarist, Eric Roche, as well as a smattering of other solo dates here and there.”
You can check out all of Steve’s albums (and buy them!) at this website www.stevelawson.net, there are some free download tracks there and plenty of interviews and reviews to read.
“A two-and-a-half hour drive culminate in a parking space on the fourteenth floor of a multi-storey car park, thanks to some big evangelical conference or other in the N.I.A. Fourteen flights of stairs and a short walk later and here we are at Ronnie Scott’s. Blimey! This is posh. No beer in plastic glasses, no tattooed, beer-bellied bouncers, just ridiculously named food at hugely inflated prices. Never mind – we’re on the guest list.
I meet up with Steve for an interview before the gig, the fruits of which can be read elsewhere. For tonight’s performance Steve Lawson, solo bassist has teamed up with cellist Harry Napier, whose credits include working on the last couple of Martyn Joseph albums. This is the first of two gigs at Ronnie’s where the lads will be supporting Lou Dalgleish.
Steve and Harry open the set with ‘The Inner Game’, also the opener from Steve’s solo album. This gives Steve the chance to show some of the capabilities of his JamMan as he deftly plays a neat little chord sequence and then loops it and interweaves the melody over the top, then passes the same melody over to Harry. Harry himself is an accomplished and thoughtful musician, evident in his own piece ‘Dream’ and in his later solo spot.
Steve’s pieces range from the melodic tunes through to the more ambient stuff like ‘Drifting’- a space-conscious solo piece which sees steve’s favourite toy, the E-Bow given an airing. On the more melodic side the piece ‘Blue Sticks’ borrows tunes from ‘Blue Moon’, ‘Chopsticks’ and ‘Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas’, interspersing them neatly with it’s own original melody.
The favoured bass for this evening’s performance is the new Modulus fretless six-string, an instrument of which I am insanely jealous and fully intend to steal one day. The tone from Steve’s Ashdown 300-watt combo is crisp and clear with perfect projection, bass players worldwide would give their guitarist’s right arm to sound like this! As the duo close the set with the hauntingly beautiful ‘Bittersweet’ the small but appreciative crowd applaud politely and I’m left to contemplate those fourteen flights of stairs.”
“Lincoln is not known for its musical prowess. Buying in ageing musical hiccups like Mike Pinder’s Searchers, Leo Sayer, and the occasional tribute band is about the city’s forte. Mind you, last year we did have Jools Holland appearing at the Castle. The highlight of the year, for most. So the idea to stage a low-key concert appealing mostly to bass aficianados could have been perceived as the kiss of death. Could be, but wasn’t. Far from it, in fact.
‘An Audience With Steve Lawson’ was sold as a musicians’ evening, appealing to a discerning public’s sense of taste. To some it was a journey into the unknown. An evening of solo bass. Curiosity won the day, perhaps swung slightly in its favour by the addition of support act Jazz From Hell, a trio of Lincolnians who put on a solid performance of classics and own compositions. At times we were treated to a blitz of notes. “I’ve never played so many notes in my life,” said an obviously impressed Steve Lawson. “Yes you have,” retorted some wag.
Lining up on stage was Steve’s favoured Modulus 6 string fretless, Modulus fretted 4 string and a fretless Renaissance 5 string acoustic bass, played through an Ashdown combo linked to a Trace Elliot 2×8, Lexicon JamMan and a Lexicon MPX-G2 multi-effects unit. The only item left behind in the car boot transported from London was Steve’s uncle. We all thought he was joking but, by all accounts, the ashes were stashed safely away by the spare wheel. Diplomacy won the day, as we chose not to pursue the subject.
Preamble over, Steve comfortably moved into almost an hour-long set of loops layered with haunting melodies; self-composed tunes that drifted in and out of your sub-conscious; mellow soundscapes that gently floated like confetti on a warm breeze, on occasion enhanced by the eerie sustain of an E-bow, its blue LED piercing through the light.
Apart from a peppering of Steve’s friends in the audience, the majority of the audience would have been in the dark about what to expect. None could fail but be impressed by the set. Steve plays with a wonderful fluidity. His fingers glide lovingly, effortlessly over the fretless, the chording and intonation never less than perfect. Whether a simple, relaxed glissade or a line demanding huge control and dexterity, his fingers did the talking.
As a music journalist, I have interviewed hundreds of name bands, attended rehearsals and recording sessions, even jammed with Mark King who, to me, was God. Times change, bass players come and go. Yet some names and progressions stick in the memory bank. My heroes, like most of you out there, are today’s and yesterday’s virtuosos – Jaco Pastorius, Abe Laboriel, Victor Wooten, Michael Manring… yes, and Steve Lawson.
Like Jaco’s finger-pumping runs and a slap-happy Mark King of old, Steve can be slick when necessary, pumping out the notes in jaw-dropping time, but bass playing isn’t all about that. It never was. I believe it was Marcus Miller who once said that what you leave out is as important as the notes you play. How right he was.
With a new CD imminent of his live set at The Troubadour, Steve Lawson is preparing to move into the next phase of a burgeoning career. You wouldn’t think it could get any better. But it no doubt will.
“The sleeve notes to Conversations suggest that the players had no charts, no tunes, no keys, or anything prepared before recording the project. After listening to the album I refused to believe that such melodic and graceful tunes could emerge from so sparse a formula, so a quick call to Mr Lawson was in order…
‘yeah, there were no rehearsals, no duscussion on keys, rhythms or vibes; just hit ‘reocrd’ and play. It was as spontaneous as it could possibly be!’
“Conversations captures all those moments in their glory. It’s far removed from the usual ‘free jazz’ type of fast improvisations with extended soloing or groove sections. Jez Carr is sparse with his lines, leaving Lawson room to explore the upper reaches of his Modulus Custom 6 string fretless. Two of the tracks exceed 14 minutes, and both are happy to heave lots of space during the tunes where the freedom to bounce ideas around never gets out of control. Conversations is extremely laid back conjuring images of dream like open spaces. IF you like your music free of constraints you’ll like the approach of Conversations.”
- Adrian Ashton
Brand new solo album! ‘What The Mind Thinks, The Heart Transmits’ is a single epic 45 minute piece. It goes on quite a journey, taking its time to unfold. Please have a listen, but carve out some time, cos 2 minutes isn’t going to reveal much about the track :
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 Travis – The 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 duoalbums 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…
Current Musical Projects
Solo gigs and recording -::- Duo gigs and recording with Lobelia -::- duo with Mike Outram -::- duo with Trip Wamsley -::- duo with Michael Manring -::- duo with Daniel Berkman
favourite artists. – “I’m a big fan of good singer/songwriters. Top of the list is Canadian, Bruce Cockburn, who in 30 years of recording has yet to release a bad album. also top of my singer/songwriter list would be The Blue Nile, James Yuill, Kris Delmhorst, Peter Katz, Rob Szabo, Emily Baker, KT Tunstall, Tom Waits, Joni Mitchell, Kelly Joe Phelps, John Lester, Nik Kershaw, Paul Simon, Stevie Wonder, Rickie Lee Jones, James Taylor, Jonatha Brooke, Randy Newman, Michael McDonald, Martyn Joseph, Julie Lee and Mary Chapin Carpenter. Other favourite artists include The Pixies, The Cure, Iona, Prefab Sprout, anything King Crimson-related, King’s X, Mike Watt, Michael Manring, D’Angelo, David Torn, Lewis Taylor. I love great pop music – good old fashioned POP, like Duran Duran, Wham, Chic, Madonna, Cyndi Lauper… I’m also a big Jazz fan, and top of my play-list there would be Bill Frisell (he’s my other huge musical obsession) John Coltrane, Miles Davis, Keith Jarrett, Ralph Towner/Gary Peacock, John Patitucci, Bill Evans, Pat Metheny, Joe Pass, Jim Hall, Charlie Haden, Marc Johnson… Just getting back into ‘classical’ music, mainly Bartok string quartet’s and Olivier Messiaen’s bird song piano compositions.” top 10 (or so) favourite albums – “In no particular order, and subject to change at a moment’s notice!
bass influences – “My current favourites are Tony Levin, 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!), Doug Pinnick (King’s X), Ewan Vernal (Deacon Blue), Steve Swallow, Billy Sheehan, Abraham Laboriel, Jaco Pastorius, Scott LaFaro, Freddie Washington, Bernard Edwards (Chic), Ray Brown, Family Man Barratt (The Wailers), Verdine White (EW & F), Tommy Simms, Alain Caron, Niels-Henning Orsted Pedersen, Jimmy Haslip, Jaco Pastorius, Danny Thompson, Eberhard Weber, Mike Rivard, Marc Johnson, Kermitt Driscoll, Mo Foster, Todd Johnson, Doug Wimbish, Yolanda Charles, Trip Wamsley and loads more.” Fantasy Band – “This changes all the time, but right now it’d me on bass (obviously), Lobelia on vocals, Nels Cline on guitar, Roy Dodds on drums. With guest appearances by Theo Travis, BJ Cole and Michael Manring. ..although, the duo shows with Daniel Berkman in California resulted in some of my favourite music I’ve ever played, so that duo may well be my fantasy band (album coming soon!)” Favourite Books – “Oh, there’re loads! Current fave is Kristin Hersh’s book Paradoxical Undressing, but before that came everything by Douglas Coupland, Long Walk To Freedom by Nelson Mandela, Strength To Love by Martin Luther King, The Chronicles Of Narnia by CS Lewis, The Truth Is Stranger Than It Used To Be by Middleton and Walsh, Tar Baby by Toni Morrison, Cat’s Eye by Margaret Attwood, The book of Ecclesiastes in The Bible, The Tao Te Ching, The Road Less Travelled and Further Along The Road Less Travelled by Scott Peck, Life On Air by David Attenborough, No Future Without Forgiveness and God Has A Dream by Desmond Tutu, 45 by Bill Drummond…” Favourite Films – ‘So I Married An Axe Murderer’, ‘Natural Born Killers’, ‘Pulp Fiction, ‘School Of Rock’, ‘The Insatiable Moon’, ‘Bugsy Malone’, ‘Barton Fink’, ‘Falling Down’, ‘Life Of Brian’, ‘Spinal Tap’, ‘Monty Python and the Hole Grail’, ‘the Wedding Singer’, ‘The Breakfast Club, ‘Pretty In Pink’, ‘Whale Rider’, ‘Some Kind Of Wonderful’, ‘Fight Club’, ‘Muppets’ Treasure Island’, ‘Brassed Off’, ‘Lars And The Real Girl’, ‘Calendar Girls’, ‘Amelie’, ‘Spirited Away’, ‘Raising Arizona’, ‘Dodgeball’, ‘Team America’ ‘Zoolander’…”
NAMM was over as soon as it began. It was definitely one of my favouritest NAMM shows ever. Getting to play all the Looperlative demos (and a Modulus demo) with Lo. and getting to hang out and play a lot with Claudio was just great. Having set times to play at Looperlative made the days much easier to plan, and thanks to a food intolerance, we didn’t make any trips over to Subway (about a 45 minute round trip), so stayed nearer the convention centre for food and coffee, thus giving us more time on the show floor.
As usual, the magic of NAMM was in the lovely peoples – the rest of it is 100,000 music gear makers and sellers lying to each other for a weekend to the atonal accompaniment of slap bass, poorly executed paradiddles and 80s guitar shredding. Thankfully, in 10 years of visiting NAMM, I’ve accumulated a circle of friends and acquaintances so lovely and so numerous that there were quite a few I didn’t get to see this year, or saw for such a brief time that it was actually more frustrating than not seeing them at all! So for those of you that I missed, I’m REALLY sorry. Hopefully we’ll be out in CA in the summer for some stuff – watch this space…
It was a really great NAMM for Looperlative, partly because most of the ‘competition’ were conspicuously absent from the show, but largely just because in its third NAMM show, the product has proved itself, there’s a solid user base who swear by it, Bob’s proved he can do the customer service and support required for a product in that market and price range and a lot of people are realising that to get a dedicated laptop looping set up that’s stable enough for stage usage, fast enough for low latency audio, and especially if you want to use it for processing your sound too, costs a heck of a lot of money. The software part of it may be a free download, but trying to run a looper on a laptop alongside all your other stuff and expect it to not crap out on you on tour is asking a heck of a lot from your gear… 2008 could end up being an amazing year for Looperlative…
In other gear news, Accugroove launched a new amp, that sounded great, and certainly bodes well for the hopefully-finally-on-the-way powered cabinets…
From NAMM, we spent a day in and around LA with Claudio and Alex Machacek – who inevitably found that had hundreds of friends and musical acquaintances in common. Alex gave us a copy of his new album, Improvision, a trio record with Matthew Garrison and Jeff Sipe. Really amazing stuff.
Then it was the long drive north to Oakland for a couple of days with Michael Manring, before our last gig of the tour at Don Quixote’s in Felton, near Santa Cruz. Things were looking really great attendance-wise before the show – threads on discussion boards with folks arranging to meet up at the show. Then the weather went to shit, and a snow and ice warning quite understandably curtailed the travel plans of quite a few people. And yet we still managed to pull a decent crowd, and played some of the most satisfying music I’ve been a part of in ages. I started the show solo, then Lo. joined me for a duo set, then after the break was Michael solo, then he and I duo, and finally a trio improv piece. The improv stuff both duo and trio felt really really great, and I’m really looking forward to seeing the video and hearing the recordings that were taken on the night… we’ll see if there’s anything useable in there… Also worth a mention is that the soundman at the venue, a guy called Lake, was one of the finest club engineers we’d ever worked with. A really friendly guy, with great working gear, and just fantastic sound! It was one of the best sounds I’ve ever heard Michael have, and the on-stage sound was amazing too… it makes all the difference.
And then we flew back to Ohio, and both Lo and I fell ill. Proper ill. Fever and shaking ill. Yesterday was a wash-out – having hardly slept on an overnight flight, I slept pretty much all day, and then all night too. Feeling much better today.
So tomorrow we drive to New York, and I fly home on Wednesday – feel free to email me now if you want to sort out teaching stuff for when I’m back! :o) It’s time to start booking some UK gigs now too.
Wow, a crazy NAMM weekend – very little time for anything outside of NAMMness, hence the lack of blogging, but a great weekend nonetheless. One of the things I did this year that I always forget to do was to take a few pictures with people I like, such as this one with Lee Sklar – Lee’s an incredible bassist, and very very lovely man, who has been very complimentary about what I do for a long time. A great bloke and an amazing musician. go and check out my other Flickr photos for some others, including one of me with Alex Webster, the bassist from Cannibal Corpse – a lovely friendly guy who bought a CD and I gave an impromptu lesson to… completely at odds with the utterly sickening lyrics on a lot of their stuff… Never judge a book by it’s cover, or a bassist by the twistedness of his band’s album covers (sensitive readers are advised not to do a google search on CC’s album sleeves)…
OK, let’s catch up on the last few days – Thursday daytime was spent playing on the Looperlative and Accugroove booths, then the evening was The NAMM Bass Bash, where I was playing with Trip Wamsley. I was told it started at 7, but I got there at about 6.30 and TRip was already on stage playing!! So I set up next to him and joined in – we did a rather cool spacey version of Behind Every Word, which went into a huge sprawling ambient thing that briefly morphed into Radar Love… not sure what happened there. Still, Trip was on top form, playing beautifully. The rest of the evening was spent with friends – Doug and Vida, Claudio Zanghieri, Jeff Schmidt, Todd Johnson and Kristin Korb (whose duo set was amazing), Steve Bailey, Gary Husband and others… Much fun.
Friday day was more playing for Accugroove, Looperlative and Modulus, and in the evening a bit of a bass player hang for dinner with Peter Murray, Claudio Zanghieri, Dave Freeman, Chris Tarry| and Yves Carbonne – all great musicians and lovely people. Then late night I drove up to Hollywood to see Doug Lunn and Alex Macachek play with Terry Bozzio’s trio, which was excellent as always.
Saturday back at the show, yadda yadda, and in the evening was invited to play a house concert with the delightful and truly wonderful Vicki Genfan, which as with most of those kinds of gigs involved playing gorgeous music and wonderful people in a great house. What a fun night!
And today, the last day of the show, demoing the Looperlative, playing with Claudio at Modulus and catching up with more friends that I hadn’t seen over the rest of the weekend. All good nothing bad.
So all in a great time – here’s a partial list of the lovely people I got to catch up with, albeit briefly in the case of some of them – Claudio Zanghieri, Peter Murray, Kerry Getz, Anderson Page, Chris Tarry, Dominique Di Piazza, Hadrien Ferraud, Jonas Hellborg, Markus Setzer, Trip Wamsley, Jeff Schmidt, Gary Husband, Vicki Genfan, Thomas Leeb, Doug Wimbish, Yves Carbonne, Stu McKensie, Scott Panzera, Todd Johnson, Kristin Korb, Jake Kott, Mark Wright, Bob Amstadt, Lowell Packham, Jerry Watts, Doug and Vida, Lyle Workman, Jeff Campitelli, Lee Sklar, Leo Nobre, Alex Webster, Lynne Davis, Ron Garant, Justin Medal Johnson, Ed Friedland, EE Bradman, Bill Leigh, Terry Buddingh, Jean Baudin, Jeremy Cohen, Max Valentino, Norm Stockton, Joe Zon, Seth Horan, Marcus Miller, Monster, Steve Bailey, Alessandra Belloni, Joe Perman, Muriel Anderson, Alain Caron, Tony Levin… the list goes on and on, and I’ll add to it if you email me and remind me that we met and I’ve left you off – it’s 1am and I’m getting sleepy!
So, NAMM over for another year, lots of follow up to do now for gigs, teaching and new friends. All good nothing bad.