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Steve's Blog: Solo Bass & Beyond



A flurry of musical activity!

April 28th, 2005 · Comments Off on A flurry of musical activity!

Yesterday was a very busy organising day!

First up, I was contacted about playing at an Italian Bass Day in July – looks like that’s going to happen, just sorting out flight costs etc. It’s all good!

Then, Ahmad at Darbucka returned a call from a few weeks ago about a gig there, so it looks like I’ll be back playing there on May 25th, with a gig in Petersfield on the 26th, and Southampton on the 27th. I’ll probably use these gigs as a change to show off some new tunes, and try out some things for the Edinburgh show in August.

And then just now (between that last paragraph and this one) Theo calls, and we confirm not one but TWO gigs on the South Bank in June – one in the RFH foyer on June 2nd, and one in the National Theatre on June 14th.

So, as soon as Orphy confirms the dates we’ve been talking about, my gig calendar will be looking much more healthy!

And then there’s today – Cleveland Watkiss is coming round in about an hour to demo some material for a project together – we played together about a month ago, and it sounded marvellous, so now we’re going to get some stuff recorded and start touting around for some gigs. So I could be on the road for much of the summer!

Oh, and I’ve also been listening to the latest batch of mixes/remixes of the Calamateur vs Steve Lawson project, which is sounding very good indeed. Could be that after years and years of doing nothing with singers, I’ll be releasing stuff with two of them in a year. Ah, the madness of being a musician.

It’s all very exciting!

SoundtrackSophia, ‘People Are Like Seasons – new album from bloke out of The God Machine (fab early 90s indie band) – shades of everything from Lloyd Cole to The House Of Love via Smashing Pumpkins and something more mellow and miserable – the first Coldplay album without the poppy sheen maybe? Anyway, it’s very nice.

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mini-tour report.

May 18th, 2004 · Comments Off on mini-tour report.

Dropped Muriel Anderson off at Stansted airport this afternoon, after three gigs with her over the weekend, and three very fine gigs they were.

First up was Lauderdale House in Highgate, part of the acousticmasters.com summer concert series – it was especially nice to catch up with Mo Foster who dropped in to say hi before the gig, and to meet Terry and Hugh who organised the concert series. Performers on the small club venue level rely on a select group of dedicated, generous magic people who put lots of effort into making great music available to concert goers, and Hugh and Terry fit that category. Hugh’s a marvellous guitarist in his own right, and you can catch his at one of the future concerts at Lauderdale… Anyway, the gig went well to a ‘select’ audience, who were very generous in their CD and DVD buying :o)

Saturday was a day off, and a chance for Muriel to see a bit of London (after I dragged her down to Brick Lane for Sarda‘s leaving curry) – the small person and I took Muriel to see Trafalgar Square, Downing Street , The Houses of Parliment Big Ben, Westminster Abbey etc. before walking back along the south bank of the Thames for coffee in the National Theatre…

Sunday was the second of our gigs, this one was at the Ship Theatre, Sevenoaks in Kent, and was part of the Sevenoaks guitar festival, organised by another one of these marvellous promoter people, John Levett. The Ship is a gorgeous theatre, part of a private school, with tremendous acoustics and a lovely listening audience. Muriel and I got to do more duet stuff, experiment with a few improv things as well as playing on eachother’s tunes, and much fun was had by all!

And finally, Monday was back at Traders in Petersfield, promoted once again by the truly marvellous Stiff Promotions – if only every small town in the UK had its own Iain Martin, I’d be touring constantly. Thanks to Iain and Jeff who owns the venue, Traders has a fantastic program of live music, this being my third visit there this year, having played solo and with Michael Manring. As with both my previous Traders gigs, this one was sold out, and Muriel and I did even more duet stuff and improv, definitely boding well for future collaborative stuff.

So a marvellous three gigs. My new mixing desk arrived on Friday morning, so this gave me a chance to try it out, and my setup of Accugroove 110 cabs, QSC poweramp and Mackie Desk worked beautifully for Muriel’s guitar. I’ve never played through another bass rig that could reproduce the sound of an acoustic guitar as faithfully as this!! Amazing stuff.

On the bad news front, Muriel and I found out just before we started the tour that our mutual friend, Eric Roche has just been diagnosed with cancer of the saliva gland. Eric is an oustanding fingerstyle acoustic guitarist, teacher and music journalist, so our careers have followed similar paths in lots of ways, Muriel and I visited Eric today, and he’s doing really well – he’s an amazing guy (his marvellous music makes even more sense when you meet him). Please pray for him, if that’s something you do. And to aid you in your prayers, you should get his latest CD, ‘With These Hands’ – I’m listening to it at the moment and it’s beautiful. He’s playing in Brighton tomorrow night, and has a few other gigs around before he goes for surgery in a couple of weeks time, so catch him live or get the CD, or both. His new CD can be bought here from Amazon (sorry, couldn’t find a small shop that had it listed…) and his site has details of his other CDs. Go get ’em.

Soundtrack – right now, Eric Roche, ‘With These Hands’. earlier on, Denison Witmer, ‘Philadelphia Songs’ (he’s playing in London this week, hoping to catch him at the Windmill in Brixton on Sunday); Nick Harper, ‘Double Life’; Tom Waits and Crystal Gayle, ‘One From The Heart’; Ralph Towner/Gary Peacock, ‘A Closer View’; Joni Mitchell, ‘Travelogue’; James Taylor, ‘October Road’.

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home, home on the range

February 3rd, 2004 · Comments Off on home, home on the range

I’m back, after three weeks of fun gigs, fun people, fun travelling, cd sales, namm schmoozing, masterclass teaching, phone dying, car renting, album recording, world domination scheming, cattle rustling etc. and now I’m exhausted. But can’t really collapse until tomorrow cos I’ve got a gig tonight at the National Theatre in London, with the wonderful Theo Travis – after that, I’m sleeping for 36 hours.

After that, and only after that, I’ll start telling some california tales.

Thanks very much to everyone who came to the gigs and bought the CDs – please feel free to post reviews in the ‘interact’ section of the website…

Soundtrack – nothing.

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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!

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Gigs seen, gigs played

June 19th, 2003 · Comments Off on Gigs seen, gigs played

long time no blog, appologies.

Anyway, last week I went to two gigs. First one was a guy called Michael W. Smith. Second one was Kelly Joe Phelps. The comparison was quite incredible. WH Smiths was playing at Hammersmith Apollo (cap. – 3,500), KJP was at The Stables (cap. – 350). The WH Smiths gig I went to cos his bassist is a friend of mine, and very nice bloke. The gig itself was pretty excruciating – it’s always hugely frustrating to see great musicians stifled by a really really bland act. It was clear that the guys on stage were very fine players, but the overall vibe was blandola. Safe in the extreme, sort of Richard Clayderman meets half-assed Riverdance. The chat between songs was cornball par excellence – Forrest Gump with a guitar. Clearly I was in the minority here as the largely frhu audience were well up for Smith’s crass between song chat and attempts at brit-relavence (favourite moment – at the end of one song, he starts reciting the words to ‘God Save Our Gracious Queen’, before waving a huge Union Jack and playing.. wait for it… ‘Pride’ by U2 – a band from Dublin. Which is in the Republic of Ireland. Oh shit, big mistake. Which WH was clearly oblivious to..)

Anyway, it was very nice to meet up with Anothony, a great bassist, and very nice guy. Next, I’ll just body swerve the gig, and spend more time chatting…

Onto Kelly Joe Phelps. so far from WH Smiths that it’s not true. The support act was Brian Houston, a fantastic dylan-esque singer/songwriter from Belfast that I’ve seen play lots recently. He’s brilliant. nuff said. KJP’s band was Scott Amendola on drums (last seen by me playing with Sex Mob in San Jose in July 2001) and Keith Lowe on upright bass. From the off, the gig was amazing – the communication between then was brilliant, the songs were really open to loads of improv, they were making eye contact, having a great time playing fresh, creative, free-wheelin’ music. It was fun, exciting, new, engaging, dangerous, moving wonderfulness. Everything that George Michael Dubya Smith wasn’t. I could watch that every night. Got the latest album, which is great. again. All three of his CDs that I’ve got are great. ‘Shiny Eyed Mister Zen’ is in my all time top 20. Get it.

What else? ah yes, recording session – hip-hop R ‘n’ B track with the guys from Commonwealth (I played on a remix of one of their singles last year) – there was already a synthbass part on the track, which was well played and written anyway, so a lot of it was about recreating that with a more live feel, then adding some fills and a slap line. It took a while to get the feel they were after, but it was worth it. I’m sure the final track will be very fine indeed. It’s a good song. I’ll let you know when it’s out.

The weekend was spent in Lincoln – Rick’s stag do – went out in Nottingham for a fun night out. Always nice to catch up with chums from Lincoln.

Oh, almost forgot – gig on Friday, with Lovesjones. A bit of a left-field one this, as I was covering for the keyboard player, and the stage was TINY so I could only use my processor and one bass for the whole set, but it went well. A few of the tunes were ones I’d not been sent, but playing keyboardy stuff is a piece of piss – it just involves waffling around in the key, you don’t have to be there on the downbeat, and you don’t even have to get the right root note! Bass is a far more satisfying role to play… Anyway, it was loads of fun, was was followed by a solo set, which also went well….

To this week… Monday was a teaching day, then the small person and I watched the 2nd Harry Potter film, which is fantastic, even better than the first (which I really enjoyed as well…) Tuesday Andrew arrived – not seen him for ages, great to catch up.

Gig with Theo Travis at the National Theatre went very well. Nice big crowd, we played very well except one bizarre moment when Edwina Curry walked past and we both fell about laughing… not easy to play flute whilst laughing. Anyway, good gig, boding v. well for future theo ‘n’ steve gigs.

After that, dropped stuff at home and headed off to The Klinker to see Rick Walker and Matthias Grob play. We got there half way through the set, which sounded really good. The Klinker’s a very strange club, but a great place for experimenting. V. much looking forward to tonight’s gig there with Rick Walker. Didn’t stay long at The Klinker as I was knackered.

Wedneday was a do-nothing much day (though I did buy a new Bonsai, so we’ll see how long I can keep this one alive for!)

and now today – gig tonight at the Klinker. See you there!

SoundtrackBruce Cockburn, ‘You’ve Never Seen Everything’; Public Enemy, ‘It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back’; The Smiths, ‘Louder Than Bombs’; THe Bears, ‘Live’; Coldplay, ‘Parachutes’; Kelly Joe Phelps, ‘Slingshot Professionals’; Medeski Martin and Wood, ‘The Dropper’; Bruce Cockburn, ‘Humans’; Chagall Guevara, ‘Chagall Guevara’.

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Let's go round again…

June 9th, 2003 · Comments Off on Let's go round again…

busy weekend. Have spent a fair amount of time in the last few days recording with Matthias Grob – Matthias is the inventor of the Echoplex, and a stunning guitarist (he built his own guitar as well, natch) and we’ve been coming up with all manner of delicious improv, ranging from ambient soundscape stuff to more funky things through to some scary out noises. All rather marvellous and invigorating. As with all this recent duet activity, I’m hoping to have some up online before too long – now that Sarda is back from the states, maybe he’ll get this server of his happening, and I’ll be able to move my site away from zetnet for eva…

Anyway, I digress – Matthias and I have been looping and chatting for a couple of days – talking lots of what we do, why we do it and how to get it across to people… All very stimulating stuff.

What else? ah yes, saturday there was a party for the 30th anniversary of the Greenbelt festival – a fun event, held at Lambeth Palace (the official residence of the AB of C – a nice gaff, which makes up for the rather crappy salary that goes with the job, as interestingly enough, all Church Of England Clergy are on the same wage, whether parish priest or Archbishop…) Anyway, was a fun time to catch up with lots of GB related chums that I’d not seen for a while.

This week is going to be BUSY – first up, I’ve got a recording sesh on Thursday )(more on that later, no doubt), then Friday night I’ve got a rather fun gig, filling in for the keyboard player in Lovesjones. ‘What, you don’t play keys!” – indeed I don’t, but I do make odd noises with a bass, so will be covering the keyboardish role on bass… then doing a solo set.. at Jazz After Dark in Soho… on Friday night.

Also got to relearn some of the improvs that Theo and I have done over the last couple of months for our gig next Tuesday at the National Theatre. So busy week of learning stuff. Still editing the tracks with theo. And the news stuff with Matthias. And hopefully hooking up again with BJ Cole. And listening through the tracks with Patrick Wood. Blimey, how much recording have I been doing lately???? loads, I tell yer!

What else is new? Oh, The CD shop at Bass Guitar Magazine’s website has started stocking my CDs, which is nice of them.

And a track from Not Dancing (Amo Amatis Amare) is on the cover disc that comes with Bassics Magazine – oh, have I mentioned that already? well, here’s the confirmation that it is indeed Amo Amatis…

Soundtrack – been listening to loads of the duo stuff with Matthias, obviously, and the tracks with Theo, and Matthias’s CD, which is great (out on Pillow Mountain Records v. soon) other than that, Kenny Wheeler’s album ‘Angel Song’ has been going round a lot in the kitchen, and today I’ve been listening to Coltrane’s ‘Complete Africa Brass Sessions’ which is incredible – I put it on to play during Mark’s lesson this morning, and it’s been in the player ever since…

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quick misc. update

May 28th, 2003 · Comments Off on quick misc. update

Er, what since last week?

Saturday was Gawain the DJ’s wedding – very nice bloke, very nice wedding. bit of a 50s theme. Even more heartening is that he’s even taller than me, and his now-wife is even smaller than the small person. Good to know we’re not the most mismatched people on the planet!

Sunday went to see Masse play at The Foundry in London’s East End. The venue has a very varied and interesting program of stuff on, but is a bit of a dump… Anyway, Masse – bass and drums duo, both looping, processing, improvising, very good stuff indeed. bass-man jeremy was on top form – lots of Echoplexing, and a great tone from a rather special homemade bass cab. If you get a chance to see them play, jump at it.

Monday was more recording with Theo Travis – the best thing about playing with Theo is that we’re never quite sure what it’s all going to end up sounding like. We re-did one of the ideas from a very early session (when we were recording in mono), and it came out sounding completely different anyway… very nice. We’ve now got about an hour and a half of quality stuff towards the album. We’ll keep going until there’s no filler material at all, though it’s feeling pretty consistent already… We’ve got a gig booked, at the National Theatre in London on June 17th, which you really ought to be at!

Monday night was Jude’s leaving do – leaving do? she’s only going to the US For a few months. But anyway, it was a fun time, catching up with Sarda and The Cheat.

And yesterday was spent teaching and editing the stuff that Theo and I recorded.

That’s all really dull – what else is happening? well, Donald Rumsfeld has finally admitted that they are unlikely to find any WMDs in Iraq – no shit sherlock! Isn’t that what Scott Ritter and Hans Blix said months ago, before you bombed their world to pieces????? Clearly this was realised even before they went to war (why else was the notion of ‘freeing the people of iraq’ only brought in as on of the aims just before christmas when getting rid of WMDs had been the expressed sole intention for the year or so before that???) Anyway, seems that the illegal invasion will soon be recognised for what it was – Blair will spin the whole thing, talk about moral responsibility and all his usual BS. Sincere perhaps but sincerely wrong, sorry Tony. Meanwhile, iraqi kids are stepping on undetonated cluster bombs (possibly containing depleted uranium), and the cleanup is going rather slow. Add to that the Brukheimer-esque makeover given to the ‘rescue’ of Jessica thingie, and you’ve got yourself one seriously morally dubious world situation… Now, who was it who veto’d the instigation of an international criminal court again?

Soundtrack – lots of me and theo, obviously. Right now, I’m listening to Medeski Martin and Wood, ‘The Dropper’ – had heard them before and liked what I heard, but BJ Cole recommended this as the one to get. And very fine it is too… What else? Michael Manring, ‘Book Of Flame’ and Morphine, ‘B-Sides and Otherwise’.

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Strongbad the good

May 16th, 2003 · Comments Off on Strongbad the good

Ok, if you’re on broadband (and perhaps even if you’re not, I’ve not tried it on dial-up), get thee to www.homestarrunner.com – some very bizarre and surreal cartoons, but totally addictive, especially strongbad’s emails – one of the characters answers emails from the public… Truly brilliant.

What else? Had another gig last night with Tess Garraway and Joss Peach in Brighton, which was fun. Due to a misunderstanding with the venue, it was a shorter gig that had been planned, but was much fun nontheless, especially as I had a line from Tess’ voice into my loop set up, so could layer up loads of vocal stuff…

Yesterday I received a copy of Andrew Buckton’s new album, Rocket Ship, which is marvellous. It was recorded at the tail-end of last year, with me on bass, jez carr on piano and buck on guitar and voice. Tom Hooper then added some drums and percussion. There’s a fair bit of E-bow and looping from me, providing lots of atmospherics, including one tune where I do loads of looping and SFX, while Jez plays the actual bass line (as has been noted before, Jez is not only a mighty fine pianist, but a stellar bassist too…) The album is fantastic. Really great songs, very personal moving lyrics, and I don’t sound bad on it either… 😉

Hopefully it’ll be available online somewhere before too long.

What else has been happening? Ah yes, yesterday before the gig with Tess, I was recording more stuff with Patrick Wood – if you have a look at the MP3s page, you see there’s a duet track with Patrick. He’s very good, very very good, and we get together every few weeks to make a good noise. More mad loopy stuff, as you’d expect. Will no doubt be releasing a duo album with Patrick at some point. Still editing the stuff I’ve recorded with Theo… there really ought to be lots of this stuff online, but at the moment, I maxxed out on my webspace, so really need to change servers before I get to add any more. Was all set to move to a new host when sarda said he was planning to get a server. So now I’m waiting for that…

Anyway, when it finally happens, you’ll get to hear lots of what I’ve been up to.

Oh, and on the subject of me and Theo, we’ve got a gig at the National Theatre in London on Tuesday 17th from 6-7.30pm. And then on the same day at 9pm, Rick Walker – the percussions that I play with in California – has got a solo gig at The Klinker, so it’s a fine evening for music – well worth coming to see us, grabbing some food, and heading over to Rick’s gigs. I’ll be at both, anyway!

Er, what else? ah yes, Matthias Grob came to stay. Who’s Matthias? He’s the inventor the Echoplex, that rather amazing looping tool that I’ve got four of. And a great musician in his own right. And an all round top bloke. We’d arranged to meet for lunch with a friend of his up town, but he was late, so I had a very nice lunch with Jenny at the ICA, and then Matthias turned up at my place a bit later on. We went for curry. and he gave me a copy of his brand new CD, which is coming out on my label! Yup, Matthias is the first non-me Pillow Mountain Records release. How does that work? for someone who doesn’t like record companies… well, he’s using the name. Doing all the leg-work himself, but using the Pillow Mountain name out of recognition for the fact that our music bears a similar meditative quality I guess. The looping connection, and just that he’s a top bloke. I’m sure people who like what I do will like what he does. So he’s on PMR. It’ll all be official soon, and on the website etc…

Soundtrack – right now, it’s Andrew Buckton’s album ‘Rocket Ship’ (see above) which has been on all day. It’s great. you need to get it when it’s available. Yesterday I was listening to the new album from Andy Sheppard and John Parricelli, ‘PS’, which is great – guitar and sax duets, some looping/processing from John. All good. Recommended.

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