I’ve got loads of End of year/start of a new decade type blogging to do over the next week, but for now, here’s the Lawson/Dodds/Wood album, freshly uploaded to Bandcamp.com, for download sale, pay-what-you-like.
If you weren’t around here when it came out, feel free to watch the documentary on the making of the album that’s on Youtube – I’ll embed part 1 below, then click through the links. (the sound on the first one’s a bit rough, but it gets much better as they go on!)
A – an immediate digital download of the album – encoded at 256kbps (VBR*), beautifully and lovingly mixed, mastered and sounding amazing. PLUS an extra 45 minutes (give or take 2) of extra material: There are 3 of the raw improv tracks that Roy, Patrick and I recorded in the studio, exactly as we recorded them before they got mixed and mastered, and one completely exclusive track from the improv sessions, that’s not on the album (I’ll talk about that in a video later on today).
AND, of course, you get the CD, including world-wide postage, which will be sent out on or before November 24th 2008. It’ll be in the usual Pillow Mountain Records deluxe gatefold all-cardboard packaging, designed by the genius that is Kenny Laurenson
Q – and how much will all this cost me
A – £12.00 (as I said, including postage)
Right, so why should you order it now? Well, obviously, it’s not available anywhere else yet, so if you’re dying to hear it, this is the only place you’ll be able to get it for now – it won’t be up on iTunes/eMusic/whichever other digital store you usually use for months. Srsly. And the extras aren’t available anywhere. And won’t be for a very long time. Certainly not for ‘free’.
But more than that, it’s about future investment. If you order it now, we can cover the cost of pressing the CDs before we even put the record out. No debts, no loans, just sending the music to the people who want to hear it without any record companies or distribution companies getting in the way. We get to make the music we love, you get to hear the music we make, and no-one has to go without food to make it happen.
Think of it as arts patronage if you like, only you’re not giving ‘a donation’, you’re just buying direct from the artist to make your arts-money go further.
We’re also happy to sign any advance order CDs that you want signing, so feel free to indicate that in with your order (once the CDs out, it’ll be much harder for us to make sure we’re in a position to do that, given that we don’t live in some Monkees-esque fun-palace of gorgeous improv. We do lead normal lives… so consider it another added bonus)
Thanks so much! We’re REALLY excited about the album, as it seems is pretty much everyone who’s heard it.
And don’t forget that I will be carrying a digital copy with me, so should you have any kind of laptop or whatever with you, I can drag a copy onto your computer if you want to buy it there and then, and I’ll take your address and send you the CD when it comes out, same as if you ordered it online.
Here’s my favourite of the little Lawson/Dodds/Wood videos so far. After doing the 18 minute long group chat that the last four vids were culled from, I did two 7-8 minute interviews, one each with Patrick and Roy, about what they did specifically on the project.
With a project as well defined as this, it seems really important to set the scene as to where the music came from, what limitations we put on ourselves, how we managed to do edits and overdubs while sticking as close as we could to the improvised basis of the project. Patrick describes his (major) part in that really well here -
If you’re enjoying the youtube vids, please feel free to comment on them, rate them, and hit the ‘share’ button to send them to your friends on Facebook or to ‘stumble’ them etc. It all helps us a lot!
The download release/CD preorder for the Lawson/Dodds/Wood album ‘Numbers’ is only a day or so away from happening, so last Thursday the three of us got together to record some videos – (gawd bless the Nokia N95!) – talking about the making of the album.
The first of them was an 18 minute chat about the album, which I’ll put up in its entirety on Vimeo at some point, but here’s the first chunk of it on youtube, which is largely me talking about the genesis of the project…
OK, this is VERY last minute news of a gig tomorrow night at Darbucka!
It’ll feature Lobelia and I playing our duo stuff (see Youtube for more on that!), my new trio with Patrick Wood and Roy Dodds (see Reverb Nation to listen to a track from our forthcoming album!), and will also feature Yolanda Charles and Miles Bould (oh yes, unbridled funkiness from two of the most amazing musicians I know) and Lloyd Davis (one man and a ukulele – he’s fab!)
It’s a celebration, which you’ll know all about if you’ve been following Twitter over the weekend, and we’d love for you to be there – So much so that it’s only £3 for you to get in if you say you read about it on the blog when you ge there… Normal tickets are £6.
So bring your friends and come on down. The gig is at Darbucka, on St John’s Street in Clerkenwell, doors are at 7, music starts around 8 and it’s wise to plan to eat there as the food is amazing, either in the restaurant upstairs, or downstairs in the venue. It’s all marvellous.
“SL – Michael, when you started playing solo bass, there was very little repetoir, and certainly very few precedents for people making a career out of it, or doing whole live gigs like that – who inspired you and what were the pivotal events in your coming to a position where playing solo was a viable option? Can you remember your first ever completely solo gig?
MM -In the beginning my primary inspiration for wanting to play solo bass gigs was just that I loved the sound of the instrument and I thought it really should be heard in an unadorned format where all of its subtle colors could be appreciated. In terms of context, I drew a lot of inspiration from the steel string guitarists who were out there doing solo shows. It was also exciting to hear how solo artists in the jazz realm like Joe Pass or Bill Evans, could instantly take their music anyplace they wanted to – changing tempo, arrangement or dynamics on the fly. Working with Michael Hedges was at tremendous inspiration for me because his whole solo concept was so clear and focused. His solo performance was totally engaging on many levels and experiencing that strengthened my resolve to work with the possibilities of bass as a solo instrument in spite of the opposition that so many folks seemed to have to the idea. I had no idea if anyone would ever want to listen to what I was trying to come up with, but I just felt an overwhelming need to try.
A lot of my pivotal experiences came from composing new pieces or coming up with new concepts. Many of my early pieces were both too hard to play and not terribly appealing to listen to, so it took a while for me to gather enough repertoire to feel like I could give a convincing solo performance. I felt I had to come up with something that was simultaneously interesting and entertaining in order to be viable and to keep from boring everyone to tears. With the prejudice that seemed to exist against the idea of solo bass I figured it really had to be good to work! I’m still trying to find ways to make solo bass more intriguing to an audience.
Throughout the early eighties I had been doing a lot of shows where I would play one or a few solo pieces as part of a larger program, but my first real solo show was in California sometime around 1985. I was just finishing up my first solo record and I remember playing the title track, “Unusual Weather,” “Longhair Mobile” and “Thunder Tactics.” At that time I was living in New York, but I was so impressed with how open and apparently unfazed Californians seemed to be to the whole idea of solo bass that I decided to move here!
Now one for you: I’m fascinated by being alive in this time when we have access to technology that we can use to expand the scope of what’s possible in music. There are pitfalls of course, and I enjoy trying to maintain a balance of sort of high- and low-tech approaches. You have integrated technology into your concept in such an effective way. I’m wondering what your thoughts are on this. What are the positives and negatives? Do you have a philosophy or directive you use to decide how to use a particular tool?
SL – That’s a fantastic question! I too am really excited by the possibilities, but am at times overawed by the scope of the technology, both to be an amazing tool, but also to mask the creative process by constricting things. This is particularly true with looping, as the parameters are, on the surface, very clearly defined. So with every new bit of equipment, I allow myself plenty of time to get to know it before subject an audience to it – working with it for hours, and thinking about what’s possible with it, and also just improvising and seeing how it responds to a random element. Nearly all of my best ideas have been mistakes, or at least the product of random events! So my philosophy is to explore the parameters… actually I use a permutation approach that I was messing around with before but which was solidified by watching your video! I took what you were doing with notes on the neck and applied it to the JamMan, exploring all the functions in different combinations. I’ve recently got a Gibson Echoplex Digital Pro, which is an unbelievable bit of technology. I’m taking my time to work through all the functions, seeing how they widen my technical options when performing solo, then seeing if they open up new arrangement possibilities for tunes that I’ve been playing for some time. I’m certainly discovering how I can take ‘cell’ musical ideas – fragments of melody or chord sequences – and allow the possibilities of the technology to inform where it goes next. I’m currently using 4 unsync’d loop boxes – the Gibson EDP, Lexicon JamMan, Line 6 DL4 and Lexicon MPX-G2, which gives me loads of possibilities for shifting soundscapes, and the option of recording lines early on in a piece and then triggering them at various times. So is that a well formulated philosophy? I’m not sure!
MM – I really liked what you said about how you sort of “encounter” a new device. Isn’t it fascinating how, at some point certain tools go from being “toys” to being “instruments.” The only real difference is in the intention of the user, I think. There’s a tendency to think of an instrument as being something necessarily complex and/or subtle, but just the other day I was playing with a bansuri player and I was surprised to see what a very simple instrument it is — just a basic wooden tube with a few strategically placed holes. I’ve always been very moved by the sound of the bansuri and in the hands of someone like Hariprasad Chaurasia it seems infinitely deep. It’s an intriguing thought that almost anything can be an instrument of expression as long as the user has the creativity and imagination to bring it to life. For some folks, electronic effects might just be gimmicks, but you use them to expand the scope of your expressive palette.
SL – On a similar theme, how did your relationship with Joe Zon of Zon Guitars develop and how did the new technical advances of The Hyperbass change the way you write and perform?
MM – In answer to your question, The Hyperbass was an interesting project in that my concept for what I wanted to do with it was pretty well formed before the instrument was constructed. Normally, like you, I usually take a somewhat reactive approach to a new piece of gear — check it out and see what it can do and then start to form a concept around that. In the case of The Hyperbass though, I had been goofing around with things like changing tunings (by turning tuning keys) while I was playing for a while and I wanted to find someone who was interested in building an instrument that would help facilitate that. Turning the keys is fine and all, but it just seemed like there were better, more complete ways to accomplish the task. Everybody who I talked to pretty much thought I was crazy except Joe. In fact, he had a few crazy ideas of his own to toss into the mix! By the time The Hyperbass was finished, I knew just what I wanted to do with it and the first couple of compositions came together very quickly. More recently though, I’ve been having fun finding ways to play it that I never thought would work. Slapping, for instance – I never thought it would even be possible to slap on it because the fingerboard is so long, but I find I’ve been developing a kind of percussive technique based on slap that has really been capturing my imagination lately. I guess it’s that limitations and quirks thing again — I can’t do the typical kind of slapping on The Hyperbass, so that has led me into trying to develop a different kind of style based on slap, but with its own idiosyncrasies. Joe and I have many other design ideas we’re anxious to explore, but sadly it’s hard to find the time and money for it as not that many folks are interested in that type of thing. However, I’m a long, long way from having tapped out the possibilities of The Hyperbass. I’m learning more about it, and more from it everyday.
It’s so interesting too, how sometimes it’s limitations that set us free. There’s that old saying, “limitation is the basis of style” and I think there’s truth to that. Sometimes it’s the quirks of a piece of gear that really give it a defining character. I wonder how you conceive of the boundaries of your instrument. It seems to me that you have incorporated the electronics seamlessly and integrally into the identity of the instrument. Is that true or do you think of the instrument ending at the output jack and everything else as accoutrement? How about the amp and speakers? Cables, even?!
SL – In that respect, I began to think about and conceptualize what I do in a different way after you mentioned that you see bass as being a fusion of acoustic and electric – that the sound is as acoustic in origin as any amplified acoustic instrument. It’s just the degree to which you choose to mess with it – volume is a parameter to be altered just like any other. It’s true that my approach to what I play and how is greatly affected by the gear that I’m using – I’m kind of in awe of guys like yourself who can just sit down and play beautiful music without the need for extra processing – I guess once I got into the processing thing, it sort of attached itself to my whole music making ethos. I still occasionally sit down and try to write completely solo pieces, but I think in layers and textures as much as I do harmony and melody. Sound is my fundamental element in music, not the usual trinity of melody, harmony and rhythm – what I do with that sound is in service of it, rather than the other way round. So in that respect, the electronics the amp, and yes, even the cables have an influence!
MM – Another question for you: I know you have an interesting balance of improvisation and pre-composition in your music. How important is improv in what you do and what different approaches to it do you take? Are there any pieces that you play verbatim?
SL – The balance varies from day to day and gig to gig – improv is vital to that process of allowing randomness into it, and honing my own ability to react and respond to chance events in the music. So even with pieces that are composed, I still tend to flip part of it back to front at some point, or pick a sound I’ve not added in there before, just to go somewhere else with it.
‘The Inner Game’, from my first CD is about as composed as it gets, in that it has an initial loop, opening melody, and a couple of other additions to the loop that are always the same, and then the rest of it is like a jazz tune – soloing over the form. From there, there’s a pretty smooth continuum (cool title for a tune, perhaps? :o) all the way to ‘hit it and see what happens’ at the completely random end, where I not only randomize the pitch and rhythm, but also the techniques, experimenting with whatever idea comes to mind and trying to make it work. I’m also in the middle of an obsession with duo improv at the moment, as I love the conversational aspect, and the give and take, response, direction and comedy of the whole thing – that’s totally the thinking behind the new CD with Jez Carr… I’m planning a whole series of them, recontextualising what I do, in conversation with various improvisers. You seem to work with both extremes – strict composition and free improv, and from listening to your improv projects, you also take ideas that emmerge in improv and develop them into tunes. Do you view improv as a compositional tool or a separate event? How much continuing development goes into the heavily composed tunes? The Enormous Room seems to have space (haha!) for you to react in the moment, and reorder some bits of it, no?
MM – I really like how you are working on expanding the parameters of music. I always feel lucky to be working in music at this time when we have so much control over timbre. It really used to be a subordinate quality after melody, harmony and rhythm, but it’s almost like we get to discover a new world and make new rules (or choose not to make rules!). What a great idea to approach it from the angle of layers, too. Now that you mention it, I really see how your music is structured that way. Of course, you have the timbral imagination and palette to make it work. And all of it originating from what most folks would consider a highly unlikely instrument – because I think most “civilians” see bass as very monochromatic. That’s when art is really fun — when it surprises you, opens up your sense of what’s possible, fires your imagination and delights you all at once. It’s fun to experiment with improvisation, too. For so long in the West, improv has meant jazz blowing over chord changes, but there are so many other options. Timbral improv is a really intriguing idea! I went through a phase when I wanted to avoid improv in my solo concept because I felt like it was kind of a competitive thing. I just have a need to be contrary sometimes, and although I grew up in the jazz tradition I wanted to just go out and play my tunes to allow me to focus all my attention on phrasing, dynamics, articulation, tone, intonation, etc. Sometimes even great improvisers skimp on those areas because the intellectual demands of improv are so great. But these days, like you, I’m really enjoying doing a lot of improv and looking for different improvisation concepts. In playing solo, the improv possibilities are so vast — all the interpretive things I mentioned before, but also tempo, form, etc. before you even get into thinking about playing different notes! And of course, your timbral improv idea is a whole other realm. I also vary the improv in my solo shows like you do. I have some tunes like “Adhan,” which are just sort of general sets of tendencies and parameters for improv while others are pretty much through composed. I always look for what kind of improvisation a piece seems to want to entertain. For a long time I’ve felt that there were some interesting improv possibilities in “The Enormous Room,” and once in a while I find some, but I’m still searching for the methodology for that one. I just listen as deeply as I can to see if I can hear what a piece tells me it wants to do. I agree the duo thing is strong, too, especially in an improv context. It’s interesting how the smallest numbers sometimes seem to have the most significance. There doesn’t seem to be much difference between 14,758 and 14,759 for instance, but the difference between 1 and 2 is huge. Compared to other numbers they are so strange that they’d seem almost surreal if they weren’t so common. (Sorry for the tangent!) In any case, I really look forward to hearing your other interactive projects. Will you keep the same basic premise or do you think you will alter the concept when you have other personalities to interact with?
SL – That numbers idea is a good one – on that theme, I often find that the strangest of thoughts and ideas can influence the way I think about, approach and therefor play music – a single word, such as ‘permutation’ can lead me down a whole other path in a way that affects me far more than messing around with a new scale or whatever would.
For the duo stuff, I guess it will depend on who I’m playing with, and what the sum of their musical journey brings to the project. Maybe it’s because I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what I do, but I can be quite forceful in a musical setting like that, which is one of the reasons why on ‘Conversations’, I only used the Line 6 DL4 for all the looping – otherwise, I’d be in danger of drowning out the piano, or just not listening in quite the same intense way as I was able to with the music more open texture that we developed. I have a duo with a a keyboardist/guitarist called Patrick Wood, and what we do it much more heavily layered – I’m using my whole solo set up, and he’s playing keys and guitar, sometimes at the same time! I’m also about to start work with a vibraphonist, which brings it’s own set of unique creative limitations to a project, that will hopefully inspire some new music in me.
MM – On that general train of thought, I’d love to hear your ideas about the concept of “experimental” music. As far as I know, no one has really quite done what you are doing, so you are in a new artistic place. Do you think of it as “experimental” or do you find the term inappropriate? Or is it just a matter of semantics that has nothing to do with actual music making?
SL – I think semantics have everything to do with music, so your perception of the labels that are put on you really impacts the music. ‘Experimental’ is a term with a heck of a lot of baggage. It’s a label I’ve used for my stuff a few times just for ease of use, but there seems to be within in a connotation of it being unmelodic or ‘hard work’, which anyone listening to my first album would be hard pushed to find – a lot of what I’ve done up until now has been conceptually experimental, but harmonically a bit more ‘inside’.
When it comes to labeling or describing what I do, I find that really well written reviews can give me a new insight into my own music! I had one recently from a guitarist/writer in LA who seemed to understand what I was doing and where I was going almost more than I did, and it allowed me to think about what I did in a freer way.
I do think we need some new labels for what’s happening now – the labels that related to jazz and to electronica in the 60s and 70s don’t work for much of what’s happening now – I’m certainly not playing ‘free jazz’ or ‘fusion’ – I think something like ‘open adventurous improv’ would work for me – it carries no history, is very open ended stylistically, but contains a description of the intent of the musicians – to improvise something new, which does ‘need’ to be really weird – or what a violinist I knew described as ‘squeaky gate music’ – but can easily switch from nice harmony to full on noise if that’s where the musicians take it. Again, the duo format allows for a sense of dialogue that isn’t really available anywhere else. I think we did a great job of keeping things conversational and open on the tour with Rick Walker last year, but part of the creative buzz for me was the increased tension of three people all exerting an influence – it became more of a ‘debate’ than a conversation, and that threw out some fascinating music.
It’s a shame that there’s so little conceptualizing that goes on in music – I certainly wouldn’t be playing what I play if my ‘game plan’ were different. So many people just jump in and play without ever thinking why… I can feel this heading towards a question or two about music education, but maybe we’ll leave that for a future issue!”
Sunday’s gig with Patrick Wood and Roy Dodds went very well – thanks to those of you who came along. The venue, The Brickhouse on Brick Lane in East London, was suitably strange – on three levels (ground floor and two balconies, the top one had beds on it!) and amazing food, and we had to get them to move the stage away so we’d have room to set up all our toys.
For those of you just catching up, the Dodds/Lawson/Wood trio is a project spawned by my Recycle Collective venture – when it’s running, it’s a monthly music night, featuring amazing improvising musicians spontaneously composing in different combinations. Quite a few of the combinations I assembled for it are planned to become ‘bands’ of one sort or another, but many of the musicians involved are so busy that it’ll be years before it happens.
However, the trio with Roy and Patrick is one that was so good we’ve all made it our priority. I’ve been playing with Patrick for years (he played at the first ever ‘proto-recycle’ improv gig at Greenbelt in 2005), and have been listening to Roy play with other people for just as long, particularly in Theo Travis’ band.
We did a Recycle gig at Darbucka in October last year, and then went into the studio in early December to record in the same way – just set up and start playing. Since then we’ve been mixing and editing the improvs (which has been interesting for me, as I usually don’t edit) and have come up with a record that we’re all really proud of (more news on that ASAP).
So Sunday was only the third time we’ve all played together, but the musical chemistry is amazing.
And that, for me, is what improv is all about – the ‘composition’ part is just choosing the right players. At its best it’s about getting musicians together who respect each other so much that they never feel like going with someone else’s idea is a bad thing. Musician who listen more than they shred, whose default position is deferential. It means that the music tends to evolve slowly as each new ingredient is added and the the others react to it.
So I may start with a groove, or some spacey ambience, or patrick may lay out some kind of harmonic territory on guitar or keys, and then the others react to it and the initial idea is modified, developed, morphed into a whole that is far greater than the sum of its parts.
Every time I sit down at the start of an all improv gig I wonder if we’ll have run out of ideas, if we’ll get 20 mins into the gig and just start playing a 12-bar blues or something.
One of the things on Sunday that triggered these thoughts was when the DJ who was hosting the day said he’d play a few more record and then we could ‘get up and jam’ – I was really taken aback, as I’ve never thought of this as ‘jamming’ at all.. it’s a whole other headspace to the ‘lowest common denominator’ approach that defines most ‘jamming’. It’s spontaneous composition, acknowledging that each of us as an acutely refined sense of what’s ‘good’ even when nothing is laid down to define what’s ‘right’. It’s not about finding some simple changes we can stumble through to make ourselves feel better, it’s about exploring our shared music worlds to find music that otherwise wouldn’t exisit, about listening, reacting and trying to add to what the others are bringing. This is 300% music – it’s 100% Patrick, 100% Roy and 100% me. I don’t think I’ve ever felt, playing with these guys, that my own musical vision is in anyway compromised or stunted, but I frequently feel my own playing elevated by the genius, sensitivity and creativity of the other two. We never have to ask the others to do something specific, as we each recognise that we are the masters or our own musical discipline – I know what ‘steve lawson music’ should sound like better than anyone else on the planet, and likewise Roy and Patrick. If I start telling Patrick what to play, it assumes that I know more about what he does that he knows. That’s insane.
There is, however, a deeply psychological streak running through all this, in that it takes a while to develop that kind of deep trust, to develop the ‘abandonment to the moment’ and to foster to confidence required to take the music where YOU feel it should go. With Patrick, this is part of a 6 or 7 year improvising relationship – when we first got together to play, he was rather puzzled by the idea that I didn’t want to play written songs, that I didn’t want to discuss keys and stuff, but just wanted to play. But the fruits of it is where we are now, exploring this unique shared musical space that the three of us occupy.
I’m really excited about the future of this trio, and the record release. With this, my solo stuff, the duo with Lobelia and Open Sky, I feel like I’ve got such a rich portfolio of music to work on, and feel really blessed to have the opportunity to explore the respective styles and approaches of the projects.
people I’ve played with/for - Airstar, Alex Douglas, Alex Legg, Amy Kohn, Andre LaFosse, Andrea Hazell, Andrew Buckton, Andrew Gouche, Andrew Pask, Andy Hamill, Andy Thornton, Andy Williamson, Artemis, Ben Castle, Ben Okafor, Boo Hewerdine, Calamateur, Carrie Melbourne, Charlie Moreno, Chris Bowater, Claudio Zanghieri, Cleveland Watkiss, Cole Moreton, Commonwealth, Corey Mwamba, Daniel Berkman, Davey Spillane, David and Carrie Grant, David Lyon, Deborah Jordan, Dudley Philips, Duncan Senyatso, Elvin Jones, Emily Baker, Estelle Kokot, Filomena Campus, Fiona Clifton-Welker, Franck Vigroux, Geert Doldersum, Guy Jackson, Guy Pratt, Gwyn Jay Allen, Harry Napier, Hossam Ramsay, Howard Jones, Huw Warren, Iain Archer, Ian Smith, Ivan Hussey, Jason Carter, Jean Toussaint, Jeff Kaiser, Jerome Cury, Jez Carr, John Lester, John Perry, Johnny Markin, Josh Seurkamp, Jude Simpson, Julie Lee, Julie McKee, Julie Slick, Juliet Turner, Kaffe Matthews, Kerry Getz, Kira Small, Leo Abrahams, Lobelia, Luca Formentini, Luca Sirianni, Mano Ventura, Mark Lockheart, Matthew Garrison, Matthias Grob, Michael Manring, Mike Haughton, Mike Outram, Mike Sturgis, Miriam Jones, Muriel Anderson, Neil Alexander, Orphy Robinson, Oteil Burbridge, Otto Fischer, Patrick Wood, Peter Chilvers, Peter Katz, Pierce Pettis, Ric Hordinski, Richard Lewis, Rick Walker, Rise Kagona, Roger Eno, Robert Mitchell, Rowland Sutherland, Roy Dodds, Sammy Horner, Sanju Sahai, Sarah Masen, Seb Rochford, Shlomo, She Makes War, Sonya Kaye, Stephen Bingham, Stephenson & Samuel, Steve Apirana, Steve Beresford, Steve Gregory, Steve Lockwood, Steve Noble, Steve Thompson, Steve Uccello, Stuart Ryan, Susan Enan, Terl Bryant, Theo Travis, Tiger Darrow, Tim Bowness, Tony Buck, Trip Wamsley, Todd Reynolds, Tunde Jegede, Vicki Genfan, and more…
2006 – Steve Lawson; Behind Every Word. on Pillow Mountain Records.
- Steve Lawson; Lessons Learned From The Fairly Aged Felines. on Pillow Mountain Records.
2005 – Various Artists; European Bass Day 2004 – compilation CD, featuring tracks by John Lester, Lorenzo Feliciati, Jan-Olof Strandberg and others.
- Various Artists; As One (charity CD featuring one of Steve’s tracks alongside tracks by Jimmy Haslip, the Poogie Bell Band, Steve Jenkins, Mo Foster, Peter Muller, Janek Gwizdala, Stevie Williams, Lorenzo Feliciati, David Dyson, Laurence Cottle & Dean Brown, in aid of SOS Children‘s work in the aftermath of the Tsunami)
2004 – Steve Lawson; Grace And Gratitude. on Pillow Mountain Records.
- Steve Lawson; Lessons Learned From An Aged Feline Pt II on Pillow Mountain Records.
2002 – Steve Lawson; Not Dancing For Chicken on Pillow Mountain.
- Steve Lawson; Lessons Learned From An Aged Feline Pt 1 on Pillow Mountain
- Susan Enan; Moonlight (EP)
- Commonwealth; That’s the Way It Goes (OD Hunte single remix)
- Steve Lawson/Jez Carr; Conversations on Pillow Mountain.
2001 – Jason Carter with Ragatal, and Hossam Ramsay; Elements (Fragments Of Grace re-released with some percussion overdubs from Hossam) on ARC
- Andrew Buckton; Now… But Not Yet on Bluecarpet Records.
- Pauline Wright; Come Closer (Private Release)
2000 – Steve Lawson; And Nothing But The Bass, Live @ The Troubadour on Pillow Mountain
- Andy Thornton; The Things You Never Say (CD single) on EIS
- Steve Lawson; Guitarist mag cover CD Aug 2000 (1 track – ‘The New Country’)
1999 – Andy Thornton; The Things You Never Say on EIS
- Chris Bowater; Heritage And Hope on Word
1998 – Various Artists; New Songs for 98 on Word
- Jason Carter With Ragatal; Fragments Of Grace on ARC
- Chris Bowater; All About You on Word
1997 – Trish Morgan; Spring Harvest Live Vol 1 & 2 on ICC
- Various Artists; Together For Christmas (live) on dB Studios
1996 – Various Artists; Power Of Your Love (Grapevine Live) on ICC
- Johnny Markin; See With Your Eyes on ICC
- Geert Doldersum; With All Of My Heart on Spark
- David Lyon; Precious Little Things(private recording)
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… 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 have further projects planned. 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.
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’…”
I’ve FINALLY got round to adding the latest bunch of gigs to Reverb Nation. The first of which is this sunday, at the Brickhouse, on Brick Lane in London (deets below in the gig cal widget).
The gig’s with my new trio with Patrick Wood and Roy Dodds – two of the most amazing musicians I’ve ever had the privilege to play with. I’ve just added a fan-exclusive track to the Reverb Nation page, which you can play from from the widget below if you’re already on the mailing list, or you can just sign up! Enjoy…