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Steve's Blog: Solo Bass & Beyond



A Decade In Music

December 7th, 2009 · 19 Comments

We’re rapidly approaching the end of the decade.

A decade that began just a couple of weeks after my first ever solo gig.

That gig, unknown to me at the time, marked a pretty huge turning point in my music career.

The ‘session’ work I’d be pursuing and doing up til that point was to dry up pretty damn quick when word got out that I was doing gigs on my own, but equally fast, word spread about what I was up to to the people who might like to listen to it, and I started to play more and more shows, and in August 2000 put out my first solo album. A decade later, and here we are… Where? I’m not sure. [Read more →]

Tags: music reviews · Musing on Music

Two Spearhead interviews

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

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

Tags: Geek · Musing on Music

Timeline and Trivia

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

Musical Equipment Used

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

Musical History

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

Current Musical Projects

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

trivia

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

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

top 10 (or so) favourite(ish) albums

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

Tags:

The travel-pain of the ecomonkey

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

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

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

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

Tags: Random Catchup

Spearhead, Sessions and tonight's gig

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tags: Musing on Music

A gig and some deep listening…

November 30th, 2006 · Comments Off on A gig and some deep listening…

Forgot to blog about last Friday’s Rodrigo Y Gabriela gig at Shepherd’s Bush. Went along with gig-buddy extraordinaire, Catster, not having heard them but having heard lots of great things from other people. And was not disappointed in them at all – flair, style, energy, incredible playing, and lots of hilarious and gratuitous swearing; they’re Mexican and have been living in Ireland, so have learned to swear with an Irish brogue… it’s very funny.

Anyway, their set is a mixture of originals and metal classics by Metallica, Slayer etc. all done on two acoustic guitars. It works brilliantly, and if it ever were possible to mosh to a gig without drums, this was it.

The big problem though, as always, was that the Bush is a Carling venue, so the music is provided as a soundtrack to drinking. And drinking goes hand in hand with talking. So there was the constant din of people get drunk and chatting through this incredible music. It’s insulting to the band, and awful for people who’ve paid £15 to hear some acoustic music! Breweries should be banned from running venues.

And then last night was Steve and Yo’s listening night – snacks, chat and piles and piles of great CDs. An evening of musical wonder and therapeutic conversation to feed the soul. Yo discovered the new Spearhead stuff, Rosie Thomas and John Lester, and I discovered early Parliament, Don Blackman, a Bill Withers album I’d never heard, and an amazing recording of some Bartok that I was unfamiliar with. A very late night, and I’m paying for it now. But today is shark day, which only comes round a couple of times a year, so is much cause for celebration. Yay!

Get well soon, Miles – your turn to pick the tunes!

Tags: Musing on Music

When you wish upon a blog….

November 10th, 2006 · Comments Off on When you wish upon a blog….

So I phone the lovely Catster re da moychendyz, and she informs me that Joni’s working on a new album!!!! Yay!! How great is that?? It must’ve been my blog that inspired it… 😉

It’ll be really interesting to see what she has to say about the state of the world. Responses thus far from artists have been really interesting, from Steve Earle to Bruce Springsteen, Neil Young to Spearhead… it’s both tragic and ironic that when the world is getting really fucked up, it’s fertile ground for artists. Look at the 80s, where while mainstream pop was going all Yuppie and Thatcherite, the US was gestating Public Enemy, NWA and the socially conscious rap movement, as well as the political end of the hardcore punk thing, like Dead Kennedys.

So, Joni, er, Yay!

Tags: Musing on Music

Euro blog part 1

October 16th, 2006 · Comments Off on Euro blog part 1

Right, I’m on a train from Paris to Geneva, sat in first class (very little difference from ‘standard’ class, sadly – glad the extra was only about a fiver), sat opposite a couple plucked straight from an 80s sit-com – middle aged, making half-arsed stabs at French in a broad english accent, discussing inanities like the contents of their sandwiches and reading the Telegraph. However, they are on a train going from Paris to Geneva, so it’s nice to see the middle-aged middle-classes getting out and about. :o)

Journey thus far has been lovely, if a little tricky with my suitcase, rolling rack, double gig bag, laptop bag and huge furry coat. Got v. hot ‘n’ sweaty at Gar du Nord trying to find the right metro platform, and then buy a ticket (somehow managed to get through the barriers without a ticket, then got trapped – in my own personal sitcom moment – in between two barriers unable to go anywhere, feeling somewhat like I’d been caught in some kind of humane trap for tourists, and I was going to be whisked away and released into the wild…

But anyway, the trains are lovely, muchos leg room, space to get up walk around, go to the ‘restaurant’ car (or mobile motorway services, more like). I’ve made a good start on one of the transcriptions for the forthcoming e-book of transcriptions from across my solo albums (couldn’t really do a whole album as on each album there are things that are untranscribable… unless any of you fancy having a go at ‘chance’, ‘journey of a thousand miles’, ‘you can’t throw it away…’ or ‘one step’. :o) )

Will probably be selling them as individual PDFs on the site, as a bundle, and in print via Lulu.com – a fabulous self-publishing system.

Reading material for the journey has been this week’s < A HREF=http://www.newstatesman.com>New Statesman and now The Benn Diaries (nice thing about the Benn Diaries – not much chance of me running out of book to read on this trip – 700 pages, and I’m up to about 110.) Current listening material is Honeytrap by Leo Abrahams, and before that Yell Fire by Spearhead.

Tags: Uncategorized

I Know I'm Not Alone

September 11th, 2006 · 1 Comment

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

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

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

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

Tags: Rant - Politics, Spirituality, etc.

more greenbelt thoughts

August 29th, 2006 · 4 Comments

some top 3s (I don’t think I did anything 5 times at Greenbelt except brush my teeth…)

Top 3 music highlights

  • Spearhead
  • Nizlopi
  • Lleuwen Steffan, Huw Warren and Owen Evans

Top 3 non-music things from the program

  • Jude Simpson’s poetry/comedy gig
  • The Northern Ireland discussion
  • Paul Powell’s Liquid Lunch, with Jude Simpson, Gareth Higgins and Cole Moreton.

Top 3 eateries

  • the new Burrito van (definitely a favourite)
  • Nuts
  • the Burrito place again (didn’t go anywhere else really)

Top 3 things I wished I’d seen

  • Clive Stafford-Smith
  • Alistair McIntosh’s seminars
  • Bill Drummond’s interview
    (fortunately loads of the seminars and talks can be bought here)

Top 3 people I vaguely knew before but got to chat to lots more

  • Gareth Higgins
  • Paul Chambers
  • Joe Fisher

(very nice to make your further acquaintance, gents)

All four of the me-playing moments went really well, so can’t pick favourites there, and everyone I got to play with over the weekend – Julie McKee, Steve Stockman, Simon Jones, Mark..? (fab poet whose surname I didn’t catch, sadly), Huw Warren, Andrea Hazell, Harry Napier, Juliet Turner… were all fab. The poetry and bass stuff (Stocki, Simon Jones (‘is unwell’) and Mark) was a whole lot of abstract fun, and the Recycle gig continued the tradition of Recycle gigs resulting in some of the loveliest music I can imagine. All good, nothing bad.

Greenbelt really is my favourite weekend of the year, and selling lots of CDs and T-shirts is kind of a lovely icing on the cake.

It speaks volumes that I took no photos at all over the weekend – was far too busy having fun to faff with a camera. But there are squillions of great photos on the Greenbelt website.

If you weren’t there, put the last weekend in August in your diary for next year now. It’s magic.

Tags: Random Catchup