20th Anniversary Gig on Dec 15th!

Twenty years
Twenty years of solo shows
Twenty years of explaining that no, I don’t have a band, and no, none of it is pre-recorded
Twenty years of curious sonic adventures
Twenty years of playing all over the world, in all kinds of venues, to all kinds of people
Twenty years of refinement – of getting better, of going deeper, of exploring the edges
Twenty years of wondering when I’ll run out of inspiration and do something else…
Twenty years of recording and releasing music – 71 albums so far!
Twenty years – a milestone worth celebrating! 

December 15th 2019 will be a really special show for me, here in Birmingham. I’d love for you to join me. Here’s why: 

December 15th 1999 was my first proper solo gig. I’d played solo before that, but never a whole set to an audience coming to see me. I’d done product demos at Guitar Shows, and solo tunes in gigs with Ragatal, but a whole gig? That was the first.

Twenty years often feels like an impossibly long time in music. When I went to music college aged 18, anyone with a 20 year career would’ve started in 1971, and been at it for longer than I’d been alive. 20 years in music is inconceivable from the start, but feels like the blink of an eye from the other end… I still feel like I’m just getting started with my creative path, I feel like there’s so much more I want to do, so many more ways to explore what the bass can do, the kinds of music that I can make within this set of constraints that were set in motion at that first gig – everything is live, everything is me and it’s all based on improvisation.

At that first gig, I had start points. A handful of loop ideas that I could play and then see what happens… The versions of the tracks that became my first album that were played at that first gig had completely different melodies – the only fixed part was the chord progression. Over the years I went back and forth between playing tunes from the records like that, and playing all-improvised music.

The point where I stopped playing those tunes was after my tours with Daniel Berkman, listening back to the recordings of our first 10 shows, which became the FingerPainting set – the low point of every single gig was my solo tune. Because it was the one thing that was set in stone before the gig, and wasn’t made FOR that moment. It existed so I could let people know I had new music out and maybe encourage them to buy it. That’s not a terrible motive, but it really stands at odds with the kind of dangerous, in the moment music making that Daniel and I were up to for the rest of the gig. Everything else that was happening was about what was happening. Our conversations were the score, the audience were the score, the room was the score. And we played to that. Across the 10 albums of the FingerPainting set, there’s a massive range of musical territory that we got to explore. It all sounds like US, but it sounds like us in all those different spaces to all those different people.

So, soon after that, I gave up on revisiting old tunes. I was just much better at playing new music rather than recreating old music. And that was the origin of all of this – those ‘starter loops’ that were present in the first couple of shows and eventually had fixed melodies and were given names were just launchpads for improvisation. Training wheels for this fledgling improvisor.

It’s a tough sell to promote a gig where none of the music that you’re playing has names that relate to the music that’s gone before. But weirdly this improvised work is perhaps more connected to the journey because it contains EVERYTHING – everything I’ve played and loved is in the toolbox. Everything I’ve played and failed at is there as a cautionary tale. Sometimes I revisit old ideas thinking I may have a new take on them, sometimes the spirit of those ideas is manifest in whatever it is that I’m excited about right now.

Five years ago after a week of jamming and experimenting with Divinity Roxx I added a MIDI controller and a laptop to my live set up and started playing percussion and keyboard sounds along with the bass stuff. Still there were no pre-recorded loops, no beats that I could just trigger at the same tempo and feel every night. Everything was played FOR the event, every sound was made with tonight in mind. On one level it felt like a transformative step – ‘SoloBassSteve’ had been a brand identity for a long time, and I guess this wasn’t strictly solo bass anymore, right? But on another it made perfect sense. The all live all-for-now constraint was way more central to the musical ideology than the all-bass bit. Bass is my voice, my language, my vernacular. What I’ve chosen to avoid isn’t a character, it’s a script. The story begins anew and builds on the last episode.

So this 20th anniversary gig will be a celebration of that journey, of the evolving newness that includes its own story in every note. Where the names of tunes are not the locus of familiarity, but the sound and the adventure offers a point of remembrance, of revisitation. A space to hear sounds and ideas that are woven through 20 years of live and recorded music, are embedded in my head and that of my longer term audience.

Please join us on Dec 15th…

2 Replies to “20th Anniversary Gig on Dec 15th!”

    1. Hi Alan, possibly, though it’s advisable to get them in advance – there’ll be pre and post show discussions, that will form part of my PhD research, so I’ll need to make sure everyone’s signed a consent form for that stuff to be used, which is way easier to do ahead of time online 🙂

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