Steve’s Sunday Summary

So, we’ve come to the end of my first full week back blogging every day. I’m not sure how long I’ll be able to keep this up, but it’s been an enjoyable week of writing.

Here’s a quick summary in case you’re just browsing at the weekend: 

I wrote two things about effects pedals, with some tips on how I use them:

I also wrote a two-part look at how I use Bandcamp, and why I love it so much as both a music fan/forager, and as an artist:

And I wrote two posts about other aspects of making music:

One of my favourite things about writing here regularly again is the comment threads that are growing – please do feel free to add your voice to the discussions. The way that social media conversations get lost so quickly has always saddened me, whereas blog comments have a much longer life and remain attached to the article as a collaborative writing effort. I’m grateful to everyone who adds thoughts and asks questions here, so feel free to join in!

If you want to get these blogposts emailed to you whenever I write here, you can subscribe to them via email here (naturally, you can unsubscribe from them at anytime):

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It’s also been a week in while I’ve had quite a few new Bandcamp subscribers, no doubt wanting to explore the four new solo albums (I added a new track to the unfolding album Stepping Stones this week) and the upcoming LEYlines releases.

Besides all that, I got to meet up with the great bassist and journalist Ed Friedland yesterday – he was in town to play with The Mavericks, and sadly I missed the show due to illness, but we had an amazing day hanging out and catching up on news.

And then today, still recovering from a cold, which is now overlapping with hayfever, we took a leisurely family stroll through Birmingham, including a trip to the rooftop gardens at the Library Of Birmingham. I love living in this city 🙂

The Beginner’s Guide To SoloBassSteve…

TOO MUCH MUSIC?! What does too much music look like? Is it possible to have too much music? I know that there are some artists that have massive catalogues whose work I have no idea how to approach. Do you start at the beginning and work forwards? Do you jump in with the biggest selling, or just the most recent to see where they’ve got up to?

My own catalogue is, obviously, huge. I honestly don’t know off the top of my head how many albums I’ve released. That’s nuts, right?

So, anyway, to help you out, I’ve just gone over my solo output and annotated it a little as a Beginner’s Guide To SoloBassSteve – just a bit of context about each one. So of these albums are subscriber-only, so for those (and to get ALL of them right now) you’ll need to subscribe over at Bandcamp. The big thrill there is that once you subscribe, you OWN them all – it’s not a Spotify renting-access-to-streams-and-playlists thing, these are all yours. So if it takes you a few years to get through this lot, that’s OK. They aren’t going away. You’ll have them to download, stream via the Bandcamp app and even re-download if your computer dies as often as you like. The music is yours – click here to find out more about the subscription – http://stevelawson.bandcamp.com/subscribe

So, jump in, have a read, see how you get on, I’ll link to each album so you can just click through and have a listen!

2000And Nothing But The Bass – my first album, recorded live in concert except for the last two tracks, one of which was live at home, the other a duet with Jez Carr on piano. A bit like looking at baby photos for me now, but there are still quite a few people for whom it’s their favourite album of mine. Got ridiculously great reviews when it came out, probably reflective of how few solo bass albums there were then!

2002Not Dancing For Chicken – first ever studio solo record. Was actually recorded twice, and I really wish I had all the earlier recordings still… Recorded direct to stereo two track, and destructively edited, still sounds pretty good considering. Features a couple of tunes that became live staples for the next decade – MMFSOG, Jimmy James and Highway 1. Was released while I w as on tour with Level 42, so solo VERY well on release, and got a fair bit of radio play, magazine coverage etc… remastered in 2012, to sound way better than the original, and also remove the comic sans from the artwork 😀 😀

2004Grace And Gratitude – probably still my most popular album – a consolidation of all the things I’d learned up to that point, and a pretty pivotal blend of all the elements that went into making up my sound at the time – big tunes, heavy ambient experimentation, beautiful chord progressions and weirdness! More radio support for this one, bizarrely. And I once reworked the title track for a beer advert, which sadly wasn’t ever used (mostly sad cos that meant I didn’t get paid… 😉 )

2006Behind Every Word – More composed that anything else I’d done to that point, features two amazing special guests – BJ Cole and Julie McKee, also was the first thing I’d released that had an outside co-producer (the 1st version of Not Dancing was co-produced by Jez Carr, but didn’t see the light of day because my insistence of recording with a mic’d amp was a stupid move) – this time it was Sue Edwards, who remotely monitored what I was up to, and gave pivotal feedback that made the album about 10 times better than it would’ve been…

2002/2004Lessons Learned From An Aged Feline Pts 1 & 2 – two very limited edition releases that came with the 1st 100 CDs of Not Dancing and Grace And Gratitude – lots of other things I was recording at the time. Started a trend for producing way more music than would fit onto a single CD…. (LLFAAF Pt 3 only exists as MP3s, and that came out with Behind Every Word) Pt 1 has my first couple of mahoosive ambient tunes on it, and they still sound good…

2010Ten Years On: Live In London – live album to mark the 10th anniversary of my first solo album. Recorded live at Round Midnight in London. Not a bad record of what I sounded like, but also the beginning of the nagging feeling that playing compositions wasn’t really what I should be doing live…

2011 – 11 Reasons Why 3 Is Greater Than Everything – first studio solo album since Behind Every Word, recorded in Catford and Muswell Hill. Remixed a year after it came out to reflect my improved skills as an engineer. Features a couple of my favourite ever solo tunes, and features LOTS of big tunes, and a little bit of epic strangeness – mostly reflective of how my sense of harmony had developed in the interim. Some less obvious tunes in there that I still really dig…

2012 – Believe In Peace – improvised live in an art gallery in Minneapolis, proved very popular, and still gets a lot of love today. I think this was my first all-fretless album… The artwork was from the amazing display of art by Geoff Bush that inspired the music. Recorded during a Tornado!

2014 – What The Mind Thinks, The Heart Transmits – the album that SO many people had been asking for for over a decade – a single ambient piece, recorded as the soundtrack to a guided meditation on a retreat. Super-popular with people who do yoga, meditate, or who just like really relaxing music to drive or sleep to! Followed another two year-long break from focussing on solo work following the life-consuming FingerPainting project!

2015 – Closing In (subscriber exclusive) – the first Bandcamp subscriber-only solo release, this was the ideas I’d started to develop on the journey to making the next two albums, and is the bridge between the first 15 years of my career playing only bass and nothing else, and then adding in the drums and synth stuff on the next two albums… ALL CHANGE!

2015 – The Way Home/ A Crack Where The Light Gets In – Two albums released on the same day, and the first things to come out publicly featuring my new set-up with the Quneo being used to play drums and some keyboard parts. Everything was (and is) still recorded live with no overdubs, but I have the option to play other sound and particularly to incorporate more obviously the hip hop influence that has been there in the background for my entire music life… Beats and weirdness galore – a new adventure to be sure!

2015 – You Guys, Let’s Just Talk About Nail Varnish – compilation of tracks recorded for the Bass The World YouTube channel.

2016 – Well, Say Hello Then (subscriber exclusive) – a lil’ EP recorded to introduce my brand new bass (my first new instrument in over a decade. Features some lovely ideas, is better than it’s slightly rushed existence might suggest!

2016 – Referendum – recorded just before and the day after the EU Referendum here in the UK. A hopeful then despairing collection of music that still emotionally resonates and became a favourite with a lot of people. Vertigo may be my single favourite ever solo piece…

2016 – Hands Music (subscriber exclusive) – Recorded at the launch exhibition for brilliant German photographer Marc Mennigmann’s ‘Hands’ photo project. Fully improvised as background/contextual music for the exhibition, is an interesting mix of very ambient and very poppy/tuneful. Has a couple of sneaky covers in there. V popular with subscribers…

2016 – Colony Collapse Disorder (subscriber exclusive)/ The Surrender Of Time / Towards A Better Question – 2016 produced a ridiculous amount of solo music from me… recorded in the same sessions, these three recordings consolidated the experiments that began with the previous two albums. The feeling of integration between the Quneo and the bass as a combined instrument, seeing the whole thing as one big music-generating thing, is way more fully expressed here (I’m even playing them at the same time on a couple of tracks) – Colony Collapse Disorder was originally just the first half, but a subscriber suggested that it felt like the beginning of something bigger, so I recorded the second half as an other track, put them together, and that’s what we have! The beat side of things is getting more varied and the hip hop more conspicuous.

2016 – Hark/Winter – Christmas single, that doesn’t really sound like a christmas single 🙂

2017  – Illuminated Loops (subscriber exclusive) – not really a solo album, even though it’s just me playing on it. The recording of my first performance with the great Poppy Porter – Poppy has synaesthia, which means she sees sound, so she draws what she sees while I play. I then treat it her art as a graphic score. It’s all kinds of fun and results in some very interesting music. My new favourite project.

2017 – PS, You Are Brilliant – a deep, experimental record with some big tunes but a lot of pretty intense textural experimentation, and deeply strange hip hop beats. A big step forward for the new set-up and probably my favourite thing I’ve released solo so far…

2017 – Small Is Beautiful (subscriber exclusive) – the subscriber only accompaniment to the PS… only one track with any Quneo as all, lots of stuff with minimal looping and maximal mellowness. I love this, and is no doubt popular with all the subscribers who prefer my solo stuff from before I started messing around with electronics so much 😉

2018 – The Long Game (subscriber exclusive) – first solo release of 2018 is live album from the 2018 London Bass Guitar Show – both performances came out really well, and this is them. Foregrounding some of the Quneo-as-piano experiments I’ve been working with, rather successfully. Also the first solo release to feature my Elrick SLC signature fretless.

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So there you go. I plan to do the same for the collaborations at some point soon. Hopefully it’ll help you dive in and find the ones you like the sound of! If you want to post your own thoughts on the albums, PLEASE do, either here in the comments, or via your Bandcamp collection so they appear next to the album!

2016 – A Year In Music

2016 was a really interesting year for music for me:

  • I released more solo music than in any year ever
  • Got my first new bass in well over a decade
  • Played gigs with a visual artist and an amazing dude playing a large bowl of water
  • Did a mini tour of Germany and Holland
  • Played bass on Songs Of Praise…

Let’s break that down a little!

Releases:

The plan from the start of the year was to put out a new album in the summer – The Surrender Of Time was planned, but the rest of this years solo releases were more of a surprise!

But before all the solo stuff came Language Is A Music – this live recording of Michael Manring and I from 2012 is one I’d revisited from time to time, but never carved out the time to properly mix and master. At the start of 2016, I got that sorted and released it for my subscribers. I really enjoyed coming back to this over the year, reliving such a fun show! Continue reading “2016 – A Year In Music”

Finding Inspiration In Denmark…

[this is a VERY long write-up of four days I spent in Demark last week. Hopefully it’ll be worth the effort]

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From whence cometh inspiration?

No idea. Not a clue.

I really don’t have a handle on where inspiration actually comes from. Or what it actually is.

But I do know that I can massively increase the chances of stumbling into it by surrounding myself with curious people, especially those who are working in fields other than my own.

Being primarily an instrumentalist, I’m constantly working with an abstract/concrete duality. The purpose/message/inspiration of a particular piece may be concrete, but the interpretation – if it happens without some kind of written/spoken introduction – is at best culturally mediated and often entirely abstract. That so many people seem to hear something of my intention in my music is itself an amazing affirmation that I’m not insane to see it as having a ‘purpose’.

What’s this got to do with the 2nd Inspiration Lab at Cantabile 2 in Stege, Denmark?

Well, everything. The limits of my own musical practice are always where the interesting stuff happens. I’m interested in edge spaces, overlaps, the bits where the circles in the Venn diagram of humanity change colour as they overlap in different combinations.

In the arts, we often gravitate towards influences and influencers who can obviously help shape our own work. Songwriters get into other word disciplines easily, musicians who make records are inspired by films – time delineated documents of a series of events, easy to mulch into a musical expression of a similar aesthetic… it’s often the music in the film that starts the process anyway… Continue reading “Finding Inspiration In Denmark…”

A Bit Of New Music By Way Of An Update

Wow. That’s the longest blogging break I’ve had in almost a decade. Sorry ’bout that.

The reason was that I got a fairly last minute call to put together a band for a big in Thailand. Which went brilliantly, and was all kinds of fun.

We recorded it (of course) and the first set that we did was all improv. The first of the tunes from the improv set is up now on Soundcloud. Here it is:

#Phunket Improv 2 by solobasssteve

Now I’m back to sorting out the details for our US trip in May/June. More bloggage soon!

2010 – The Year That Was.

Here’s a month-by-month breakdown. As if such a thing were neccessary 🙂

January – Flapjack enters 2010 barely a month old, Lo and I still reeling from becoming parents, so January is a slow-ish month of ongoing adjustments to parentalism. But it does see two new ventures start – First, my work with the department of Social Computing at Imperial College began its first tentative steps, planning a new music discovery/sharing/listening app, that we’ve been working on all year, that’s proved to be all kinds of fun and a great chance to apply the knowledge I’ve gained about the changes in the world of music to a real-world project.

The other launch was the rebirth of ‘New Music Strategies’ – Andrew Dubber wanted to take the ideas that he’d developed on his blog, team up with some ninjas and see where it would go. We met up in Holland to talk over what it might end up being, and came up with all kinds of ideas. It’s quite a remarkable group of people, and NMS promises all kinds of great things going forwards… Continue reading “2010 – The Year That Was.”

Rock And Roll Is Dead… And My Novel Is Finished

As you’ll remember if you’re an even semi-regular visitor to this site, in November I took part in Nanowrimo – National Novel Writing Month. I started it, expecting that I probably wouldn’t finish it, due to the impending baby. But baby arrived and I still managed to finish it! Fifty thousand words that I’m actually rather proud of. It’s called ‘Rock And Roll Is Dead’, and it’s about a band who go on a journey.

Big, big thanks to the people who were reading it as we went along – you’ll see some of their tweets in the book from when they replied to the characters on there. Your encouragement and willingness to talk made-up nonsense to imaginary people was invaluable in shaping the direction of the book and providing the motivation to keep writing. Nuff respect. Continue reading “Rock And Roll Is Dead… And My Novel Is Finished”

Meet My Imaginary Friends

Well, I’m now well over twelve thousand words into my NaNoWriMo novel, which is called ‘Rock And Roll Is Dead’.

As I said in my last post, I’m setting up twitter accounts for the characters as I go along, and two of them are now on there: @Drum_Monkey_ and @TheDistanceMeg. They’ve been chatting to each other and with other twitterers, and some of those tweets are ending up either in or influencing the story. Drum Monkey even got a string of really smart direct messages giving him some advice on a guerilla marketing campaign! It’s turning into all kinds of fun. Continue reading “Meet My Imaginary Friends”

NaNoWriMo – Steve Writes A Novel (possibly)

For the last couple of Novembers I’ve been aware of friends of mine being a part of ‘National Novel Writing Month‘, more often referred to (at least, on twitter) as NaNoWriMo.

So this afternoon, on a whim, I thought ‘I wonder if I can write a novel about some musicians who in some imaginary world start a cultural revolution, accidentally’ – I realised that it would be fun to have a go at writing a long-form hypothetical case study on how the world of music might work out. After all, it’s how a lot of novels work – either romantic or dystopic visions of an imaginary future for people and planet. Continue reading “NaNoWriMo – Steve Writes A Novel (possibly)”

My Weird Life, or ‘How I Ended Up Fixing a Bus For the Civil Service’

So, if you follow me on Twitter, you’ll have noticed over the last week or two that the ratio of ‘music’ to ‘non-music’ tweets has tipped hugely in favour of ‘non…’.

Thanks to my involvement in the Amplified project, I’ve been to a range of different events, talking about social media, capturing conversations around those events and writing it up afterwards. Continue reading “My Weird Life, or ‘How I Ended Up Fixing a Bus For the Civil Service’”