The Times They Are A-Changing…

So last night we watched Bowling For Columbine. Tonight we watched the 46664 concert. Steadily the voice of those not happy with the top-heavy way the world is being steered, in favour of big business becoming bigger business and away from protecting the rights and lives of ordinary people is getting louder. There are now millions of ordinary people around the world who recognise that AIDS is a problem that won’t go away, that the invasion of Iraq was a criminal act of inconceivable proportions, that access to semi-automatic weapons is not an inalienable right, but rather a time-bomb in a country where hundreds of thousands of people are feeling increasingly disempowered and disenfranchised by the decisions of its government.

It’s not that these issues haven’t been there before – there have been people protesting against wars and injustice for millenia – but the numbers are growing, their voice is getting louder, and the look of your average protestor is no longer a crusty student with green dreads and a dog on a string. It’s doctors, teachers, musicians, actors, unemployed people, shop workers, police men and women, homemakers, students; people from all walks of life who aren’t believing the BS anymore…

just a cursory search of the net throws up the following sites for further info on what’s happening to make a difference –

www.46664.com – Mandela’s AIDS awareness initiative.
www.controlarms.org – campaign to regulate the arms trade.
www.amnesty.org/ – please tell me you know who amnesty are and what they do…
www.maketradefair.org – Oxfam-led initiative to push for trade laws that are fairer to farmers and producers in the developing world.
www.americanapparel.net – sweat-shop free sensibly priced clothing, made in the heart of LA. Go on, wear something that makes you proud.

So, instead of spending more time surfing round the same old bulletin boards, doing another google search on your own name or whatever other dodginess you usually waste your time with on the net, why not check out the sites that are seeking to make the world a better place for all of us. Work your way through that lot, and I’ll be back with another list of links next week…

Soundtrack – nuttin’

Hi, honey, I'm home…

after being away for about two weeks.

First week was in Denmark, visiting the International People’s College. IPC is a ‘folk high school’ – a scandinavian educational model that looks at learning as something that’s worth doing for its own sake rather than just for the piece of paper you’ll get at the end of it. The various folk high schools around Denmark, Sweden, Norway etc. have different emphases (emphasise?? no idea…) – some are all about sport, or film making or whatever, and this one is an international school (the clue’s in the name), drawing currently from 32 different countries as diverse as nepal, england, argentina, tibet, bangladesh, malta, poland, USA, romania, uganda, kenya, australia and brazil.

the focus of the college is on conflict resolution, cross cultural studies, development issues and for most of the students it’s seen as a great place to learn english. The staff are an amazingly diverse bunch – from cambodia, mauritania, denmark, australia etc. etc. and the food’s great.

The reason for the visit is that my mum’s involved in trying to set up a folk high school in Berwick On Tweed (middle of nowhere and turn left), and I taught on their summer school this year. So we both went on a fact finding trip, to see if all this folk high school stuff was hippie idealism or a the answer to the UK’s current education crisis (education, education, education said Blair. bollocks bollocks bollocks says the entire population of england, 6 years on.) It was amazing – a fully functional school, the classes dealt with some pretty intense stuff, lofty concepts and deep philosophical stuff, all within the framework of 32 cultures under one roof, all unwittingly capable of deeply offending one another! :o)

With a week at the college and a couple of days to look round Copenhagen, we had a marvellous week (also had a nice chance to drop in and see Anders-Streetteam at one of the most amazing drum shops I’ve ever seen!) Copenhagen’s a great city – here’s hoping I can sort out some gigs there soon…

Got home from there for one day, did a day’s teaching, and headed off to Amsterdam on holiday. Warning – if you’re living in London, heading off to Copenhagen and Amsterdam in the space of a week is not a great idea if you still want to feel really good about where you live… Don’t get me wrong, I do like living here, and some things about being in England are magic, but politically we’re losing it, and the whole crime/vandalism/transport/weirdness thing has become the british axis of evil. Amsterdam is beautiful – it’s great to see a city of that size operate with so little car traffic. Thousands and thousands of bikes, but precious little car useage. lots of canals, gorgeous canals, and some very groovy shops. The liberal drug laws seem like a cool thing (when was the last time you saw someone get stoned and start a fight??), and there were much less of an agressive feel there than on a night out in central london, but the ‘liberal’ attitude to porn and prostitution is, according to the UN and other sources, just a front for some seriously nasty illegal stuff. So much for unionising the prostitution industry – doesn’t really help the girls who are being trafficked from asia and eastern europe. London has a huge problem with this too, but at least we don’t pretend that being a prostitute is a great gig and that it’s all kosher here… scary stuff.

Still, it’s a great city, sex-tourism aside, and I hope to go back and do some gigs there too soon!

And now I’m back home – time to get to work promoting the CD, which hopefully you’ve all bought by now! :o) Theo did a huge mailout to radio and media while I was away, so reviews and airplay should start happening soon… til then, play the CD to your friends, steal their money and buy them it for christmas. Lots of people are saying it’s their favourite of the CDs I’ve put out, which is nice.

On the bad news front, I heard today that Mike Yaconelli was killed in a car accident a couple of days ago – if you’ve ever been to Greenbelt, Yak won’t need any intro. If not, he was an author, social activist, realist, speaker, comedian and all round remarkable human being who did far more in his 61 years than many people could acheive in 10 times that. His passing is a loss to the world. here’s the report from his hometown. Please spare and thought and a prayer for his family.

Soundtrack – while I was away I picked up a few CDs – Charlie Haden, ‘American Dream’; Jing Chi, ‘Live’; Living Daylights, ‘Electric Rosary’ and Metalwood’s latest, which is upstairs and I can’t remember the title, but they’re all very good indeed! Today I’ve been listening to Jonatha Brooke, ’10 cent wings’, which is oustandingly brilliant, like just about every note jonatha has ever uttered.

Yet More Lessons Learned From The Aged Feline…

So The Aged Feline came home on Saturday, after two days in the vets, on a saline drip to try and flush out his rapidly failing kidneys. We were a little concerned about both his health and him coming home resenting us leaving him there for two days (though we did visit him both days he was in), but no such fears – health-wise he seems fine (he goes back in this thursday for a blood test), and as for how he is with us – if anything he’s even more cuddly than usual. In a world of grudge-bearing, point-scoring and all the political crap that’s going on, The Aged Feline models the kind of forgiveness that we all need to learn from. He has no idea that what we are doing is for his good, and yet he still bears us no ill will. Amazing. So much for our claims to intellectual supremecy…

Finished off the artwork for ‘For The Love Of Open Spaces’ today – just need to fill out the MCPS AFL form and we’re there – should have advanced ordering up in a day or so!

SoundtrackJohn Lester, ‘Big Dreams And The Bottom Line’; Unamerican, ‘Unamerican’; Andre Lafosse, ‘Normalise’; Steve Lawson, ‘Lessons Learned From An Aged Feline Pt 1’.

Hot Hot Hot

as briefly mentioned before, and as plainly obvious to anyone currently in the UK, we’re in the middle of a heatwave. Which in some ways is lovely, but as usual with the Brits, we’re now complaining that it’s too hot. It certainly makes working difficult. However, the upside is that we’ve got loads of ripe organic tomatoes in our garden, which we’re munching at a rate of knots. We’ve also got loads of blackberries, cooking apples, rasperries, onions and one chilli plant that’s got about three chillis on it. The heat is such that even our tiny grape vine has got fruit on it!

And I need to cut the lawn.

Soundtrack – The Smiths, ‘Louder Than Bombs’; David Torn, ‘Tripping Over God’; Matthias Grob, ‘Ouvir Mais – Pedir Menos’; Gin Blossoms, ‘New Miserable Experience’ – I listened to this last album for about three hours last night. It’s brilliant, truly masterful. If you’re in anyway into the whole new americana thing, check this out from before it was trendy…

two weeks of theatre, gigs and puke…

Blimey – it’s ages since I last got to write anything! I’ve now got a broadband connection, so hopefully it won’t be quite so long before I blog again (not that it’s any quicker with BB, as it doesn’t take long to connect anyway, but I’m online more than I was so may be able to get 5 mins here and there to talk rubbish on here…)

So what’s been going on? Potted history of life since the 15th (last blog date) –

went to the theatre to see The Madness Of George Dubya again, which was marvellous again – it’s transfered to the West End (The Arts Theatre in Leicester Square), and is being rewritten daily to keep abreast of current events, so it’s more topical than ever. Vital viewing, especially as there seems to be a lot that’s going unsaid about what’s now going on in Iraq – more shootings were reported this morning, that american guy who’s been put ‘in charge’ doesn’t seem to have much of a clue, and the looting still goes on…

Then it was easter weekend, which was surprisingly un-churchified – an unusual easter for me in that sense, partly cos I was just busy and didn’t plan anything in time, and partly cos I was at a wedding on Easter Saturday. Made it to church Easter Sunday morning, but it’s a while since I last missed a good friday service – anyone would thing that easter was when a rabbit got nailed to a cross, but was a nice rabbit who rose again and gave everyone chocolate eggs… I know that the timing of easter is a hi-jacked ancient solstice or something, but it does seem odd for it to have kind of stuck with some sort of christian significance in the media, but mainly it’s all about eggs and bunnies… the world is a might strange place…

Easter Sunday I went to a very fine gig – Three Blind Mice – featuring Lyndon Conner, the keyboardist who played with Level 42 on the Greatest Hits tour last year. The mice are a three piece – two guitar/vox and Lyndon on keys/vox, and feature some of the finest harmonies I’ve ever heard. Great songs, great delivery in a lovely venue (some pub near Paddington)… Well worth investigating. And after all that guff in the paragraph above, I did eat rather a large number of chocolate eggs at said gig.

Wed 23rd was a gig in Eastbourne with Tess Garroway and Joss Peach – more lovely improv, made even more fun by feeding both the piano and the voice into my loop setup to I could loop and tweak both of them as well… Small crowd, but cool venue.

The trip home wasn’t quite so much fun (this is where the puke in the heading comes into the story – turn away if you’re sqeamish) – I had a headache brewing through the entire gig, which got gradually worse and worse as we were packing up, bordering on migraine as I got in the car to drive home. It may have had something to do with not having eaten since about 2pm, and having had a beer when I arrived at the venue in the evening, but whatever, I wasn’t a well bunny.

Stopped once to wretch, didn’t puke. Stopped again, puked a bit. Was then doing 70mph along the M25 and vommed all over myself, the windscreen, the steering wheel, dashboard, seats, floor, everything. Tried catching it in a cardboard tissue box, but that just succeeded in funnelling said puke down both my sleeves (no, really, it is the most disgusting thing that has ever happened to me, which is why I just had to share it with you…)

One week previous to this, I’d been up to my armpit in blocked drain and thought that that was the grossest thing I’d ever done. This topped it, driving 35 miles covered in my own sick was really really nasty – the kind of thing that one usually associates with recovering smack-addicts…

The following day was a bit of a cleanup day, following my projectile experience of the day before.

Friday I was conducting an Echoplex clinic for the UK distributors, showing them a little of what’s possible (for lots more of what’s possible, see Andre’s site), which was great fun. I also picked up a couple more echoplexes, taking my tally to four – three are now in the rack, trying to work out how to wire the fourth one into the desk to give me a stereo main loop… hhhhhmmmnnnnnn

Friday evening was spent installing my broadband connection, which I’d got wrong somehow, and then Saturday required much rescuing as I’d downloaded too much stuff from Windows Update and had buggered up my machine, so with the help of evil harv, we got it going…

Last night, Jez and I went to see Carleen Anderson at the Jazz Cafe – we’re trying to get out to see more gigs, and were going to go out on Sunday, but there was bugger-all on in London. Boy, am I glad we waited til Monday – Carleen was brilliant, as were her band – Ben Castle on sax, Andy Hamill on bass, Mark Edwards on keys, Winston Clifford on drums and Jules someone on guitar – they are on again tonight and tomorrow, and if you can, you really ought to go… Carleen’s acoustic encore of ‘Don’t Look Back In Anger’ was worth the ticket price itself (and you can stream it from her website – high res with Broadband of course…)

In between all that stuff, I’ve been mixing the tracks that I recorded with Theo Travis, which are sounding great, and may well end up being my next album… It’s time for a duo album (last one was solo, before that duo, and first one was solo), and these are just fine ‘n’ dandy. Hopefully we’ll have something to listen to v. soon…

And obviously I’ve been indulging in the download delights of broadband – fave site at the moment is launch.yahoo.com, a music videos and streaming radio site which is very cool. Go there and watch some of the Bruce Cockburn, Tom Waits, Joni Mitchell, Tori Amos and Johnny Cash vids – all great stuff. Also been listening to radio on line, including kcrw, kvmr and bbc london.

Soundtrack – other than the online stuff, been listening to lots of Ron Miles – both ‘Heaven’ and ‘Laughing Barrel’, and listening to Paul Simon, ‘Still Crazy After All These Years’, Bill Frisell, ‘Have A Little Faith’, Alex Skolnick Trio, ‘Goodbye To Romance’, Frank Gambale, ‘Resident Aliens’ and King’s X ‘Manic Moonlight’.

The World We're In

…is the title of a book by Will Hutton, one of the finest politcal writers in recent times (it’s the follow up to The State We’re In, which is great…)

Anyway, there’s a great article by him in yesterday’s Observer, about just what a mess Blair has got himself into, and a very constructive critique of American Conservatism. Have a read, it’s very good… And there are links to a few other articles by him about the current situ. at the bottom of that page…

All work and no play…

…would be a highly inaccurate way to describe my life.

However, the work content is now increasing once again, after a fairly relaxed easing into it after the exhausting tour of CA…

This morning so far has involved sending out lots of CDs – shipping a new box-load to CD Baby – probably the best online indie music store – well worth checking out. And also shipping out some other ‘normal’ orders that arrive via evinsol. There are now loads of different ways of buying my CDs – still very few shops, but it’s not really an angle I’ve been chasing, as unless there’s a demand, they just sit on the shelves and do nothing, and just the admin of keeping track of where they are would do my head in. So instead I stick, predominantly, with web and gig-sales – web-wise, most still come through evinsol, the main CD order link on my site, and the Pillow Mountain Records site, but I also sell a few through CD Baby, and GEMM.COM – the primary usefulness of those are that they are both heavily searched sites, so people can find out about me without me telling them, and also their pricing is in dollars, so it’s less confusing for all you lovely americans parting with your hard earned green-stuff.

the nice thing is that with the increase in reviews, interviews and radio airplay, the promotional process gets a momentum of its own – a google search on my name throws up tonnes of stuff, and there are now quite a lot of bass sites that link back to my site… Add to that you lovely people helping to spread the word, and playing the CDs to your friends (word of mouth is still the most powerful tool an independent musician has, so thanks!), and it all starts to look a little more viable, and less like I was mad to go the indie route in the first place. The problem of late has more been that the touring side of things has been too successful, and I’ve had very little time for promo! It’s fine, cos the sales of CDs at gigs are better than they are through magazine reviews and radio airplay anyway, but it still has to be done…

Add to that my teaching schedule (currently busier than it’s ever been!), and I have less and less time for play… which is no bad thing. I’ve stored up so much play-related-mellowness (recognised medical phenomena), that I can probably cope with doing a respectable amount of work finally. After all, I’m 30 and have a mortgage and a small hungry feline mouth to feed – responsibilities!

So the rest of the day will be spent trying to get details on my upcoming gigs (I’m meant to have one in Brighton next week, but know nothing about it yet!!), sending out some radio copies of Not Dancing, teaching (starting in 15 minutes), practicing (been working on some of the EDP stuff that I saw Andre do at the clinic we did together – he’s very good…)

And maybe a few minutes just mucking about on line in between… :o)

Soundtrack – this morning I’ve been listening to Attention Deficit’s ‘The Idiot King’, and Jughead’s self-titled CD – both very very good. Attention Deficit is Michael Manring’s trio with Tim Alexander from Primus and Alex Skolnik on guitar. Jughead is Ty Tabor from King’s X with Greg and Matt Bissonette. Yesterday, I was listening to ‘Contemplating The Engine Room’ by Mike Watt for most of the day – Mike’s amazing, his CDs are amazing, his indie-thinking is amazing and he’s a very sound chap – check out his forum at on talkbass.

Hotel California!

sorry for the delay posting – I’ve not had that much computer access while I’ve been here.

anyway, the flight was fine, if a little long. and I arrived with all my gear intact (it’s always a little hairy flying with two Echoplexes and my Lexicon MPX-G2 as well as having my bass on the plane as hand luggage!) – anyway, I arrived, and Dan (tour promoter) picked me up at the airport, and took me back here, to where we’re staying. The weather is lovely (sorry for rubbing it in) – it’s hot even by southern californian standards. I could quite easily go outside and get sunburnt in a hour or so…

so what have we done so far? well, we picked up the amp stuff that I need for the tour from Ashdown, I had lunch with my chum Tanya, who lives here but is from Essex and used to write for Bassist. We went to the Baked Potato last night (we being Dan, me and Gene – a veteran chum of all my trips to the States – I stayed wtih Gene and his wife Linda for my first three or four visits to the states, and they’ve become really good friends over the years…)

Today Dan was off doing his gear rep bit, while Gene and I went to SWR to pick up some gear for Dan for the Bass Bash that is happening on Friday night (see gigs page for details), and then went shopping for CDs (now there’s a rare one for me…)

so haven’t done any gigs yet, but have just been getting aclimatised – I fell asleep on Monday evening at 5pm, and didn’t wake til 5am the next day – the worst case of jetlag I’ve ever had coming out here.

needless to say, I’m missing the small person and aged feline loads, but such is the peril of being a touring musician I guess – there has to be a down side somewhere, I ‘spose, and that’s it for me. It’d be great if I could bring them both with me… :o)

Soundtrack – I bought a few Cds with me – Jonatha Brooke ‘Steady Pull’, Joni Mitchell, ‘Travelogue’, Prefab Sprout, ‘Jordan’ and ‘From Langley Park To Memphis’, Unamerican ‘Unamerican’, Kelly Joe Phelps, ‘Sky Like A Broken Clock’, Phil Keaggy ‘Acoustic Sketches’, David Sylvian ‘Secrets Of The Beehive’ Gary Peacock and Ralph Towner ‘A Closer View’… right now I’m listening to one of the CDs I just bought – ‘Stanley Climbfall’ by Lifehouse.

Clocks go winding down…

Is it just me, or does everything just slow down in the run up to Christmas (or ‘holidays’ as most americans seem to have euphamistically rechristened it)? I’ve got lots that I really ought to be getting on with, but can’t get motivated at all… I really need to get working on my tax self-assessment (oh yeah, Steve, they really want to read about that, you loser…), and could do some other admin stuff, tidy my office, practice, learn more about the Echoplex (and there’s much to learn), but instead I cuddle the cat (OK, that’s worthwhile, I’ll give you that), surf the net (the usual suspects – talkbass.com, activebass.com, thedudepit.com, level42webdigest.com, ashdownmusic.co.uk, modulusguitars.com, krimson-news.com and other stuff from my links page…)

then I play the helicopter game (got 1768 today), followed by Chuckie Egg, followed by something to eat, followed by more cuddles with the cat, followed by some washing up (to assuage the guilt… hang on, harv, I’m I making up words again??), and here I am…

Tonight is the Deep 2 Deep Christmas curry – lots of cuddly bassists and some of their partners having curry and talking nonsense. What fun, I’m very much looking forward to it.

Before then I need to get to the vets to buy more cat food (of the renal variety), and maybe pick up a jar of coffee as well somewhere along the way (which means a trip to Asda as none of the little shops near us stock cafe-direct or clipper… question, is it worse to buy fair trade coffee from a multinational, or multinational coffee from a corner shop???? Oh, the moral maze in which we find ourselves!!!!)

Anywa, I guess even in writing this, I’ve convinced myself to get off my sorry ass and do SOMETHING – probably visit the vets, as that’s the most pressing thing…

BTW, a tip for last minute pressies – www.sendacow.com – an infinitely better idea that piling yet more crap that nobody needs into your relatives ‘presents to give away again next year’ cupboard…

Soundtrack – an interesting musical day. Started with Prince, ‘Sign Of The Times’, both discs (good stuff), followed by a CD by a group called Pocket, featuring a student of mine on bass. Interesting stuff – the guitarists are usually ‘free’ players in the LMC sense of the term, but this is their ‘tunes’ album – got a bizarre nursery rhyme quality to it that I’m not sure if I like or not, but Chris’ bass playing is very good… And now I’m listening to ‘Oracle’ by Gary Peacock/Ralph Towner; this is the first of their duo CDs, and I know the second one much better (A Closer View), but just about everyone I speak to prefers this one, so I’ll give it a few spins and see what occurs… :o)

feel free to send chivvying messages to me throughout the day, encouraging me in a polite and friendly way to do some f-ing work!!!!

Celebrity Big Brother – nonsense

Just finished watching Celeb Big Brother – what nonsense.
I know, I know – I watched it so I can’t complain… well, I
am kind of fascinated by reality TV… what is it that makes
it interesting? Why do we give a monkeys about 6 celebs
we wouldn’t turn over to watch if they were on anything
else? Sue is the only one of these I ever bother to wathc or
listen to doing anything else (her weekend lunchtime show with
Mel on Radio London is one of the finest things on radio…)

So why did I watch? I guess it’s that continued hope that it’s going
to suddenly become really interesting… like surfing the net way
beyond the point where you’ve exhausted all the things you really
wanted to look at, in the hope that you’ll find something fascinating…
which never happens…

Anyway, changing the subject entirely, this particular blog setup can
allow for a ‘comments’ function, where you blog-stalkers can post
responses to my dull ramblings… a function I’d love to use… if it
wasnt’ for evil harv’s evil schemes, and his total in ability to stop
himself from posting shit, given the chance…

soundtrack – been listening to the Best of Howard Jones
this evening, which brings back fab memories of touring with him
back in 1999, and contains some excellent songs (the definitive
versions, to my ears, of which are on his ‘Live Acoustic America’
CD, which the small person has stolen, so I couldn’t listen to
that just now…)

Also been listening to more of that new Keith Jarrett CD – good stuff.

Just got an email from not-at-all-evil Dann, who is a very fine writer,
who has just posted a couple of reviews of gigs involving me onto the
‘Evo’ site – the first one is of the 21st Century Schizoid Band and me
live in Croydon
, and the second one is of the manring/friesen/lawson gig
at Ocean in Hackney
– both well worth checking out. As is the rest
of the Evo site.