10 great basslines.

10 great basslines from Bass Guitar Magazine

A few months back, I was asked to put together a list of 10 of my favourite basslines by Bass Guitar Magazine. I sent them a list of 10, and a little note about each one, but the article is now out without the little blurb. So here’s the blurb. They also numbered them, as though there’s an order to them, which there clearly isn’t. Music doesn’t work like that. and If I wrote the list again today, it’d be different.

But anyway, here’s the list, with links where possible, and a little bit about each one…

Le FreakChic : one of the funkiest lines ever from the Beatles Of Disco. I could’ve picked just about any of their hits. Bernard’s tone and feel are a thing of wonder.
Refuge Of The RoadsJoni Mitchell : My favourite bassline from my favourite album ever. Every note Jaco plays on the whole Hejira album is sublime.
Maxwell MurderRancid : carrying the ‘punks that can really play’ torch forward, Matt Freeman manages to be full of energy, inventive and a chops-monster at the same time.
OrphansDeacon Blue : one of the first pop songs I ever heard with chords on a 6 string bass. This is almost all just bass, voice and tambourine. Beautiful
Chicken Grease D’Angelo : Pino was The Man in the 80s, and he’s still The Man now, only instead of slide-y fretless and a curly mullet he’s the cool king of hip-hop. My whole understanding of rhythm changed when I heard this album.
SeleneMichael Manring : not exactly a ‘bass line’ but without a doubt one of the most beautiful pieces of solo bass music ever recorded.
I Keep Forgettin’Michael McDonald : what locking in with a kick drum is all about. Louis Johnson shows restraint, digs deep and has a bass tone to die for.
Forget Me NotsPatrice Rushen : My favourite ever slap line. Freddie Washington probably even has a funky heartbeat.
I’m In Love Frank Dunnery : Matt Pegg, son of Dave, basically soloing through most of this tune, in a way that sounds neither wanky nor out of place. Exceptional playing and writing.
Spirits In A Material WorldThe Police : again, could have picked one of about 15 Police lines. Something magical happens when Sting gets with Stuart Copeland, even though they both play ‘out of time’ most of the time. Proof if ever it were needed that you don’t need protools to make incredible music.

Feel free to post your lists in the comments. Would be interested to read them. But please, don’t bother with the ‘what??? how could you miss out ********** (insert bassist here)’ – there are only 10, it’s not a definitive list, as I said it’d change now, and it’ll be different again tomorrow. So relax, and gimme a list of great lines. 🙂

Interview with me from Bass Guitar Magazine.

Bass Guitar Magazine article photo, cropped from the web page.I’ve been hoping this interview would surface online for a quite a while – Adrian asked a really smart set of questions and, crucially, came back with questions relating to them. Email interviews can be really dull if it’s just a questionnaire (unless it’s MEANT to be a ’20 questions’ type deal…) – because there’s no conversational flow. So as a tip for those of you interviewing online, send 2 or three questions to start with at most, preferably unrelated ones, and then develop each one with questions that follow on…

But I digress, this is about me 🙂 – anyway, it’s a great interview, and I was kinda surprised at the quote in the sell that says,

The unexpected popularity of bass looping in the UK can largely be attributed to Steve Lawson‘,

but I guess there’s some truth in that. It’s probably just that I’m more aware of my own influences than my influence.

So, either click on the photo above, or click here to read the interview

Call off the search

Well, i’ve found somewhere to live… the relevant info will be sent to those of you that need to know in the near future. Great news is it’s not only sharing with lovely friends, but the landlords are lovely friends, so no piling money into the pockets of some price-hiking property magnate for me. :o)

On the down side, my car has just failed its MOT, and it’ll be tomorrow lunch time before I know whether the £140 + VAT repairs will actually get it through, and if they don’t, it’ll be a lot more than that… bugger.

And i’ve got to get to St Alban’s tonight to teach… actually, no, I need to cancel my lesson in St Alban’s tonight, as it was going to be tight timing-wise even with a car. Without, I’ve got no chance… So that’s another £60 that the MOT has cost me, though it’ll be moved rather than scrapped altogether… ho hum…

What’s more of a problem is I’m meant to be taking my lovely mum to see my lovely (and 97 year old) Grandad and my equally lovely (and only slightly younger) nan tomorrow… ideas on a e-card… Ahh, shit, I’ve also got a gig tomorrow night… balls. This is going to require some planning. OK, less blogging more planning.

Oh, and on top of all that, I’m days and days late on my column for Bass Guitar Magazine and have an album’s worth of bass tracks to record for an album by a fab singer from Leeds (more on that as it unfolds) – I did some last night, which sound good, but there’s lots to be done, in between overspending on the car, moving house, getting to East Sussex to see lovely old peoples, paying my tax bill (forgot about that bit) writing articles and teaching…

So not busy at all then.

Play like Stevie…

The current issue of Bass Guitar Magazine (the one that has the review of Behind Every Word in it) has also got a transcription of one of the tunes from the CD. ‘Deeper Still’ is the last track on there, and I’ve transcribed it all up until the bit where I start recording the loop (which is just a simpler version of the chords to the first bit anyway) – so from that you should be able to work out pretty much the whole thing.

Enjoy!

'greatest bassists'??

Bass Guitar Magazine this month have a poll on the top 20 greatest players of all time. I was emailed to provide a list a while ago, and this is what a wrote – obviously they didn’t print it, as it was a) too long for a box-out and b) undermined the whole idea of such lists. But anyway, here were my thoughts…

Dear BGM,

here’s some thoughts – I haven’t been able to stick to your formula, cos I just can’t put players in an order like that – just doesn’t work with the way I see music at all. However, I thoughted I’d write a bit about a few people whose music has really moved me…

“While I couldn’t possibly put my favourite bassists in any kind of order, I’d definitely like to flag up a few whose music means a lot to me. Firstly, Michael Manring – not only is he the player than in my opinion has taken the physical playing of the instrument further than anyone else I know of, he’s a composer of some of the most beautiful music I’ve ever heard on any instrument. The bassness of it is irrelevant to the impact the music has, but hearing music that great just on bass is inspiring and makes me proud to play the same instrument. Tony Levin is another composer who writes great music with bass as his main writing tool. Whether playing in King Crimson, writing music for his own band, or doing sessions with myriad singer/songwriters around the world, his playing is always just right for the setting. Another big favourite of mine is Bernard Edwards – someone once referred to Chic as ‘The Beatles Of Disco’, but I think Bernard was more like the James Jamerson of disco – every note of every line I’ve ever heard by him is perfect. The timing, the sound, the feel and the note choice, absolutely spot on every time. At the opposite end of the musical spectrum, Mike Watt, formerly of punk legends The Minutemen and now with Iggy and The Stooges, is an outstanding bassist – adventurous, exciting, progressive playing, with a killer tone and more passion than a Jackie Collins novel. His three solo albums are all vital listening. And finally, Matthew Garrison – he already had a stellar jazz sideman career underway when he brought out his first solo album, but has proved to be just as good a composer, arranger and bandleader as he is a hired gun. Putting his incredible technical command of the instrument to the service of great compositions, both his solo studio albums thus far are chock full of some of the most marvellous bass playing I’ve heard in years.”

Album review…

The new issue of Bass Guitar Magazine has a nice review of ‘Behind Every Word’ in it, written by Stuart Clayton. Here it is, reprinted for your pleasure –

“Behind Every Word is the fourth studio outing for acclaimed solo bassist Steve Lawson. With the intention of combing [I think that’s meant to be combining – steve] the ambient soundscapes of his previous efforts with a more structurally composed approach, Lawson had created a solo bass album that sounds… nothing like a solo bass album. The opening trafck, ‘Blue Planet’ offers up a silky smooth fretless groove which Steve punctuates with ghost notes in order to provide a rhythmic accompaniment. This line is them looped and becomes the foundation for the entire piece. Over it Steve adds piano like chordal parts, and a lilting ‘guitar’ solo. The diversity of sounds that Lawson coaxes from his bass and armory of gadgets is truly impressive here and indeed throughout the album. In fact, almost two minutes of ‘Jimmy James’ go by before anything that is recognizable as a bass guitar surfaces through the ambient, swelling sounds! Lawson has invited two guest musicians to join him on this record. Pedal steel guitar legend BJ COle guests on the track ‘Scott Peck’, his slide guitar playing being the perfect understated accompaniment to Steve’s chordal bass work. Julie McKee’s vocals add variety to the ‘One Step’, which in all honesty, at almost fifteen minutes in length is slightly over indulgent. Behind Every Word is unlike any solo bass album you will have heard before and is all the more fascinating because of it. I quickly forgot that it was a solo bass record and found myself enjoying it in the same way that I would enjoy a ‘chill-out’ album. It is in this way that Lawson has succeeded where many have failed – to make a solo bass record where the music truly comes first. Check it out – but keep your mind open.”

There you go – that’s rather nice. Clearly, I don’t think ‘One Step’ is over-indugent. I’m not even sure there is such a thing as ‘over-indulgence’, just good or bad music (and that was the shortest of the three takes that we did of the track! :o), but it’s nice to read. Thanks, Stuart!

London Guitar Show

I have a love/hate relationship with music trade shows. On the one hand, I hate the noise, the nasty conference centres, the being bombarded with information about stuff I really don’t want. I hate the idea that’s being sold that it’s possible to tell how good a particular guitar/bass/amp is in a room with an ambient noise level of 90dB.

But on the other hand, it’s a lovely chance to catch up with some friends I don’t get to see too often, occasionally it’s nice to check out some new toys, and very occasionally to hear some nice music.

Today scored pretty well on the friends front – always nice to see Nick Owen (used to work in the bass centre, now doing sessions and stuff, and working part time for House Music), and Dave Marks doing his demo thang for The Guitar Institute. Bernie Goodfellow was there as always, and he had Laurence Cottle demoing on his stand. Davide Mantovani was demoing for MarkBass – I hadn’t seen Davide in ages so ’twas v. nice to catch up with him. And then there’s Steve Harvey and the rest of the crowd from Bass Guitar Magazine.

On top of that it’s the one day in the year when I actually get recognised by anyone – having demoed at previous incarnations of the show for Bassist and Guitarist Magazines, as well as for previous gear sponsors, I’ve been seen around at these shows for quite a while, so get to let people know what I’m up to who otherwise don’t get to find out.

On the new music gear front, my purchase this year was very pedestrian but v. useful – a new music stand. All those of you reading this who study with me will know just how shitty my old music stand is. So there’ll be a lovely sparkly new one here for us to use at your next lesson. Yay!

I spent a total of less than four hours at the show, and was exhausted by the end of it. How do I ever cope with NAMM each year??? Actually, I think the fact that all the floors at NAMM are carpeted has a big impact – soaks up the sound and makes it a lot easier on your feets.

New Music/Recycle Collective tomorrow…

Went into town this morning (town=central London), ostensibly to pick up a copy of Sibelius G7 software. It’s a score-writing package, that I need to be able to a) do my column for Bass Guitar Magazine properly and b) get a load of PDF scores of my stuff up on the web-shop ASAP. I get emails every week from people requesting the sheet music or ‘TAB’ for my tunes. Rest assured, there’ll be precious little TAB going on. Reading music isn’t hard, and is a much more useful skill that interpreting numbers of frets on imaginary fingerboards so that you can learn lots of really simple songs badly.

Anyway, long story short, no-one had G7 in stock. Shit! A wasted trip into town. Well, not entirely – I did get to call into Ray’s Jazz, and picked up a couple of very cheap CDs. One was Daby Toure’s album (something I’ve wanted since seeing him at Greenbelt last year), and the other is ‘Nordic Quartet’ by John Surman, Karin Krog, Terje Rypdal and Vigleik Storaas. It’s a fascinating album, featuring lots of classic Rypdal guitar loveliness, and inspired me to record another idea towards the new album. I don’t think it’ll make it on there, as it was just recorded to stereo, not on separate tracks, but it is a great idea that I’ll definitely revisit. Terje’s stuff always inspires me, please check out some of his CDs. {EDIT – I’ve just compared the recording of this new tune with ‘Not Dancing For Chicken’, and it’s SOOO much better – amazing how clean the sound of the Looperlative is!}

And recording that piece has got me all excited about tomorrow night’s Recycle Collective gig – I’m playing in a duo with Patrick Wood – Patrick and I have recorded together lots over the years, lots of lovely improv stuffs, some of which is in the street-team stash (or was – I’ve no idea what’s currently in the stash!). We’ve also played live together at Greenbelt, both in a duo, and he was a part of my Global Footprint huge improv thingie last year.

So we’re playing, followed by Orphy Robinson and Roger Goula – both of whom are fabulous players I’ve collaborated with in the past.

I really am like a kid in a toy shop with the Recycle Collective – I get to book all my favourite people to come and make lovely noises with me, in a gorgeous venue, to lovely audiences, which you’re more than welcome to come and be a part of. See the RC website for more details.

So that’s tomorrow. I’ve been doing LOADS of teaching of late – schedule is filling up, for sure, I’m almost maxxed out on evening teaching (if you’re wanting any lessons, best book a fair way in advance…) but I’m looking forward to my next lot of gigs – book shows in April with Muriel Anderson in the UK, and some solo stuff in April, as well as some clinics/masterclasses around… watch this space!

Soundtrack – right now, it’s my new tune, before that it was the Franks – Sinatra and Dunnery (not together!)

2005 – a year in review

Good year? Bad year? not sure…

Musically, not a bad year – didn’t release any albums, but I guess that means that the last one is still doing OK, so didn’t feel any major pressure to get something new happening. Now I’m glad I waited due to all the new musical ideas offered up by the Looperlative.

Some great gigs – bassday, bassfest thing in Italy in July, Edinburgh festival (where staying with Jane and Gareth was also a year highlight – much fun). Gig with Ned Evett in Petersfield was much fun, as was recording with Ned. Finished an albums worth of material with Calamateur, AKA Andrew Howie, and there’s a lot of great stuff on there – I’m excited about what we might be able to do with that. Recycle Collective started – was v. small, but musically one of the best gigs I’ve been involved with.

Teaching’s been great – lots of very fine students, lots of beginners making progress, and meeting lots of lovely new people. also started a new column for Bass Guitar Magazine – good to be back writing again (which reminds me, I’ve got one to finish ASAP!)

Personally, it’s been a fairly good year – one big scare with the ginger fairly aged feline, who was given roughly two weeks to live, but with chemo got rid of a satsuma sized tumor IN A WEEK!!!! – we’re still amazed by that, and he’s going great. Life with both the fairly aged felines has been lots of fun (I really feel sorry for all those of you with cat allergies who have to lavish your attention on human offspring as a replacement…) seeing them both take over the house and garden and settle in.

another year of doing no work on the house… hmmm, maybe I should start by just TIDYING MY OFFICE!!! lazy bastard…

World events – both the best and worst things that happened this year were the same – the Make Poverty History campaign was such a monumental success at getting poverty reduction and the plight of people living in extreme poverty in Africa, Asia and Latin America into the minds of every day people, it felt like there were really a chance to make a proper change. millions of people signing petitions, emailing MPs and congressmen, documentaries being made, and of course Live8 and the march in Edinburgh.

And then the worst thing – the gargantuan fuck-up that the G8 leaders made of the opportunity to do something for the world’s poor. Never before in the history of the world had there been such a wellspring of popular support for governments making decisions in favour of the poor, diverting cash and resources to help those in need, changing trade laws to balance things out. Millions upon millions of people around the world were calling for it, huge numbers of politicians were calling for it. Even mad right wing american jihadists like Pat Robertson were on-side (!!), but still those sad twisted old men of the G8 sat round the table in Gleneagles, in their opulence and grandeur and bollocksed the whole thing up. Their pledges fell woefully short, and then they even undid a lot of that. It was disgusting, sickening and saddening that such an opportunity had been wasted. Bono and Bob Geldof had done an amazing job of getting the campaign off the ground, from their involvement in the commission for Africa, and DATA, through to organising Live8, but they bottled it when the announcement was made, took the encouraging words one step too far and declared the Gleneagles bullshit to be a triumph. I’m guessing they aren’t too happy with where it’s gone. The follow up at the World Trade Talks in November was equally shit. A tragedy on a scale that all the terrorists in the world couldn’t hope to achieve.

The week of Live8 and the G8 was a busy one, given that it was also the week of two other disasters – firstly London getting the Olympics (another monumental waste of money which will leave the PPP funding bodies rubbing their grubby hands in glee), and then the London bombing. The bombing had begun to feel like an inevitability for a while – there was no way that the huge disquiet amongst the world’s muslim population about the Iraqi occupation and the continued support for Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land was going to go unmarked in the UK. And finally it did, four huge bombs, three on the underground, one on a bus, quite a few people dead (though not as many as lost their lives in Iraq that weekend… that didn’t make the world news). A tragedy, but one that the government still refuse to admit was linked to the situation in the middle east. Stupid stupid fools.

But at the end of the year, some great news, perhaps the first great news in british life for a long time – registered civil partnerships for Gay couples. Finally gay people can get married (no, I really don’t care if you don’t want to call it a marriage or a wedding – it is, and that’s great.)

And the media spectacle of the year was certainly George Galloway in front of the US senate committee, absolutely ripping them apart. The most damning indictment of the Bush administrations lies and coverup in Iraq, and right there in the heart of the beast. Genius! Galloway can be a bit of a bellend, and his campaign in the General Election (ah yes, we had one of those – what a non-event that was) was horrible and divisive, but on that one day in the Senate, he ruled the world.

oh, media event of the year joint first was Harold Pinter’s nobel prize acceptance speech – another damning destruction of the history of US foreign military intervention.

What else? A few noteable partings – we lost the great Ronnie Barker, one of the finest comic actors and writers Britain has ever produced; Mo Mowlam, one of the few politicians of conviction we still had; Rosa Parks, the unwitting god-mother of the civil rights movement in the US; Andrea Dworkin feminist writer and thinker.

And on a personal level, the death of Eric Roche was a terribly sad loss – a huge talent and dear friend who has featured in this blog more than almost anyone else. Playing at the tribute gig to him on what would have been his birthday was a huge honour.

Blogwise, it’s been my most bloggingest year ever – over 510 posts this year, over 450 visitors a day (??? I’m sure there’s a mistake there somewhere…) and the demise of being able to tell people what I’ve been up to – ‘so, steve, what have you been up to?’ ‘well, I had a gig th….’ ‘yeah I read about that’ ‘oh, well I went out to see a…’ ‘ah yes, that film, read your review of that’ ‘THEN WHY DID YOU ASK???’

Thanks for reading, for emailing for commenting on the blog, and particularly thanks if you’ve been buying CDs and t-shirts, coming to gigs, spreading the word, and generally helping me pay the bills this year. Love you lots! x

Soundtrack – The The, ’45 RPM – the singles’.