Link 182

First up, a couple of sites you might want to have a look at, if you’re wanting to kill some time before doing all those things you really ought to be getting on with…

Fly The Copter – is a java game, and is rather addictive…

world’s dullest blog – you thought you were already reading it. Think again.

While we’re on the subject of ‘blogs, check out George and Gemini’s cat-blog at catchat.org – marvellous stuff!

Pacman – Ben Castle’s website, aside from having all the musical info you need about the man (which you really ought to check out), also has a java version of PacMan on it…!

What’s been happening? Well, The Aged Feline had another fit/seizure at 2.30 this morning. It’s really really traumatic to watch, as he seems to be in such pain – we’ve got a vets appt. for tomorrow, and I spoke to the vet yesterday, who said that it’s probably either blood pressure related, or to do with oxygen startvation… either way, it’s pretty worrying, and really distressing to watch, knowing that all you can do is cuddle him until it goes away (following him being sick and crapping everywhere)… weird thing is, he seems fine about an hour later… Still, I’ll be keeping a close eye on him today, checking in on him during the day… I’m hoping he’ll come and sleep down here in the office, in front of a toasty warm fire… we’ll see… I’ll have to tempt him with some quorn or red pepper (fave aged feline snacks…)

Last night was the Last Orders Christmas Curry – which was great, and all the more remarkable as Last Orders doesn’t really exist any more, and I haven’t really been involved since August 2001… It was, in its heyday, the rather groovy late night cabaret/music/comedy/nonsense show at Greenbelt, headed up by top comedy writer James Cary (Jam). Last night was me, evil harv, Jam, Jude and Andy Turner. A fine evening was had by all…

Latest news seems to be that the PPP/PFI/Part privatisation of the tube is going to cost a heck of a lot more than leaving it in the public sector… no shit, sherlock! really? what a surpirse, considering all the other PPP schemes have ended costing the government shedloads of cash for shoddy end results. Good lord, has it taken them this long to realise what a total balls up the whole PPP thing is???? Just visit any PPP hospital, and see the fine wallpaper in rooms with too few beds, and lifts that won’t fit a bed in… Why did we vote for these fools??? New Labour, Old Tory… Go on, give the Lib-Dems a go next time, I dare you…

US tour dates for January are coming along nicely – another one confirmed for San Luis Obispo this morning… I have fairly unfavourable memories of SLO from my last visit there, namely because I went through it on my way from Sacramento to Big Sur!!!! (a detour of about 250 miles!!) having been told to head down 5 to Highway 1, but not realising that I was looking for a road to connect the two, not actually the point where they met (over a hundred miles south of where I needed to me..) – I was very late for the gig, which turned out to be fine after all, but did leave me with a bit of a stigma attached to the name ‘San Luis Obispo’… :o)

Soundtrack – yesterday, was listening to Squarepusher ‘Go Plastic’, crazy drum ‘n’ bass insanity – Tom Jenkinson AKA Squarepusher is a fab bassist, although there’s no live bass on this album at all… great stuff. Since then, been listening to Drastic Measures by Michael Manring – his first ‘great’ album (his first two albums have got some fine music on them, but this is where his ‘voice’ emmerged, beautifully produced by Steve Rodby) – a very very inspiring album, which I spent some time last night playing along with…

In the car last night I put on ‘Steve McQueen’ by Prefab Sprout – which is always a bad move, as it means nothing else will get a look-in for weeks. What an unbelieveably perfect album in every way imagineable!!! Great songs, great lyrics, fantastic production (Thomas Dolby), remarkable sounds and arrangements. All round magic. I’m planning on doing a coupe of solo arrangements of tunes from the CD… who knows it they’ll work… Maybe I should do an all-covers CD… :o) Any suggestions for things I should do? feel free to email them, or post them to the website guestbook (Evil Harv, control yourself…)

The rest of today? some playing, some accounting, meeting Simon Jones for lunch (nice man), and er, that’s it.

Oh, nasty news from this morning – a woman tripped over outside the house and broke her nose!! Blood everywhere, I got a knock on the door asking for frozen peas, which I fetched, along with a chair for the woman to sit on before the ambulance arrived. Poor thing, hope she’s OK…

Delayed Gratification…

…one of the central themes of Scott Peck’s ‘The Road Less Travelled’, also part of the theme of today’s sermon in church (can anything that Malcom Doney says be regarded as a sermon? more dry standup routine with a message, I guess…)… anyway, good stuff, reminded me to stop twatting about, and I came home and managed to clear the backlog of 616 emails that had been sat in my inbox since the L42 tour!!!!

Went to an outstanding gig last night (saturday night) – Ben Castle Quartet at the 606 club – Mark Edwards on Piano, Tim Harries on Bass, and Winston Clifford on drums… breath-taking, energising life-affirming stuff. And what’s more, Tim was playing a BC Rich ‘Beast’ bass – like he was straight out of Spinal Tap or Slipnot – and it rocked!! I’ve not been so ‘involved’ in watching a band for a long time. simply amazing. If this band are playing anywhere within 100 miles of you, you miss them at your peril. Ben’s a stunning, and extremely confident sax player, and there’s no weak link in the band – the rhythm section were storming, driving everything forward like the over-used metaphorical juggernaught. ooh, almost too good!! Makes me want to play…

On a much less positive note, the aged feline had a fit this evening – we’re not sure if it was a stroke or what, but it was clearly terrifying for him, and pretty damned frightening for us too. He was back to as close to normal as can be expected in an hour or so, but is still a little shakey on his pins… please pray for the little fella…

Soundtrack – in the car, I’ve been listening to a great compliation called ‘Our Friends Electric’, which is all early 80s synth stuff, from Ultravox to Belouis Some to The Buggles. Marvellous. And here at home, I’ve had Ben Castle’s ‘Four From The Madding Crowd’, which is excellent, followed by Fleetwood Mac ‘Rumours’ – which, I’m perhaps a little ashamed to say, is one of my guilty pleasures – what a great album! It’s amazing what two divorces and an adulterous affair can do for the creativity of a band! Go Your Own Way really does send shivers down my spine…

right, to bed…

Best Laid Plans Of Mice and Men…

…aft gan aglay… and that’s two nights of serious aglayness in a row! I’m
beginning to think that asking some mice to sort out my gigs for me was
not particularly a good idea…

After blogging yesterday, I went out and spoke to the workman, who said
they’d get the driveway entrance clear by 6… fine, I’ll go with that. Load
up the car, set off in small person’s small-person-car. No petrol. warning
light on. Think ‘oh, I’ll go to the second service station, it near enough’.
Car stalls going up hill… bugger. Restarts fine. Stalls again. twice. get’s to
petrol station, thankfully.

Arrive at St Luke’s, and notice that there’s no space to set up all my stuff…
Ring Justin-the-MD. he arrives back, and says that the – ehem – ‘ambient’
music at the beginning will be some jazz stuff – me, him and some sax
playing friend, playing off some charts from a rather ropey buskers fake
book. Guess I won’t be needing my amp or rack stuff… all of which is now
in my car outside the church (not really the kind of area you want to be
leaving musical equipment in the car in…) Also looks like the rest of the
evening is pretty much planned out… So I leave all the stuff in the car,
play the opening set through the amp that’s there (a really piss poor
sounding Peavey thingie…), and go home again…

Seems like they had a great night, but I’m not about to risk having the
small person’s small-person-transporter trashed and my music gear nicked
for anything…

And I missed out on a good gig in Norwich to be available. What bollocks.

Anyway, today, went to church this morning, which was nice, came home,
and have just spent the last few hours trying to fix the small person’s
iMac, which started doing that folder/?-symbol flashing thing, but then
when I booted it off the startup disk, didn’t even have the hard drive listed
as being on the computer. So it’s shagged, basically… not sure what to do.
Will have to go out and see Greenbelt-Britlinks-James who knows lots about
computers cos he’s dead clever, and see if he knows what to do…
Meanwhile small person will be working on this machine… See, more
plans gan algay – maybe she should stop letting mice plan the servicing of
her computer…

Soundtrack – me and Jez, David Sylvian’s ‘Secrets Of The Beehive’
(featuring the magical Danny Thompson on bass and David Torn on guitar),
and also Theo Travis, ‘Heart Of The Sun’ – proof that brits can do
contemporary jazz as well as anyone… quality stuff.

Taking the Rough With The Smooth…

Ah, what an eventful day yesterday was…

Started out teaching – all good so far. The no-at-all-evil-Dann arrived, we
packed up my amps/basses/toys etc. loaded them into the car and headed
of for Norwich, in good time. Hit traffic first on the M25 – so headed off up
the A10 instead of M11 – then again, very badly, on the A11 towards Norwich.
Got to the gig halfway through the collective soundcheck, unloaded my stuff,
then it took me 10 minutes to find a parking space (10 minutes we didn’t
have). Fortunately I wasn’t going through the PA (the joys of having an
Ashdown that sounds better than most PAs…), so soundcheck took
about 8 seconds once the gear was set up…

The gig itself was marvellous – started off with Darkroom, playing ambient
soundscape-y processed noise stuff (very good noise), I then joined in
over the top, they faded out, and I went from that improv into ‘No More Us
And Them’. From a very look bleepy version of that, I went into Highway 1,
at which point, fellow solo bassist Peter Chilvers joined in, played some
e-bow over the intro, and we were then joined by Roger Eno and Theo Travis on
acoustic guitar and sax respectively. What a
fantastic version of Highway 1!! I’m so glad it was recorded and can’t wait
to hear it. If the mix is anywhere close to OK, It’ll be magic… Roger was
playing some lovely arpeggiated stuff on acoustic guitar, while Theo and
I traded lines off each other, me with my Fripp-meets-Satch lead sound,
while Peter Chilvers kept the whole ambient side of it shifting and changing.
LovelyLovely.

I then faded out, and that trio continued, and then each act overlapped with
the last – Centrazoon, Andy Butler, GP Hall, Theo Travis. And after Theo’s
set, loads of us piled onto the stage for a remarkably coherent loop-jam,
with Tim Bowness, Theo and I trading melodies over some pretty marvellous
ambient waffle from Peter, Andy, Dave Montague, GP and the Darkroom
guys! All in all, a very fine evening’s music. The audience wasn’t huge, but
hey, that’s what happens when you go for quality over pop-credibility…

Getting the car back to the venue was a fun experience – Norwich has an
insane one-way system… Anyway, arrived back, and we all went off for a
drink and a chat. Very nice it was too, and many collaborations were
discussed and plans are afoot.

About 12.50, I jump in the car to come home. All is well, til I reach
Cockfosters (about two miles from home) and the engine cuts out and the
oil light comes on… fortunately I can roll the car most of the way to the
nearest Jet petrol station, and push it the last few feet. Put some oil in.
Still won’t start. Making odd noises. ring AA. 1.5 hours later, man arrives
with truck, ‘your cam belt’s broken’. Bugger. Big expense. Anyway, car
gets towed home, I unload the gear, and get to bed just after 4.30am!

Supposed to be teaching at 10am. Small person rings them at 9 to cancel.

Supposed to have a gig at St Luke’s tonight. Due to driveway restructuring,
small person’s small-person-car is inaccessible. Ring Justin (St Luke’s MD),
and leave message saying can’t make 2.30 rehearsal, maybe can’t get there
at all… Justin calls back says get a cab… maybe…

And here we are. Good gig, broken car. As The New Fast Automatic Daffodils
once wisely sang ‘Every silver lining has its cloud’…

Soundtrack – in the car, not-at-all-evil-Dann and I were listening to
all manner of stuff – Jane Siberry, Sigur Ros, Don Ross, SadHappy, Defeat
The Young, etc. etc. Then got sick of good music and put on ‘Long Cold
Winter’ by Cinderella, which I’m ashamed to say, stayed in the player for
about an hour… :o) After that, on the way home, I stuck in a No-Man
compilation (Tim Bowness’s rather wonderful band – think Prefab Sprout,
late-ear Talk Talk mixed with the best of Marillion and something else poppy
and deep…), and now am listening to Cipher, Theo Travis’ side project
of fascinating spacey stuff. Theo’s a fantastic musician that I look forward
to working with again very soon, hopefully…

Meanwhile, this morning, while I still slept, Small person took aged feline to
the vets, only to have him stop limping for the vet, but choose instead to
deposit a huge great steaming turd on the vets examination table. A choice
comment on vetinary science in general, methinks, from the perspective of
a small furry vetinary science consumer, wishing for an easy life.

Lessons learned from a useless DJ pt 1

I have to thank Jon Gaunt… I made a fine discovery today, thanks to him.

For those of you that don’t live in London, or do but don’t listen to BBC Radio
London, he’s the ill-informed, reactionary, argumentative waste of oxygen
that comprises a big turd-stain on an otherwise fabulous schedule at Radio
London, between 9 and 12am… His is a phone in show, in which anyone
who disagrees with said loser gets shouted down or cut off or insulted and
sundry equally ill-informed losers (why on earth should I give a monkey’s
what Joe-schmoe-cabby thinks about Asylum seekers?? Has he done the
research? has he worked in a camp, or a homeless shelter? does he have
any idea what it’s like to be dislocated??? of course not!!! So why on earth
are his views being broadcast across London, at the licence payer’s
expense?????????????) phone in to agree with Mr Gaunt’s ludicrous polemic…

Anyway, thanks the small person leaving the radio on to entertain the
aged feline today when she went to work (a futile exercise, given the
profound deafness of the afore-mentioned feline, but a cute attempt
anyway…), I was subjected to about 5 minutes of Gaunt’s bile-filled
ranting, and turned over to radio 4. Woman’s Hour. What great radio!!
Quality broadcasting, expert opinions, funny presenters… good lord! any
way of getting that Gaunt loser to have a listen?

Jumped in the car to drive to Oxford to see Jez, and leave the radio on –
very funny radio play, followed by fascinating docu-thingie on inner city
schools. So thanks to Gaunty’s attempts to be ‘the british Rush Limbaugh’
(yes, my US friends, he’s that useless…) I have now discovered the delights
of Radio 4… :o)

Anyway, the visit to Jez’ was highly enjoyable and resulted in another
fascinating improv track, which will probably be available from the Pillow
Mountain Records
website for download soon, as an early Christmas Pressie
for anyone that wants it… No looping on the track this time, just my bass
and his piano and some lovely noises. Same premise as the ‘Conversations’
stuff. No discussion of key/vibe/anything. Just plug in and play… a rather
invigorating way to spend the day. Jez is a very intuitive musician, and
plays some fantastic stuff on here…

Came home, listening to more Radio 4 stuff on the way. Was hassled
mercilessly by the cat when I got in, who clearly doesn’t like being left
on his own during the day anymore, even though I’d fed him and given
him maximum snuggles before I went out… There’s no pleasing some
small furry people…

Soundtrack – well, during the few moments when I’ve not
been indulging my new love affair with Radio 4, I’ve listened to Cupid
and Psyche again, Peter Gabriel’s Up, the new Keith Jarrett double live CD,
and this new track from me and Jez, which is play at the moment…

Right, off to cook dinner now…

Christmas taste bypass effect…

What on earth happens to people at Christmas? Yesterday I went out for
lunch with my mum and Babs (known as ‘aunti Babs, but no idea what
relation she really is to me… distant, I think, but one of our grooviest
relations and great fun..). We went to Crew’s Hill, north of Enfield, which is
the garden centre capital of the world… But also, for the next couple of
weeks, home to the most hideous ‘Christmas Wonderland’ shop that I’ve
ever come across! Millions of shiny santas, singing Bing Crosby’s dressed
as Santa, gaudy decorations, cheap plastic christmas trees, crass nativity
scenes devoid of all realism. It was horrible!!!! Scary thing was it was full! on
a monday afternoon, full of families, with kids (er, aren’t they meant to be
in school???) buying cheap nasty tat. No wonder the country’s going down
the pan when parents prioritise bad taste christmas junk over an education…
very sad…

On the up side, I did manage to find a squirrel-proof bird-feeder. Our last
one got eaten by the squirrels (not just the nuts, but the base of the feeder
as well!!) This one is built like a brick s**t house – try to get into that, you
furry terrorists!!!!

soundtrack – yesterday, I got sent a CD by John Lester, a singing
solo bassist living in Paris, but from San Fransisco. Very good it is too, well
worth looking out for (there’ll be a link to his site on the Solo Bass Network
site as soon as I find one…) This morning, I got Cupid and Psyche by Scritti
Politti through from 101CD.com. What a fantastic album!!! This is an absolute
blinder… great stuff.

Got lots of teaching on today, and will hopefully get round to adding
some photos or MP3s or both from the Level 42 tour to the site…

Adventures in Solo Bass

A couple of years ago, I started a website… not my own, I already had that
one, but another one – The Solo Bass Network – designed as a links and info
page for anyone interested in solo bass stuff, and a portal to finding all the
solo bassists around…

Just after starting to site, I got way to busy to actually collect the info needed
to keep the mailing list happening, so it has lain dormant for the best part of
18 months.

Finally, today, I got round to switching the list format to ‘anyone on the list
can post’, so that people can post their own news (like, that was a
revelation!) – so I’ve updated the site a bit, and hopefully, the possibilities
for spreading the word about solo bass related stuff will expand…

If you’re interested in solo bass, do check out the site – the directory has
got tonnes of links to solo bassist’s websites, and an ickle write up on each
of them…

soundtrack – on a solo bass theme, I’ve been listening to Trip
Wamsley’s as-yet-unreleased new album, and very fine it is too.. you can
find trip’s site via the Solo Bass Network! :o)

Some interesting recent listening

Back when I was in school (late 80s), we had a small group of friends who would all head down to fat george’s record shop on Bridge Street in Berwick on a Saturday morning to order records… any old records… the more obscure the better.

In those pre-internet times, the source of all knowledge about what was available was the Music Maker Publications big red book of records, which listed just about everything that was on general release.

I bought some great stuff through that, and some total bollocks. Great stuff, like Steve Berry – ‘Trio’, John Zorn – ‘Spillane’, the best of Weather Report etc. etc… and some rubbish like ‘Electric Storm in Hell’ by White Noise…

One record that we all really wanted to get but could never find was ‘Ladies Don’t Have Willies’ by a band called 64 Spoons. It seemed like the most preposterous title for a single – add to that the daft band name, and we had to know what it sounded like. But sadly, week after week, George couldn’t find it, it was out of print… whatever, it never turned up.

Fast forward 15 years, and in the last two tours I’ve done, with the Schizoid Band and Level 42, I’ve been touring with two ex-members of said Spoons! Jakko Jakszyk (guitar/vox with Schizoids) and Lyndon Conner (keys/vox with L42) were both in 64 Spoons!

Enter not-at-all-evil Dann, delving deep into his extensive CD collection to provide an early 90s compilation of Spoonerisms from the late 70s/early 80s… and bizarrely enough, it’s pretty good. Very good in places. Very silly and self conscious in other places, but sort of Squeeze meets Cat-Food era Crimson, meets Joe Jackson with a touch of Blockheads-funk… The kind of thing, that were it more widely known, would now be forcing people onto the dance floor at schooldisco.com events.

Still haven’t heard Ladies Don’t Have Willies though…

After that, the next CD I listened to couldn’t be more different Juldeh Camara is a West African singer/composer and player of the one string fiddle! I first heard his stuff on Charlie Gillett’s show on BBC London, but then met up with Duncan Noble – a bassist who has assembled a touring project with Juldeh, playing in the UK early next year.

It’s amazing how Juldeh manages to keep your attention… even mesmerise you with just fiddle and voice. And judging by the range of material on the CDR that Duncan gave me, he’s more than happy to recontextualise his playing and writing into whatever setting is around, from acoustic blues to funk/soul stuff… I really hope that their tour doesn’t clash with my dates in California next year, as I’d love to see this live…

Finally got stuck into the last chapter of Derek Bailey’s ‘Improvisation – its nature and practice in music’ book last night. It’s an amazing book, but I do have a habit of dropping books somewhere in or around the last chapter… seems to be a theme running through my life (do half the washing up, write half a song, tidy half my office, etc. etc…)

Anyway, the last chapter is all about the Musicians Improvisors Collective (MIC – I think that’s what it stands for…), and is very interesting indeed. The whole book is very highly recommended for anyone interested in improv and its relationship to music making as a whole…

Busy day today – meeting Jam-comedy-writer this afternoon, and going to see Moby play tonight… well, going to meet up with Greta Brinkman, who happens to be playing with Moby. Evil Harv’s coming as well, so that’ll be my dose of eville for the week sorted then…

before that, need to tidy up here, as my mum arrives for a short stay later on. Always nice to see my mum, cos she’s great!

So much to do…

Teaching Schedule is now filling up, which is good… I asked my
students to get back in touch in early December, so the eager ones
are on it already and my diary is taking shape, which is nice…

Still feeling jet-lagged from the tour, sleeping late, sitting up late…
need to get back round the right way by the weekend.

Just found the site of a band called Dapp Theory
– jazz outfit based in NYC who have collaborated with Bruce
Cockburn on their album that’s out in January… very interesting
stuff. have a listen to the track Trickle Down on their website…

Right what now? need to go and post CD orders (mail order
ones, CC orders from evinsol.co.uk and from gemm.com
– it’s getting harder to keep track of what’s happening where!
Gemm seems like a very good set up though. I’ve only had the
stuff listed there a day or two and am already getting orders
daily from them, so I guess people must be looking for it! That’s
heartening… :o)

Also need to mail out all the review copies that I bagged up yesterday
– it’s going to be a fun trip to the post office with 40 jiffy bags or
something this afternoon!

Oh, and at some point soon I need to take the flight case back to
the Bass Centre that they so kindly lent to me for the L42
tour – this little Ashdown rig of mine, with the 4×8,
1×10 and 500W head, all fits into one normal 4×10 cabinet flight
case!! A whole rig in one medium sized case.. how cool is that?

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.