American Tales pt 1

So I’m currently in Santa Cruz, having survived NAMM, and the drive north, and one gig with Michael Manring.

Got in last Tuesday, and was staying with the wonderful Doug, Vida and Dani for the first couple of days – it’s great to come out here and immediately feel at home. It just serves to reinforce my dislike of hotels.

Two days with the Lunns, then off down to NAMM. NAMM, for those new to the game, is a HUGE music equipment trade fair. The connection with the music industry means there are a fair few lovely people around. The commercial side of it means there are also a lot of losers on the make there. I tend to view NAMM as an archepelego (spelling, harv?) of lovely people in a sea of turd. you just run from one booth of nice people to the next, hoping not get hijacked by some moron trying to sell MIDI leiderhosen or the keyboard the doubles as a trouser press for musicians on the move…

All in all, it was a fab experience – I played at and compered the BassQuake event on Thursday night, which was much fun – Dan Elliot, the BassQuake founder, does an amazing job of putting together a great show every year.

On the show floor, I did one short set a day each for Modulus and AccuGroove, and spent lots of time just milling around catching up with people I rarely get to see. Some great friends where there – Anderson from Modulus, Mark and David from AccuGroove, Peter Murray, Michael Manring, Doug Lunn (again), Warren from Fodera, Wally and Lady Bo, Carl at Lakland, Eric Roche, Steve and Jill Azola, Rick and Jessica Turner, Dave Swift, Muriel Anderson, Sarita Stewart, John East, John Fearrante, Otiel Burbridge, Jeff Campatelli, Bill Walker, Bob Amstadt, Lowell, Dude. etc. etc. etc. loads and loads of great people, many of whom I only get to see once a year. Eating is a sacrament at NAMM – for me, I break bread with the Subway people every day – a foot long veggie delight, being my element of choice. Getting to eat with friends at NAMM is great, time away from the convention centre. Friday it was with Doug, Vida, Dani and Vinnie, Saturday with Peter Murray, Lunch was with Bob Amstadt on Saturday, and Tal Wilkenfeld on Sunday (fantastic young bassist from Australia working in NYC – you’re going to be hearing much more from her, I guarantee it).

So NAMM was lots of fun once again, and by not writing for a mag this year, I had a lot more time for just hanging out and enjoying the show.

During NAMM I was staying with Bob (QSC Bob from all the bass forums) and Alison – great people, who made me very welcome. The best thing about travelling is the people. The worst is missing the small person and the cats, but emailing whenever possible, and the occasional snatched phone call is having to do for now…

Sunday night after NAMM, Doug Lunn and I headed off the the Knitting Factory in LA to see Kaki King play – Kaki’s a killer guitarist, produced by the wonderful David Torn. She’s from that post-Hedges school, with a few twists of her own, and a great line in on-stage patter. A killer gig.

Tuesday was the long drive north, up here to Santa Cruz, staying with Rick and Jessica Turner. Rick and I could be stuck in a room together for months and not run out of things to talk about. They are both two of the most interesting and marvellous people I know, so coming here is my Northern California home, in the way that staying with the Lunns is in SoCal.

which brings us up to last night’s gig, back at the Espresso Garden in San Jose with Michael Manring. playing with Michael is, as you know from my raving after the UK gigs, the most enjoyable and fullfilling musical enviroment i’ve ever found myself in, and last night was great. Thanks to everyone who turned out.

And now I’m off out for lunch with Rick Walker, another great friend and fab percussionist.

more later…

Long Time No See…

Haven’t blogged in a while – what’s been going on?

Er, lots of teaching, mainly. Did have a fun recording sesh with Theo Travis on alto flute – just doing improv duets. We got some great stuff down, some of which will be on the website before too long. However, it was all recorded in Mono due to the limitations of my recording set up, so I finally bit the bullet and got a new sound card, and a miniature desk – nothing flash, just an M-Audio Delta 44 card, and a Beringher 8 channel desk – but it will allow me to record two people in stereo separately, so that I can then mix it properly afterwards, and also record at a much higher resolution than before, meaning better fidelity… All in all, I’m rather excited about the possibilities. It is amazing what can be done now with such basic technology (or at least, basic by current standards) – stuff that 20 years ago would have taken weeks of studio editing and very expensive gear is now doable at the click of a button in a bit of free software that came bundled with your soundcard. Very nice.

Anyway, I shall start recording some new solo stuff before too long as well, as I’ll be able to route the Echoplexes to different channels, and mix the whole thing afterwards. It also means I’ll have to original material on one track, so that people can remix it, which I’ve had a few requests from remixers for…

What else? Ah yes, I just added a new MP3 to the site – it’s of Michael Manring and I playing together at The Anaheim Bass Bash in January – that was a lot of fun, organised by the people behind bassquake, and at the end of my solo set, I called Michael up to do a duo tune – he was on after me anyway, so it made for a nice smooth cross over. Anyway, he came up, got a sound, and I started playing a sort of dubby percussive groove, he joined in with the E-Bow and started playing a melody/solo idea, which I looped a tremolo chordal part of the top of my initial bass/percussive stuff loop. I then pickup up the E-Bow too and added an odd atmospheric line (sounds sort of like a bowed cymbal, if you’ve ever heard that), and then a strummy funk guitar line, all under Michael’s ever evolving melody line. Eventually I switch to a distorted melody line that’s pretty fractured and spikey – lots of dissonance and nastiness. I think that’s followed by us trade melody lines (interesting to hear how our different fretless tones sound together) and at the end Michael uses the sample and hold function in his VF1 to do an ambient loop, which I follow, fading out my loops and building a more soundscape-type piece to fade. All in all, a lot of fun – hope you enjoy it too – go to the MP3 page for more on that….

Er, what else? not much. Been reading more of ‘Stupid White Men’ by Michael Moore, a very vital voice in the current world political scene (which seems to be sinking deeper and deeper into the mire, just when you thought it couldn’t get any lower… Michael’s film, Bowling For Columbine is by far the best film I’ve seen in the last couple of years, and is the biggest grossing documentary of all time (he’s got #2 as well, with ‘Roger and Me’) – it’s a must see.

Soundtrack – lots of things of late. Right now, it’s Greg Mathieson and Abe Laboriel – a CD I first heard 3 years ago, and which has finally been released – an awesome bass/piano duo record, and part of the inspiration for Conversations. What else? Madonna – ‘Something To Remember’, Ron Eschete – ‘Mo Strings Attached’ (with Todd Johnson on bass), Ornette Coleman – ‘The Shape Of Jazz To Come’, Genesis – ‘The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway’, Cyndi Lauper – ‘She’s So Unusual’, Sugar – ‘Copper Blue’, The Minutemen – ‘Double Nickels On The Dime’, Donnie Hathaway – ‘Live’, Julie Lee – ‘Made From Scratch’ and the tracks that Theo and I recorded last week…