Last night's gig with BJ and Emily

Lovely little gig with BJ Cole and Emily Burridge last night – the Enterprise in Camden. It does have the steepest stairs in London, and after loading my stuff in, I wasn’t sure if my arms would be working in time for the gig, but they were. I also nearly brought the scaled down travel rig, but I’d have been in deep shit if I had because the PA there isn’t even close to being up to the task of reproducing StevieSounds. So Emily ran her cello through my rig as well, and BJ had his most beautiful fender amp with him, which always sounds like the music of heaven.

It’s a little room, and we had a little audience, but they were most appreciative. Nicest surprise for me was that during the afternoon I’d been thinking about older tunes I haven’t played for a while at gigs, and decided to do Danny And Mo from ‘Not Dancing For Chicken’ – a tune dedicated to Mo Foster and Danny Thompson. And who should walk in just as I started playing but Mo Foster. Always nice when the inspiration for a song is there to hear you explain why they’re so fantastic. Do you want to know the story behind the tune? OK – when I first started working on the tunes that would become Not Dancing For Chicken, I had just got a Gibson Echoplex, which offered loads more looping options – I was rather inspired by a guitarist in California called Andre LaFosse who was doing some amazing unique things with the echoplex, and was certainly a very long way from the long chord progressions, melodies and ambience that I was working on at the time.

So when I went into Jez’s studio to record the first version of the album, I was experimenting with a lot of really spikey angular electronica – using the replace and sus functions in the EDP all over the place, and getting some fairly cool effects.

however, when I got home after the sessions, I was listening to ‘Time To Think’ by Mo Foster, and had an epiphany, realising what was missing from the record – TUNES! I had nothing with any of the big romantic melodies that are what I do best, and all the ambient stuff was punctuated by bleeps and squeaks, some of which was great (and ended up on Lessons Learned Pt I) most of which wasn’t that good…

So I went back to the drawing board, and the first thing I wrote, straight after listening to that album of Mo’s was ‘Danny And Mo’. So there.

Anyway, back to the gig – I played Behind Every Word (with a huge cock-up on the B-section first time round – just had a brain freeze), then Danny And Mo, Despite My Worst Intentions, MMFSOG, What A Wonderful World and Deeper Still. I’d planned to do a whole load of improv, but went with sweet tunes instead. :o) And ’twas v. well received, which is most heartening.

Bj and Emily’s set was, as expected, beautiful. There’s an amazing empathy between them as players, and the classical arrangements work better than any rearranged classical works I’ve ever heard. It’s usually a recipe for disaster, but them playing Satie is a thing of great beauty. Emily’s a fab Cellist, with an amazing tone and touch. And BJ’s, well, BJ – a completely unique figure in the world of music.

in the second set they got me up for an improv, which started out as a gentle naive duet between BJ and I, swapped to a duet between Emily and I, then I looped a progression in D, and BJ and I started building up the ambience while Emily played beautiful melodic lines over it… and the fade got really dark with my big Sigur Ros guitar sound, and BJ’s twisted MoogerFooger distorted steel… amazing.

And so you have it, the story of gigs in london – small appreciative crowds listening to world-beating music. It’s the kind of thing that should be filling concert halls the world over. I guess it will… patience, dear boy.

Last date of my European Tour…

Was in Wales last night. Cross Keys to be precise. Somewhere near Newport. Not quite sure where though.

The gig was put on by Islwyn Guitar Club, and as such was half gig half guitar club stuffs. Started with a bit of a workshop from me, which from the feedback on bassword was much appreciated, thankfully… Then onto a bit of a play round, couple of nice guitar contributions, then Andy Long making his solo bass debut, and doing a fine job of it, followed by Alun Vaughn playing a 20 minute solo set – some great playing, no loopage or processing, just six string bass, a gorgeous version of Here’s that Rainy Day, and a solo bass version of Purple Haze that was completely different to Michael Manring’s, which made a very nice change.

I had two 45 minute sets, so did a similar set to the ones in Kleve and Milan – lots of older tunes in the first set, and lots of Behind Every Word stuff in the second, plus Deep Deep Down (Eric Roche’s tune that leads into Deeper Still), and What A Wonderful World. Also had a bash at a completely solo version of Knocks Me Off My Feet as an encore (an encore! I hate encores, but still…), which shows promise!

Drove home, back here just before 3. So knackered now, but so much to do today. Office is in an even bigger mess than usual (more mess?? Surely that’s not possible?) and much admin and gig booking has to be done for the new year…

So there endeth the European Tour – next gig is the Recycle Collective first anniversary gig on 15th November at Darbucka – you SO don’t want to miss that. Rumour has it there are people coming from Denmark to be there… beat that, Italian blog readers!!! haha!

Euroblog #932

Home stretch! I’m on the train from Nijmegen to Rosendaal in Holland, having played in Kleve in Germany last night. The Kleve experience was one I won’t forget for a while…

So yesterday morning, the morning after European Bass Day, had breakfast with all the bass peoples who were at Bass Day, in the hotel, then got a lift down to Krefeld Haupt BanHof, (that’s train station to you), and got the train to Kleve. For some stupid reason I’d left it til that morning to email the owner of the theatre I was playing in, but I sent him my phone number and the email address that goes straight to my phone, and thought that the worst case scenario was that I’d end up meeting him at the venue when he got there to set up. I had the map from the venue website to be able to find the place, and was happy to have a look round Kleve and check into a hotel in the afternoon.

I get to Kleve, find a town map outside the station, and set off in the direction of the venue. I walk for about 5 minutes and a car pulls up alongside and asks me in German if I want any help. I answer in English, and the driver then guesses that I’m doing the concert at the theatre, as she’d read about it in the paper that morning (a very good sign), it turns out she knows the guy who owns it and his family, and offers to give me a lift first to the theatre, and then to the house of the owner when there’s no-one there! As a general rule, I don’t advise getting into stranger’s cars, but Oopie (I’m assuming that’s how it’s spelt) clearly did know the theatre people, and the Serendipity of the situation seemed way too go to pass up… Thank God for slightly nuts people in small-town Germany who are willing to stop and help lost looking musicians!

So we go the house of the theatre owner, Wolfgang, he’s not there, but his family take v. good care of me, speak excellent english, and prove to be utterly delightful, interesting, funny and wonderful people – just the kind of people that would make all of this worthwhile even if I didn’t enjoy the music. That I get to play music I love and meet people like this makes me a most happy and lucky bunny.

Wolfgang arrives, matches his family for friendliness and all-round wonderfulness, and we head down to the venue – xox theatre (xox is actually a word, not just X O X, which I thought it was… xox, pronounced like ‘socks’ with an x in front, was a biscuit manufacturer, and the theatre is on the top floor of the old converted factory.) It’s a gorgeous little theatre, with great lighting and 99 raked seats. Just perfect for a StevieGig.

The house PA proves most satisfactory, and I set up and soundcheck with tonnes of time to spare, and meet Theo from MySpace, the guy who set all this up in the first place.

The gig itself was pretty small (the big problem with being on the road is that’s pretty tough to keep track of all the promo stuff for each gig, and make sure everyone has everything they need), but the people there were hugely generous in their appreciation for the music, I sold a lot of CDs (on this tour I sold out of all the copies of both Behind Every Word and Grace And Gratitude that I bought with me, and have only a couple of the other two left each!), and met a whole host of utterly delightful people. Is there anyone horrible in Kleve, or are you interviewed to measure you general niceness level before moving in? All in, one of the most enjoyable gigs I’ve had in a long time, and the theatre want to book me again early next year and do it again with a bigger build-up. What fun!

So I’m back on the train, heading home, via Brussels and the Eurostar, looking forward to a couple of days off before my gig in Wales on Friday. Time to regroup, send out the CD orders that have come in online while I’ve been on tour, sleep A LOT catch up on all the teaching-related email that I’ve neglected, and generally relax.

But, barring some kind of utter disaster today, this training-it round Europe thing is definitely the way to go. Book a month of gigs at a time, fill in off-nights with as much fun as possible, the more gigs you do, the cheaper the travel works out per-gig, you can play in Italy one night and Portugal the next , and all it’ll cost you is the food on the train and a cheap hotel if you don’t have someone to stay with… I can’t understand why the trains of Europe aren’t chock full of musicians on tour!

So who wants to help book a gig in Europe in March? :o)

Euroblog… what number are we up to now??

European Bass Day – I did this one a couple of years back, so very nice to be here again. Some great players on the bill, most of whom I miss… Great to see Claudio Zanghieri, Beno (sp?), Markus Setzer, Charlie Moreno… loads of lovely people, who all play great music and I didn’t get to see any of them play!

My own playing time consisted of a bit of a demo on the Hotwire bass stand, who are the German importers of East-Pro preamps, and then a 45 minute gig with a bit of a Q & A, which went very well, and I sold out of copies of Behind Every Word! It’s a nice problem to have…

After me, the last band on was Bill Evans’ Soulgrass, featuring Ric Fierabracci on bass, who were definitely one of the best things I’ve ever seen at a bass-day-type gig. Really really amazing gig. bass, drums, sax, banjo and violin. Superb playing, great tunes.

As usual with these things, a late night hang was to be had, with Stefan Redtenbacher and Marco Meniconi from the ACM – lovely people talking deep bollocks til the early hours…

And today is the gig in Kleve – I need to phone the venue now and find out what the plan is for tonight, but I’m really looking forward to it!

EuroBlog #2

Right, bit of a catch up.

Milan first – got the train from Geneva to Milan, which rode through the Swiss Alps on a journey that was beautiful even with loads of low lying fog and rain.

Got to Milan, and was picked up at the airport by Nic Angileri and taken to the masterclass. As soon as I had started the clinic, it was obvious that something was up with the Looperlative. The screen kept shutting down, and while the audio was working fine, there was no MIDI control for a few minutes at a time… big big problem. Was fine for a clinic, as I just demonstrated other things, but didn’t bode well for the gig in the evening…

The gig was at a really cute little venue in the city called Atmosphere Live – we set up, and the Looperlative was misbehaving in the soundcheck, and continued to behave weirdly into the gig – I ended up finishing the gig with a couple of chord melody jazz things and a three bass jam with Nic Angileri and Fabio Rigamonti, both very fine players. As it was, I ended up selling more CDs at the gig, than I have at any gig for quite a while, so either it was pity and I should break my gear more often, or my musicalness came across even with the broked stuffs. I prefer the latter. ;o)

Friday morning, I visited Mollinelli (sp?) guitars with Nic, makers of some beautiful handmade instruments. Italy has a fabulous luthery tradition, and most of the builders here seem to combine beauty with a strong experimental design aesthetic. Good stuff.

Back onto the train to Desenzano, and onto my Italian ‘home’ with Luca and Gio, two of my favouritest people in the world.

My #1 concern was still the Looperlative, and I plugged it in, took it out of the rack, and just as a precaution, took the lid off to see if anything had worked loose (you can see how desperate I was, given my previous track record with blowing up the LP1 whenever I take the lid off) – I made sure that all the cables and connectors were seated OK, and put the lid back…

Gig that night was in Brescia, a little way out of the main town, in the basement of a modern bar in a village – not at all the kind of place you’d expect to find an experimental electronica night. But then, Andrea Nones, who runs the Ground Collective in Brescia is no ordinary promoter. For a start he’s also an excellent musician (he was playing at the gig as well), but has an amazing ability to turn experimental music into something that everyone would want to hear! The night started with DJs and a free buffet (a great idea to make sure everyone arrives at the start of the gig!) and then moved onto a range of different acts, from a solo guitarist with a Frisell fixation, to a duo of electronics and acoustic piano, a vocalist or two, and a lovely solo set by a guy playing a homemade Warr-Guitar-style tapping thing. Very nice indeed.

Then the last act – me and Luca! We’ve recorded a lot together, but never played live, but Luca’s a fantastic and sensitive improvisor with an amazing palette of sounds. The Looperlative behaved very well, and the set was really nice. Lots of interesting twists and turns, and I did a solo version of ‘Behind Every Word’ in the middle. A successful show, and a handful of CD sales.

So the Looperlative seems to be fixed, but Bob in his usual ‘above and beyond the call of duty’ way had already shipped a new one out to Italy to arrive monday…

masterclass at ACM

Had a most enjoyable afternoon giving a masterclass at the Academy Of Contemporary Music in Guildford – I’ve been there a few times before, both with Michael Manring and with Trip Wamsley, but it was nice to go and do a session all by myself. Stefan Redtenbacher who runs the bass dept there had asked me to speak on the transition from music student to pro, so I chatted a fair bit about the kind of things that people actually make money out of these days (having to break it to them that being a ‘session musician’ pretty much no longer exists as a career path) and some of the skills that have helped me out. I played a handful of my own tunes (Behind Every Word, improv groovy thing, Deeper Still and excerpts of Knocks Me Off My Feet and What A Wonderful World) and played a couple of the New Standard tunes from the laptop.

Lots of great questions were asked, and I certainly had a lot of fun – hopefully they did too!

another Behind Every Word Review…

Another review just in of Behind Every Word – this one from Sid Smith on his blog – Sid is the author of ‘In The Court Of King Crimson’, a brilliant book about the entire history of the Crims – a very fine writer and long time supporter of all things Stevelicious.

thanks Sid

click here to read the review – the choice pull-quote from it is “sensuous melodies intertwine and fall away with the intimacy of Talk Talk’s Spirit of Eden and the cinematic production values of Brian Eno”. Which is nice.

Another review of 'Behind Every Word'

Just had another review of Behind Every Word appear on line. This ones in Aural Innovations e-zine. It’s a very long-running zine that started out as a printed mag and covers Prog/Space-Rock/Ambient etc. – the sort of stuff Stuart Maconie plays on The FreakZone, which is on now… AND IS PLAYING ME AT THE MOMENT!! Wahey!! That’s the first time I’ve ever switched the radio on and heard me on at that very moment! How exciting!! :o) He’s playing ‘Nobody Wins Unless Everybody Wins’.

Right, that’s over – what fun! Anyway, that’s the kind of thing that Jerry Kranitz at Aural Innovations writes about, and he’s been a good solid Stevie-supporter for many years, and has given Behind Every Word another lovely review. Nice man.

So, two things to do – read the review and listen again to this week’s Freak Zone, then email the show and ask them to play more tracks! Oh, and if you haven’t yet got the CD and are inspired by Jerry’s delicious review, you can head over to the online shop here and buy it!

National Theatre gig…

In my post-Greenbelt blogging frenzy, I forgot to blog about the NT gig with the lovely Theo. It’s amazing that we keep getting booked there, given that most of the music there is either solo classical guitar, or standards. We seem to get away with playing original spacey ambient loveliness in a straight setting. Still, the audience seem to like it, we like it, so what’s not to love?

Anyway, the gig went really well – it’s always too quiet in there, thanks to the powers that be complaining about the volume, but that aside, it was such a joy to be back playing with Theo – he’s an exceedingly nice bloke, and a fantastic musician and improvisor. It’s a really natural musical hookup. Most of the gig was freshly improvised stuff, with a couple of ‘Open Spaces tunes thrown in’ (Flutter, Bernie and Lovely), a solo tune from me (Behind Every Word) and our duo arrangement of ‘All I Know’ from Theo’s excellent Heart Of The Sun album. All in a most enjoyable gig, with a mix of friends and strangers in the audience, many of whom were most complimentary about the music afterwards. We even sold a pile of CDs, which is fairly rare for a foyer gig…

No doubt we’ll be back there soon.