Bass overload!

This morning was fun – Victor Nicholls, a very fine looping bassist came round for a jam and to swap a few ideas. He’s a very fine musician, and rather annoying from the point of view of my constant harping on about the need for fretlines on fretless basses in that he plays an unlined fretless with marvellous intonation! Still, that’s one more on the plus side to outweigh the millions of tuneless warblers using excessive vibrato to simulate being ‘in tune’… you’re not fooling anyone!

Anyway, I digress. Victor came round, and made some great noises – he really ought to do a solo album (victor, you really ought to do a solo album). the other projects that he’s been involved with that I’ve heard have been very good – you can check one of them out and find out some more info about Victor at www.big-hair.co.uk.

Yesterday, I hooked up a TL Audio 5051 preamp that I’ve borrowed from student simon into the FX loop on my Lexicon MPX-G2 – it sounds amazing. Really really great tone. I’m going to have to get one of these for the solo rig. On thursday I used it as a mic pre for BJ Cole’s sound, and that’s pretty damn fine too. So it’s going to be time to buy a bigger rack very soon, so I can get my other echoplex and this preamp into the rack. Also time to switch to a stereo set up for live work – powered speakers are on the horizon…

this afternoon I’ve been mocking up some artwork for the me and theo album – we haven’t even got titles for the tracks yet, or even agreed on a final running order, but it’s always nice to have something to work from, so he can come round, have a look at what I’ve done so far and say whether he loves it or hates it! The whole process of putting an album together is so much fun – I could quite easily do it four or five times a year, given the budget (so go and buy some CDs now, as it’s all dependent on how fast the last album sells… ;o)

soundtrack right now, it’s Daft Punk, ‘Homework’; before that Nik Kershaw, ‘To Be Frank’, and lots of me and theo and me and BJ!

celebrating two old guys…

Yesterday I went to visit my grandparents – my Grandad is 93, and apart from his memory being really unreliable, he’s in remarkable shape for a guy his age. Last week he tripped over some broken tarmac while on holiday in Devon and damaged his hip. Had three days in hospital, couldn’t walk when he came out. Fastforward a week and he’s up and about on a zimmer frame, which is pretty impressive for a 93 year old body. I think part of it is forgetting that he’s ill…!

Anyway, he’s a fantastic old bloke, full of wonderful stories from his youth – I found out not that long ago that he was an avid record collector in his younger days, which must be where I get it from. I’m going to have to visit him soon armed with a minidisc recorder and get some of his great stories down for history. Aural history is an amazing thing… or do I mean Oral history? Do you speak it or listen to it? hmmmm. Anyway, rock on, grandad, you’re a star! Much credit must also go to my step-nan, Margaret, who’s one of the most amazing women I know – she’s well into her 80s, and looks after the old man incredibly well. She’s a retired nurse, and knows loads about most things. She’ll feed you til you burst. I’m very lucky to have two such marvellous grandparents…

Who’s the other old guy? Well, today is the aged feline’s birthday! He’s 18, which is in cat years about the same age as my grandad! He too is in remarkable shape for his age, and seems to be getting fitter over the last year not worse. His old joints are a bit creaky, and lying down is a bit harder than it used to be, but he’s not having any of those fits he was having anymore, and is still the most loveable snuggly little chap in the whole world. If you have a look at the sleeve to Not Dancing For Chicken, there’s a piccie of him inside (which is as good a reason to buy a CD as there has ever been…) Anyway, much birthday snuggling for The Aged Feline today – would love to give him lots of quality snacks, but he’s on a renal diet so we’ve got to be v. careful what we give him… if he’s lucky, he’ll get a few of his faves later – mushroom pate, cucumber and a little bit of red pepper…

What else is going on? ah yes, was recording today with BJ Cole, pedal steel genius – BJ’s a very nice bloke, and an awesome musician. The challenge of combining two such full sounds as my bass sound and BJ’s steel is a fascinating one, and one that we’re getting the hang of – some of the stuff we recorded today is fab!

Also been mixing the tracks for my album with Theo Travis this week. that’s the mixing this week, not the album. that won’t be out til september at the earliest. But it’ll be worth the wait – it’s gonna be fab!

Anything else of note this week? Lunch with Jam on Tuesday was class – he’s a comedy writer, and all round top bloke. Very funny (obviously), and a good friend. Sitting in a cafe in soho in the sunshine with jam is a pretty near perfect way to spend a tuesday afternoon.

soundtrack – right now, James Taylor, ‘October Road’ – this was lent to a friend for MONTHS, but I finally got it back, and it won’t be leaving the CD player for a while. It’s a work of god-like genius. Other than that, Charlie Hunter, ‘Return Of The Candyman’; Daft Punk, ‘Homework’; Simeon Harris, ‘Realms Of Elements’ and lots of me and theo!

Let's go round again…

busy weekend. Have spent a fair amount of time in the last few days recording with Matthias Grob – Matthias is the inventor of the Echoplex, and a stunning guitarist (he built his own guitar as well, natch) and we’ve been coming up with all manner of delicious improv, ranging from ambient soundscape stuff to more funky things through to some scary out noises. All rather marvellous and invigorating. As with all this recent duet activity, I’m hoping to have some up online before too long – now that Sarda is back from the states, maybe he’ll get this server of his happening, and I’ll be able to move my site away from zetnet for eva…

Anyway, I digress – Matthias and I have been looping and chatting for a couple of days – talking lots of what we do, why we do it and how to get it across to people… All very stimulating stuff.

What else? ah yes, saturday there was a party for the 30th anniversary of the Greenbelt festival – a fun event, held at Lambeth Palace (the official residence of the AB of C – a nice gaff, which makes up for the rather crappy salary that goes with the job, as interestingly enough, all Church Of England Clergy are on the same wage, whether parish priest or Archbishop…) Anyway, was a fun time to catch up with lots of GB related chums that I’d not seen for a while.

This week is going to be BUSY – first up, I’ve got a recording sesh on Thursday )(more on that later, no doubt), then Friday night I’ve got a rather fun gig, filling in for the keyboard player in Lovesjones. ‘What, you don’t play keys!” – indeed I don’t, but I do make odd noises with a bass, so will be covering the keyboardish role on bass… then doing a solo set.. at Jazz After Dark in Soho… on Friday night.

Also got to relearn some of the improvs that Theo and I have done over the last couple of months for our gig next Tuesday at the National Theatre. So busy week of learning stuff. Still editing the tracks with theo. And the news stuff with Matthias. And hopefully hooking up again with BJ Cole. And listening through the tracks with Patrick Wood. Blimey, how much recording have I been doing lately???? loads, I tell yer!

What else is new? Oh, The CD shop at Bass Guitar Magazine’s website has started stocking my CDs, which is nice of them.

And a track from Not Dancing (Amo Amatis Amare) is on the cover disc that comes with Bassics Magazine – oh, have I mentioned that already? well, here’s the confirmation that it is indeed Amo Amatis…

Soundtrack – been listening to loads of the duo stuff with Matthias, obviously, and the tracks with Theo, and Matthias’s CD, which is great (out on Pillow Mountain Records v. soon) other than that, Kenny Wheeler’s album ‘Angel Song’ has been going round a lot in the kitchen, and today I’ve been listening to Coltrane’s ‘Complete Africa Brass Sessions’ which is incredible – I put it on to play during Mark’s lesson this morning, and it’s been in the player ever since…

duets…

What a fine week! – Monday, as mentioned was a day recording with Theo. Thursday was a day recording with BJ Cole, and Friday was a day transfering music from Patrick Wood’s ADAT to my computer, and then recording a bit too. These three duo projects are rather fun and invigorating and are producing all manner of fascinating music. The duets with BJ are from a looping perspective going to be the most technically demanding, as we tend to be heading towards tracks with lots of sections, which is great, cos it’ll force me to learn some new EDP tricks – probably time to pay Andre’s site another visit. Talking of looping – there have been some rather heated discussions on the looper’s delight mailing list the theme of what on earth ‘live looping’ means – does it refer to a technical approach to music making? does it imply anything specific in terms of style/genre/aesthetic? is it enough of a hook to build a festival round? While the discussion has been fascinating, the main bizarre thing about it has been just how upset some people have got with it all – it’s way too easy to let email lists encroach on your ‘real’ life, and also to get disagreements mixed up with personal attacks…

Anyway, duets – lots of cool stuff already played/recorded, and lots more to come. I’ll be editing some of what’s already gone, and will hopefully have some stuff up on the site soon… Talking of duets, If you’re in Southern California, Todd Johnson – solo bassist extraordinaire – is hosting a fantastic series of duet gigs in a coffee shop in the Santa Clarita Valley – see Todd’s Site for more info…

what else? Yesterday – teaching and gardening – gardening should have just involved cutting the lawn, but The Small Person had left a large pile of sticks on the lawn, which last time I’d cut the grass I just cut round. So this time the sticks were still there, and the grass had grown through it, making moving the sticks a bit of a big job. Anyway, I did move them, and cut the rest of the lawn, but was knackered afterwards. How dull was that? you don’t care to you? and quite rightly so, there are far more pressing bits of info you could be reading.

And today? church this morning, followed by a day of musical tinkering – bass practice, listening to duet stuff, drum programming etc. The off to see The London Improvisors Orchestra – lots of very skilled musicians making a very inspiring racket. The ones I’d heard of included BJ Cole (who’d suggested I go along), Evan Parker, John Edwards and Steve Beresford.

Soundtrack – lots of interesting stuff over the last few days. Michael Jackson, ‘Off The Wall’, Holly Penfield, ‘Fragile Human Monsters’, an Esquivel compilation (do a search for him on line – he’s great), Medeski Martin and Wood, ‘The Dropper’, and right now I’m listening to Jeff Kaiser/Brad Dutz, ‘The Order Of Her Bones’ – an experimental duet CD for trumpet and percussion, Jeff’s own pfMENTUM records, which is also the label that released Ted Killian’s fantastic ‘Flux Aeterna’ album.

quick misc. update

Er, what since last week?

Saturday was Gawain the DJ’s wedding – very nice bloke, very nice wedding. bit of a 50s theme. Even more heartening is that he’s even taller than me, and his now-wife is even smaller than the small person. Good to know we’re not the most mismatched people on the planet!

Sunday went to see Masse play at The Foundry in London’s East End. The venue has a very varied and interesting program of stuff on, but is a bit of a dump… Anyway, Masse – bass and drums duo, both looping, processing, improvising, very good stuff indeed. bass-man jeremy was on top form – lots of Echoplexing, and a great tone from a rather special homemade bass cab. If you get a chance to see them play, jump at it.

Monday was more recording with Theo Travis – the best thing about playing with Theo is that we’re never quite sure what it’s all going to end up sounding like. We re-did one of the ideas from a very early session (when we were recording in mono), and it came out sounding completely different anyway… very nice. We’ve now got about an hour and a half of quality stuff towards the album. We’ll keep going until there’s no filler material at all, though it’s feeling pretty consistent already… We’ve got a gig booked, at the National Theatre in London on June 17th, which you really ought to be at!

Monday night was Jude’s leaving do – leaving do? she’s only going to the US For a few months. But anyway, it was a fun time, catching up with Sarda and The Cheat.

And yesterday was spent teaching and editing the stuff that Theo and I recorded.

That’s all really dull – what else is happening? well, Donald Rumsfeld has finally admitted that they are unlikely to find any WMDs in Iraq – no shit sherlock! Isn’t that what Scott Ritter and Hans Blix said months ago, before you bombed their world to pieces????? Clearly this was realised even before they went to war (why else was the notion of ‘freeing the people of iraq’ only brought in as on of the aims just before christmas when getting rid of WMDs had been the expressed sole intention for the year or so before that???) Anyway, seems that the illegal invasion will soon be recognised for what it was – Blair will spin the whole thing, talk about moral responsibility and all his usual BS. Sincere perhaps but sincerely wrong, sorry Tony. Meanwhile, iraqi kids are stepping on undetonated cluster bombs (possibly containing depleted uranium), and the cleanup is going rather slow. Add to that the Brukheimer-esque makeover given to the ‘rescue’ of Jessica thingie, and you’ve got yourself one seriously morally dubious world situation… Now, who was it who veto’d the instigation of an international criminal court again?

Soundtrack – lots of me and theo, obviously. Right now, I’m listening to Medeski Martin and Wood, ‘The Dropper’ – had heard them before and liked what I heard, but BJ Cole recommended this as the one to get. And very fine it is too… What else? Michael Manring, ‘Book Of Flame’ and Morphine, ‘B-Sides and Otherwise’.

lots of interesting musical things…

…but first, I must tell you that there are 453 deleted emails in my outlook express right now – I’ve just gone through my inbox, which had near 600 emails in it, and replied to or filed all but 24 of them!! yippee, what a liberating feeling. NOTE TO SELF – must try to stay on top of email from now on…

anyway, music stuff – lots of exciting things. Saturday night was a sad event, the last night of the Kashmir Klub. so I went along with evil harv, sarda and cap’n-birdseye-pirate-ben. we were promised lots of special guests, but no-one was expecting Rick Astley to play. Yup, 80s pop legend, who quit music years ago, was there playing guitar for a friend of his, and was talked into doing a song. So he did ‘Never Gonna Give You Up’, just him and an acoustic guitar, and it was GREAT! His voice sounded marvellous, and the song, stripped of the cheesey late 80s SAW production stood up remarkably well, sounding every bit the multi-million seller it was… For an 80s obsessed pop-fiend like myself, it was a real treat. Also in attendance for the evening – Lewis Taylor, Keith Emerson, Kiki Dee, and a few other celebs…

Then Monday night I went round to see BJ Cole – awesome pedal steel player. Pedal Steel is such an evocative sound anyway, but in the hands of someone with BJ’s skill, it soars. We had a bit of a jam, and listened to lots of tunes, and are getting together again next week – how exciting!

And last night was the best of the lot – went to see alex cook singing ‘The Pirates Of Penzance’. Alex is a drummer I toured with for a few years in the mid 80s, and a very good friend, so the thought of him dressed as a pirate singing light opera was too tempting to turn down. Sad thing was, he was actually really really good. Far too good to be funny. I was hoping for classic am-dram silliness – people falling off the stage, kids crying, out of tune oboes. But alas the singers were great, the band very good, the staging excellent. Far too good for an amateur production. Next time, rehearse less!

So tonight, I’m off to see Maria McKee at Shepherd’s Bush Empire with Evil Harv and Radar. Should be lots of fun.

Soundtrack – Prefab Sprout, ‘From Langley Park To Memphis’; Pat Metheny, ‘Imaginary Day’; Marc Johnson, ‘Sound Of Summer Running’; Rain Tree Crow; The Dum Dums, ‘It Goes Without Saying’; Theo Travis, ‘Heart Of The Sun’; Stevie Ray Vaughn, ‘Texas Flood’ and some forthcoming tracks from BJ Cole’s next album, which are fabulous!

Coming Up – a weekend of delicious improv!

I’m really looking forward to my gigs this weekend – I’ve got two, tomorrow night I’m playing at an alternative worship service called ‘Up’ at an anglican church in Thame (St Mary’s maybe?), where Jez, Evil Harv and I will be improvising 14 pieces based on the stations of the cross – for each one, we’ve got a painting or image to represent it and hopefully trigger some ideas. It should be really good, and probably quite emotionally involving, as the stations take us from Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemene through to his burial…

Then on Sunday, I’m playing at the Barbican ‘ere in London – on the free stage from 6-7, with Orphy Robinson, who is best known for his vibes playing, but on this one will be playing Marimba, Steel Pans and misc. percussion, with us both looping and processing our sounds (and I’ll be looping orphy’s loops too!) – we had a bit of a play this morning just to see what was possible, and it sounded great, so I’m really looking forward to this one too. We were going to be joined by top pedal steel player, BJ Cole but he’s got a gig he can’t get out of… I’m sure we’ll get to try the trio version soon. Instead we’ve got a singer coming to sit in one a few numbers, which should be a lot of fun too… Please come down if you’re in London, it’s a great way to spend a sunday evening in London…

Before that, I’ve got a full day’s teaching on Saturday, and am playing in church on Sunday morning, so it’s going to be a pretty full weekend playing-wise! And I must remember to change the batteries in my bass, as they’ve just run out…!

soundtrack – right now, Donny Hathaway Live. Earlier on, Bill Frisell with Elvin Jones and Dave Holland and while teaching today I was using Joni Mitchell – ‘Hejira’, Pat Metheny – ‘Bright Sized Life’ and Anita Baker ‘Rapture’… Also had a listen to ‘Beauty And The Beast’ earlier – the improv piece that Jez and I uploaded to my site as a Christmas pressie a few months back. If you’ve not heard it, head over to the MP3s page and have a listen…