Cold Cold Ground

Bleedin’ heck, it’s COLD!!!!! Freezin’, even!!

Our central heating still isn’t fixed, so we’ve got the electric heaters and the gas fire on full, trying to defrost our frozen tootsies… and my new slippers are helping too! See, I’m 30 now, so slippers are de riguer…

It’s ages since I last blogged, what have I been up to? Well lots of teaching – this week is, in fact, my busiest ever private teaching week (as in, I’ve done more teaching than this, but only when private stuff was combined with college teaching) – it all comes in very handy for going to the US…

Saturday evening was fun – first off went to ‘Up’ – a mellow and ambient alternative worship thingie in Thame, Oxfordshire – lots of candles, guided meditation things, mellow music, strange sensory things to ponder. All very chilled out, and a fine way to start the new year. Went straight from there to St Luke’s, where I was on duty overnight at the Homeless night shelter we have there for three months a year… all very uneventful, though it was great getting to talk to Becky, who was on duty with me, who I’d seen at church but not really had much of a chance to chat to.

Got one hour’s sleep overnight, so not surprisingly, I went straight to bed when I got home at 7am…

Watched a very interesting TV program last night called ‘without prejudice’ – basically a game show with no game, where instead of answering inane questions to win the prize, a panel of ‘normal’ people get to choose who they want to have the prize money (50 grand) based on a range of information, and their first impressions… the bizarre thing was that I found myself thinking that non of the people deserved the money… which is odd when contrasted with quiz shows, where apparently guessing the catch-phrase, keeping ‘out of the black and into the red’ or not being the weakest link are perfectly valid ways for people to receive silly amounts of money. Odd one, but worth watching.

Today I finally got round to buying a Bonsai tree – something I’ve wanted to do for a long time. I bought a part-grown one, and if this works out, I may have a go at growing some from seed. What I do need though, is a name for my tree! so I need suggestions, and the winning suggestion will receive a CDR of ‘Beauty and The Beast’ and the new version of Highway 1 that are in MP3 form on my site – proper CD quality versions of them! So, name that bonzai – email me with your suggestions, please! I’ll try to post a picture of it as soon as I can, to help inspire you…

Soundtrack – just now been listening to Prefab Sprout, ‘From Langley Park To Memphis’, which is great and of curio value as my sister used to live in Langley Park… :o) Also been listening to Thelonius Monk, ‘Monk’s Greatest Hits’, which is fantastic – the writing and his melodic phrasing are out of the world; Duke Ellington and Ray Brown, ‘This One’s For Blanton’, Metheny/Haden, ‘Beyond The Missouri Sky’, Anita Baker, ‘Rapture’.

Talking to the Taxman about… well, tax, probably

Dadaaaaaaaaa – it’s only Jan 2nd, and I’m already well stuck into my resolutions. Well, one of them anyway… the tax one, mainly out of desparation, I guess, but still, I’m well into it (would be further if it wasn’t for Excel deciding to crash my computer earlier. seems ok now though…)

clevermecleverme

was distracted from my graft for about 20 minutes just now by the chat room at thedudepit.com but managed to claw it back, and am now back into work… well, not right now, I’m writing this, but you get the idea.

On an altogether more outward looking note, the world must be a damned scary place for kids these days – I’ve been listening to Radio London today, and we’ve got the story of the nutter in Camden who hacked up a couple of women and dumped the body parts in dustbins, the mad gunman in Hackney who’s holding someone hostage (been going on for more than a week), and a couple of girls shot dead in Birmingham at a party last night! What’s going on? shootings?? Blimey, it’s all gone a bit wrong, somewhere along the way…

The track called ‘Regretting The Rainbow’ on ‘Not Dancing For Chicken’ was so called when I was thinking about the story of Noah, in the bible, and how at the end of the story God gives man (and woman) kind a sign that he won’t flood the world again, and that’s the rainbow… And I wonder if God thinks ‘Oh bollocks, wish I hadn’t done that, I’d get rid of ’em all again, and start a new, once more, third time lucky…’ but there doesn’t seem to be a divine plan B. This is it, we make the best of it, do what we can. In the worlds of Raskolnikov from ‘Crime and Punishment’, we ‘contribute out stone to the building up of universal happiness’. But then, he was a murdering nutter as well, so what would he know.

Anyway, the news is full of murders, and it must be a bit frightening for little people, growing up with all that kicking off. Statistically, we’re told it’s no worse now than it was years ago, just that media has got quicker and more salacious in reporting it. Doesn’t make it any easier for the 9 year old kid who thinks they are next…

what was the point of all that? nothing – that’s the joy of a blog, no editor saying ‘but Steve, that’s totally inconclusive, please rewrite your last paragraph’… :o)

Soundtrack – just the radio.

Christmas time, no mistletoe, no wine

…just a very relaxed day, watching TV and videos, cooking and eating nice food and not doing very much at all!!

Went to church in the morning, which was fun and chaotic in the usual style of Christmas day services, came home and started our now traditional pattern of eating one course every three hours throughout the day. Started off with soup and garlic bread. That was after opening the pressies – I got a couple of books (Rich Hall’s autobiography, and Vanishing Footprints, subtitled ‘native voices speak’ it’s a book of gorgeous photos of indigenous people from around the world, telling their own story. Beautiful), the new Eddie Izzard video , Circle, which is very good, especially the hour and half of his Paris show, in French. The set from New York is very funny, but he comes across as slightly out of practice with standup, having spent so long in hollywood… and some other bits ‘n’ bobs.

Dinner was nut roast with a homemade spicey tomato, red pepper, mushroom and onion sauce, steamed veg and jacket potato (mmmm, delish!!), followed by watching the Izzard vid…

Oh, we watched Christmas top of the pops – was it worse than usual or am I just nearly 30??? 80% of the stuff on there seemed to be teenage girls dressed as hollywood hookers, singing out of tune. What on earth has happened to the record buying public??? On ‘I love 1984’ last night, there was a bit about the soul/jazz revival of ’84, with some talking head or other mentioning that it was a backlash to the rubbishness of pop at the time. Here’s hoping that something similar happens to end the reality TV horse-shit that seems to be taking over the charts. for the two biggest selling singles of the year to be Will Young and Gareth Gates is just nonsense. It’s not even like they sold because they were lowest-common-denominator catchy pop tunes – I’d rather see some PWL pre-fab crap there – they are there purely because of the exposure and media manipulation of the Pop Idol TV show. The songs themselves are sub-Barry Manilow bland MOR holiday camp bollocks. Grrrrrr.

Here I am listening to Theo Travis – outstanding saxophonist, playing original, moving, music, beautifully written and played and selling a few thousand copies, as opposed to the millions shifted by the losers. No, I’m not expecting Theo to start selling millions (he’d have to bland-out for that to happen), but it’d be nice if radio in particular, and TV programmers started to give some air time to quality music regardless of formatting and dull stylistic constraints…

Right, rant over.

I’m knackered at the moment, thanks to having taken the small persons car out of the drive with the intention of getting it valeted as an extra christmas pressie, only to have it stall on the road, and then have to try and push it back onto the drive, failing miserably but pulling lots of muscles in the process, then having to tow it back up with my car (which didn’t like that at all – I’m lucky I didn’t wreck the chassis!!). My muscles are aching like anything, and my shoulder is bruised from trying to push it.

Now it sounds like I’ve had a pain-filled misery-christmas, complaining about pop-nonsense. Not true. I’ve had a marvellous time, very relaxing. The Office is being repeated nightly at the moment, and is outstanding – Ricky Gervais is one of the most talented comics to emmerge in this country for quite a while…

Soundtrack – currently Theo’s album (see above), I’ve also been playing the MINIDISC of Theo and I playing together from Monday a lotl; I bought ‘Acoustic Soul’ by India.Arie for the Small Person for Christmas, and that’s excellent, really enjoying that, and I finally bought ‘Steve McQueen’ by Prefab Sprout on CD (very cheap from www.101cd.com ) – one of my all time faves…

BTW, Evil Harv can now be reached at evilharv@evilharv.com should you have any questions about all things eville… his evil blog will no doubt emmerge soon… :o)

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…

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.

Poorly Aged Feline/Remember James/NASA and The Great Glass Elevator…

Buna has an injured foot, poor thing… :o( Neither the small person or I
are sure how he did it, or what exactly is wrong but he’s limping quite a
lot, as though putting pressure on his front left paw is painful… it’s tragic
to watch cos we can’t fix it… a very helpless feeling. He’s not yowling or
showing any other signs of distress, so we’re not rushing him to the vets
straight away, but if he’s not noticeably better by Saturday, we’ll take him
then…

Took the small person to the doctors very early this morning, then came
home and fell asleep on the floor with our ill-of-foot eldery furry family
member for an hour or so!

Was teaching today – it’s been a moderately busy teaching week – lots of
people take some time out at Christmas (largely, I guess, due to
increased spending options around this time…), which is no bad thing for
me, as I’m still a bit knackered after the tour, and am still sorting out stuff
for the US dates – lots more dates are currently 80% there, and will be
added the the site early next week.

Haven’t yet encoded the new Steve/Jez duo track, but will do so ASAP, as
it’s very good indeed….

On an entirely more serious note, today is the anniversary of the death of
my friend James Holland – James was killed in a car accident two years ago.
I’m not sure if anyone still knows how it happened. Came off a straight
road and his the base of an old bridge… I still really struggle to get my
head round the randomness of that one. I guess it’s just ‘shit happens’ taken
to it’s earth shattering conclusion. Weird things happen all the time, it’s just
that most of them don’t end in fatalities. The track ‘Jimmy James’ was written
for James (for some unknown reason, if I rang him he’d go ‘Stevie Steve!’
and I’d go ‘Jimmy James!’ – there was probably some bit of Hendrix trivia
in there too at some point. Lots of things remind me of James. Whenever
I listen to any of the CD that he brought back from the States for me
(including three Jonatha Brooke albums…), Whenever I hear rubbish
heavy metal from the late 80s (both of us had grown out of listening to
Cinderella and Ratt by the time we met, but the memory lives on… :o),
any news item relating to Boris Becker (James looked remarkably similar to
the tennis star – we once hitched to Greenbelt, and after waiting for an hour,
I shouted at him ‘I knew you should have worn tennis gear, we’d have been
there by now!!!’ And most of all, the song that was played at his
funeral ‘Shining Star’ by Gabriel. Occasionally it comes on the radio and
really takes me by surprise. It came on during dinner on the L42 tour one
night… very strange one, that… Anyway, today is the anniversary, so have
a toast to James, and pray nothing like that ever happens to anyone you
know…

Back on more mundane and trivial blog-related thoughts, I must remember
to switch off comments section on here, Evil Harv has proved once again
why having them switch on would be a very bad idea… Though, to his
credit, he did sort me out with a ticket to see Buddy Miller tonight, which
I had to turn down in the end, sadly…

Listened to very bizarre radio thing this afternoon (on my new best friend,
radio 4), about building an elevator into space… hello? have I missed
something? a 38,000 mile long lift???? WTF???? Has someone been spiking
the water at NASA? It was very surreal listening, hearing academics
talking about stuff that Arthur C Clarke would dismiss as too implausible…
There you go, academics, failing to stop and ask ‘…er, why?’

Soundtrack – Listened to a bit of Fripp/Sylvian, ‘The First Day’
earlier on, but mainly just had the radio on… :o)

Plans for the rest of the evening involve tidying and cuddling the cat… a
taxing one, for sure…

Tomorrow is the gig in Norwich, which looks to be a
fascinating event. I’m really looking forward to that one.

Not Dancing For Chicken????

This was posted in the old blog format, but I thought I’d
repost it here as you may well have come looking for it now…
Here’s the explanation of where the ‘Not Dancing For Chicken’
album title came from…

Back in about 1992, MC Hammer was attempting a comeback,
and was doing the rounds in the press claiming to be from the
street, down with the kids etc. etc. Meanwhile, he was also
doing ads for KFC, and they were sponsoring the tour. At a
New York press conference it all got too much, and one young
journo asked Hammer what on earth he was doing. Hammer
replied ‘Hey, I’m just dancing for money’, to which the journo
replied ‘No, you’re dancing for chicken’.

Fast forward best part of a decade, and british comedian Mark
Lamarr is doing an interview with London listings magazine,
Time Out, and he recounts the story before explaining that for
him, ‘Dancing For Chicken’ has become the perfect metaphor
for all those corporate gigs that musicians/comedians/actors/etc.
have to do just to pay the bills, and the ones where the money
is so insane that all but the most ethically-minded of performers
will take them (like TV ads for a fast food giant with a dubious
health and safety record…).

At the time the phrase struck a chord with me as the antithesis
of everything that I’m trying to do with my solo career – I haven’t
chased a record deal, I haven’t made a smooth jazz CD in a bid
for radio airplay, I haven’t done a completely ambient recording
in a bid for new age stardom. I just do what I do, and if people
like it, great, if they don’t, fair enough… As it is, the last couple
of months of big tours and great CD sales have been vindication
of this route, but the business plan still stands intact. If it all falls
apart, I need to have music that I’m proud of, that represents
me. So I’ll continue to soundtrack the inside of my head, and
avoid Dancing For Chicken if I can in anyway steer clear of it… :o)

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.

New Blog! New Blog!

here we go – new blog! This is much better than my scabby
old HTML version – big thanks to James from Delicatessen for
setting this one up for me. It looks neater, is searchable, and
I can update it from anywhere, which is rather fun…

So the old blog can still be found here, so
you can have a read of that, if you’ve not been here before…

Right, I’m off to make some dinner!