Looking forward to tomorrow's gig.

And in other news, I’ve got a very intersting gig tomorrow, in Hackney as part of the Spice Festival. The gig in question is the Solo Summit, at The Bullion Theatre.

It’s going to be a lot of fun, and lots of my favourite musicians are on the gig – Orphy Robinson, Cleveland Watkiss, Filomena Campus, Tunde Jegedi, Celloman (Ivan Hussey), Pat Thomas and just added to the bill, BJ Cole! What a lineup that is!

I’ll be playing solo, as well as looping and processing Filomena and Cleveland, so will be kept nice ‘n’ busy. I love the idea of a gig designed to explore the various ways that people perform solo, and am looking forward to stealing some ideas from all the people there!

Soundtrack – Wheeler/Konitz/Holland/Frisell, ‘Angel Song’ (one of my most favouritest albums ever, a hugely inspiring CD, featuring some of Bill Frisell‘s best playing)

Live8 – bringing rock stars together

So other than the G8-related politics, the biggest news of Live8 so far has to be that Pink Floyd are going to play, with Roger Waters back in for the first time since 83.

An infamous rock falling out, of Spinal Tap proportions, with all the dialogue via lawyers that usually accompanies these school-boy squabbles, made significant purely by the sums of money involved.

But they’re doing the gig, and it’ll be interesting to see the result (though fly-on-the-wall footage… or should that be fly-on-The Wall footage? from rehearsals would be more interesting.)

Anyway, today’s Guardian has a nice profile of David Gilmour – I have a few friends who know him, who testify to his all-round good-egg-ness. Seems like a nice bloke.

Soundtrack – lots of my duo stuff with Cleveland Watkiss and Andrew Booker.

Couple of photos from the National Theatre gig

here’s a couple of piccies from the NT Foyer gig on Tuesday with Theo –

Yesterday was spent recording with Cleveland Watkiss again – more lovely layered improv stuff and a gorgeous version of ‘Black Hole Sun’ by Soundgarden. It’s shaping up to be a very creative and productive duo, so we’re going to be setting aside a week or so soon to really get stuck into it and see just how good it can be! It’s all rather exciting!

Soundtrack – John Patitucci, ‘Now’.

Another fine Darbucka gig

So last night I was back at Darbucka, which, contrary to previous knowledge is no longer underneath India EC1 – they’ve taken over the upstairs part now, and the whole place is Darbucka! How cool is that?

Anyway, ’twas my third gig there, and I love playing there. The atmosphere is fab, the seating very relaxed and the owner, Ahmad is a good friend and supporter of live music.

Last night was extra-specially fun due to my two special guests, BJ Cole and Cleveland Watkiss.

The slightly surreal air that seems to drift around at my gigs began even before the show started, with George Galloway being in the venue when we got there… …sadly, he wasn’t there for an evening of mellow bass noodling, and left not long after we arrived to set up.

First set was just me, doing my thing. It was fun to play a slightly longer set, and get to play a couple of old tunes I haven’t played for a while – Highway One, and No More Us And Them, as well as a couple of new tunes – one slow country-ish thing so far called ‘What Happens When You Listen To Too Much Gillian Welch Late At Night’ (subject to change), and another untitled one, dedicated to Eric Roche a great friend and genius musician, going through a bit of a rough patch. (speaking of Eric, he’s playing at The Troubadour in Earl’s Court tonight, and is unmissably good – please go along and support him, you’ll thank me afterwards.)

Response to both old and new tunes was good, and Cleveland arrived during the last song of the set, so that was good!

Second set began with me on my own doing on tune (No More Us And Them, I think), and then BJ joined me for the next world premier of the evening – it was the first time BJ and I had played anything that was pre-written together. Usually, we just start playing and see where it goes. This time, we did a tune that BJ had joined in on in my soundcheck, a new tune called ‘So Long And Thanks For All The Thumbs’, and he added a huge amount of loveliness to the track! We then followed that with a bleepy, trippy improv, which ended with BJ in fine industrial soundscape mode, wringing all manner of weird and wonderful sounds from his knitting machine. What a fab player!

So I then kicked him off the stage, and brought up guest #2 for world premier #3 – Cleveland Watkiss. This was the first time Cleveland and I had played together on stage – we’ve played together twice before, but both times in my living room. He started us off with a clicky vocal percussion track, which I looped, slightly out of time, and we glitched it into a really really cool percussive soundscape with layers of oohs and aahs, and some dubby vocal samples, just him singing and me tweaking. At one point I was tempted to join in, but it didn’t need it, so I carried on tweaking and he carried on singing, and that was tune #1.

The second tune we did I started it off, funky thing in Am, which built up with layers and layers of fantastic beatbox into a full on clubby dancey thing, wah-wah guitars, clattering drums, dub vocals, all from just he and I. Another big success.

To finish off, I closed the main set with ‘People Get Ready’, then got BJ and Cleveland back for a mellow country ballad improv thing which just topped off the evening perfectly. A resounding success!

Hopefully I’ll be back at Darbucka before too long, I love it there!

if you want to get BJ’s or Cleveland’s CDs, you can get BJ’s here and Cleveland’s here (BJ’s newest album Trouble In Paradise is fantastic, as is Cleveland’s duet with Nikki Yeo)

If you were at the gig, please post your thoughts over in the reviews section of my forum.

Soundtrack – Maxwell, ‘Embrya’; Lewis Taylor, ‘Lewis Taylor’.

Preparation for tonight's gig…

It’s gig time – playing a solo gig tonight at Darbucka (which you REALLY ought to know about already – if not, please sign up for the mailing list). It’s going to be a lots of fun – for starters, I’ll get to play for longer than I have been of late – I’ve done a fair few 30-45 minute sets of late, and tonight I’ll get to play at least an hour or so of solo material plus some improv duets with BJ Cole and Cleveland Watkiss.

I’m really looking forward to it, and am just running over some of the new tunes I’m thinking of playing tonight, trying to work out how they go, what order the various weird noises appear in, and to a lesser degree, what the tunes are – at this stage in the compositional process, the melody is pretty open to interpretation, and I’ll improvise a lot of it to see if I can get something better than the bits I’ve got already.

All being well, there should be four new tunes tonight, which only a handful of people have heard (the small person, obviously, the cheat and sue, who finally gets her first mention on a blog – yay for sue!)

Other than that, I need to fill up a box with CDs for sale, decide on what to wear, write out the guestlist, decide whether or not I’m taking any extra lighting with me (Darbucka is pretty dark on stage), then I’ve got two hours teaching to do, then pack up my stuff, load the car (not fun given that I’ve got a trapped nerve or something in my back from sleeping funny a couple of nights ago).

So that’s me today, and tomorrow it all happens again for the gig in Petersfield. What fun.

See you later.

Soundtrack – right now, recordings of the new things for tonight. Before that, Lewis Taylor, ‘Lewis Taylor’; Sophia, ‘People Are Like Seasons’; Kaki King, ‘Legs To Make Us Longer’; Todd Johnson/Kristin Korb, ‘Get Happy’ (I rolled the wheel of my office chair over my copy of this last week, and immediately ordered a new one, which arrived a couple of days ago)

Gawd Bless Morgan Spurlock

I’d seen it before, but last night was the UK TV premier of SuperSize Me – Morgan Spurlock’s documentary that follows his challenge to live for a month on nothing but McDonalds.

He did it in response to the legal cases in america where obese kids were sueing fast-food companies for making them fat. Now, apart from the initial reaction of incredulity that people couldn’t know that a McDiet would mess up your health, the challenge to the psuedo health nonsense put out by the burger giants makes pretty compelling viewing. Spurlock is fantastic on camera, and his range of interviewees is superb and enlightening.

The failure of anyone from McDonalds PR to get back to him speaks volumes, as does this supremely bogus site that comes up tops if you do a google search on Morgan Spurlock a psuedo-debate site, claiming to debunk the film, run, of course, by McDonalds themselves.

Fried, GM, reheated, reconstituted meat products should not constitute any part of a healthy balanced diet. If they don’t make you ill, it’s just a fantastic testimony to the ability of our bodies to recover from invasion. Just don’t do it – that crap is addictive, unhealthy and won’t actually sort out your hunger.

If you must eat fast food, get a salad sandwich from Subway or something!

I’ve also just found that Morgan Spurlock has a blog – yippee! Top man, three cheers for Morgan Spurlock – bring on the closure of every McDonalds in the land.

Soundtrack – the rough mixes from yesterday’s recording session with Cleveland Watkiss – some fantastic stuff, some overly-long sprawling stuff ripe for editing. But over-all, a very promising first session!

A flurry of musical activity!

Yesterday was a very busy organising day!

First up, I was contacted about playing at an Italian Bass Day in July – looks like that’s going to happen, just sorting out flight costs etc. It’s all good!

Then, Ahmad at Darbucka returned a call from a few weeks ago about a gig there, so it looks like I’ll be back playing there on May 25th, with a gig in Petersfield on the 26th, and Southampton on the 27th. I’ll probably use these gigs as a change to show off some new tunes, and try out some things for the Edinburgh show in August.

And then just now (between that last paragraph and this one) Theo calls, and we confirm not one but TWO gigs on the South Bank in June – one in the RFH foyer on June 2nd, and one in the National Theatre on June 14th.

So, as soon as Orphy confirms the dates we’ve been talking about, my gig calendar will be looking much more healthy!

And then there’s today – Cleveland Watkiss is coming round in about an hour to demo some material for a project together – we played together about a month ago, and it sounded marvellous, so now we’re going to get some stuff recorded and start touting around for some gigs. So I could be on the road for much of the summer!

Oh, and I’ve also been listening to the latest batch of mixes/remixes of the Calamateur vs Steve Lawson project, which is sounding very good indeed. Could be that after years and years of doing nothing with singers, I’ll be releasing stuff with two of them in a year. Ah, the madness of being a musician.

It’s all very exciting!

SoundtrackSophia, ‘People Are Like Seasons – new album from bloke out of The God Machine (fab early 90s indie band) – shades of everything from Lloyd Cole to The House Of Love via Smashing Pumpkins and something more mellow and miserable – the first Coldplay album without the poppy sheen maybe? Anyway, it’s very nice.

Greenbelt Pt 2

So where were we? ah yes, Sunday. Met up with Patrick Wood, and gave him the passes for him and his family, then wen to the sunday morning communion service – 15,000 people taking the Eucharist is no mean feat, but it went without a hitch… oh, except the PA cutting out 10 minutes from the end.

Anyway That followed by another trip to Martyn Joseph’s songwriter thingie, The Rising, featuring Cathy Burton, Denison Witmer and Pierce Pettis – another fantastic sesh, and Martyn played a song or two of his own which was a treat – he’s kind of Greenbelt’s unofficial troubadour, and plays a full gig most years, often with fun special guests like Tom Robinson or Steve Knightly. This year, he just did The Rising.

After the Rising, it was back to Cheatsville, AKA The Performance Cafe, for an afternoon of astoundingly good acoustic music – Stephenson and Samuel (Stocki with Sam Hill), Ben Okafor, Old Solar and Denison Witmer all one after the other! Even though the programme was put together by Evil Harv, and it pains me to say this – it was fantastic.

The evening’s music began with Brian Houston in The Performance Cafe, then Cathy Burton rocking out on the mainstage (bit of a shock for those who’d only seen her in The Rising, especially the QOTSA cover!), and back then the catching the last train to cheatsville to see Pierce Pettis and my other join fave gig of the weekend (along with Cleveland Watkiss) Duke Special, AKA Pete Wilson (not the former govenor of California). I’ve known Pete for years, heard him as The Booley House, and just Booley, but Duke Special is a whole other level – beautiful songwriting, outstanding performance, and Greenbelts own Hobbit, Chip Bailey on drums and percussion, playing perfectly, dramatically, sensitively. A genius pairing, playing oustanding music, with the occasional backing track on minidisc, but with a replica gramaphone there to make it less rubbish! A truly awe-inspiring performance – they are on tour loads, so check the website to see them when they come near you.

Monday and we’re into the home straight. It’s also the day when stevie-thoughts momentarily turned to work, as Patrick Wood and I had a gig in Cheatsville in the morning, and an improv workshop in the afternoon. The gig went very well, was equal parts mellow ambient and dissonant scariness, lots of fun for us, and a very positive reaction from the audience. The rest of the afternoon involved listening to Peter Tatchell (fascinating and no doubt hugely disappointing the representatives of the national press that were there due to the total lack of sensational material – Peter was friendly, charming, and laid out his thoughts on human rights in great detail, and there wasn’t really much for anyone to disagree with), then off to hear Anita Roddick speak about trade (oh, it was Trade Justice day, in partnership with Christian Aid), then back to the performance cafe to hear Nick Harper (Catherine Street Team – you were right, he’s a genius and a very nice bloke), Cathy Burton (minus rock posturing this time), then off to sort out stuff for the improv seminar, which went well, and over ran by half an hour.

The day finished with The Polyphonic Spree (good but not my bag) followed by Billy Bragg, who was so breath-takingly wonderful it was almost contrived. Almost too good – all that he said and sang was great (except some new song called ‘no power without accountability’ that was turd-on-toast). Finished off with ‘waiting for the great leap forwards’ into ‘a new england’ and an accapela encore of the old hymn jerusalem. A real spine tingling moment.

All in all, one of the best Greenbelts ever. Great music, great speakers, great atmosphere, great weather, great food, great campaining stuff, great friends. All good, and because I was playing music less than usual, I was able to spend loads of time with The Small Person, which was a treat I’ve not had at Greenbelt for many a year, and the thing that pushed it into the top 3 greenbelts ever for me. I’ve been going to Greenbelt since 1990, and only missed 91 and 96 since then. lots of great greenbelt memories, and this weekend swelled the stash of marvellous moments. It’s truly the finest weekend of the year.

soundtrack to follow in next post…

Greenbelt 2003

Just got back from Greenbelt – ostensibly a Christian Arts festival, but with a strong focus on justice issues, and some seriously great music and seminar speakers.

We arrived Friday afternoon, pitched our tent (oh yes, proper camping), and went to watch Eden Burning (reunion gig – their final gig was infront of 10,000 people at Greenbelt 97, and they reformed for a one off this weekend to celebrate this being the 30th year of Greenbelt), then saw Pierce Pettis, Iain Archer, Juliet Turner, Boo Hewerdine with Rob Jackson, Kate Rusby and Old Solar – all marvellous, and a great start to the weekend, in fact, too much great stuff to take it all in, and I missed a lot of artists that I’d have to catch in other venues over the weekend. Watching that many amazing gigs in one evening does make you a bit blase about the genius on offer, but any one of the acts listed about would be worth driving 50 miles to see on an ordinary evening – Pierce I’ve seen lots of times before, and played with in Reading earlier this year, Iain Archer has been getting better and better over the decade that I’ve been watching him play (new album out in a few months, which promises to be a blinder), Juliet is another singer I’ve been familiar with for a long time and have got both her albums, Boo Hewerdine I was more familar with as a songwriter than a singer, but he was marvellous and Rob Jackson who was guesting on guitar is a solo looper that I’d had contact with before, and showed himself to be equally adept providing gorgeous pedal steel-esque guitar parts to Boo’s finely crafted songs.

Kate Rusby’s gig was a particular treat as she had Ewan Vernal on bass – former Deacon Blue bassist, and one of my earliest and biggest bass influences (check out the bass/voice tracks ‘Orphans’ and ‘Trampoline’ by Deacon Blue for a taste of his genius)…

Old Solar are old faves, and old friends, and played a very fine set.

Saturday began with a Dave Andrews seminar – Dave is an radical activist/speaker from Australia, and regular speaker at Greenbelt, this time expounding on the notion that we’re in the new dark ages with the financial and governmental institutions in the west providing a heavily protected fortress for the extravagance of the world’s rich to the exclusion of the poor, who are battled in a feudalistic way to protect the already disproportionately huge share of the world’s wealth that those of us in the so called developed world have. His answer was to look to St Francis for a model – Francis having been an aristocrat who gave up his wealth to work with the poor. He wasn’t a politician, and didn’t set out to change the world, just to live right. As Schumacher put is ‘think global, act local’… all great stuff…

after Dave, it was off to a Mike Riddell seminar – Mike’s an author from New Zealand, and another Greenbelt fave, talking about artistic integrity and freedom – nothing new but very encouraging and helpful nonetheless.

Next up, Martyn Joseph’s songwriter’s circle event, The Rising – lots of great songwriters playing their songs and discussing them. What a treat to see MJ, Juliet Turner, Pierce Pettis and Brian Houston talking about their songs and playing together. Amazing stuff.

Other gigs – Elan (very good), Juliet Turner and Pierce Pettis (genius, obviously), Cleveland Watkiss (with Orphy Robinson on Vibes) – outstanding, joint best gig of the weekend, Calamatuer (marvellous) and Denison Witmer (another new discovery for me this weekend – fantastic singer/songwriter from Philadelphia).

But as always, Greenbelt is about people – meeting up with loads – hundreds – of friends, meeting loads of people I deeply admire, amazing musicians, great speakers, writers, actors, and just really nice people that I aspire to be like. Spent lots of time between gigs drinking apple tea in the tiny tea tent and enjoying the gorgeous weather.

..and tomorrow I’ll tell you about Sunday and Monday!

(and in case you’re interested, the virus email count for over the weekend was in excess of 650!!!)

Soundtrack – right now, the first mixes of the tracks I recorded with the quartet on my most recent trip to France – more on that when I’ve heard them some more. Before that, Denison Witmer, ‘Recovered’ and Jaco Pastorius, ‘Jaco Pastorius’.

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