Big achievement

OK, so I’m blogging this a week late, but last weekend, I managed to get my email inbox down from over 1200 to 7! The main upshot of this was that I was able to ditch Outlook Express and switch over to , which also allows me to have all my news/blog feeds in the same programme as my email. which is nice. One more step away from Microsoft stuff.

On the subject of groovy free software, I mentioned a few days ago about , the free photo management thingie from Google. Well, I’ve been toying with it, and it’s even better than I first realised. It’ll generate webpages with your photos in, movie files of your photos as a slideshow, and all the edits are non-destructive, so you can do as much editing as you like, and then save a copy later… It’s great. Seriously, I’d have happily paid £100 for a piece of software this logical and useful. I’ve hardly opened photoshop since I started using this.

Soundtrack and Elvis Costello, ‘Deep Dead Blue’; , ’10 Cent Wings’ and ‘Back In The Circus’; , ‘Entremundo’; , ‘Legs To Make Us Longer’.


A timely reminder.

Was rehearsing with this morning for the couple of gigs we’ve got coming up over the next two weeks, and was reminded once again how much fun playing with Theo is! It really is the simplest most immediately effective musical hook-up I’ve ever had, and I’ve had quite a few others that were pretty painless. When we were trying to remember how ‘Flutter’ goes (the opening tune from For The Love Of Open Spaces), we actually played the first minute of the tune twice in a row – that’s the most work we’ve ever had to do on anything!

Anyway, we were sounding just fine, and it gave me renewed impetus to get more gigs with Theo. He’s a fantastic musician and a top bloke. If you haven’t got his new CD, Go here to get it.

And now I’m listening to – those of you in the US will probably have heard her (she was on Letterman recently), those of you in the UK might have heard of her if you keep up with David Torn-related news (he produced the record), but she’s pretty much unknown on this side of the pond at the moment. She’s a solo acoustic guitarist, in the Hedges/Forcione/Roche/Ross school of playing, and is magic. Writes great tunes and is a great performer. I’m hoping to bring her over for some gigs together this coming summer. ‘Til then, check out her site and buy the CD on-line from the states!

SoundtrackKaki King, ‘Legs To Make Us Longer; Steve Lawson and Theo Travis, ‘For The Love Of Open Spaces’; , ‘Matthew Garrison’.

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…

Festive Fives Pt 3

OK, fave live gigs of 2004 (no particular order etc.)

The Pixies – Brixton Academy
Billy Bragg – The Barbican
John Scofield – QEH
Show Of Hands – The Stables (and The Bloomsbury, The Borderline, Greenbelt…)
Julie Lee – The Station Inn (and Tower Records, Greenbelt, The Basement…)

and…

Juliet Turner – The Borderline
Spearhead – Jazz Cafe
Gary Husband – Turner Sims
Carleen Anderson – Jazz Cafe
Psychodots – Cincinatti
Sam Philips – The Belcourt, Nashville

Soundtrack – Beck, ‘Sea Change’; The Low Country, ‘The Dark Road’, David Torn, ‘Best Laid Plans’.

radio days

Last night was big fun! not Big Fun – they were a crap 80s pop group – no, big fun for me, on four different BBC radio stations simultaneously! The Sue Dougan show is broadcast on BBC Radio Kent / Solent / Southern Counties and Berkshire, 7-10pm, monday to friday, from Tunbridge Wells. I was down in Sussex visiting my grandparents yesterday anyway, so it timed well.

We’d planned for me to go in and play live, but due to (perfectly reasonable) concerns about the possibility of tripping the power circuit with all my music gear, it ended up not being possible – so I’d carried all my stuff in for nothing. Still, it didn’t matter, as it meant that Sue just played tracks from Grace and Gratitude and For The Love Of Open Spaces instead, and chatted for ages about my whole process, purpose and inspiration for doing music. Sue asked a lot of very interesting questions, and not being a bassist, passed on the ‘what strings do you use?’ question. All in all, much fun was had – big thanks to Sue and her producer Steve.

What else of late? Central heating boiler started leaking a week ago, so we got John the plummer round, and a very fine plumber he is too. Yesterday and today he replaced the boiler and swapped over our totally-useless-70s-style skirting board radiators for normal ones. As I was away visiting my grandparents, The Small Person was left with the job of moving all my stuff in my office/studio to give John The Plumber access. No mean feat, given the amount of crap I’ve accumulated. Still, it’s a great excuse to actually tidy up… yeah, riiiight…

Other than that, I’ve been sorting out flyers and press releases for my edinburgh festival dates – the venue people are incredibly pedantic when it comes to style, but it’s probably a good thing, and I’m pretty nifty with Quark and Photoshop so it’s not taking me long to make the changes.

oh, and on Sunday, my mum, The Small Person and I went up to the Otter Trust in Norfolk for a day out – TSP and I had been there before, mum hadn’t. It’s such a cool place – otters are exceedingly groovy animals anyway, but the trust also has deer and wallabies and millions of ducks ‘n’ geese. A fine day out. ‘Twas also nice to find out that the captive breeding and releasing programme of the otter trust has brought the wild otter levels back to where they were about 50 years ago, to the point where they can’t release any more without upsetting the balance. Very good!

Stuart Maconie played ‘Shizzle’ from the new album on his Freak Zone show on the other night, and describe it as ‘if david lynch directed Seinfeld, this would be the theme tune’ – very nice! :o) 6 music is a fantastic station – I listen to Jane Gazzo’s Dream Ticket in the evenings, and stream Bob Harris and Tom Robinson‘s shows during the week from the archive.

In other music news, much of last week was spent recording with Calamateur, AKA Andrew Howie. I’ve known andrew for over a decade, he even bought my old bass off me when I left college, and he’s since become a fantastic singer/songwriter. His latest album, The Old Fox Of ’45, is wonderful, and we were working on some new stuff, some of it was me putting bass and strangeness onto tracks he’d already been working on, one of the tracks was just a vocal and guitar that I then messed around with a bit and added some bass and strangeness to, and the last one we did from scratch, using varisped samples of a crappy old nylon acoustic guitar I’ve got here, some weirdness from the Kaoss Pad and Andrew’s voice. All fine stuff! Sadly, most of it is pretty much unplayable live, or we’d do the new tune on the upcoming gig dates we’ve got together…

Soundtrack – Lewis Taylor, ‘Lewis Taylor’; Billy Bragg, ‘Talking With The Taxman About Poetry’; SplatterCell, ‘OAH’; David Torn, ‘What Means Sold, Traveller?”; Talking Heads, ‘Sand In The Vaseline’; me.

All systems go on the new CD!

So, the new Cd – Grace and Gratitude – is recorded and is being mastered as I write, the artwork’s finished and been sent off to the manufacturers, there’s a page up in the e-shop about it with some MP3s and preordering details, and gigs are getting booked! This is the fun bit – I really enjoy the hustle and bustle of making this work – making CDs, booking gigs, sending out press releases and all that. It’s a little daunting, and I’m easily distracted, but when I’m on a roll, it’s great fun.

It looks like I’m going to be doing a few dates with Rob Jackson around the time of the album release, which I’m really looking forward to – Rob’s a hugely talented solo guitarist, and I’m sure that anyone who digs what I do is going to love his music. I’m trying to book a launch gig at the moment, and might be going out to check out a venue this afternoon… watch this space.

Had a great response to the MP3s so far, which is good news – I think this is my best album… I’ve thought that with each album I’ve released, and I don’t think it’s just that I’m enamoured with newness… It seems like there’s a definite progression from one to the next. This one takes some of the more advanced looping that’s going on on ‘Open Spaces‘, and combining it with the more melacholic side of my solo stuff (Ok, except Shizzle, which is good ole’ fashioned stevie-style-funkiness).

So what’s still to be done? Posters need to be sent out for the gigs, more gigs need to be confirmed, Edinburgh promo needs doing, websites need informing that the CD is out, as soon as I get the master CD back I need to start burning CDRs to send out to radio for airplay ahead of the release date, and I need to resume talks with the various distributors who’ve expressed an interest in the CDs, and see if we can come to some sort of mutually beneficial deal to get this stuff into the shops… On top of that, I have a set of John Lester’s tunes to learn, and I need to go back and learn all the tracks on the CD in order to be able to play them live! I also need to mix and master the extra disc, ‘Lessons Learned From An Aged Feline Pt II’ – I’ve got lots of extra tracks that I really like, so I think it’s going to be a rather lovely CD once again…

Other than that, I had a marvellous gig last night with Jez, Tom Hooper on drums and Michael Haughton on sax – it was a function gig in a gorgeous hotel near Bath. Now those of you who do function gigs will know that the staff in hotels and function suites often treat bands as less than vermine, but the entire staff at this hotel were SOOOO helpful. It made such a refreshing change! The event organiser was totally on top of everything, we played really well, got paid – what’s not to love? It was great fun getting back to playing with a quartet, and we used my Accugroove/Mackie/QSC set up as the PA, and it sounded incredible. Ain’t no other bass rig I could use as a PA for sax, piano bass and drums!!

Got back at 4.30 this morning, so slept in late. Am only now just getting into the land of the living. Need to go and post off some Cd orders, reply to some email, go and check out a venue for the album launch, contact some venues and send out some press stuff. Busy day!

Soundtrack – right now, Public Enemy, ‘It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back’; yesterday – cathy burton, ‘Speed Your Love’; Brian Houston, ‘Thirteen Days in August’; David Torn, ‘What Means Solid, Traveller?’

10 things UKIP don't want you to know

I’m not usually in the habit of cross-posting from my own forum, but Cryptic posted a link to a fantastic article in the Independent about UKIP.

Most days there’s some choice morsel of info posted in the ‘Everything Else‘ forum by Mr Cryptic, and all are worth checking out. Feel free to comment on them too (or anything posted here – that’s the place to do it!)

Soundtrack – today I’m mixing tracks for the album, so lots more me, as well as reference material such as Pat Metheny/Charlie Haden, ‘Beyond The Missouri Sky’; Talk Talk, ‘Spirit Of Eden’; Bill Frisell, ‘Ghost Town’; Michael Manring; ‘Book Of Flame’; David Torn, ‘Tripping Over God’.

A week at the old bailey…

This last week I was on Jury Service. By rights, I should still be on it, given that it’s meant to last for two weeks. If I was still on it, I wouldn’t be writing about it here. However, the criminals of London must’ve been on holiday of late as there just weren’t enough cases to keep all the jurors occupied. The one case I was offered was set to last for months, so I was excused, being self employed ‘n’ all.

Still, it was a fascinating, if fleeting, look at the mechanics of one small part of the english justice system, finding out how jurors are chosen, what the inside of the Old Bailey looks like (and that’s it not really called the Old Bailey – it’s the Central Criminal Court – Old Bailey is the street its in…) and discovering just how much sitting around reading is involved in jury service. I managed to finish a fairly sizeable book in three days for the first time in years! Also met some lovely interesting people – Justine, Jeffrey and Louis, who wasn’t really called Louis, but looked so much like Louis Theroux (clearly we weren’t the first to notice), that a re-christening was in order to keep everyone amused. Marvellous interesting people that made the whole process far less dull that it could have been.

Also alleviating the dullness was the book I was reading – Dave Gorman’s GoogleWhack Adventure. Dave Gorman was the chap who travelled round the world a few years ago looking for other people called Dave Gorman, based on a drunken bet. Well, two years and one more drunken bet further into his life, and he’s travelling round the world meeting people whose websites contain googlewhacks, as found by the previous googlewhack in the chain – doing know what a googlewhack is? go here. Anyway, it’s a supremely funny (as in spit coffee all over yourself in the old bailey funny), endearing, moving and engaging book. The man has a lust for life and a love of meeting new people that makes his hairbrained schemes highly desireable. Get it, it’s great.

Anyway, after being dismissed at around 1 or 2 each day with no cases on offer, it gave me the opportunity to get moving in earnest on this new album, and must material has been recorded. Not sure how much of what’s gone down so far will make the cut, but there are some marvellous ideas that seem to be bubbling around. It’s catching them that’s the fun.

SoundtrackIain Archer, ‘Flood the Tanks’; David Torn, ‘What Means Solid, Traveller?’; Pierce Pettis, ‘State Of Grace’; Eric Roche, ‘Spin’; Pat Metheny Group, ‘Quartet’.

Why Wait?

Standing in line at my local post office this afternoon, I’m confronted by a huge sign saying ‘Why Wait?’ an ad for post office bank personal loans. Now, the loans industry is a particularly odeous one at the best of times, but when post offices – places used a heck of a lot by people collecting their pensions and benefits – try to turn ‘why wait’ into a rhetorical question in relation to borrowing money in order to get a car, a holiday, a new TV or whatever, things seem to have hit a new low.

So anyway, here’s Steve’s reasons to Wait –

#1 – no payments means no stress. If you’re not naking payments on a loan, you’re outgoings are less. Money you’re putting aside for a special thing can easily be diverted should you need it, and whatever the thing is you’re saving for will just have to wait a while, rather than be repossessed.

#2 – you end up paying more, a LOT more – the interest on loans is insane. If you put the money in a savings account, they’ll actually give you money for waiting.

#3 – things you’ve saved up for are more highly valued. OK, so it’s old fashioned, but it’s true. People (ie, me) don’t appreciate the stuff they just get. I’ve had to save up for basses, for amps, for stuff. Other things I’ve bought cos I’ve got the money. almost invariably, the ones I saved for are dearer to me.

#4 – if you’re saving for one thing, you’re less likely to be spending the money elsewhere. It’s amazing how the process of saving up can focus your thinking about money. Do we need to get take-away again, or shall I cook, save a few quid, and put it towards the holiday? That side of it is quite fun. Having to buy take-away because the bailiffs have taken your cooker after you defaulted on a bank loan is less fun.

#5 – debt is the biggest business in the world. Whether it’s third world debt, the national deficit of the US, or personal debt, bankers are making trillions and the rest of us are paying the bills. Opt out.

soundtrack – Seth Lakeman, ‘Kitty Jay’; Fripp/Eno, ‘No PussyFooting’; David Torn, ‘Tripping Over God’; Prince, ‘Sign O’ The Times’.

Road Tales Pt 1.

As you may be able to tell by the time this is posted, I’m jetlagged. very jetlagged. Two hours sleep, then wide awake. It’s 4.38am, and I’m trying to think of things to do, listening to Muriel Anderson’s ‘A Journey Through Time’ (Muriel’s great, and will hopefully be coming to the UK in April…), and chatting to Trip on MSN.

So California stories – flew in on Sat 10th, and got the SuperShuttle to Anaheim, where I was recording a record with Kofi Baker and Ned Evett. Got set up and crashed out.

The next three days were a mix of hanging with Ned while Kofi taught, and then recording all evening – as late as my jetlag going that way would allow us. the material was largely improvs, most of which we then played again in some sort of structured way to see what came out. It’s now all in the editing – some great material was certainly recorded, but the wheat and chaff need separating! Kofi and Ned are both marvellous musicians, so it was a lot of fun to do, and a bit of a challenge to be back playing complex rythmic twiddly stuff after lots of ambient noodling…

then, NAMM – huge trade show in Anaheim, music gear manufacturers, dealers, distributors, journos and players descend on the convention centre, in a desparate attempt to do business. the makers are trying to hawk their wares – some by just making good stuff, others by getting porn stars to stand around on their booths, or lame 80s has-been rock stars doing signings… normally means the product isn’t worth looking at.

I was playing for Modulus and AccuGroove, and doing a show report for Bass Guitar Magazine, and catching up with lots of old friends – it’s one of the downsides of being a bassist is that there are rarely more than one of us on a gig, so we only meet up in airports and at NAMM… Also got to meet up with lots of friends from talkbass, the dudepit, churchbass, TBL, the lowdown, and my street-team! the now annual tradition of dinner with David Torn, Doug Lunn and Vida Vierra was as marvellous as ever, and playing at the Bass Bash was a blast, as was my gig in the lobby of the Marriott next to the show (ah yes, solo bass goes loung-core…)

NAMM ended sunday, on monday trip and I drove to Costa Mesa for a coffee house gig lined up for us by Bob Lee – nice little coffee shop, played outside, Seth Horan turned up and did a couple of tunes and was wonderful. Trip’s set was marvellous too, and his ‘did I suck?’ question at the end was so laughable it almost warranted a kick in the plums. Lots of friendly faces turned up, including Fred Hodson from Talkbass (thanks Fred!), Kerry Getz and Jason Feddy. Crashed at Kerry’s house, and on Tuesday morning Bob Lee showed Trip and I round QSC, and they lent me a poweramp for the tour (the AccuGroove powered cabs weren’t finished in time for the tour, so I took a pair of passive ones, and used the QSC amp, which sounded great.

Tuesday afternoon was the gig at CalArts with Andre LaFosse, which went well, and included a marvellous duo version of MMFSOG. Then off to see Vida and Dani for a few days. I’ve probably spent 3 months total in California now over the last 5 years, and this was the first time I’ve been to the beach! Took a walk along Venice beach, wandered around book shops and record shops, and soaked up the atmosphere. Also took a walk round the Yogananda peace garden in Santa Monica which is a beautiful inspiring place, where I’d be spending a lot of time were I living nearby…

Wednesday night went to see Abe Laboriel playing with 3 Prime at the Baked Potato – a trip to LA wouldn’t be complete without either seeing Abe or going to the BP, and as always the band were amazing.

Friday started with breakfast with Jimmy Haslip, and was followed by the long drive to Santa Cruz, which was even longer due to it taking two hours to get out of LA! But got to Rick and Jessica Turner’s place late evening, and talked for hours. Some tours are all about heavy gig schedules and travellings. Others are all about the people you meet. This was a people tour – the gigs were great, but it was the friendships, talking long into the night, eating lovely food, plotting world domination that made this trip special. I travel half way round the world and get treated like family, it doesn’t get much better than this.

Saturday (24th Jan we’re up to), was dudepit clinic day, at Bob Streetteam’s house – 11 guys, lots of a basses, and a day of talking and thinking about music, and playing some stuff to demonstrate a few concepts which will hopefully keep the guys going til next year. Bob did a sterling job of organising and hosting the event – well above and beyond any expected level of support from a street-teamer. I’m constantly amazed at people’s generousity. There’s plenty of dark stuff going on in the world, and while governments are going about their f-ed up evil business, nice people are running counter to it, demostrating friendship and grace that makes you smile at the world, and gives you hope.

Sunday was KPIG day – Michael Manring and I playing solo and duo on this most wonderful of radio stations.

Next couple of days are spent shuttling backwards and forwards between AccuGroove world HQ (Mark’s house) in Cupertino, and Santa Cruz, catching up with more old friends and hanging out with the Turners and Muriel Anderson.

Then the ‘big’ gigs – three dates with Michael Manring and Trip Wamsley. All three gigs went really really well – loads of friends turned up, Trip and Michael both played really really well, we all sold CDs, had a blast, played some very cool trios and a tasty cover of Bruce Cockburn’s ‘Pacing The Cage’ each night. Each gig afforded us more time to see friends – staying with Bob Streetteam, and Mike Roe was great – and to play lots of fine music to lovely people. The Espresso Garden show was sold out, with lots of people unable to get in (fortunately they were able to stand by the door and listen, but still…)

Then, the long drive back to LA, introducing Trip to the delights of Prefab Sprout on the way, back to see Doug, Vida and Dani, out for Doug’s birthday, a trip round socal delivering gear back to its rightful owners, and a deep sleep.

Sunday, departure day, started with a dance class – no, I didn’t dance, much as I’d have liked to – I was part of the percussion section, which was more fun than one should have on a sunday morning. Doug dropped me at the airport, and after 74 levels of security checking, got on the plane, and fortunately sat next to a fascinating woman called Gael, and chatted for most of the way home, pausing to watch ‘Whale Rider’ and ‘School Of Rock’.

A great trip – possibly my fave trip so far to the states. some great gigs, new family, catching up with old friends, fun at NAMM, great contacts for the future, and a sense that all is not lost with the world despite the crapness of so many things from Dubya to the Dean Girls.

Doug, Vida, Dani, Rick, Jessica, Elias, Trip, Michael, Kelly M, Dan, Wally, Mark, Suzy, Bob A Kelly A, Mike, Kofi, Ned, Kerry, Bob L, DT, Seth, Becca, Jimmy, Anderson, Gael, Keith, Muriel and any others who’ve slipped my mind momentarily – many marvellous friends old and new, thankyou all. (good lord, three weeks in LA and I’ve come back an unreconstructed hippie…!)

And now it’s 5.23am, I need sleep. badly.

more on Tuesday’s gig with Theo soon…

Soundtrack – Muriel Anderson, ‘A Journey Through Time’, Mike Roe, ‘Say Your Prayers’, Luca Formentini, ‘Subterranean’ – three lovely friends with three lovely albums.