Top notch comedy night

Went to a very fine comedy gig last night – organised by James Cary – an exceedingly funny man himself – the gig featured absurdist standup from Milton Jones, comedy performance poetry from Jude Simpson and Paul Kerensa – I don’t think I’ve seen a more consistently funny comedy gig in a long time – no lame warm-up act here. Paul’s style is old school observational stuff and word play, and he does it brilliantly. Jude is all set to be the new Victoria Wood – comedy poetry that’s both hilarious and brilliantly constructed, it’s a joy to hear language (ab)used in such a creative way.

And Milton – one of the funniest people I’ve ever seen. It’s about the fourth time I’ve seen him do his show, and even the repeat gags get funnier every time. I heartily recommend going to see any of them if they are doing standup near you.

It was also one of those gigs where you know half the audience – Jam and Melissa, Evil Harv, Mini Harv, Andy Flan, Darren Greenbelt, the blokes out of Infinite Number Of Monkeys… much fun, and a fine night out.

Soundtrack – Green Day, ‘American Idiot’ (left here by a student, and marvellous it is too – must buy this); more of me and Cleveland.

The Crepe'd Crusader

certainly brings out mixed emotions in most people. Firstly he’s the loveable cheeky cockney chap, naked chef, bringing new life to TV cooking. Then he became the overexposed Sainsbury’s poster boy, in all the ads, doing voice overs and generally overstaying his welcome. So he reinvents himself as the crowned king of worthwhile reality TV.

What did he get right? He picks things he cares about. Unlike, say, Gordon Ramsay, who just came across as a miserable bag of turd, belittling B-list celebs live on TV (all the ones with any backbone walked out – respect to the late great Tommy Vance for that!), Jamie picked subjects that would change the lives of ordinary people for the better. In , he took a bunch of relative no-hopers from rough backgrounds and gave them the chance to train to be top chefs. They’ve still got jobs. Their lives are on a different path. Magic.

His next project was in a whole different league. Jamie took on Britain’s school dinners in . It took months to film, and started in one school, with Jamie trying to get the kids to eat properly. What they were eating was truly shocking. The worst kind of junk food, the same crap every day, zero nutritional content. Just rubbish, rubbish that will eventually kill them. And Jamie cared. Really, not for a moment did even the most cynical of hacks question his motives. Watching the programme, it’s inconceiveable how parents have let it get to this stage. The kids couldn’t recognise vegetables!

So he goes on a crusade, getting 55 schools in Greenwich to move over to his new menu. He works within the insane food budget that he’s set, he convinces dinner ladies to work unpaid overtime, he wrecks his homelife in order to make this happen.

Suddenly pain-in-the-arse Jamie is transformed into we-need-more-people-like-you-on-TV Jamie. A hero, fighting the beaurocrats who will sell the kids of the nation’s health for 15p a day.

It’s riveting viewing, and I really really hope things change. Things already are changing. The teachers report back a total turn-around in the kids’ concentration levels, attentiveness and behaviour patterns, just through the change of diet.

Come on, Ruth Kelly, get it together!! As Education Secretary, she’s responsible for the decisions, the one with the purse strings. Jamie’s done the work, written the handbook, drawn up the recipes. All you need to do is ban the junk, and pay for the training.

It’ll reap HUGE rewards in the future when these kids aren’t all rotting in hospital from preventable diseases.

So, let’s get behind Jamie, sign petitions, campaign, make a fuss. The future of the kids’ health depends on it. Go to the campaign homepage, and start kicking up a fuss.

Soundtrack – David Sylvian, ‘Secrets Of The Beehive’ (Evil Harv is generally a malicious and sinister presence in the world, but all is forgiven for introducing me to this album a couple of years ago).

fairwell, tooth.

A trip to the dentist this morning resulted in me coming home with one less tooth in my head than I had when I arrived – how come they take my teeth and then charge me £45 for the priviledge? surely they should pay me for my lovely knackered tooth!

Anyway, there’s now a gaping hole in the back of my mouth where said tooth used to be… it’s been broken for a long time, but now there’s just a space. Fortunately it’s far enough back for me not to end up looking like some kind of solo bass Shane MacGowan (thanks for that mental image, Evil Harv).

So I’ve been eating lots of ice-cream today, as instructed by my dentist. That’s the kind of prescription I like! ‘Take two scoops, 9 times a day’.

Teaching this afternoon was fun, trying to explain bass-ness while not dribbling blood and bits of gum and jaw-bone down myself. ewwwwww

so now I’m sat here, with an empty tub of Haaggen-Dazs in front of me and a dull ache in my jaw (from both the monster injection I was given and the tooth being dug out – that’s got to do some muscle damage…)

Still, I’ve got Jonatha Brooke’s gig at the Betsy Trotwood tomorrow night to look forward to! yay!

Soundtrack, ‘Hearts And Bones’; , ‘Big Dreams And The Bottom Line’; Peter Gabriel, ‘So’; , ‘Plumb’.

Two more great gigs and The Godfather Pt II

so, what’s been happening?

Last Friday night, Evil Harv and I went to see The Pixies at Brixton Academy. I’d really really been looking forward to this, having missed them when they were around last time (I lived in Berwick on Tweed, so didn’t get to go to many gigs!). Graham Coxon, the ex-Blur guitarist was the support, and was surprisingly good – I didn’t really have high expectations, but his blend of Blur’s noisier moments (it becaume clear what his part in their sound was) and the 80s american hardcore of bands like Husker Du and Black Flag was marvellous. Fine voice and some great guitar playing.

Then the Pixies came on, and played non-stop for over an hour. Not a word was said between songs, no breaks, no nothing, just out of one song into the next. It was marvellous. Loads of stuff from Doolittle and Surfer Rosa. All fantastic. A brilliant brilliant gig.

Saturday night, the small person and I went to see the new Harry Potter film – The Prisoner of Askerban. I enjoyed the other two, but this is the best of the three so far. Darker, faster moving, better acting from the three main kids, a great cameo by Gary Oldman as the Prisoner. Excellent stuff.

and Sunday was Godfather Pt II – regular blogsters will remember I was godfather to Angus a few months back, and on Sunday I was godfather to Charlie. Forgot to take any photos, but I’m sure there were plenty taken, so I’ll see if I can get hold of one for here. A ‘triffic day – Jonny and Rosie Didj are Charlie’s mum and dad, and live on a barge, so the party afterwards was marvellous. Much fun. And of course, I get to be Charlie’s godfather as he grows up, and with him and Angus being around the same age, I can take them both out to weird gigs as they get older! :o)

Monday morning Evil Harv MSN’s me offering a free ticket to see Peter Gabriel. I saw him last time round, and it was amazing, so a bit of diary juggling, and I was able to drive straight from a recording sesh at Jez’s in the afternoon in Oxford to Wembley for the gig.

Two support acts, the first one playing what sounded like Lloyd-Webber/Ben Elton compositions – crappy west end show tunes that did nothing for me at all. Second one was an african dude with a guitar who was much better.

Then Peter and band came on. Any chance to see Tony Levin play is a treat, the guy’s a bass legend and a genius. Another mindblowing gig. Lots of clever staging, lighting and of course Peter and his daughter zipping round the stage on Segway HTs – I SOOOOO want one, but they’re a bit pricey… if anyone should feel like buying me one, please get in touch… ;o)

the set was similar to the last gig, though I don’t remember there being a huge train wreck in the middle of Salisbury Hill – someone in the band lost their place completely, and I think Peter had to count them back in! After the show, it took me almost an hour to get from Wembley back to the North Circular!! grrrrr.

On the recording front, I’ve got a version of the album finished, which is nice as it gives me a strong reference point. Anything that I record now that’s better than what’s on there, I can swap into the album, or it can go towards it being a double… lots of fun.

Soundtrack – once again, me me me…

recording so far

So, the recording process for this album started about a month and a half ago, when I decided I wanted to have the album out by the summer. At that point, I started to demo ideas – just recording them as stereo files into FLStudio, just to get me thinking about the whole album writing/recording process.

I also started to think through how I want to recording process to go, and the kind of equipment I’d need to take it on a step further from the last solo album. I’d decided I want to do another all solo all live recording record, not a step-time layering or sequencing record. I figure I’ve got at least one more all solo album before I need to do something else just to break up the flow… :o)

In order to be able to record the loops and all the processing onto individual tracks, I needed a mixing desk that had ‘insert sends’ on each channel – that way I could have Lexicon MPX-G2 #1 going into the desk, sending a signal straight to the soundcard, but also sending signal via the auxilliary channels to both Echoplexes, and the other MPX-G2, those are also input into individual channels, and each of those channels has an output to the soundcard, giving me a total of 6 outputs. However, my soundcard only has four inputs… time to get a new soundcard as well.

Ebay came up trumps on the search for a mixing desk, and I got a Mackie 1404-VLZ-PRO, which is fantastic. It was slightly less forthcoming on the soundcard front, and after two weeks spent being certain I was going to get a MOTU 828 Mk II, I decided to just get another Delta 44 and run the two alongside eachother.

So now I’ve got my set up with 6 channels going to the computer via my sparkly new desk. Time to decide on recording software…

Having used Cool Edit Pro in Italy at Luca‘s studio, I knew I liked the interface and editing facility. Cool Edit was recently bought by Adobe, and is now called Audition. So I downloaded the 30 day trial version, and waited for the immanent release of version 1.5 – not wanting to pay over £200 for a bit of software only to have to pay £50 a week later for the upgrade…

So, equipment and software in place, I started recording in earnest. The process changes slightly from track to track – sometimes I’ll work on one of the ideas I came up with before, other times I’ll put on a CD and then record whatever it inspires, or I just noodle around with the computer in record and see what comes out.

Then I’ll do a quick mix to see if it’s going to work at all, sometimes do another take or two to see if there’s a better one there, and then fire of an MP3 to Evil Harv to see what he thinks, knowing that he’s insult it.

So far I’ve got a few more funky tracks, some jazzy chordal stuff on the new 6 string, a couple of big sprawling ambient pieces and a tune with a reggae feel. This weekend I’ll probably put together a CD of what I’ve got so far, so I can have a listen through away from the computer and see if there’s any continuity between the stuff, and whether or not it might even end up as a double album…

Hopefully I’ll have an MP3 or two ready to go soon.

Inbetween takes, I’m also trying to sort out some more gigs for August (I’m planning on having the CD available from the beginning of August), and starting to get magazines etc. interested…

Soundtrack – nothing except me :o)

Blessed are the rich…

So Dame Shirley Porter has agreed to pay back 12m of the 40-something million she embezzled from Westminster city council in the homes for votes scandal of the 1980s….

…hang on, AGREED TO??? – she’s guilty of a crime, but she’s bargaining with the courts over how much she should have to pay back?

For those of you either too young or too far away to remember the story, She was iinvolved in a scam that involved selling off council houses in Westminster to people who agreed to vote Tory, thus losing the local council millions and millions in revenue. She’s a multi-millionairess, part of the Tesco dynasty, and is, by all appearances, unrepentant immoral scum. And now she appears to be in negotiations to decide what would be a fair amount to pay back. ‘Obviously she can’t be expected to pay back more than she’s worth’ says some council flunky. Er, why the hell not??? She’s commited a crime, she’s cost a local council millions that then has to be recouped through local taxes etc. (great for a tory, supposedly in favour of lower taxation…), and then fled the country (I gather she now lives in the British Virgin Islands [EDIT – according to the fount of all evil knowledge that is evil harv, she actually lives in Israel…]).

Look, she should be a prison. She’s a criminal. She’s got off lightly because she’s rich, and that’s wrong. Plain and simple. If she’d mugged someone and stolen their handbag to feed her kids she’d be in prison, but mugging and entire London Borough and costing them millions is fine, just pay back what you feel like, love, and we’ll forget about the rest.

So much for there not being a double standard. This case, plus the case of that turd-on-legs Jeffrey Archer being allowed to remain a Lord, despite being convicted of PURJORY AND PERVERTING THE COURSE OF JUSTICE (can their be a much worse crime for someone involved in the nation’s legal process to be found guilty of???), demonstrates that the legal and governmental system really does look differently on rich people who commit crimes from poor people.

Bollocks to the lot of ’em.

Soundtrack – not much of late, though I did just buy the new Sarah McLachlan album, and have listened to the first couple of tracks from that, which sounds very good.

Happy Christmas (tour is over)

Last night was the last night of the tour with Michael Manring. Another great gig in a long string of great gigs. I think this was probably the most enjoyable tour I’ve ever done – all the gigs went supremely well, nearly all of them were filled to capacity, the promoters of the gigs were all marvellous, the audiences were all very responsive, we all sold loads of CDs. There are lots of very fine reviews coming in on various forums (see the interact forums on my site for the biggest repository, and if you were at the shows, please sign in and say hi!)

Thanks to everyone who came to the gigs, and especially those of you who took the time to come and say hi. It’s always lovely to meet people at gigs.

Thanks also to Bass Guitar Magazine for their sponsorship, Mansons Guitar Shop for hosting the clinic in Exeter, Stiff Promotions for promoting the Petersfield and Southampton shows, Ali Martin for doing the posters for those two gigs, Sebastian Merrick for co-promoting the Troubadour gig, Ayshegul for all her hard work on the Troubadour show, Catherine for doing CDs at the Troub, Delicatessen for the Reading gig, especially evil harv and Terri, Richard Ravenhill for doing such a killer job on the Brighton show, Grant Sharkey for his help promoting the Southampton gig, Mark the soundman at Joiners for the best live sound we’ve ever had, and my street team for loads of promo assistance, flyering, and generally being very cool indeed. And of course, to Michael Manring and John Lester for doing the shows – what fun!

So the next gig is Thursday in Stoke Newington – that’ll be a lot of fun, as it’s with Theo Travis, so we’ll be playing the material from ‘Open Spaces’.

Soundtrack – Prince, ‘Sign Of The Times’; David Sylvian, ‘Secrets Of The Beehive’; Rain Tree Crow, ‘Rain Tree Crow’; Paul Simon, ‘Greatest Hits’; Abe Laboriel/Greg Mathieson.

try again

OK, so this is my second attempt at writing this, having written a very long post earlier before my computer crashed nearing the end. Bugger…

anyway, here’s the bullet point version (I’m sure much to evil harv’s delight) –

on Saturday I went to a memorial service for a friend whose life was tragically cut short by cancer a couple of weeks ago. She was 29, had a baby and a husband – everything to live for, but the cancer had other ideas. The service was moving and beautiful, but nothing could hide the deep, painful merciless injustice of someone being cut down that early in life. I’ve no idea what her poor hubby is going through – he’s someone I’ve looked up to hugely for years, and I just hope that I can somehow be there for him now. The pain must be inconceivable.

Friday I got a new computer… well, some bits with which to construct a new computer having picked at the bones of my old one for whatever morsels could be rescued. the new chimera is pretty good, and The Captain was invaluable in building it for me – I’d have no idea how to put the damn thing together – software, I’m fine, hardware, forget it.

So the last few days have involved lots of installing of software, lots of trying to find email archives and diary archives etc. All great fun… but at least is all runs a bit quicker, and I’ve not got an extra external drive so I can back everything up. Some friends of mine were burgled this last week, and aside from the electronic stuff the had taken, they also lost a load of photos and film that was in the camera and camcorder, as well as a load of work that was on the PC – that’s terrible! I’m going to try and keep backups of everything so it can’t be stolen or lost or have my harddrive crash again… It’s such a pain as the actual stuff is hardly worth anything, but the work on it is very hard to replace…

anyway, today was a teaching day, and posting out of CD orders (yup, still getting orders for the older albums too! :o) this week I need to get the extra disc pressed up and sorted, so that it’s already to be sent out to all of you who’ve advanced ordered it by next week…

On the gig front, Italy this coming weekend is confirmed, but Stoke Newington on Nov 9th has been cancelled… comings and goings, hellos and goodbyes, bookings and cancellations. Thunder and Rainbows from the same sky. Friends dying, babies being born. All part of the cycle of life, but that doesn’t make the tragedy of death any easier to bear, the joy of birth any less marvellous. On that note, congrats to Johnny and Rosie, Geoff and Sarah and maybe to Steve and Linda by now, who knows… St Luke’s is awash with babies, with more on the way!

Soundtrack – Keith Jarrett trio, ‘Tokyo 96’; Marc Johnson’s Bass Desires, ‘Second Sight’; Joni Mitchell, ‘Hejira’; Charlie Haden & Hank Jones, ‘Steal Away’; recordings of me with BJ Cole and Orphy Robison, and with Luca Formentini, Moreno and Gianni in Italy.

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…

a new top 5…

inspired by a conversation I’m currently having with evil harv on MSN, here’s my guess at my top 5 most listened to albums of all time, in no particular order

  • Steve McQueen – Prefab Sprout
  • Strength – The Alarm
  • Dusk – The The
  • We See A New Africa – Friends First
  • Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me – The Cure

Which says absolutely nothing about my taste, really… no jazz, no singer/songwriter stuff – it says more about the albums themselves as being ones to get obsessional about…

Soundtrack – was listening to Erin McKeown on Late Junction – she’s fantastic, gonna have to get her album…

© 2008 Steve Lawson and developed by Pretentia. | login