A couple of alternate views from people who think giving music away is a good idea…

Jeff Schmidt just posted a link on his blog to this article on AlterNet by Bob Ostertag, an experimental musician in the San Francisco scene, explaining why he’s made his entire back catalogue (or all of it that he has the rights for available online for free.)

The Long Tail blog (by Chris Anderson, author of The Long Tail and Editor In Chief of Wired mag) features a post about the perils of thinking about the music industry as being solely about the sale of CDs, and says that it’s actually really healthy if you look at a load of other indicators – Gigs and Merch, Download sales, Licencing for TV/Film/Ads, Vinyl Sales (which I’d group with other ‘premium product’, generally – bought by DJs because there’s still kudos in vinyl DJing, but also largely by fans who often don’t even own record players – single sales are half about how great a medium vinyl is for DJs, and half an anachronistic throw-back for fans who don’t see the actual ‘music’ but need to be even more of a music fan. It strikes me as a way of classifying your allegiance – I like this band enough to download, this band enough to buy the CD, and this band so much that I’ll even buy their singles despite as yet having nothing to play them on…)

Anyway, both posts are interesting, though as Jeff points out, Bob does descend into a rant about the mendacity of big corporations, record labels etc. I’d love to see some figures for what Bob’s doing, as he says in the article that making records has always been a ‘break even at best’ exercise for small labels. I’m assuming he’s talking about the labels that put his stuff out. It never has been for me. My solo Cds have always made money (less so on the duo CDs, but they have made some) and their sale, especially at gigs has been really important to my income stream. That doesn’t automatically mean that I ‘deserve’ that in the long run, but it does give the lie to the idea that ‘nobody’s making money out of releasing music on indie labels’ or whatever other myths are abound…

Anyway, have a read of them both – Chris’ position is vey similar to that of Gerd – the music industry is healthy, it’s just the process of charging per-unit for recorded music that’s on the way out…

recorded music as an advert for gigs – the death of an artform?

This post started out as a response on the stevelawson.net forum to a comment from lovely Tom who said, “Perhaps the last few decades have been an anomaly and we will go back to live concerts being the mainstay of the music industry”

To which I responded thusly (i’m cross-posting it here, because the notion that records can be given away by all musicians as a way of publicising gigs has become the standard answer to why file-sharing is ‘great!’, even though that’s not what Tom – a vinyl junkie and great supporter of musicians – meant)


Steely Dan would be screwed then… no more Peter Gabriel or Blue Nile albums, no more records that take 3 years of writing and experimentation to come up with…

I think the thing that is being missed here is that recorded music is already an ‘advert’ for live music! And vice versa. A lot of times, the only money I make on a gig is CD money. Take that away, and I don’t make anything. The idea that we’re moving back to a live music economy would be just fine if there was a commensurate shift in the way venues viewed music, but the vast majority of gigging opportunities in cities are about selling beer. So the musicians are in the bar area (or at least ‘a’ bar area), playing to people who are drinking and talking, aren’t paid to be there, and get to do 30 mins max because the higher turnover of musicians means that each of them bring friends along who drink… So the bar makes a few hundred (or a few thousand, in some cases) quid, and pays nothing (and then complains that the PRS are robbing bastards because they charge them a licence for broadcasting music – hah!)

The way that musicians make money is fragmented already – I get paid for gigs, I get paid for CDs, I get paid for teaching, for masterclasses and clinics, occasionally for session work (live or studio, though most of my live work outside of my own music is pro bono for friends), royalties for live performance and radio airplay (thank God for the BBC/PRS) and very occasionally for writing about music. I’ve made money on t-shirts before now (not much), and i’ve received a fair amount of payment in kind from music equipment manufacturers, but precious little towards keeping a roof over my head…

In any one year those levels change throughout the year. This year has been a lot about gigs, music gear demos (did a fair bit for looperlative earlier in the year in Italy and Germany), and so far, not much about music sales (the Calamateur Vs. Steve Lawson album has sold a few copies, but certainly nothing to compare with a ‘proper’ CD release, sadly…)

The beauty of the music scene is its breadth – there are people who are all about the gigs, and people who are all about the studio creations, there are bands who manage to come up with an image and brand that means they make literally thousands a night on merch and live off that money (the Stourbridge scene of the late 80s/early 90s).

If recorded music just becomes an advert for gigs, it will not only be the death of an income stream for musicians, it’ll mean the death of an artform, as album-as-work-of-art become album-as-advert. (whoever heard of a 30 minute ambient advert?) As a synonym, imagine what it would mean for world cinema if all films were given away for free, and paid for by product placement and TV-style ad-breaks?

I seriously want to do more gigs, play more live music, and I would indeed be happy to spend my life just playing live and releasing documents of that process. At least, at the moment I would, because all my albums are essentially live anyway. But there are LOADS of great artists whose contribution to the artistic quilt is their remarkable skill in the studio, a skill that requires time, and money and expertise and training and years of trial and error. All of which need to be paid for somehow, and won’t happen if they are playing 250 nights a year in order to make some dough…

[blog-only addendum]

it’s funny how in the course of the discussion some people look forward to a golden age when all musicians are paid via some kind of music license (Gerd Leonhard et al), despite it meaning that there are going to yet again be middle men creaming it off – interesting that Gerd talks about this being a way for artists to get remunerated directly, but hasn’t yet mentioned the need for a multi-billion dollar intermediary such as google, yahoo, news corps etc…. unless he’s suggesting the setting up of a global non-profit organisation whose sole purpose is to make sure that the new music license (which lots of people will see as a tax) gets distributed fairly… meanwhile, the musicians at the very end of the long tail will just drop off…

One possible scenario that scares me is that we see a ‘mainstream’ licensing scheme, so you can get all the James Blunt you want as part of that license, but running along side it is a sub culture of ‘art music’ performers and recording artists, who still charge, and who operate within a community of arts patrons. To some extent it’s already happening (I’m guessing that people who buy my CDs and downloads, either here or at gigs, do so with a very different sense of investment in what’s going on that even those who by a David Sylvian, Bill Frisell or Blue Nile record in HMV), but the idea of such a schism is unappealing purely due to the implied elitism of the mainstream/art-music split – I don’t really want to be part of some elitist musical world, but I REALLY don’t want to be told by ‘the market’ that need to play shorter snappier tunes, and maybe start singing, in order for my music to connect with an audience fast enough for them to ‘get it’ and come and see me live…

The thinking goes on…

A false sense of entitlement – the flaw in the new distribution models?

In all the thinking that’s going on about new ways of distributing music, one thing is rather bothering me, and that’s the inferred/assumed entitlement of audiences to access to music. There is, built into most of the discussions on how we move forward, the taken-as-red assumption that if musicians don’t provide music in the way that the audience wants it, they’ll just steal it. Fuck you, Mr musician, how dare you think you can limit my access to your work.

If a baker decides that he’s going to make less bread and charge more for it, either he needs to convince his customers that it’s worth the extra money and effort to get it, or he goes out of business (or finds another business to support his baking, if he does it for the love of it). What doesn’t happen is his customers decide that they’ll just go into the kitchen, make bread for themselves and take it home, or help themselves to the bread in the window of the shop, and set up a table outside the door giving it away to passers by because he had no right to do that, and is clearly a selfish bastard who needs to be taught a lesson.

But with music, the option to limit access to your music is assumed to no longer exist. Because everyone feels like they have a right to it. So if Madonna’s new album is too expensive, or only available as a download at low res and with DRM on iTunes, instead of saying ‘well I won’t get it then’ the assumption is that it’s somehow legit to take it. As though access to that music is a right, not a privilege. As though the music I write, and record and make – using my own money and time – is then no longer mine. The recordings aren’t mine, the songs aren’t mine. They’ve become public property without me even being consulted.

Likewise, the whole notion of user-generated content – YouTube videos, live bootlegs, etc. Completely unregulated, and liable to change live music for ever. Jonatha posts a beautifully worded response to the whole question of unsolicited filming at gigs and the effect it has on her in the discussion forum on her site – well worth reading. Basically, it creates a permanent document of something that is essentially of the moment, and filming it turns it into a recording session, losing something of the spontaneity. My response on the forum, when I was asked whether I minded being filmed was ‘normally no’, but I do a) like the be asked and b) like the chance to vet it before it gets uploaded. No-one wants a permanent online record of an off-night (though there is that entire recording of the gig I did with no pedals with Lo. in September!)

So, do you need to have the video of the gig you were at? Do you assume your ticket price also includes some kind of innate recording rights? If a record is too expensive, or not available in the format you want, does that give you the right to download it for free from somewhere else? Clearly, I think that’s a heinous situation, though it’s one that much of the industry seems to have resigned itself to. The biggest own goal seems to have been that the arguments have centered around money, and particularly when someone like Lars Ulrich – a multi-millionaire – complains about it denting his income, most people aren’t really going to give a shit.

However, entitlement isn’t about money, it’s about the right to negotiate with your audience, and your audience then being able to choose to not spend the money by not buying the product, and therefor not owning it! So you cut yourself off from income, but also from your audience. So you negotiate, by way of dropping the price, making it available in other ways or whatever, but it’s your product and you do with it what you like… Just like the baker with the bread.

The video I linked to earlier about media megatrends characterised the shift in slightly more euphamistic a-moral terms by talking about it being a move from scarcity to ubiquity as the driving currency – in an age when you have a physical product, the distribution of which you have control over, the value therein is in it’s scarcity – independent record shops survive because they stock things you can’t get elsewhere. Record labels can do exclusive deals, or even just sell direct. Artists can just sell at gigs, making their product even more desirable by the difficultly of finding it. Even if you sell in mainstream shops, you can set your wholesale price at the point where the price stays up, if that’s what you want, and the the competition is with other recording artists – will people pay £15 for one of my CDs, when they can get someone else’s that they like just as much for £8?

The ubiquity model says that the artist should relinquish control over the proliferation of their work in exchange for a shot at ubiquity – being everwhere, and making money through the exposure, be it profit-sharing on youtube, increased live attendance, sales of premium product (which is what CDs are now becoming, given that the default in a very short time from now will be the download) and radio, tv and film royalties.

I think there are ramifications to this that are anti-creative, and rapacious in their treatment of the creative output of a the artist – especially if you value the mixed-media product that you’ve assembled (be it artwork, sleeve notes, video, collage, pop-up book, whatever…) There’s a hyper-capitalist, spectral Friedman-esque element to the terms of engagement that negate the value of scarcity or the more esoteric value of specific and particular artistic expression, and remove any rights of the artist to negotiate or explore the notion of the work having greater or lesser monetary value in relation to any other work. Instead, it’s about rushing to make your product as ubiquitous as possible in order to turn that ubiquity into cashflow just by being everywhere instead of by being valuable/important/’good’. It’s a pretty unique and depressing scenario… Where next?

My bottom line thesis – you/we don’t need the music. You/we aren’t entitled to the music, it’s not yours/ours to take, it’s the artists to sell, or give away as they see fit. And if you don’t like the terms, you don’t need to buy, and they can starve if they choose to be stubborn. Or sell 30 CDs for $1000 a time.

DRM is a crock of shit, but with its removal comes a social contract between the artist and the audience, one that I think should, if adhered to, help both. The removal of DRM makes it easier for the listener to share tracks as a way of spreading information about an artist around, and also to play the stuff on different systems, copy from computer to mp3 player to phone – being cross-platform is vital, and is why iTunes is now having to change it’s shitty DRM policy (and up its resolution), but it does leave musicians vulnerable… with over 50% of all web traffic being filesharing, the vast majority of it illegal, the idea of the social contract is not getting across. The feeling that somehow it’s fat cat record company execs and multimillionaire rock stars who are losing out seems to absolve the conscience of the file sharers. But the artists still are making art. The judgement call that says ‘this person has sold out already, therefor i can download their stuff with impunity’ isn’t anyone’s to make.

The consequences of all this in creative and artistic terms are things I’ve blogged about a lot recently… it’s a really murky world, and I’m fascinated to see where it goes. I’m going to keep mulling this one over, and see where it leads… your thoughts are much appreciated in the comments, should you wish to share them :o)

GWB's room full of Elephants

So soon-to-be-gone President Bush has called the Burmese Regime Brutal“Every civilised nation has a responsibility to stand up for people suffering under a brutal military regime like the one that has ruled Burma for too long.”

Now, did any of the journalists at the press call after this manage to fit into the White House, what with all the unmentioned elephants in the room? Guantanamo, Iraq, The death penalty for kids, and going further back the CIA involvement in supporting a who slew of unelected ‘brutal military regimes’ in Central America in the Reagan years.

Yes, as I mentioned the other day, I think the international community has to do something about Burma, but they also have to do something about Iraq!

The whole thing is such a mess – what do we do? You’ve got one prosectable war criminal (if Iraq ever makes it to the Hague, there’s no way Bush, Blair, Rumsfeld et al are going to get away with the clear trail of breadcrumbs leading up to a load of made-up BS about WMDs) calling on China, who are now fast approaching their 60th year of illegal occupation and brutal repression in Tibet to condemn the Burmese.

I’m torn. On the one hand, I’m inspired by the passion of Jyoti’s blog on the lunacy of Bush condemning Burma, and am stunned at the hypocrisy of Bush’s statement. But I’m also deeply concerned about the real possibility that without quick intervention of some kind, the Burmese thing could escalate into a massacre, and that requires the US and the Chinese to apply some pressure.

I guess we end up like one of those cowboy films where the good and bad guys get together to fight the momentarily-even-worse guys before getting back on with their own squabbles once the matter in hand has been taken care of. So right now, everyone tries to stop the killing in Burma, and then we turn it round and make a big ole flap about the hypocrisy of the ongoing killing, occupation and human rights desecration going on in Iraq.

Damn, this world is a mess!

The first interview I ever did for Bassist magazine…

Long time visitors to the website will know that I used to have a complete archive of everything I ever wrote for the late lamented Bassist Magazine. From the middle of 97 to about 2000, I was one of their main contributors, writing interviews, gear reviews and two columns – the gadget guru and bluffer’s guide to jazz.

Via archive.org I recently found stored versions of all the articles again, so I’ll start reproducing some of them here over the next few weeks. – we’ll start with the first interview I ever did for them, with ‘Ready’ Freddie Washington, who was in London playing at Wembley Stadium with Michael Jackson… this one is of particular note because my dictaphone didn’t work, and I had to write the whole interview from memory – I took it to Freddie at the gig to get him to check that I hadn’t misquoted him. He changed two things – both of which were direct quotes from his bio!

anyway, here it is – enjoy!


If you’ve ever experienced the ‘Ready Freddie groove’, whether live or on one of the hundreds of albums he’s played on, then you’ll understand only too well why Freddie Washington has been a first call session player for nearly 20 years. With a CV that includes many of the biggest names in soul, funk, pop, blues, country and just about any other style that you’d care to mention, Freddie’s credits read like a greatest hits of the ’80s and ’90s. From Lionel Richie to B.B. King, Anita Baker to Whitney Houston, and George Benson to Kenny Rogers, Freddie’s laid down his trademark lines with all of them, spreading the Gospel of Groove whenever he picks up his bass.

Freddie’s latest gig is holding down the bass chair on Michael Jackson’s HIStory tour, and while in the UK, Freddie took time out to present clinics in London and Birmingham, sponsored by SWR and The Bass Centre, and it was before the London show that Bassist caught up with Freddie for a chat.

So, what exactly is the ‘Ready Freddie groove’, then?

“Well, I feel the pulse of the song in half time, which gives it a much more laid back feel. In the clinics I always point out that I have technique, but I’m not a technical player. I focus in on the groove and then work with that rather than against it. Every style of music has to have its groove, whether it’s soul, funk, fusion, pop or whatever, and that’s what I focus on – the groove.”

Freddie’s path to becoming a full fledged ambassador of the groove began when he was in the eighth grade at school, in his home town of Oakland, California.

“I started playing when I was 14, and took bass lessons at school. I played upright in the school big band and orchestra and that’s where I got my classical training and learned to read. When I was in the tenth grade, I attended the U.C. Berkley summer music program for some further training and was practising like mad, day and night.”

How did you make the jump from the summer school to taking up bass professionally?

“About the time that I was finishing school, Herbie Hancock was looking for a bassist to replace Paul Jackson, Herbie had auditioned a lot of players but wasn’t happy with any of them. So he asked James Levi, his drummer, if he could recommend anyone and James said ‘There’s this kid in Oakland I think you should hear.’ I’d known James for years, so I got the call and Herbie liked what he heard and hired me.”

The Hancock gig lasted for several years and Freddie cut three albums with the band before moving to LA to further his session career. That was in the early ’80s just as synth bass was moving onto the scene. Wasn’t it a little worrying for a ‘real’ bass player?

“Not really. I don’t think I ever felt threatened by synth bass, I just learned to work with it. A lot of the sessions had electric doubling the synth line and as my thing has always been the groove and I had worked hard on my timing when I was studying as a kid, I have never had a problem doubling synth lines and taking that programmed feel and making it groove. That’s also where playing 5-string is so necessary. Synth bass goes down to a low Bb so you need the low B to be able to compete. I first got a 5 string right after doing Anita Baker’s ‘Rapture’ and I’ve used it on most of the work I’ve done since.

“With Michael Jackson, It’s a real mix. Sometimes I’m doubling synth lines, sometimes playing synth bass and I even pull out my old Precision for the Motown set. When you’re doubling keyboard bass, you don’t have to just follow the synth line, you can work with it and develop it – that’s one of the things I like to demonstrate at the clinics.”

The Michael Jackson tour must be every session player’s dream. How did that come about?

“I was actually first up for the gig in the late ’80s, so it’s been a possibility for about 10 years. When the call came in this time, I was working with Kenny Loggins, so I think they had a little difficulty getting hold of me. When I eventually got to the phone I was told that Michael’s guitarist, David Williams, who’s been a friend for years, had recommended me, so I went up and met the musical director, and they offered me the gig and gave me the tapes to learn the set. I went home and talked it over with my family, because it’s a long time to be away, but my wife Annette is really supportive so I decided to do it.

“This is my first time out on the road since ’84, and that was only three months with Patrice Rushen, but I’m really enjoying it. I’ve always loved playing live and I see that as being where I get a lot of my new ideas from. If you spend all your time in the studio, you could get sort of stale, but when I’m out playing live, I get inspired and then take a load of fresh ideas into the studio with me.”

What about the clinics?

“This clinic tour is sponsored by SWR and we tried it out in New Zealand and Australia, where it went so well we decided to put them on in Europe as well. So far they’ve been really well received. This is my first clinic tour, but with the profile of Michael’s tour it seemed the right time to do it. I’ve been using SWR gear for over 10 years, both live and in the studio, so I approached them about sponsoring the clinics and they were all for it. I guess when I’m up there at the clinics with a room full of bassists, playing and talking about what I do, that’s really where it’s at for me. I always joke that I haven’t worked in 20 years, I’ve been having fun. I don’t think bass playing will ever be work for me. It gets me excited. I love to do it because it brings me joy. It’s overwhelming. It’s just a great part of my life. And doing the clinics is really the result of 20 years of having fun. I’m really grateful to everyone who comes out to the clinics and I like to stay around and talk afterwards.”

Indeed he does. Freddie was signing autographs and chatting to people for 45 minutes after the clinic at London’s Bass Centre, giving his time and full attention to everyone that came to say hello. The clinic itself was largely a question and answer session, with Freddie fielding questions on every area of his career, from the highly appreciative audience. Freddie also demonstrated a few tunes including Patrice Rushen’s huge hit Forget-Me-Nots, which he co-wrote and is currently being giving a fresh airing as the title track to the Will Smith film, Men In Black. The movie version features Smith’s reworked lyrics but still uses the original rhythm track, which showcases Freddie’s patented groove-tastic slap ‘n’ pop workout.

Freddie also demonstrated Smooth Criminal from the current Jacko show, slapping the sixteenth note line in unison with the synth with such precision that you’d have thought he was tracking himself with a MIDI pickup – if there had been a single effect in sight. If anyone was under any illusion that this man is a one-trick slap monster, that was put to rest with his unaccompanied demonstration of the ‘Ready Freddie Groove’ that had everyone tapping their feet and swaying despite the absence of a drummer.

So which drummers have best tuned into the ‘Ready Freddie groove’?

” That’s a hard one as I’ve played with so many great drummers. I think one of my favourites would have to be Steve Gadd. When we get together it’s like a machine. We play like one big unit, just locked into the groove. I also love to play with Ricky Lawson and Bernard Purdie. And Jeff Porcaro was one of the all-time great groove players.”

In the early years, was it ever intimidating going into the studio with these legendary drummers?

” I don’t think I ever felt intimidated by them. I mean, I knew they were great players but also that we were both there to do a job and I had the confidence to get in and do it. My attitude has always been to be totally into whatever it is that I’m playing at the time. If I’m doing a country session, I want to sound like I was born to play country. And if I’m playing blues, I want you to think that that’s all I know how to play. I just did a blues album with Bozz Scaggs, and blues is such a gut level thing that it’s all about feel. That’s why I love blues so much; it’s a total feel thing.”

After the HIStory tour, what next?

” When I get off this tour in September, I would like to do my own record. I have a studio at home and I’d like to start doing some more writing for the solo album. I’ve been wanting to do this for some time, after having written for other people, like Forget-Me-Nots for Patrice, and Someone For Me which was on Whitney Houston’s first album.”

With Freddie having been on tour for so long, Bassist wondered whether or not the calls for session work dry up . At this point Annette, Freddie’s wife, interjects.

“Even when Freddie’s away, the ‘phone never stops ringing. Mostly they want to know when he’s going to be back so they can book him for then. Freddie gets booked because he can play whatever is asked of him but also because he’s good to have around, and that counts for a lot.”

“That’s right,” Freddie adds. “For any gig you need to have all the skills to do whatever’s asked of you. That’s why it’s important to learn to read and to play by ear, and also to develop your sound so that when you play, it’s you that they hear – that what’s inside of you comes out in what you play.”

Which players influenced your sound when you were starting?

“When I was growing up, there was Motown, with all the James Jamerson lines, though no-one knew who he was back then, and there were all the James Brown bassists, as well as Larry Graham with Sly Stone and Graham Central Station. I used to play along with a lot of their records. Larry was a big influence. When he started doing all the popping it was like, whoah! I recently bought some of the Graham Central Station CD reissues in Japan and hearing them again now after more than twenty years, his playing still sounds amazing! Willie Weeks was another big influence, his playing with Donnie Hathaway was awesome. And Chuck Rainey, he could be so busy but under it all there was this huge groove holding it all together. I knew Paul Jackson, who was in Herbie Hancock’s band before me, when I was growing up. I had his old amp in my loft to practice through, and knowing him meant that there was no sense of being overawed by taking his place in Herbie’s band.

“All the great players have their own voice on the instrument. Here in Britain you have Pino Paladino, who I met while doing Michael McDonald’s ‘Blink of An Eye’ album. He’s a brilliant player and has his own sound, you immediately know it’s Pino on a track. I met Jaco Pastorius around ’79-’80, and he was really cool. He showed me a thing or two, and I really liked his style but I never tried to copy him. His sound was him and as I said, I’ve always had my own sound, from really early on as a player. If you compare my sound now with when I was with Herbie there will be some differences because the technology has changed but the essential sound is still the same because it’s in my hands.”

On stage Freddie is the consummate professional; offstage he’s friendly, approachable and obviously totally loves his job and is a delight to meet. For those who were at the clinic, it was a night to remember, and for those who weren’t, one to regret.

‘ Thanks to Nick and Martin at the Bass Centre for setting up the interview.

The HIStory Show.

The British leg of the Michael Jackson tour was four dates long, with one show in Sheffield and an astounding three nights at Wembley arena. Bassist went to the final Wembley show and witnessed Freddie demonstrating the kind of professionalism and versatility that he had talked about at the clinic. Being the HIStory tour, the set included material from every stage of Michael’s career, from I Want You Back up to Blood On The Dancefloor, including plenty of tunes from ‘Thriller’ and ‘Bad’. Freddie played his Ken Smith 5-string for the lion’s share of the material, but switched to a Precision for the Motown set and played synth bass on Thriller, Billy Jean and Blood On The Dancefloor, Freddie’s bass, along with Jonathan Moffett’s bass drum, shook the whole stadium especially on the bass-heavy Earth Song and slap-happy Smooth Criminal. It’s just a shame that the huge venue meant the band was barely visible at the back of the stage and even Michael was just a manic dot on the horizon. Most of the evening was spent watching the not-so-giant screens, which focused on Michael and the dancers, so clear views of Freddie were few and far between.

Though a tad tasteless at times (Michael refusing to move from in front of a tank? Do me a favour!) the whole show was spectacular, for those of us tall enough to see it. The vertically challenged members of the audience had to make do with seeing the top third of the video screens with brief glimpses of Michael when he swung over the crowd on a crane.

What a bizarre day of contrasts…

So, today started well – a trip to Guildford, to the ACM to give a masterclass to their degree students on self promotion and marketing. Much of it was about readjusting their expectations regarding what is likely to be an income stream and what isn’t, and where to put your energies in terms of your attempts at promotion – ie. musical contacts and gigs = good, myspace friends lists with a million bands on that don’t even know who you are = bad. Lots of talk about where we discover new music, where we find things, and what we feel inspired to buy and to go and see live. A successful morning.

Lunch with head of bass Stefan Redtenbacher, drum tutor and old friend Stuart Roberts and fellow visiting lecturer of the day, Terl Bryant. Great peoples one and all.

Home for a few hours, then out to teach. New student in east london, good lesson, but the place where he’d said I was fine to park wasn’t… AND I GOT CLAMPED!!! And not by the local council, not for blocking a drive or taking up a much needed space. No, by some venal scumbag private clamping firm, who charged a £100 release fee. It felt like my car had be broken into – there were no visitors parking spaces that I could see (and clearly even the non-car owning residents hadn’t read the signs about the parking, that’s how well displayed they were) but there were also hardly any cars belonging to residents.

If I get a normal parking ticket for running over, or chancing it somewhere, fair enough – that’s £30, you pay it, it’s a shame, but whatever. Not on private estates in Tower Hamlets. Oh no, there trainee nazis dole out clamps… Has there ever been a more self-defeating device than the wheel clamp. You not supposed to park here, so we’ll IMMOBILISE YOUR CAR – huh??? you’ll keep me stuck in the place I’m not supposed to be. Surely if I’m not supposed to be there, there’s a reason why I shouldn’t be, like it’s blocking something, or I’m taking someone’s much needed space. No, that’s all bollocks, it’s just a bunch of bastards who clamp for fun. Like wasps who according to legend sting just for fun (how on earth do you measure the fun quota of anything in a wasp? or for that matter, a clamper…)

To be fair, the kids who came to unclamp it were obviously in their first job, just trying to get on, clearly embarrassed and uncomfortable at what their role was, and the one kid did try his absolute best to get the stickers of the windscreen without leaving any residue behind. Do the firm give them any solvent to remove the sticky stuff? do they fuck.

I wonder what the legality is of carrying around bolt-cutters and removing it yourself? I’m pretty certain that their jurisdiction can’t extend beyond the private property they operate on. The stickers all say ‘it is an offense to try and remove the clamp’ – but lots of things are an offense. Celine Dion is an offense, Kevin Costner films are an offense. Neither sadly are in any way officially criminal acts.

I ought to just put a big notice on my car saying ‘it is an offense to clamp this car’ – I’m fucking offended by it! filthy scum. Why on earth is it legal? It’s a disaster waiting to happen – you need the car to take someone to hospital, to escape a mugger, to do all kinds of things, and some tosser has come round and chained a bloody great metal triangle to your wheels… grrrrrrr, it makes me so annoyed! (can you tell) – and it’s not as if I’ve got a spare £100 to just throw away on such trivial bollocks.

Anyway, the evening ended on a much brighter note (well, not that much brighter, seeing as I’d forgotten my ordinary glasses when I left home so was wandering around Brick Lane at 11 o’clock wearing sunglasses – who’s the twat trying to look like Bono? That’ll be me then…) – it ended with the lovely Showbiz (or whatever the name is that I’ve given her this week), and Chambers, then back to casa showbiz for mac-geekness and ladies’ tea.

clamped??????

my taste in soundtracks vindicated at last…

Just read this post about Bugsy Malone on the Guardian music blog. It’s long been one of my favourite films – there’s something fabulously surreal about the kids-as-adults thing – like a school play, without the forgotten lines and corpsing. And, as cited in the article, the soundtrack is stellar. I only own a tiny handful of Soundtrack albums (odd, given that everything I’ve ever recorded sounds like a soundtrack album) – Local Hero, Paris Texas, One From The Heart, Bill Frisell’s albums of Buster Keaton music, and of course Bugsy Malone. It was the first thing I searched for when I discovered you could buy music online, trying in vain to find it on CD. I think I eventually got it in the Virgin Megastore in London.

Anyway, it’s magic, give it a listen.

…did you just call me Pardner???

We’re here in Texas. Plano, just outside Dallas to be precise. It seems like a rather lovely place – still strip-mall-based, like so many american cities, but definitely a better class of strip mall than most (and a huge Whole Foods market to be explored…)

We’s here for a house concert tonight – the house is gorgeous, and the concert is going to be marvellous.

Now where did I blog from last? Ah, yes, Nashville – well the Nashville house concert at Sarah and David’s was a whole lot of fun – we set up on their front porch, blankets were laid out in the yard, and we played for lots of lovely friends, surrounded by fairy lights, candles and the sounds of crickets between songs. A most enjoyable evening was had by all, and the duo stuff between the lovely L and I just gets better and better. Her ability to ‘learn’ a loop after one listen is uncanny, and to stack harmonies on something that seems pretty random… She also bought a gorgeous new guitar – a nylon-strung takamine that sounds incredible. Really relaly lovely, and got for a fantastic bargain at Nashville Used Music, or whatever that big shop out on Nolansville road is called.

So favourite things about Nashville? the people, Fido’s, Baja Burrito, the gig, TOGH being there, The Belcourt (Sheriff ElRon and I went to see Rock The Bells – a film about delusional people putting on the last ever gig by all the members of the Wu Tang Clan (though even with ODB being dead, I’m sure they could just get Shane McGowan to fill in, and people would just think Dirty was looking a little pasty…)… Nashville is a town full of good things (and rubbish, it is the home of CCM too, and therefor plays host to much of the most mediocre nonsense ever produced in the name of popular music, as well as the occasional gem…) and certainly somewhere both L and I could live if pushed…

From there we embarked on what i think is the longest drive of my life (yup, I just checked, this was the previous winner) – 700 and something miles from Nashville to Lake Charles Louisiana. Which was, to be honest, a pretty easy drive. Freeways here are much much clearer in general than motorways in the UK, (if you’re not in or around NYC, LA, Chicago or San Francisco), so we never seem to hit much traffic, and just drive from one place to another at 70 mph all the way. In our extensive research, we’ve discovered that IHOP and Denny’s do the best options for vegetarians on the highways of the US. TGI Fridays is shit, Waffle House isn’t actually food, and the burger places are all horrible, with indie places being either non-existent, or really risky in their quality… so we’re happy for IHOP and Denny’s.

The trip to Louisiana was for a house concert at Trip Wamsley’s house – Trip, as y’all know, is one of my most favouritest solo bassists in the world, and fun to hang out with too… it was nice to witness him in his natural habitat, for sure.

The gig was really lovely – Trip played first, and played really well, as always, then L and I got to do our thing, and had much fun, sold a load of CDs, and all was good.

On Sunday, i put down a load of bass tracks for a track on Trip’s new album, and realised just what a HUGE improvement putting this ART tube preamp in the FX loop on my Lexicon has made. It sounded incredible. I can’t wait to hear what Trip does with it. The evening was spent watching Ross Noble DVDs, and hanging out. Much fun at the Trip-house with Trip, Mrs Trip and lil’ Bubba Trip.

And so on into Texas, heading from Chez Trip to Plano TX, from where I’m writing this, trying to decide whether to walk or drive to Whole Foods – how far was it again??

Oh, and the title? We stopped in a auto-mart or some such place, to get directions, and the dude behind the counter actually called me ‘Pardner’ (as in Partner with a silly accent, for all you Englishes) – indeed. He sadly didn’t say ‘you ain’t from around here are you boy?’, but there’s still time for that…

Flight to the US… not good, not good at all

OK, I’ll be delving back into all the blog stuffs that I missed out on while the server was down, but for now, here’s what happened on Thursday with my flight to the US. My eventual destination was Ohio, but after looking at all the flight costs etc, flying to NYC and then getting an internal flight worked out cheapest AND gave me a chance to visit the lovely Shark and TH – flight times; leave london at 4pm, arrive NYC at 6.40, at the SharkTank by about 8.30, evening with them, fly to Ohio the next morning.

Plane takes off a little late, no worries says El Capitan, we’ll still be at Newark Airport on time. uneventful flight as far as the NY area (films watched – For Your Consideration which is more Christopher Guest magic, An Inconvenient Truth which should be sent on DVD to every house in the world, utterly vital viewing, And Casino Royale, which has far too much poker playing in it to be truly interesting, but wasn’t a bad way to waste two hours.)

Anyway, in the air over NYC, we get a message from the Captain that we’re going to have to land at JFK instead of newark. That’s not so bad, methinks, JFK is easier to get into the city anyway… but we enter a holding pattern. For hours. Eventually land at JFK, another message from Los Capitinos saying that they aren’t sure if we can get out here, then another saying we can’t and they’ll have to refuel and fly us to Newark.

Eventual arrival time in Newark – 11pm, time arriving at the SharkTank – gone 1am.

Emails have been sent to Virgin to see what they’re going to offer by way of compo. I’m thinking 25,000 airmiles would be sufficient, we’ll see what happens. 12 hours sat in the same seat, no extra meal, only one extra glass of juice or water for all that extra time. Not good service at all…

Tour update… finally!

Right, we’re now in Amsterdam, staying with the marvellous and wonderful John Lester for a couple of days, between the Germany gigs and the Denmark masterclass…

Where did we leave it last time? On the train to Madrid… OK, Madrid – what a great city! I’ve not been to Spain since I was 17, and last time was to a little holiday resort on the South Coast where we went to english-run pubs and sat on the beach, so not really much of Spain was seen. So this was my first proper trip. Madrid’s gorgeous – we were in a hotel right in the middle (thanks to the wonders of Priceline.co.uk), so had ample opportunity to explore.

The first gig however, did not go well – it was booked at the very last minute (actually, it was booked, cancelled, and finally rebooked on another day at the last minute) and the venue hadn’t really told anyone about us being there… so no-one showed. Yup, no-one. A gig for the people who worked there. Who enjoyed it. But that really doesn’t pay the bills. Anyway, it was a good warm-up, and thankfully, the second gig was pretty full, very much appreciated, we played well, sold a load of CDs, and all was well. We’ll be back in Spain, again with the wonderful Charlie Moreno (whose set was excellent), in October… Got a bit of a shock when I had to send out all my CD orders from Spain – international postage rates from Spain are nuts! Note to self – never try and run a mail order business from Spain…

After that it was back to Geneva to see the lovely Paul and Rachel again for a couple of days, then onto Magdeburg, where L had organised a gig through some friends of hers – the marvellous blokes of Studio 201, who were fantastic hosts, great fun, and exemplify the concept of ‘work hard, party hard’ like nobody I’ve ever met before. Deadly serious about having fun, as Michael Franti might say. Anyway, the gig was at UrBar, a very cool music bar/venue in the gorgeous city of Magdeburg, and much fun was had, CDs sold, and plans for a return made. Favourite thing about Magdeburg was Green Citadel, designed by Friedensreich Hundertwasser – definitely in my top 5 wishlist of places to live one day!

From Magdeburg it was to Kleve and a return trip for me to the truly marvellous XOX Theatre – I played there last October, and it was such a treat to go back and take L. with me. I did the first set solo (including a massively extended improv on the end of Amo Amatis Amare – will be doing that one again!) and then L joined me for the second set, which went amazingly well – once again lots of CDs sold, and amazingly for me (cos I hate the damn things) we did two encores, the second one being a very impromptu version of Stand By Me (!!)

So some fab gigs, lots of lovely people, a whole mix of languages (French being the most comfortable, my German was coming back after 4 days there, Italian I’m still working on, Spanish was pretty much a right-off, given that the Spanish L. learnt at school was Mexican Spanish which is very different from Madrid Spanish, and now dutch where I know how to say please, thankyou and byeee!)

And tomorrow we head to Denmark for a couple of days… We’re racking up the miles, and definitely getting the most from our interrail tickets, watching a lot of films on the laptop on the train (I’d forgotten just what a great film The Hudsucker Proxy is!!)

So, films watched so far – The aforementioned Hudsucker Proxy, Withnail and I, Harry Potter and the Goblet Of Fire, Peep Show series 1, Wedding Singer, Dodgeball, The Life Aquatic and Jump London.