Gigs seen, gigs played

long time no blog, appologies.

Anyway, last week I went to two gigs. First one was a guy called Michael W. Smith. Second one was Kelly Joe Phelps. The comparison was quite incredible. WH Smiths was playing at Hammersmith Apollo (cap. – 3,500), KJP was at The Stables (cap. – 350). The WH Smiths gig I went to cos his bassist is a friend of mine, and very nice bloke. The gig itself was pretty excruciating – it’s always hugely frustrating to see great musicians stifled by a really really bland act. It was clear that the guys on stage were very fine players, but the overall vibe was blandola. Safe in the extreme, sort of Richard Clayderman meets half-assed Riverdance. The chat between songs was cornball par excellence – Forrest Gump with a guitar. Clearly I was in the minority here as the largely frhu audience were well up for Smith’s crass between song chat and attempts at brit-relavence (favourite moment – at the end of one song, he starts reciting the words to ‘God Save Our Gracious Queen’, before waving a huge Union Jack and playing.. wait for it… ‘Pride’ by U2 – a band from Dublin. Which is in the Republic of Ireland. Oh shit, big mistake. Which WH was clearly oblivious to..)

Anyway, it was very nice to meet up with Anothony, a great bassist, and very nice guy. Next, I’ll just body swerve the gig, and spend more time chatting…

Onto Kelly Joe Phelps. so far from WH Smiths that it’s not true. The support act was Brian Houston, a fantastic dylan-esque singer/songwriter from Belfast that I’ve seen play lots recently. He’s brilliant. nuff said. KJP’s band was Scott Amendola on drums (last seen by me playing with Sex Mob in San Jose in July 2001) and Keith Lowe on upright bass. From the off, the gig was amazing – the communication between then was brilliant, the songs were really open to loads of improv, they were making eye contact, having a great time playing fresh, creative, free-wheelin’ music. It was fun, exciting, new, engaging, dangerous, moving wonderfulness. Everything that George Michael Dubya Smith wasn’t. I could watch that every night. Got the latest album, which is great. again. All three of his CDs that I’ve got are great. ‘Shiny Eyed Mister Zen’ is in my all time top 20. Get it.

What else? ah yes, recording session – hip-hop R ‘n’ B track with the guys from Commonwealth (I played on a remix of one of their singles last year) – there was already a synthbass part on the track, which was well played and written anyway, so a lot of it was about recreating that with a more live feel, then adding some fills and a slap line. It took a while to get the feel they were after, but it was worth it. I’m sure the final track will be very fine indeed. It’s a good song. I’ll let you know when it’s out.

The weekend was spent in Lincoln – Rick’s stag do – went out in Nottingham for a fun night out. Always nice to catch up with chums from Lincoln.

Oh, almost forgot – gig on Friday, with Lovesjones. A bit of a left-field one this, as I was covering for the keyboard player, and the stage was TINY so I could only use my processor and one bass for the whole set, but it went well. A few of the tunes were ones I’d not been sent, but playing keyboardy stuff is a piece of piss – it just involves waffling around in the key, you don’t have to be there on the downbeat, and you don’t even have to get the right root note! Bass is a far more satisfying role to play… Anyway, it was loads of fun, was was followed by a solo set, which also went well….

To this week… Monday was a teaching day, then the small person and I watched the 2nd Harry Potter film, which is fantastic, even better than the first (which I really enjoyed as well…) Tuesday Andrew arrived – not seen him for ages, great to catch up.

Gig with Theo Travis at the National Theatre went very well. Nice big crowd, we played very well except one bizarre moment when Edwina Curry walked past and we both fell about laughing… not easy to play flute whilst laughing. Anyway, good gig, boding v. well for future theo ‘n’ steve gigs.

After that, dropped stuff at home and headed off to The Klinker to see Rick Walker and Matthias Grob play. We got there half way through the set, which sounded really good. The Klinker’s a very strange club, but a great place for experimenting. V. much looking forward to tonight’s gig there with Rick Walker. Didn’t stay long at The Klinker as I was knackered.

Wedneday was a do-nothing much day (though I did buy a new Bonsai, so we’ll see how long I can keep this one alive for!)

and now today – gig tonight at the Klinker. See you there!

SoundtrackBruce Cockburn, ‘You’ve Never Seen Everything’; Public Enemy, ‘It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back’; The Smiths, ‘Louder Than Bombs’; THe Bears, ‘Live’; Coldplay, ‘Parachutes’; Kelly Joe Phelps, ‘Slingshot Professionals’; Medeski Martin and Wood, ‘The Dropper’; Bruce Cockburn, ‘Humans’; Chagall Guevara, ‘Chagall Guevara’.

Updated!

Well, after two or three days of fervent coding and editing, I’ve updated my site – the new look, I’m sure you’ll agree, is much easier on the eye than the old one, and more importantly is far easier for visually impaired people to access (changed all the graphic buttons to text links, so that voice software can pick them up…)

also added a couple of video clips from my gig in March at the Troubadour – Jonny Didj and Rosie did the videoing, and Jonny converted the film to .mov files for me, lovely man that he is…

have a look!

soundtrack – listening ot lots of Bill Frisell’s new album, ‘The Intercontinentals’ – very good, as always…

MY favourite Oscar…

Well, he had to win really didn’t he – biggest grossing documentary of all time, beating the film in second place by over twice as much as the box office… and the number two film? that was his as well…

Michael Moore picked up the statue for best Documentary picture – should have won best picture, but still… ;o)

Anyway, here’s his fantastic acceptance speech, from oscars.com

ACCEPTANCE SPEECH
Michael Moore: Whoa. On behalf of our producers Kathleen Glynn and Michael Donovan from Canada, I’d like to thank the Academy for this. I have invited my fellow documentary nominees on the stage with us, and we would like to

Long Time No See…

Haven’t blogged in a while – what’s been going on?

Er, lots of teaching, mainly. Did have a fun recording sesh with Theo Travis on alto flute – just doing improv duets. We got some great stuff down, some of which will be on the website before too long. However, it was all recorded in Mono due to the limitations of my recording set up, so I finally bit the bullet and got a new sound card, and a miniature desk – nothing flash, just an M-Audio Delta 44 card, and a Beringher 8 channel desk – but it will allow me to record two people in stereo separately, so that I can then mix it properly afterwards, and also record at a much higher resolution than before, meaning better fidelity… All in all, I’m rather excited about the possibilities. It is amazing what can be done now with such basic technology (or at least, basic by current standards) – stuff that 20 years ago would have taken weeks of studio editing and very expensive gear is now doable at the click of a button in a bit of free software that came bundled with your soundcard. Very nice.

Anyway, I shall start recording some new solo stuff before too long as well, as I’ll be able to route the Echoplexes to different channels, and mix the whole thing afterwards. It also means I’ll have to original material on one track, so that people can remix it, which I’ve had a few requests from remixers for…

What else? Ah yes, I just added a new MP3 to the site – it’s of Michael Manring and I playing together at The Anaheim Bass Bash in January – that was a lot of fun, organised by the people behind bassquake, and at the end of my solo set, I called Michael up to do a duo tune – he was on after me anyway, so it made for a nice smooth cross over. Anyway, he came up, got a sound, and I started playing a sort of dubby percussive groove, he joined in with the E-Bow and started playing a melody/solo idea, which I looped a tremolo chordal part of the top of my initial bass/percussive stuff loop. I then pickup up the E-Bow too and added an odd atmospheric line (sounds sort of like a bowed cymbal, if you’ve ever heard that), and then a strummy funk guitar line, all under Michael’s ever evolving melody line. Eventually I switch to a distorted melody line that’s pretty fractured and spikey – lots of dissonance and nastiness. I think that’s followed by us trade melody lines (interesting to hear how our different fretless tones sound together) and at the end Michael uses the sample and hold function in his VF1 to do an ambient loop, which I follow, fading out my loops and building a more soundscape-type piece to fade. All in all, a lot of fun – hope you enjoy it too – go to the MP3 page for more on that….

Er, what else? not much. Been reading more of ‘Stupid White Men’ by Michael Moore, a very vital voice in the current world political scene (which seems to be sinking deeper and deeper into the mire, just when you thought it couldn’t get any lower… Michael’s film, Bowling For Columbine is by far the best film I’ve seen in the last couple of years, and is the biggest grossing documentary of all time (he’s got #2 as well, with ‘Roger and Me’) – it’s a must see.

Soundtrack – lots of things of late. Right now, it’s Greg Mathieson and Abe Laboriel – a CD I first heard 3 years ago, and which has finally been released – an awesome bass/piano duo record, and part of the inspiration for Conversations. What else? Madonna – ‘Something To Remember’, Ron Eschete – ‘Mo Strings Attached’ (with Todd Johnson on bass), Ornette Coleman – ‘The Shape Of Jazz To Come’, Genesis – ‘The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway’, Cyndi Lauper – ‘She’s So Unusual’, Sugar – ‘Copper Blue’, The Minutemen – ‘Double Nickels On The Dime’, Donnie Hathaway – ‘Live’, Julie Lee – ‘Made From Scratch’ and the tracks that Theo and I recorded last week…

California pt 2

…So where were we? Oh yes, gig in San Luis Obispo. Dan and I arrived nice and early, parked up, called into the venue, and promptly got a parking ticket – shabby…

Then headed off to do a radio interview with the local college station, which was fun (it was a film show, so I talked about being influenced by soundtracks… hmmmn)

Had a bit of a look round SLO (great second hand book-shop just across the square from Z-Pie where we were playing!), the Rick and Andre arrived and we started setting up. Opening for us that evening was Hans Lindauer, who had more gear than any solo act not playing stadiums that I’ve ever seen! Rack and racks of stuff, two tables covered in modules and turntables… interesting set, but boy, I couldn’t carry all that stuff around.

Once again, the trio set was very interesting – smallish crowd, but they seemed to enjoy it a lot, which is always good. Sold a few CDs, and then headed off to stay with the Z-Pie owners…

Following day we headed for San Jose, but not before calling in in Santa Cruz to see Victor Wooten – he wasn’t at NAMM, but I’d interviewed him a while ago, and it was sort of on the way and we had time to kill so we dropped in to say hi before his clinic, and he rather kindly announced our Santa Cruz gig which was happening the saturday after…

Headed off to Gryphon Strings in Palo Alto, a lovely shop with a focus on acoustic instruments that has recently started doing bass stuff, including Ashdown amps. Good staff there. Spent about 5 mins playing an upright bass and nearly ruined my hands and arms for the rest of the tour!! Boy, those things are hard to play!

Anyway, the clinic was small, but they were attentive and seemed to enjoy it (can you see a pattern emmerging here???) sold a load of CDs, which was nice, and then went to see a bit of the gig that Andre and Rick were doing with Cara Quinn and John Wagner from Loopers Delight, which was just round the corner and went really well… Stayed that evening with Mark Wright of Accugroove Cabinets – a very nice chap.

Er where next? ah yes, San Jose Museum of Art – a return gig for Rick and I, lovely place to play. Dan and I spent a lot of the day visiting music stores, handing out flyers and him talking to guys about some of the companies he reps for. Then off to the venue. Another cool gig – lots of people there from the dude pit discussion list, which was great – it’s always fun talking to people face to face that I chat with online on a daily basis. So meeting Harley and Lowell and Bob Amstadt and the others that were there was very cool indeed. The trio set was again very cool indeed, solo stuff going down well too, starting to shift a few CDs…

25th (the next day) was a busy day – started out with four sessions at the Christian Guitarist Conference in Castro Valley – one on basic bass skills and advice, one on choosing the right gear, one on more advanced techniques (mainly chordal stuff) and finally a performance set – lots of fun. Dan and I then jumped into our little bass-mobile and headed of to Santa Cruz for the next trio gig. If any gig I do is likely to be full it’s a show with Rick Walker in Santa Cruz. I guess it may have helped that the mayor declared it to be ‘international live looping day’ (your guess is as good as mine!!) but we filled Cayuga Vault and had a fine, if very dissonant and scary set. All in all a fine gig, though there’s always the trade off with playing to a crowd of people who know what you do in that a lot of them already have your CDs… :o)

On the 26th we headed north, and I’ll pick up there tomorrow…

Talking 'bout a Resolution

(sounds like a whisper)

It’s that time of year again, when we realise that we kept very few of our resolutions from last year (though I did set myself one goal of doing 30 solo gigs, and I did over 60, so that was good… :o)

anyway for this year, here’s a few muddled up ideas for what I’m planning/aiming for/wishing for/etc.

  • read more (and therefor, travel more on the tube, as that’s where I get most of my reading done
  • eat more vegan food (should be easy as the small person is on a dairy free diet at the moment anyway…)
  • cook more (I’m on a roll at the moment, so need to keep it up)
  • keep office tidy (yeah, right – need to get it tidy in the first place. Having said that, made a start today on my desk… it’s getting there)
  • practice more (bass that is, not medicine or law or anything – at the end of the two tours with Level 42 and the Schizoid band, my playing was probably the best it’s ever been, need to work on maintaining that…)
  • spend less time just mucking about on line (opening the chat room at thedudepit.com hasn’t helped…)
  • get my tax sorted out, and then stay on top of it (fairly short term aim, but it needs to be done in the next few days!)
  • do at least 50 solo gigs (with 20 or so already booked, this one shouldn’t be too tricky to acheive…)
  • release another duo CD (plans are already afoot)
  • start work on at least one book (either method, theory, looping concepts or general musical-based musings… still haven’t decided – suggestions to the usual address…)

So there you go – that’s my year mapped out… a bit.

what are yours?

The Small Person and I had a lovely quiet new year – watched ‘Bend It Like Beckham’ yesterday, and ‘Monsters Inc’ today – both highly recommended, fine fine films. Went for a drive up to Crews Hill today – lots of garden centres there – but the whole world was aparently under about three feet of water – blocked roads ‘n’ everything…

Soundtrack – I’ve spent a lot of time these last couple of days listening to a couple of improv sessions that I did with keyboardist Patrick Wood during the first half of 2002 – one extract from that is now up on the site, as the new version of Highway 1, though I’m not sure it was even called Highway 1 back then… It’s an interesting comparison to listen to it alongside the version on ‘Not Dancing For Chicken’ (which of course, you have already?), and the live version from the Bartok gig that’s also on the MP3 page. Go on, you know you want to…

Other than that, I’ve been listening to ‘Free’ by Peter Chilvers, which is, as it says on the tin a ‘free’ album – you burn a copy, and your only commitment is to make sure you burn two more copies and pass it on! It’s a fascinating experiment in the pure power of exposure – loads of people will have the CD, and hopefully lots of them will go and buy other CDs by Peter (his first solo album ‘He Wrote This’ is excellent, and available from burningshed.com) – there’s been a lot of discussion of late on the whole merits of ‘free’ music, whether it be CDR copying or MP3 downloading. Singer/Songwriter Janis Ian wrote this article for Performing Songwriter magazine last year, and it’s brilliant – she’s my new hero! Read the article and her follow up – both very good. Then, download the MP3s, and if you like what she’s doing, buy the CDs, and prove it works…

Anyway, what else have I been listening to? oh, Anita Baker ‘Rapture’ – often when I get something out to play to a student during a lesson, it stays in the play for a few days, and this did.

Miscellany (have I spelt that right, evil harv?)

Missed church this morning – woke up feeling rather rough, like I’ve got a
cold coming on or something… bugger…

eventually woke up sometime after 12 (!)

Last night the small person and I watched ‘The King Of Comedy’ – one of
those films I’ve had recommended to me on many an occasion, but never
got round to watching… WHAT A GREAT FILM!! Deniro is fantastic, and the
rather unexpected ending (well, I didn’t expect it anyway) really leaves
you thinking over the whole film, completely reassessing what you thought
of Rupert Pupnik throughout the rest of the film. Superbly written, beautifully
acted, great story! Shame it took me 20 years to get round to seeing it…
maybe sometime in the next 17 years I’ll get round to watching the Matrix
or it’ll be 2022 before I see Donnie Darko… who knows…

Been practicing a lot over the last couple of days – having my full rig set up
at home is always inspiring, as I only have to switch it on to start getting
strange noises… Need to work out what I’m going to play in Norwich next
Friday

My mum arrives back here this afternoo, which’ll be nice…

Just had emails from Dan Elliot (my manager/booking guy in the US), and
Michael Manring trying to firm up some more dates for January – if you’re
in LA, feel free to call the Baked Potato or the
Rocco and suggest that they book us!

soundtrack last night, listened to Trip Wamsley’s CD a lot,
this morning woke up to Radio London, and now am listening to Three Blind
Mice – a trio that features Lydon Conner (from L42 and 64 Spoons – think
he’s got a thing about band names with numbers in them???) It’s just a CDR
as it’s not released yet, but it is fantastic. Really really good songwriting in
the Crowded House/Squeeze/Rembrandts/Jellyfish kind of direction… Hope
they get to release some of this stuff soon…