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)

3 gigs in three nights

that’s going to gigs, not playing them this time.

Monday night was Carleen Anderson at the jazz cafe. I’ve see her there before now, and it’s always an amazing gig. Her band is wonderful – Ben Castle on Sax, Andy Hamill on bass, Winston Clifford on Drums, Mark Edwards on keys, Mark someone on guitar (didn’t catch his surname, but he was very very good), and a backing vocalist I think was called Natasha. Anyway, a great gig – Carleen’s voice is amazing, her songwriting is really strong, the grooves were exceedingly funky, and a fine time was had by all.

Tuesday night involved going to hear Duke Special at Sound Acoustic in Leicester Square, which is a lot better than the Sound venue upstairs in the same building, which is horrible. Duke Special, AKA Pete Wilson, is brilliant – dread-locked piano-playing singer-songwriter with a stellar voice, beguiling stage presence, and some fantastic songs. His EP ‘Lucky Me’ is brilliant, and he was one of my top three favourite acts from Greenbelt last year. He’s on again at The Barfly in Camden tonight, but I’m teaching til 9, so don’t think i’ll be able to make it. I’ll have a mooch around online and see if I can find a stage-time…

Then last night (wednesday), I spent a very pleasant evening listening to the JazzBerries in the Crypt at St-Martins-In-The-Fields, in Trafalgar Square. It was a rather lovely set of vocal standards, well played and sung. Good stuff.

I love wandering round London on balmy evenings – the centre of london is such a gorgeous historic place, brimming with culture and marvellousness. Theatres, restaurants, street musicians, historic buildings and monuments, groovy cafes and swanky celeb bars. Add to that the majesty of the museums, and you’ve got one amazing city. OK, so we’ve got one of the worst recycling records in Europe, the public transport infrastructure has gone to shit, the hospitals are being sold off to people who don’t want to do operations that aren’t ‘cost effective’, the government are happy to ignore democracy in action, gun crime is rampant… etc. etc. but it does have its upside too… :o) I tend to walk around with a big grin on my face at this time of year.

Over the last couple of days I’ve been listening through all the tracks that I recorded for ‘Not Dancing For Chicken’ that didn’t get used, and some of it’s really good! I obviously did a really strong stylistic selection job on what went on and what got left off, and there’s tonnes of stuff here I really like. So it might be time for a downloadable extra and live tracks album… I’ll get round to that ASAP!

– right now, more of the out-takes. Before that, Carl Young, ‘A Few Sides Of Myself’; Ben Castle, ‘Blah Street’ (which is out next Monday, and is fantastic); St Germain, ‘Tourist’; David Sylvian and Holgar Czukay, ‘Flux and Mutability’.

What's your favourite colour, baby??

…Living Colour

Went to see Living Colour last night – woah!!! What a fantastic gig. Back on track, version 2.0 of the lineup – Reid, Calhoun, Glover and the mighty Doug Wimbish on bass.

I almost didn’t get in – Doug has said he’d put me on the guestlist months ago, but as I walked past the back of the venue on my way there, I saw him getting onto the tour bus, and he’d not done it! So we nipped inside and got passes for me and Jez – phew! Anyway, it was the loudest, sweatiest, funkiest, heaviest gig I’ve been do in ages. THe amazing thing about Living Colour is that they can change from thrash to hip-hop to dub to funk to straight rock to Avante Garde to Electronica to soul to d ‘n’ b to full on oldschool reggae in a heartbeat AND DO IT ALL LIKE THEY LIVED TO PLAY THAT STYLE – it’s amazing. Most bands that diverse end up in a sort of stylistic tourist trap, dabbling with all the influences but never nailing anything properly, and being totally unconvincing. Living Colour are the real deal, four extremely gifted virtuosos playing at the peak of their ability, and the crowd at The Garage lapped it up.

‘Twas very nice to catch up with Jez for lunch beforehand (went to a marvellous Turkish restaurant on Upper Street called Gem – highly recommended), and to get some time to chat to Doug after the show. Hopefully we’ll do some playing together at some point.

Was also talking to Will Calhoun about the Lovebubble project with David Torn, which Will described as some of his favourite music he’s recorded in the last 5 years, and said I should hassle Torn to get it released… so I will! :o)

soundtrack – not much to be honest, been working in quiet for a few hours today.

Evolution or Revolution?

The music industry is changing, that’s for sure. To do what I’ve done even 10 years ago would have been a heck of a lot more difficult and expensive to get off the ground. The cost of recording studio set ups has plummeted with the home computer market, the net has thrown the doors wide on forming underground niche networks through which to make a small-scale name for yourself, and online shops are waking up to the growing sales of independent albums (interesting that while the majors are all crying ‘foul play’ over file sharing, the indies are selling more records that ever…)

Maybe people respond well to having the chance to buy CD directly from an artist – I know I do! I love browsing CD Baby looking for interesting music, having a listen to the streaming stuff and then buying a CD or two, knowing that the artists are getting the dough for their hard earned work.

So is this a natural shift, or are we about to see the collapse of the industry as we know it? The mainstream charts are getting less and less relavent to your average joe – how many ‘big’ albums have I bought in recent times? Right now, I think I own two CDs in the top 40 – Athlete’s ‘Vehicles and Animals’ and Coldplay’s ‘A Rush Of Blood To The Head’ – that’s a pretty high proportion for me! A large amount of my time is spent listening to indie stuff, self produced CDs (with nothing to distinguish them as self produced other than the care and attention that’s gone into them, and the rather more matey sounding sleeve notes!)

But, if the truth be told, there are times when I wonder if the record company route might be easier – someone else to do the work. Then I read articles like this one by Steve Albini – he produced In Utero by Nirvana, and here outlines the details of a major ‘rock’ deal (some fruity language again, so avoid if easily offended). Thanks, but no thanks, I’ll stick with ‘jamming econo’ as the mighty Mike Watt calls it – the DIY ethic is a powerful one, and it doesn’t take much searching to find like-minded souls with whom to share a thought and a word of encouragement. I’ve met loads of indie musos through Looper’s Delight, the solo bass network, and just through gigs, web surfing, at NAMM and so on. Tomorrow I’m meeting up with a very fine solo bassist called John Lester, another solo bassist ploughing a furrow in London, and making some amazing music (check out his site, he’s great).

Anyway, I thank God I had the chance to go indie when I did, and that it’s all working out so well… looking forward to putting out the new record with theo, and then starting work on the next solo one! I’ve done loads of practicing over the last few days and am getting a few ideas together for new tunes… what fun…

Soundtrack – Terje Rypdal, ‘Skywards’, Duke Special, ‘Lucky Me’, and an advanced copy of Andre LaFosse’s album ‘Normalise’, which is marvellous. I mean, really really good! not easy listening by any stretch, but some of the most adventurous, funky, glitchy fascinating sounds ever to come from a guitar… Go and have a listen to some of the tracks in Andre’s MP3 archive, and then order the CD…

essential listening

earlier on today, I was listening to ‘Straight From The Heart’ by Patrice Rushen – a truly remarkable funk record, which features, amongst other great tracks, Forget Me Nots. The whole record is a repository of amazing bass playing, and is truly essential listening for bassists. Which got me thinking about essential listening for bassist, so here are 5 essential bass albums (not neccesarily the top 5, but 5 nontheless) –

  • Straight From The Heart – Patrice Rushen (Freddie Washington on bass)
  • Hejira – Joni Mitchell (Jaco Pastorius and Max Bennett on bass)
  • What’s Going On – Marvin Gaye (James Jamerson on bass)
  • Michael Manring – Thonk (Michael on bass)
  • Secret World Live – Peter Gabriel (Tony Levin on bass)

….we’ll take it as read that all three of my albums should be in the list, but I’d hate to blow my own trumpet.. :o)

and while you’re here, check out some really good lyrics.

Soundtrack – KD Lang, ‘Ingenue’; Price, ‘Sing O The Times’; Patrice Rushen, ‘Straight From The Heart’; me, ‘Not Dancing For Chicken’ and ‘And Nothing But The Bass’.

Let's go round again…

busy weekend. Have spent a fair amount of time in the last few days recording with Matthias Grob – Matthias is the inventor of the Echoplex, and a stunning guitarist (he built his own guitar as well, natch) and we’ve been coming up with all manner of delicious improv, ranging from ambient soundscape stuff to more funky things through to some scary out noises. All rather marvellous and invigorating. As with all this recent duet activity, I’m hoping to have some up online before too long – now that Sarda is back from the states, maybe he’ll get this server of his happening, and I’ll be able to move my site away from zetnet for eva…

Anyway, I digress – Matthias and I have been looping and chatting for a couple of days – talking lots of what we do, why we do it and how to get it across to people… All very stimulating stuff.

What else? ah yes, saturday there was a party for the 30th anniversary of the Greenbelt festival – a fun event, held at Lambeth Palace (the official residence of the AB of C – a nice gaff, which makes up for the rather crappy salary that goes with the job, as interestingly enough, all Church Of England Clergy are on the same wage, whether parish priest or Archbishop…) Anyway, was a fun time to catch up with lots of GB related chums that I’d not seen for a while.

This week is going to be BUSY – first up, I’ve got a recording sesh on Thursday )(more on that later, no doubt), then Friday night I’ve got a rather fun gig, filling in for the keyboard player in Lovesjones. ‘What, you don’t play keys!” – indeed I don’t, but I do make odd noises with a bass, so will be covering the keyboardish role on bass… then doing a solo set.. at Jazz After Dark in Soho… on Friday night.

Also got to relearn some of the improvs that Theo and I have done over the last couple of months for our gig next Tuesday at the National Theatre. So busy week of learning stuff. Still editing the tracks with theo. And the news stuff with Matthias. And hopefully hooking up again with BJ Cole. And listening through the tracks with Patrick Wood. Blimey, how much recording have I been doing lately???? loads, I tell yer!

What else is new? Oh, The CD shop at Bass Guitar Magazine’s website has started stocking my CDs, which is nice of them.

And a track from Not Dancing (Amo Amatis Amare) is on the cover disc that comes with Bassics Magazine – oh, have I mentioned that already? well, here’s the confirmation that it is indeed Amo Amatis…

Soundtrack – been listening to loads of the duo stuff with Matthias, obviously, and the tracks with Theo, and Matthias’s CD, which is great (out on Pillow Mountain Records v. soon) other than that, Kenny Wheeler’s album ‘Angel Song’ has been going round a lot in the kitchen, and today I’ve been listening to Coltrane’s ‘Complete Africa Brass Sessions’ which is incredible – I put it on to play during Mark’s lesson this morning, and it’s been in the player ever since…

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…

Lucky pt II

Last night was the gig with Tess Garraway and Joss Peach in Brighton… another free improv gig as listed the other day. what fun, though not without ‘issues’ – mainly that we got there and the venue was double booked (hoping this isn’t going to become a feature of my gigs to come after the San Fran show last month…) – anyway, the other people who had the venue moved next door, and war was averted (maybe we should be negotiating in the middle east right now…) – anyway, as little to no promo had been done for the gig, the audience was very small, but as always, given the choice between great music and a big audience, I’d take the former. Obviously both is a bonus, but still, the music was great, the venue was nice, and it was all recorded and videoed, so could have some nice resource stuff for future useage. Thanks Tess and Joss – I very much enjoyed it!

Other than that, it’s been lots of teaching, and not much tidying (office still a tip, really really need to get this place sorted ASAP… this week, no really, honest…)

Tonight I’m going to see Julie Lee play – she’s the bluegrass singer from Nashville that I was playing with last summer (and who I’ll play with again next week, on Tuesday, in Reading) – tonight, however, I’m going to listen. She’s great, I’m really looking forward to it!

Am contemplating moving my website to a new server… at the moment, the main site (not this page, this is separate) is with zetnet, but it’s not a great service, and not that cheap, so perhaps it’s time for a change… a few people still seem to be using the old email address (if you’ve got stevelawson@zetnet.co.uk in your email address book, switch it for a steve-lawson.co.uk address now!), but 99% of what I get on that address is spam anyway… I own the domain name, so I can move it anywhere… can I be bothered? we’ll see…

Soundtrack – all day today been listening to a CD that arrived this morning, ‘Double Nickels On The Dime’ by The Minutemen. Yup, more Mike Watt. Great stuff – a mixture of punk, free jazz, rock ‘n’ roll, funk, and all sorts of other bits ‘n’ pieces. Very creative, very earthy, 43 songs in 74 minutes, amazing stuff.

Some interesting recent listening

Back when I was in school (late 80s), we had a small group of friends who would all head down to fat george’s record shop on Bridge Street in Berwick on a Saturday morning to order records… any old records… the more obscure the better.

In those pre-internet times, the source of all knowledge about what was available was the Music Maker Publications big red book of records, which listed just about everything that was on general release.

I bought some great stuff through that, and some total bollocks. Great stuff, like Steve Berry – ‘Trio’, John Zorn – ‘Spillane’, the best of Weather Report etc. etc… and some rubbish like ‘Electric Storm in Hell’ by White Noise…

One record that we all really wanted to get but could never find was ‘Ladies Don’t Have Willies’ by a band called 64 Spoons. It seemed like the most preposterous title for a single – add to that the daft band name, and we had to know what it sounded like. But sadly, week after week, George couldn’t find it, it was out of print… whatever, it never turned up.

Fast forward 15 years, and in the last two tours I’ve done, with the Schizoid Band and Level 42, I’ve been touring with two ex-members of said Spoons! Jakko Jakszyk (guitar/vox with Schizoids) and Lyndon Conner (keys/vox with L42) were both in 64 Spoons!

Enter not-at-all-evil Dann, delving deep into his extensive CD collection to provide an early 90s compilation of Spoonerisms from the late 70s/early 80s… and bizarrely enough, it’s pretty good. Very good in places. Very silly and self conscious in other places, but sort of Squeeze meets Cat-Food era Crimson, meets Joe Jackson with a touch of Blockheads-funk… The kind of thing, that were it more widely known, would now be forcing people onto the dance floor at schooldisco.com events.

Still haven’t heard Ladies Don’t Have Willies though…

After that, the next CD I listened to couldn’t be more different Juldeh Camara is a West African singer/composer and player of the one string fiddle! I first heard his stuff on Charlie Gillett’s show on BBC London, but then met up with Duncan Noble – a bassist who has assembled a touring project with Juldeh, playing in the UK early next year.

It’s amazing how Juldeh manages to keep your attention… even mesmerise you with just fiddle and voice. And judging by the range of material on the CDR that Duncan gave me, he’s more than happy to recontextualise his playing and writing into whatever setting is around, from acoustic blues to funk/soul stuff… I really hope that their tour doesn’t clash with my dates in California next year, as I’d love to see this live…

Finally got stuck into the last chapter of Derek Bailey’s ‘Improvisation – its nature and practice in music’ book last night. It’s an amazing book, but I do have a habit of dropping books somewhere in or around the last chapter… seems to be a theme running through my life (do half the washing up, write half a song, tidy half my office, etc. etc…)

Anyway, the last chapter is all about the Musicians Improvisors Collective (MIC – I think that’s what it stands for…), and is very interesting indeed. The whole book is very highly recommended for anyone interested in improv and its relationship to music making as a whole…

Busy day today – meeting Jam-comedy-writer this afternoon, and going to see Moby play tonight… well, going to meet up with Greta Brinkman, who happens to be playing with Moby. Evil Harv’s coming as well, so that’ll be my dose of eville for the week sorted then…

before that, need to tidy up here, as my mum arrives for a short stay later on. Always nice to see my mum, cos she’s great!