CDs are here! CDs are here!

Yay! Just as I was teaching this morning, a TNT delivery lorry pulls up outside and a man with a palette and a hand truck thing arrives at the door, bearing CDs by the shit-load. Loads of copies of ‘Behind Every Word’.

the first load of orders have been posted already (you’ll have received an email if yours has been sent – if it hasn’t it’ll go first thing tomorrow), and because the ‘release date’ is the 20th, it means that if you order the CD now, not only will it go out in the next day’s post, but you’ll still get the free download album. How great is that? Go on, you know you want to… :o)

It’s been a busy couple of days – I’ve been booked to play at Greenbelt at the end of August, and have a gig or two in Italy the second weekend in July. Now the CD’s here, I need to get sending that out to press peoples, along with the press release for the Edinburgh festival gigs… I’m going to be sick of jiffy bags before too long…

Anyway, off you go and order the new CD, fair blogling.

New Year's resolutions

Part one, music/work-related –

1) – new solo album
2) – new album with Theo
3) – more gigs in Italy
4) – make headway on first book (any of the ideas will do, no really)
5) – record live DVD? possibly…
6) – establish Recycle Collective as THE monthly gig to be at (it already is, people just don’t know it yet)
7) – do band arrangements of my tunes and gig them (the quartet I’ve been talking about for about a year and a half)
8) – look afresh at distribution deal options
9) – more collaborations!
10) – less time wasted online, more time practicing.

2005 – a year in review

Good year? Bad year? not sure…

Musically, not a bad year – didn’t release any albums, but I guess that means that the last one is still doing OK, so didn’t feel any major pressure to get something new happening. Now I’m glad I waited due to all the new musical ideas offered up by the Looperlative.

Some great gigs – bassday, bassfest thing in Italy in July, Edinburgh festival (where staying with Jane and Gareth was also a year highlight – much fun). Gig with Ned Evett in Petersfield was much fun, as was recording with Ned. Finished an albums worth of material with Calamateur, AKA Andrew Howie, and there’s a lot of great stuff on there – I’m excited about what we might be able to do with that. Recycle Collective started – was v. small, but musically one of the best gigs I’ve been involved with.

Teaching’s been great – lots of very fine students, lots of beginners making progress, and meeting lots of lovely new people. also started a new column for Bass Guitar Magazine – good to be back writing again (which reminds me, I’ve got one to finish ASAP!)

Personally, it’s been a fairly good year – one big scare with the ginger fairly aged feline, who was given roughly two weeks to live, but with chemo got rid of a satsuma sized tumor IN A WEEK!!!! – we’re still amazed by that, and he’s going great. Life with both the fairly aged felines has been lots of fun (I really feel sorry for all those of you with cat allergies who have to lavish your attention on human offspring as a replacement…) seeing them both take over the house and garden and settle in.

another year of doing no work on the house… hmmm, maybe I should start by just TIDYING MY OFFICE!!! lazy bastard…

World events – both the best and worst things that happened this year were the same – the Make Poverty History campaign was such a monumental success at getting poverty reduction and the plight of people living in extreme poverty in Africa, Asia and Latin America into the minds of every day people, it felt like there were really a chance to make a proper change. millions of people signing petitions, emailing MPs and congressmen, documentaries being made, and of course Live8 and the march in Edinburgh.

And then the worst thing – the gargantuan fuck-up that the G8 leaders made of the opportunity to do something for the world’s poor. Never before in the history of the world had there been such a wellspring of popular support for governments making decisions in favour of the poor, diverting cash and resources to help those in need, changing trade laws to balance things out. Millions upon millions of people around the world were calling for it, huge numbers of politicians were calling for it. Even mad right wing american jihadists like Pat Robertson were on-side (!!), but still those sad twisted old men of the G8 sat round the table in Gleneagles, in their opulence and grandeur and bollocksed the whole thing up. Their pledges fell woefully short, and then they even undid a lot of that. It was disgusting, sickening and saddening that such an opportunity had been wasted. Bono and Bob Geldof had done an amazing job of getting the campaign off the ground, from their involvement in the commission for Africa, and DATA, through to organising Live8, but they bottled it when the announcement was made, took the encouraging words one step too far and declared the Gleneagles bullshit to be a triumph. I’m guessing they aren’t too happy with where it’s gone. The follow up at the World Trade Talks in November was equally shit. A tragedy on a scale that all the terrorists in the world couldn’t hope to achieve.

The week of Live8 and the G8 was a busy one, given that it was also the week of two other disasters – firstly London getting the Olympics (another monumental waste of money which will leave the PPP funding bodies rubbing their grubby hands in glee), and then the London bombing. The bombing had begun to feel like an inevitability for a while – there was no way that the huge disquiet amongst the world’s muslim population about the Iraqi occupation and the continued support for Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land was going to go unmarked in the UK. And finally it did, four huge bombs, three on the underground, one on a bus, quite a few people dead (though not as many as lost their lives in Iraq that weekend… that didn’t make the world news). A tragedy, but one that the government still refuse to admit was linked to the situation in the middle east. Stupid stupid fools.

But at the end of the year, some great news, perhaps the first great news in british life for a long time – registered civil partnerships for Gay couples. Finally gay people can get married (no, I really don’t care if you don’t want to call it a marriage or a wedding – it is, and that’s great.)

And the media spectacle of the year was certainly George Galloway in front of the US senate committee, absolutely ripping them apart. The most damning indictment of the Bush administrations lies and coverup in Iraq, and right there in the heart of the beast. Genius! Galloway can be a bit of a bellend, and his campaign in the General Election (ah yes, we had one of those – what a non-event that was) was horrible and divisive, but on that one day in the Senate, he ruled the world.

oh, media event of the year joint first was Harold Pinter’s nobel prize acceptance speech – another damning destruction of the history of US foreign military intervention.

What else? A few noteable partings – we lost the great Ronnie Barker, one of the finest comic actors and writers Britain has ever produced; Mo Mowlam, one of the few politicians of conviction we still had; Rosa Parks, the unwitting god-mother of the civil rights movement in the US; Andrea Dworkin feminist writer and thinker.

And on a personal level, the death of Eric Roche was a terribly sad loss – a huge talent and dear friend who has featured in this blog more than almost anyone else. Playing at the tribute gig to him on what would have been his birthday was a huge honour.

Blogwise, it’s been my most bloggingest year ever – over 510 posts this year, over 450 visitors a day (??? I’m sure there’s a mistake there somewhere…) and the demise of being able to tell people what I’ve been up to – ‘so, steve, what have you been up to?’ ‘well, I had a gig th….’ ‘yeah I read about that’ ‘oh, well I went out to see a…’ ‘ah yes, that film, read your review of that’ ‘THEN WHY DID YOU ASK???’

Thanks for reading, for emailing for commenting on the blog, and particularly thanks if you’ve been buying CDs and t-shirts, coming to gigs, spreading the word, and generally helping me pay the bills this year. Love you lots! x

Soundtrack – The The, ’45 RPM – the singles’.

four things…

OK, end of year meme, nicked from sharklady’s blog

A. Four jobs you’ve had in your life
1. waiter
2. factory worker (stitching little ‘R’s into Russel Athletic sweatshirts!)
3. Market research observer for Philips
4. solo bassist

B. Four films you could watch over and over
1. the wedding singer
2. so I married an axe murderer
3. bugsy malone
4. muppet’s treasure island

C. Four cities you’ve lived in
1. London
2. Perth
3. Lincoln
4. Berwick on Tweed (er, cities?????)

D. Four Tele programs you love to watch
1. question time
2. never mind the buzzcocks
3. newsnight review
4. family guy

E. Four favourite places you’ve been on holiday
1. Krakow
2. Lake Garda, Italy
3. North Norfolk coast
4. Nashville

F. Four websites you visit daily
1. BassWorld
2. last.fm
3. MySpace
4. Jonatha Brooke forum

G. Four of your all-time favourite restaurants
1. Romna Gate, North London
2. Henderson’s, Edinburgh
3. Mia’s, just outside Reading (best curry I’ve had in years)
4. Ristorante Cascina Capuzza, Desenzano del Garda, Italy

H. Four of your favourite foods
1. just about any veg Curry, but Mia’s Veg balti is pretty remarkable.
2. Fajitas
3. Caprese Salad
4. fresh fruit salad.

I. Four places you’d rather be right now
1. North Norfolk
2. on the banks of Lake Garda
3. Mexico (I’ve never really been but I’d sure like to go… ;o)
4. driving across the US with TSP.

J. Four things you find yourself saying
1. ‘sorry, I forgot’
2. ‘imitate, assimilate, integrate, innovate’
3. ‘anecdotally’ (way of covering myself when presenting loosely observed trends amongst my friends as scientific data)
4. ‘OK, I’ll do it, when I’ve checked my email.’

(and sharklady, note anglicised questions – you’re from here, stop typing like you’re from there!)

too much bass?

Is there such a thing as too much bass? Let’s explore…

Sunday started at 6am – get up, load the car, get on the road. If you’re thinking of driving to Manchester, I highly recommend 6am on a Sunday as a time to go – v. easy drive, no traffic, bit frosty and a frozen window washer, but a breeze.

Trip and I arrived at the Life Cafe, unloaded our gear into the venue which was already full of lovely bassists and big PA stuffs. Park car, come back, chill out.

The running order was marvellous – started with John Lester (saving the best ’til first?), who won over the entire crowd within about 5 minutes, as he always does. Marvellous start to the day.
the breakdown – Bass solos? Yes, lots. slapping and tapping? yes but minimal and tasteful. Great tunes? oh yes. vocals/other instruments? All vocal tunes.

next up, Trip Wamsley – Trip and I have been playing together for the last week, so I caught the beginning of his set then headed off to have a shave and a wash so as not to go on stage looking like a slightly camp homeless dude. But anyway, Trip did his thing, sang a couple of things, played some lovely fretless.
the breakdown – Bass solos? Yes, all bass solos! slapping and tapping? mucho both. Great tunes? again, in abundance. vocals/other instruments? All solo bass, but a couple of vocal tunes.

and after Trip, Jon Reshard – Jon’s a phenomenally gifted player for his slender age – at just 20, he’s already playing beautifully and writing some fabulous compositions. There’s more than a small amount of Victor Wooten in his playing, but each time I hear him play he’s adding more of his own sound to the mix, and is on his way to being a truly outstanding musician.
the breakdown – Bass solos? all bass solo! slapping and tapping? yes, and just about every other imaginable technique. great tunes? some v. cool tunes, and some other more groove-oriented rhythm experiments. vocals/other instruments? no, except a little bit of audience sing along which worked beautifully.

Then me – my set was the usual affair, set list was Grace And Gratitude, Kindness Of Strangers, MMFSOG, Despite My Worst Intentions, Shizzle, then a bit of a Q&A before finishing with People Get Ready. Response seemed to be great (CD and t-shirt sales were amazing, so clearly lots of people were digging it), audience very attentive and supportive. All in all v. happy with my set.

After me was Stevie Williams – fantastic Manchester local, highly respected jazzer and occasional solo bassist, this time Stevie was playing with a quintet, playing some exceedingly funky stuff – the perfect balance to all the solo bass stuff that had opened the show. At this point I realised that I’d been treating the day more like a proper gig than any bass-day i’d been to before – lots of great music, an audience that really seemed to be listening, it all added up to being a fine day thus far…
the breakdown – Bass solos? a few, but shorter and tasteful. slapping and tapping? Some slap, I think, but didn’t see any tapping at all. Mainly solid fingerstyle grooving. great tunes? yup, lots. vocals/other instruments? yup, full band, drums/keys/guitar/trumpet/bass.

Who was next? Er, ah, yes, Jan-Olof Strandberg, a Finnish bassist that I’ve known for quite a few years. Lovely guy, and fantastic bassist. Started out with some solo stuff on acoustic bass guitar which was beautifully played, but sounded a bit harsh through the PA to really do it justice. Having heard Jan play solo ABG before, I know how good he can sound, so it was a shame that it wasn’t quite what it could have been, but still very good, and very well received. He then assembled a scratch band, his band not having been able to get there, including Dave Marks on guitar. Dave’s usually a bassist, but is clearly also a very fine guitarist. The bastard.
the breakdown – Bass solos? lots, but some grooving as well. slapping and tapping? plenty. great tunes? some cool tunes, some more meandering technical things. vocals/other instruments? quartet stuff was very good.

Then British-born-of-Polish-descent-New-York-residen Janek Gwizdala was on. Another player stricken by fallen band members, Janek’s guitar player is currently in hospital in London with unknown scary ailments. So Janek and his drummer improvised a set, starting out playing to a drum ‘n’ bass thing Janek had programmed in Ableton Live, which sounded great, lots of v. creative bassing and drumming. They played a few more improv things, Janek looping on a DL4, and shredding over the top in a jazz stylee. I’d have really liked to heard the trio, having heard the CD, but the duet set was still good, especially for an impromptu thang (even most improv gigs are planned as improv gigs, so this was double-improv!), Janek’s another player who is developing his own thing away from a strong Matthew Garrison influence. He’s already great, and could well end up world-beating…

The last two acts of the day switched order due to travel problems. So second last on was Lorenzo Feliciati, a good friend and very fine bassist from Italy. He had his band with him, and they played incredibly tight, funky and beautifully arranged fusion. Great compositions, fantastic playing, great sounds. By this time my ears were beginning to fatigue from bass overload, but Lorenzo was just marvellous. Great stuff.

And last up, Linley Marthe – bassist with the Zawinul Syndicate, fantastic player, some killer ideas, and an amazing array of sounds from a really simple set-up (about four stomp boxes and a wah pedal). His improvised set was a bit meandering in places, but contained enough moments of brilliance to keep me interested. Just the range of sounds he was squeezing from the bass was amazing enough, and add to that some great musical ideas, and I was with him most of the way (though he did slip into ‘Tears In Heaven’ which seems to have become something of a solo bass staple… I dunno, I’m not sure about performing songs that someone else wrote about their child dying… but maybe that’s just me.)

Anyway, that was the music – except Linley, I’d met all these guys before, and it was great to catch up with so many old friends, to make some news ones, meet people from my street team that I’d emailed a lot and who’d been so supportive for years without us ever having met, and just to get a chance to chat with lots of people who were into what I was doing. We like that a lot.

A great day all round, the best lineup I’ve heard at a bass day, a very cool venue, well organised, great audience. What’s not to love?

And now I’m knackered, having done nearly 500 miles in two days, had v. little sleep the last two nights, and needing some rest. g’night.

SoundtrackCathy Burton, ‘Speed Your Love’ (I love this album more every time I listen to it).

So, does anyone still not know that getting drunk is a really stupid thing to do?

Yet more stats about drinking –

The “Anatomy of a big night out” survey found over a third [of the 500 women polled] had been sexually assaulted while drunk and 34% had had unprotected sex after drinking.

Why does anyone still get drunk? Surely by now EVERYONE realises that it turns you into a twat, it’s a causal factor in the vast majority of crimes, and is clearly at the leading edge of the crisis in sexual health in Britain.

I really don’t like being around very drunk people. I hate talking to people who think they’re being really clever and funny but are really just dribbling buffoons. I don’t mind people who’ve had a few drinks (it’s not like I want to form some kind of tee-totallers club), but being around proper bladdered people is rubbish. You act like a twat. No, really, you do. The only people who think it’s cool are other equally mullah’d people. And what’s more, you’re upping your chances of getting mugged, raped, attacked, etc. etc. by some insane order of magnitude. Just give up, stop doing it. Go on, i dare you. If you want to know how you come across, go out for a night out in central London, don’t drink a thing, then get the night bus home. If that doesn’t put you off, I don’t know what will.

The binge drinking thing in Britain is just mental. Travelling in Italy, people there seem to guzzle a lot of wine. I drink a fair bit of wine when I’m Italy. And never get drunk. It’s spread out, it’s with food, it’s drunk for the pleasure of it, not to get shit-faced and fall over. There doesn’t appear to be much kudos in Italian society in lying face down in your own sick. Clearly there are entire sub-cultures in the UK where being so hammered that you piss yourself is a real status symbol.

just stop it, it’s getting really tired.

Italy post no. 11 (last one!)

(written 25/7/05 17.07)

So, on the plane on the way home. It turns out there was wifi available in the airport once you’d gone through to the departure lounge, but I met up with a guy from Naples who was at the gig yesterday, so spent the time chatting to him instead of online. So none of this stuff will be uploaded til I get home.

The good news is that I’ve had no hassle at all getting my bass onto the planes on this trip – it remains to be seen if my rack makes it home safely; it’s currently in the hold, at the mercy of the gorillas that throw your stuff around in a way euphamistically refered to as ‘baggage handling’ – I think baggage mutilation or baggage stomping would be more accurate.

Anyway, it’s the home stretch, and I’m hugely looking forward to heading out for curry tonight with TSP and Jez. Can’t wait to be home.

It’s been a very successful trip – a lot of opportunities have presented themselves for further touring in Italy, and I’ll hopefully be back there in November. Which gives me about three months to learn how to explain the story behind Shizzle in Italian.

From this evening though, it’ll be full speed back into Edinburgh, as well as the gigs in Guildford and Berwick, and planning some more dates for September, writing an extended improv framework for a performance at Greenbelt and planning a couple of tours for early 2006 with Theo in the UK and Michael Manring in the US.

…And now I’ve just been fleeced to the tune of £4.60 for a particularly hideous cup of hot chocolate (I’m dying for a mint tea – I’ve had none for days!!) and a cheese and pickle sandwich… don’t you just love budget airlines?

Oh, things are looking up, I’ve just noticed that one of the flight attendants has taken that crap-mowhawk-boy-band hair thing one stage further and is teetering dangerously on the boy-band/flock of seagulls cusp. Somehow bad 80s hair makes the journey more palatable.

SoundtrackMaurizio Rolli, ‘Archivi Sonori’; Jonatha Brooke, ’10 Cent Wings’; James Taylor, ‘Hourglass’.

Italy post no. 10

(written 25/7/05 13.13)

Bugger,

can’t seem to find wifi access in Linate Airport! And I’m stuck here for about three hours. Shitty shit.

<10 minute gap>

nope, just looked around and checked at information, and there’s no wireless access in the airport!! How nuts is that? Apart from anything else, surely they are missing a major money making venture – I’d be happy to pay for it, given that I’m here for hours and would really like to get some stuff done. Instead, I’ll have to read a book or write rubbish like this to upload to the blog later on.

I just can’t believe that an airport doesn’t have wifi! It makes no sense at all… grrrrr. A slightly crappy end to a rather marvellous weekend.

And I can’t even check my rack into Easy Jet for another 40 minutes, I’m that early. It’s good to be early, but it’s also good to have something to do when you are early. Ever get the feeling you’re just typing cos you’re bored?

Italy post no. 9

(written 25/705 11.28)

just waiting to get a cab from the hotel to the airport, having spent the last hour talking with Maurizio Rolli (fab Italian bassist) and Hiram Bullock (guitarist with Marcus Miller/Jaco etc.) discussing their drummer problems. I love conversations like this – it makes life as a solo artist seem even more appealing, and also shows me just how easy the people I work with are to deal with. I’m feeling very lucky right now both to be able to play solo and to with lovely people like Theo and Jez and Cleveland and Michael and BJ and Orphy and the other friendly low maintainance musical geniuses that I spend my days making noises with.

The rest of the day yesterday went v. well – the Jam For Klaus went really well – I started it with a ebow ambient loop to set some kind of context for it, and each of the bassists added different elements that all complimented the whole and seemed to work as a fitting musical tribute to this local bassist who’d been so tragically killed.

After that jam, a whole other kind of jam – over at the BassZone stand in the expo bit of the day, I set up to play, and was joined by a couple of other Italian bassists, for a version of Highway 1, which worked really well.

And then the last two bits of the gig were Michael playing solo, followed by him guesting with the Maurizio Rolli big band in a tribute to Jaco, playing arrangements similar to those on The Birthday Concert. Maurizio is a fabulous bassist, and the arrangements were really well done.

And now I’m heading home, looking forward to seeing TSP and the Fairly Aged Felines, and getting back on with the process of sorting out my Edinburgh promo. the C Venues art dept. have come back with a whole load of changes to my poster and flyer (layout stuff rather than changing the design, but still a fair amount of work shuffling things around the screen, which needs to be done tomorrow), and I’ve still got to chase up some press and radio contacts for the fest, as well as playing in Guildford on thursday and Berwick On Tweed on Sunday, and fitting in as much teaching as I can in between… it’s all go in StevieWorld!

Italy post no. 8

(written 24/7/05 17.18)

Well, despite starting almost an hour late, my gig went very well, thankfully. Another fabulously receptive Italian crowd, some of whom spoke good enough english to laugh at some of the bollocks I was talking between songs (cut down from the usual 40% of the set to just a short intro to each song).

The challenge was doing an entire set of songs on the fretless, something I haven’t done for a while (not counting the film gig on Friday). So the set list went

Grace And Gratitude
MMFSOG
Amo Amatis Amare
Kindness Of Strangers segued into What A Wonderful World
No More Us And Them
Despite My Worst Intentions

Nice long versions of Kindness Of Strangers and No More Us And Them, and more succinct versions of the others. The Seque into What A Wonderful World fits better with the theme of Kindness… than the bastardised version of ‘What’s Going On’ did – will have to feed that back into the set as a stand-alone track, as I do like it, and the fact that very few people ever recognise it. :o)

So now I’m waiting to be involved in a larger ensemble improv, title ‘Jam For Klaus’ – Klaus is a local bassist who was killed in a car accident last year, so everyone is playing a piece together for him. It’s a really nice idea, and I hope it works and doesn’t descend into bass wankery.

Other than that, my work here is done – oh no, I’m lying, I’m doing a little AccuGrooveA/Modulus demo slot later on. The distributors of AccuGroove and Modulus here are lovely peoples, who hopefully I’ll get to work with again some time soon.

Anyway, time to get back to hawking my wares to the receptive CD buying Italian public. We like it here.