Italy post no. 7

(written 24/7/05 12.52)

Right, the big band that are headlining the gig have been on stage soundchecking since 10am. It’s now 2pm, I’m supposed to be on in an hour, and there are a whole load of other bands that need to soundcheck as well. Methinks I’m not going to be starting on time.. It’s a shame, as everything else about the organisation here has been very good – the food is great, the hotel is lovely, and there are loads of lovely helpful Italians around offering to carry bags, get food, or help in any way they can.

All that’s needed now is to get the soundchecks finished, but I as lovely and helpful as all the lovely helpful Italians are, that’s really down to the sound engineers…

So meanwhile I’m listening to Michael and the bassist from the big band shredding on some standards. niiiice.

And meanwhile the connection between my new phone an the laptop seems to have been buggered up somehow – every time I disconnected the phone, the laptop had to restart, so I tried using the drag-to-trash way of disconnecting things on macs, but that seems to have deleted the connection between the two, and I can’t see how to get it back. Bugger.

Question – was Donna Lee ever intended to be a big band tune? That’s a hell of a lot of notes to try and get 20-odd musicians to play!

Italy post no. 6

(written 24/7/05 10.45)

I’ve just arrived at the venue for todays, gig and it’s unbelieveable – it’s in the grounds of a huge chateau, known locally as ‘little versailles’ – beautiful gardens, an 18th century stately home, and a massive great covered venue in the gardens – huge stage, lighting rig. Ripe for some solo bass loveliness.

The range of acts playing is pretty broad for a bass-centric event – from me at the start, through to a big band playing some of Jaco’s big band stuff at the end, with Michael Manring as featured guest. It’s going to be a fun day.

As well as that, there’s a bit of a gear expo going on – lots of freaky looking high end basses, gadgets and amps galore. The problem with having a set-up that I’m as happy with as I am is that gear loses its appeal, unless it does the same thing only smaller.

Michael and I have been talking a lot in the last couple of days about how to reduce our processing setup down to a laptop and a handful of pedal controllers. The idea of taking two basses and one bag to gigs, especially once I get my powered Accugroove speakers, is sublime. I’m definitely going to start investigating what’s possible, and checking out possible pitfalls like latency. It’d open up all kinds of other options for loopage and processing too – being able to use the Ohm Boys filter live would be a dream, as well as being able to have the tail on a reverb or delay carry on fading whilst switching to a whole other channel to carry on playing, with different reverb and delay settings. Geek heaven!

Today is definitely going to involve a lot of sitting around not doing much, but I can’t think of a nicer place to be sitting around doing nothing in.

Italy post no. 5

(written 23/7/05 14.37)

So I’m now in Bollate, near Milan – today is the clinic day of the Noi Bassisti bass event, with me, Michael Manring, Lorenzo Feliciati …. and others doing clinics. What I always forget is that doing a clinic with a translator means you can only say half as much. The hour flew by, but people seemed to be into it. We’ll see if I get any more feedback as the weekend goes on.

It’s great to see Michael again – after touring with someone as much as Michael and I have, it’s very tempting and easy to slip into your own homegrown language, particularly in a foreign country… …so we’ve succumbed, but are trying to explain the things we’re laughing at to the people around; an occasionally fruitless task given that no-one seems to laugh at the same stuff as us.

The journey from Brescia to Bollate was made very easy by Andrea and Marco from the film gig last night offering to drive me here, and drop me off. The Italians are such lovely people! I’ve not met one I don’t like. Italian audiences have all been very up for new music, and effusive in their feedback, and the promoters have – contrary to the reputation – been fantastic. I like it here!

Still haven’t had a chance to log on for long enough to see what’s going on in the world – given the amount of time I normally spend reading online news and blogs, it feels very odd to be cut off from the net here. I had a chance to log on briefly this morning, which is when I uploaded the other blog posts, but for the most part, I’ve been netless.

Italy post no. 4 – first gig of the trip

(written 23/7/05 1.10)

Well, tonight was probably the hardest solo gig I’ve ever done, but was pretty rewarding for it.

The gig was providing an improvised soundtrack to a silent film from the 20’s called L’Inhumaine, directed by M. L’Herbier – a part surreal/part narrative film that was OVER TWO HOURS LONG!! This last bit I wasn’t told til about an hour before the gig.

The venue was beautiful – a cloistered court yard, with an art exhibition hanging in the cloisters, and chairs laid out in the courtyard facing a huge screen that was projected onto, with me sat in front of it, slightly off to the left, watching the film and reacting to what went on on screen.

There were two major problems that I hadn’t really forseen – the first was not having a light – the organisers had offered me one, but I thought there’d be enough ambient light to see what I was doing. i was wrong. And number two, the bits on the film where words come up on screen to help you follow the story, Harold Lloyd stylee, were in Italian. The film was French, and if the bits between had been french I’d have been fine, as I’d have been able to follow the story a lot more clearly. As it was, it took me quite a while to work out who was who in the story, and who was a good guy and who was a bad guy, and who was just some weirdness thrown in for Avant Garde effect.

As it is, it was a qualified success – the second half was a lot better than the first, as I had worked out what I was doing by then, and started to use the loops in much more sophisticated ways, keeping some loops and fading them in and out as leitmotifs for different bits of the story, I also had stopped trying to add to many literal ideas and near-sound-effects – I tried this a few times, and it was largely a bad idea (worked for a couple of driving scenes, but not so well for crowd noise etc.)

Thankfully, the audience loved it – it got loads of applause, for a v. long time, and lots of lovely compliments afterwards.

The other fun angle on the gig was that about a third of the way through, we started to see lightning in the sky, obviously from a fair way away, but there was always the possibility that it was heading our way. As the film went on, we had the occasional moment of gusty wind, which made the screen flap about, but cooled me down a little.

The actual rain held off until less than a minute after I’d finished – people were still clapping when the first drop of rain hit me, and within another minute from then, the rain was torrential – fortunately, we got my gear under cover before that bit happened. The rain then turned to hail – huge great mint imperial-sized hail stones, accompanied by lightning that lit up the sky like an apocalyptic hollywood special effects team who’d be asked to go really OTT on the lightning.

So all in, a fun, worthwhile evening that was very well appreciated by the lovely Italian crowd (are Italian crowds ever anything less than lovely? I think not.), and a great learning experience for me.

italy post no. 3

(written 22/7/05 14.15)

It’s really odd being away from home, and away from fast internet when people are getting shot on the London underground. I sent TSP a text message this morning from the beside the pool, sitting in the sun having just had a lovely swim and a leisurely breakfast, and got one back saying that a guy had been shot dead by plain clothes police on the London underground. That kind of thing messes with your head, big time.

So I got online and had a read about it on the BBC news site, but being back using a dial-up connection was fairly debilitating, and meant I couldn’t find all my usual news blogs etc. (time to get my del.ic.ious page up to scratch so I can get all my links anywhere any time… )

So I’m having a lovely time in Italy – great food, great wine, fantastic company, scintillating conversation, and all the while London is in turmoil, quite understandably.

It’ll be interesting to see if they can find out why the bombs yesterday didn’t go off – one suggestion is that they were made at the same time as the last lot and were somehow out of date by now (dunno if this was some sort of electronic detonation device, or if they included some sort of organic ingredient that had just decayed). Either way, it seems like thursday’s bombs were a really lucky escape for London, and have left a bit of a trail for the phorensic peoples to chase up.

Feel free to email bits of info if you have them!

Soundtrack – right now I’m listening to ‘Grace And Gratitude’ – by some weirdness, I’d not actually sent Luca a copy when it came out (can’t quite believe that, but still!), so I’m playing it to him…

Italy post no. 2

(written 21/7/05 23.53)

So I’ve landed in Italy, and it looks like my rack made it through unscathed (haven’t plugged it in yet, but no external damage suggests no internal damage either, hopefully.

So now I’m staying with the marvellous Luca and Giovanna – two very dear friends who manage to make any trip to their place feel like a home from home. After the rather fraught journey, dinner at Cascina Capuzza and much intelligent chat with Luca and Gio was just what the doctor ordered. I’m now sat in bed, writing this having edited my address book export (a CSV file, messed up by any line where I’ve put a comma after a word…) so that it could be imported into the Mac address book.

Still haven’t found a way to copy my diary onto here… I think I’ll have to get a bluetooth thingie for the laptop and see if that recognises my phone any better than it does via the USB cable…

Italy post no. 1

(written on the plane, 21/7/05 18.02)

What a day!

Given the travel fuck-ups in London of late, I decided to leave plenty of time to get to Gatwick for the flight to Italy… Little did I know I’d need every second of the FIVE HOURS that it took to get from Southgate to the airport!

The Picadilly Line is already suspended up where I am, so I had to get the ‘rail replacement bus service’ from Arnos Grove to Seven Sisters (oh yes, I’m going into all the really dull details, just for you lovely bloglings… and cos I’m on a flight with not much else to do!) but when I got to Seven Sisters tube, a little man in an orange jacket (perhaps fresh from Guantanamo) said that the whole Victoria Line was suspended…

At this point, the serendipity of my having just got a new phone (Sony K750i) kicked in, as it has an FM Radio built in. I’d been listening to the mighty Robert Elms on BBC Radio London, and he’d done a quick announcement that something had happened just before I got to the tube, but as I crossed the road to try and get on a bus towards Victoria, the situation started to unfold in a fledgling way. The report came through that three ‘incidents’ had taken place, at Oval, Warren Street and Shepherd’s Bush tube stations, and soon after a fourth incident came through on a bus in Shepherd’s Bush. Radio London switched to rolling news, and kept updating with all the facts and no speculation, and did a remarkable job, which greatly helped with the next installment of my journey, definitely the strangest thing that’s ever happened to me on a bus…

…the radio broadcast is interrupted by my phone ringing, and it’s Muriel Anderson on the other end of the line – it’s always a delight to hear from Muriel and my immediate assumption was that she was coming to England to look for gigs. ‘I’m in Indianapolis, doing a live radio spot, and was wondering if you wanted to talk on air about the bomb situation’…!! I checked to see whether they meant the one from two weeks ago, or todays – not knowing whether news would have filtered as far as Indianapolis – and they confirmed it was today. Fortunately having been listening to the radio I was able to fill them in on all the latest official details, and quash a few rumours about huge explosions and the like… My first ever live international radio interview whilst on public transport, that’s for sure!

The bus proved to be a pretty unreliable way of getting across London – it stopped for over an hour on High Holborn, and then turfed us all out – but with the tube network being pretty much closed, I didn’t have any choice but to sit it out, and watch the three hour margin I’d left myself gradually ebb away. The second bus moved much quicker once we got past Oxford Street, and eventually we got to Victoria, and I made it straight onto the Gatwick Express.

At this point, I want to praise British Airways. my initial idea for this trip was to take my rack on the plane as handluggage, and put my bass in the hold in a foam-flight-case. But I weighed my rack-case this morning and it was 50lbs! Not the kind of thing you can get away with as hand luggage. So the plan switched to taking the bass in a soft case again, and checking the rack, hoping it’ll get through OK (it is packed with all my clothes too, so should be padded OK).

I’m used to having to sweet-talk my bass onto a planes by all means neccesary – starting with chat about favourite shades of nail varnish, moving up to compliments on people’s hairstyles, and culminating in blind panic if it looks like I’m going to have to put a soft case in the hold… At the BA check in desk, not a question was asked. The lovely lady who took the rack from me was fine with me taking the laptop and the bass onto the plane, and was very helpful with labeling up the rack as fragile and getting it hand carried down to the plane. None of the other BA staff questioned me taking the bass on board, and it’s now nestling in the overhead compartment above my head!

So as you can now tell, I made it onto the plane, from whence I write (to be uploaded when I find some delicious Italian WiFi at the other end). I’m sat here, listening to Gillian Welch, sipping tomato juice (why do I only ever drink tomato juice on planes? I really like it!) having just eaten a lovely veggie meal, along with everyone else: BA are smart enough to just serve veggie food to everyone, so there’s no questions about who gets what food! smart as plums.

Anyway, the situation with the ‘incidents’ as I left it in London was that there had been four explosions, all much much smaller than the ones two weeks ago, and that no-one had been killed, and there were very few casualties at all – the only confirmed one being the owner of on of the rucksacks that exploded.

Whoever it was who did it did a rather good job of ballsing up London’s transport for another day, and have probably scared quite a few commuters. I’m just glad that the bombs either malfuctioned or were only detonators with no payload. Enough already with the bombing, please!

…and in that serendipitous way that chance can provide a day’s soundtrack, the track that’s just come on iTunes is John Martyn’s ‘I don’t want to know about evil’ – I don’t want to know about evil, I only want to know about love… I’ll find the lyrics and post them when I find the delicious italian wifi.

Soundtrack – John Martyn, ‘Solid Air’.

Gardening and Bass Practice – don't work in that order.

So, I had a list of things I needed to get done tonight. The usual Sunday jobs of putting the bins out, checking the smoke alarms, bit of washing up etc. But also had to do a lil’ bit of gardening.

Anyone who has seen the garden at Stevie Towers will know it’s like a jungle (sometimes it makes me wonder how I keep from going under, uh huh huh), and the suckers growing out of our blackberry bushes and out of the wild roses had got well out of hand encroaching onto the lawn (or savannah as it’s more properly named). They were also cutting off access to the compost bin, so action needed to be taken against these needle sharp thorny triffids. So I attacked them, with secatures (how on earth do you spell that?) and a gardening glove, but still managed to shred my fingers in the process, making the last of tonight’s tasks – some bass practice – a little tricky.

For the gigs in Italy next weekend I really need to get practicing, given that I’m only taking my fretless with me, and so will have to play all the chordy tunes like Kindness Of Strangers and Despite My Worst Intentions on the fretless as well (and maybe even Shizzle). That’s going to take some practice, and it’s also going to require that my hands are in proper working order, not lacerated by evil garden monsters.

Too many white acts at Live 8?

A lot of news sources today have been reporting the accusation that the Live 8 bill for the UK gig is almost exclusively white – with Mariah Carey being the only person with any non-white genes on the stage (Maria is mixed race).

The response from the organisers was to first say that “Bob Geldof approached a number of urban and black artists to participate.” – that’s fair enough.

They went on to say “We look upon Live 8 as one global concert. A number of urban acts in the UK are hugely talented but they are not well known in Paris or Rome.”…

right, let’s have a look at some of the artists playing in the other venues –

Eiffel Tower, Paris includes Yannick Noah, Calo Gero, Kyo, Axelle Red, Johnny Halliday, Renaud – I’ve heard of Johnny Halliday, but there’s no way he can be described as international. He’s huge in France and unknown elsewhere. And he’s shit.

Circus Maximus, Rome includes Irene Grandi, Jovanotti, Nek, Laura Pausini, Vasco Rossi, Zucchero – clearly all big stars in Italy, but international???

So, drop the patronising crap about ‘UK Urban artists’ and represent. There are loads of people that could do it. If they want to reach out to everyone, why not book AR Rahman or Ashe Bhosle, and make the Indian community feel like they are a part of this (and expose the hopeless Sting and Elton John fans to something worth listening to). There are loads of people they could get in there.

I’m really into the idea of the gig, I love the fact that it’s about raising awareness not money, and that it’s going to get millions and millions of people thinking about issues of trade law reform and debt relief instead of just aid, but they’ve got to realise that there are more than enough white rock dinosaurs on the bill, and it needs to be a day for recogising not only Africa’s needs, but Africa’s strength and culture – so get some great African artists on the London show, and ditch one of the 80s losers.

SoundtrackJason Feddy, ‘Is This Thing On?’.

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)

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