adventures in multimedia

yesterday I downloaded the 30 day trial version of Adobe Audition – a bit of multitrack recording software, that used to be called Cool Edit Pro. I used the Cool Edit version at Luca‘s house in Italy earlier in the year and really liked it, so in prep for doing this new album, I thought I’d get it, but I’m just trying out this download version first before spending the cash on buying it.

So I’ve been recording some new tracks, with the direct bass signal and the loops on separate tracks. I still need to get a new Soundcard, as the one I’ve got only has four inputs, and I need at least two more in order to record the post-processed signal as well as the other stuff, and could do with 8 in order to record other people as well. So I’m probably going to get another M-Audio Delta 44, which is what I’ve already got – the software will happily managed multiple cards, and it’ll be cheaper tha replacing it.

on top of that, I’ve been taking more web-cam photos, so here’s a few moody Black and White ones…

SoundtrackCalamateur, ‘the old fox of ’45’; Eric Roche, ‘With These Hands’; some new recordings that Luca Formentini and I made back in March that he’s just sent to me, and rather fine they are too!

Whale Rider

I’ve seen this film three times in the last month – first time on the flight home from LA, then twice this week on video. It’s brilliant. truly truly marvellous.

The basic story is of a girl who when conceived had a twin brother, who died in childbirth, along with her mother. He was the first born male of the next generation within their mauri community, and it was hoped that he would be a leader. The patriarch of the tribe can’t deal with the fact that it was the girl that survived to continue the family line, that stretches back to Paikia – their ancestor who arrived in New Zealand on a Whale. The film follows the struggle as the grandfather looks for a suitable heir amongst the other first born sons in the village, and Pai wrestles with her emmerging destiny. The film is most powerful for all that it doesn’t tell you – the relationships are multi-dimensional, the characters are unfolded in glimpses, looks and body language, not spoon fed in unrealistic dialogue. The acting is amazing, and the story of old vs. new, heritage vs. modernisation and the struggle for authentic spirituality in the face of an increasingly fragmented world is inspiring and bears repeated viewing.

If you haven’t seen it yet, you owe it to yourself to check it out.

What else has been going on? the usual mix of teaching, gig promo, practicing etc… Got a last minute gig booked in Italy on the 11th March (which reminds me, must remember to move Aidan’s lesson…), got a gig in Petersfield, Hampshire tomorrow, and aparently advance ticket sales are going really well… Was recording yesterday with BJ Cole, pedal steel genius and all-round marvellous bloke. We got another couple of really interesting duet pieces in the can, and it was yet another chance to explore what the new bass is capable of.

And last night I went to hear Tom and Christine Sine speak – I’ve been reading Tom’s books for years, and it’s always good to hear him speak. He’s a futures analyst, which means he looks at trends and extrapolates what’s likely to happen. Most of his work is with church organisations looking at ways to meet the needs of their communities over the coming years. Always good to take time out to reappraise what’s important, and look at how our priorities have got mixed up… it’s all too easy to get sucked into ‘the rat race’ and value profit of people, and pursuing some sort of status or economic goal over and above any sense of what’s ‘right’. Globalised culture excerts such an enourmous pressure, that it requires a strong proactive stance to choose to do something other than earn and consume in pursuit of a higher place on the ladder, but it’s possible, and hearing Tom and Christine speak is always a good chance to reassess.

soundtrack – the duets with BJ Cole have been on repeat here since yesterday, but in between I’m still really really enjoying the new Jonatha Brooke CD, ‘Back In The Circus’.


So I was just getting over my jetlag from LA when I did a shift at the St Luke’s homeless shelter overnight on Saturday, got to bed just before 4, slept til gone 3 on Sunday afternoon, and couldn’t sleep last night til 4am… sod it, back to square one.

Well, the latest on Paul is that I saw him on thursday in hospital, and he’s doing really really well considering what he’s been through. Amazing really.

I’m back teaching again now, after leaving a few days blank when I got back in order to get over the jetlag. I really miss teaching when I’m away (it was great to do the masterclass in San Jose as a chance to do some teaching while in the US). And the promo for the gig with Michael Manring are in full swing – emailing radio and magazines, doing up flyers and posters to stick up and handout… all good fun.

i’m also working on getting some gigs for/with Muriel Anderson – wonderful guitarist, and lovely person, that I saw play in London last year, and who is back here in May – so been talking to promotion people about that too, hoping that we can get some stuff together. And then there’s the ongoing work of getting solo gigs and duo gigs with Theo! It never stops. Fortunately I’ve not got a couple of promoters who are helping out – Iain at Stiff Promotions is doing a marvellous job, and Richard Ravenhill who is putting on the Brighton gig is a superstar too!

Got an email at the weekend saying that my AccuGroove cabinets should be shipped out to me this week – I’m rather excited about getting them, having played through them in the States for the tour, and loving the sound. We still don’t know if these ones will be the prototypes of my signature powered cabs, or just passive ones, requiring a poweramp separately for now, but either way, the sound is the nutz, and I’m rather excited! :o)

The combination of my new bass, new cabs, and some groovy new sounds on my Lexicon MPX-G2 has given me a great renewed impetus for writing – as soon as it all arrives, I’m going to start work on the next solo album. I’ve got lots of ideas and concepts to work on, and am finding the right kind of music for the fretted 6 string. It won’t be out til the end of the summer at the earliest, and depending on what happens with distribution deals, I may have to repress ‘And Nothing But The Bass’ before then (as it’s just about sold out), but I’m really looking foward to working on it!

There are also plans to head back out to Italy soon, and do some more recording with Luca Formentini – Luca’s new solo album, ‘Subterranea’ is out now, and is excellent – a really inspired collage of guitar-originated sounds that for the most part sound very little like a guitar, along with some found-sound samples and lots of processing. CDs like that stand or fall on the ambience, and Luca’s Cd is beautifully recorded and put together, and has been spinning a lot in my CD player over the weekend. I’m really looking forward to making some more music with him.

Soundtrack – right now, Prefab Sprout, ‘Life Of Surprises’ (am in a Prefab Sprout obsessional phase at the moment). before that, The Ben Taylor Band, ‘Famous Among The Barns’; Luca Formentini, ‘Subterranea’; Kofi Bakerk, ‘Karisma’; John Lester, ‘Big Dreams And The Bottom Line’; Daft Punk, ‘Homework’; and Vida Vierra, ‘Woman Of The Waters’ – Vida – along with her husband Doug and daughter Dani – is one of my favourite people in the world, and is a marvellous singer/songwriter, dancer, choreographer and activist. Most of my favourite memories of this most recent trip to California aren’t of gigs (though the gigs were great), but are of spending time with Vida Doug and Dani, and with Rick and Jessica Turner – lovely people one and all.

end of year roundup top 5s

So we’re rapidly approaching the exit of 2003 and the entrance of 2004, to take up the batton of time for it’s year in the spotlight. It can’t really be much worse than its younger sibling on a world scale (well, I guess it could, if the bush/blair axis of evil decide to invade more countries, and don’t realise that they really have no place being in Iraq… but I digress…)

Anyway, there have been some cool things this year, so here’s a series of top 5s to sum up my year (each of them is in no particular order…) –

top 5 albums from this year –

Athlete – Vehicles and Animals
Bill Frisell – The Interncontinentals
John Lester – Big Dreams And The Bottom Line
Bruce Cockburn – You’ve Never Seen Everything
Kelly Joe Phelps – Slingshot Professionals

Top 5 albums I got this year but were released ages ago –

Theo Travis – Heart Of The Sun
Rob Jackson – Wire, Wood and Magnets
Denison Witmer – Philadelphia Songs
David Torn – Tripping Over God
Medeski Martin And Wood – The Dropper

Top 5 musical collaborators this year –

Theo Travis
Orphy Robinson
Patrick Wood
Luca Formentini
BJ Cole

Top 5 fave gigs I went to –

Athlete – The Astoria
Bill Frisell – The Barbican
King’s X – The Mean Fiddler
Kelly Joe Phelps – The Stables
Bruce Cockburn – The Stables

Top 5 fave gigs played –

National Theatre Foyer (with Theo Travis)
Greenbelt (with Patrick Wood)
Derby Dance Centre (with Orphy Robinson and Corey Mwamba)
Constable Jacks (California – with Michael Manring)
Anaheim Bass Bash (with Michael Manring)

Top 5 International Destinations –

California (USA)
Garda Lake (Italy)
Le Monstastier (France)
Amsterdam (Holland)
Copenhagen (Denmark)

Heroes –

Tony Benn
John Pilger
Michael Moore
Michael Franti
Scott Peck

Villains –

Richard Desmond
Max Clifford

would’ve done top books and top films, but haven’t seen enough of either to
come up with a convincing list of good ones.

I’ll add more as I think of them, but that’s it for now…

Soundtrack – yesterday I downloaded the new version of WinAmp – WinAmp 5, and have been listening to various Shoutcast radio stations ever since!

countdown to release day…

…so the CDs should arrive here on Wednesday – how exciting! I need to buy a nice big box of Jiffy Bags tomorrow and start addressing them, cos it’s going to take ages! Thanks to all you lovely people who’ve been ordering the CDs, it’s going to be quite a big job…

Was in Italy this weekend, which was great fun! I was playing at an event called Sound Expo ’03, organised by a HUUUUGE music shop in Verona called Musical Box. I was there playing on behalf of Ashdown, so as well as the two performance sets that I gave on the main stage, there were various amp demos in the Ashdown corner of the shop… Also had plenty of time to check out the rest of the gear that was on show, to see some music (most of it was the usual trade fair stuff – very fast, not many tunes, but there were some gems in there too…) and to just hang out with Luca. Fortunately I also got a chance to catch up with some other lovely friends – Giovanna, Albano and Renate, as well as Luca and Gio’s cats, Blue and Ompy (not sure about the spelling of Ompy, but as neither is he, I’m not too worried…)

The Ashdown distributors in Italy are Proel – known over here for making cables, connectors and stuff, but actually a freakin’ huge company!! Scarily huge in fact, but very very helpful, with great staff.

It was a flying visit – out Saturday morning, back Sunday night – and in that I managed to do rather a lot. Of the music I managed to see at the show, my favourite was Massimo Varini – a very talented Italian fusion guitarist – sort of Satch meets Phil Keaggy with a bit of Holdsworth thrown in. His trio were fantastic, and hopefully I’ll get to do some shows with them at some point. Another highlight was an italian singer doing Cornflake Girl who had apparently just learnt it phonetically as the words she was singing were incomprehensible… If I ever suggest singing in Italian, someone please punch me in the face.

Soundtrack – Massimo’s album, Billy Bragg’s best of, and the recordings from my last trip to Italy (thanks to my new RAM strip I just fitted to the computer, I can stream it all off the DVD quite happily…)

This is why musicians have managers…


So I’m all booked up to head off to Italy on Saturday for these gigs, and then think ‘oh dear, my passport hasn’t come back…’ – it ran out on the 23rd September, and I sent it off just after that, but this really is cutting it fine… I should have sent it off the day I got back from my last overseas trip, really – the sort of advice that a good manager would have given me (actually, to be fair, it’s the sort of stellar advice that the small person gives me, but I end up procrastinating, and in this kind of situation)

So I’ve just rung the passport office, and they are going to pull the application out of the queue and send it to the emergency team, which sounds very scary! Anyway, hopefully I’ll get a call back from them – their office is in Peterborough, so I could probably go and collect it if I had to, though I’ve got a very full teaching schedule over the next couple of days…

So the moral is – get things done when they come in – I’ve still not done my self assessment tax return either, which means I’ll have to do all the calculations myself (not that hard, but it is making extra work where it doesn’t need to be…)

gotta get organised, gotta get organised…

Soundtrack – mainly the extra disc that’s coming with the new album (if you order it before next week…), ‘It’s Not Gonna Happen’, which is sounding very good indeed. I’ve just finished the on-body artwork for it, which is nice. Other than that, been listening to John Abercrombie, ‘November’ (I think that’s what it’s called – it’s borrowed and I can’t find it now!) and Andrew Buckton, ‘Now But Not Yet’.

try again

OK, so this is my second attempt at writing this, having written a very long post earlier before my computer crashed nearing the end. Bugger…

anyway, here’s the bullet point version (I’m sure much to evil harv’s delight) –

on Saturday I went to a memorial service for a friend whose life was tragically cut short by cancer a couple of weeks ago. She was 29, had a baby and a husband – everything to live for, but the cancer had other ideas. The service was moving and beautiful, but nothing could hide the deep, painful merciless injustice of someone being cut down that early in life. I’ve no idea what her poor hubby is going through – he’s someone I’ve looked up to hugely for years, and I just hope that I can somehow be there for him now. The pain must be inconceivable.

Friday I got a new computer… well, some bits with which to construct a new computer having picked at the bones of my old one for whatever morsels could be rescued. the new chimera is pretty good, and The Captain was invaluable in building it for me – I’d have no idea how to put the damn thing together – software, I’m fine, hardware, forget it.

So the last few days have involved lots of installing of software, lots of trying to find email archives and diary archives etc. All great fun… but at least is all runs a bit quicker, and I’ve not got an extra external drive so I can back everything up. Some friends of mine were burgled this last week, and aside from the electronic stuff the had taken, they also lost a load of photos and film that was in the camera and camcorder, as well as a load of work that was on the PC – that’s terrible! I’m going to try and keep backups of everything so it can’t be stolen or lost or have my harddrive crash again… It’s such a pain as the actual stuff is hardly worth anything, but the work on it is very hard to replace…

anyway, today was a teaching day, and posting out of CD orders (yup, still getting orders for the older albums too! :o) this week I need to get the extra disc pressed up and sorted, so that it’s already to be sent out to all of you who’ve advanced ordered it by next week…

On the gig front, Italy this coming weekend is confirmed, but Stoke Newington on Nov 9th has been cancelled… comings and goings, hellos and goodbyes, bookings and cancellations. Thunder and Rainbows from the same sky. Friends dying, babies being born. All part of the cycle of life, but that doesn’t make the tragedy of death any easier to bear, the joy of birth any less marvellous. On that note, congrats to Johnny and Rosie, Geoff and Sarah and maybe to Steve and Linda by now, who knows… St Luke’s is awash with babies, with more on the way!

Soundtrack – Keith Jarrett trio, ‘Tokyo 96’; Marc Johnson’s Bass Desires, ‘Second Sight’; Joni Mitchell, ‘Hejira’; Charlie Haden & Hank Jones, ‘Steal Away’; recordings of me with BJ Cole and Orphy Robison, and with Luca Formentini, Moreno and Gianni in Italy.

You Call That Hot???

….London’s heatwave, described below, suddenly didn’t seem quite so amazing when I stepped off the ‘plane at Verona Brescia airport, and into a furnace. Now THAT’S hot!

What a marvellous time I’ve had for the last few days – great music, great people, great food, great weather.

The solo gig was at the Rivolta Art Restaurant (or something like that – not sure what the official name was) – a marvellous place in Rivotella, on the banks of Garda Lake. The gig was outside the front of the restaurant, so I had people who’d come just to listen, people who’d come to eat at the restaurant and people who were just walking by (which kind of reflects the healthy attitude to the arts that seems to be pretty widespread in that part of Italy, but that may just be the very groovy people I was spending my time with) – anyway, the gig went really well, despite a bizarre introduction from a slightly crap clowning troupe who decided to do a 10 minute show about 20 feet from where I was playing! Time to take a break… sold a pile of CDs, and paved the way for quite a few more shows in that part of Italy.

The next three days involved lots of recording – duo with fab guitar user/abuser, Luca Formentini, quartet with Luca and a rhythm section of Gianni Sabbioni and Frank Moreno, and trio with Luca and Moreno. The duo and Quartet were very good, Trio was good, but I think due to the kind of sound we’d go with the quartet, we slipped all too easily into trying the same thing, and in the quartet lineup I’d not been playing much in the way off basslines, leaving that to Gianni, so the trio was a little empty sounding when attempting the same thing…

Anyway, it was all good, got tonnes of stuff recorded.

Sunday night was spent at a marvellous Italian family birthday celebration, and due to my total lack of Italian linguistic skills (Ciao, Gracia, and a bunch of musical terms is about as far as it go at the moment, but I’ll be learning more soon… ;o) I ended up talking in French to a marvellous Italian artist called Albano Morandi. All in all, a great way to spend a Sunday night in Italy.

So I’m home now, glad to be back with the small person and aged feline. Time to get ready for Greenbelt next weekend, and to get back into finishing the work off on the album with Theo…

Soundtrack – now it’s Janis Joplin, ‘I Got Dem Ole Kosmic Blues Again Mama’, before that Sigur Ros, ‘Agaetis Byrium’; David Bowie, ‘Heathen’; in Italy, Bruce Cockburn, ‘You’ve Never Seen Everything’; Mark Knopfler, ‘The Ragpickers Dream’; Fripp/Sylvian, ‘Damage’; The Cure, ‘Disintigration’; The The, ‘The Naked Self’; David Sylvian, ‘Gone To Earth’; Bill Withers, ‘Best Of’.

Blimey, has it been that long???

Well, what’s happened since I last blogged? Well firstly, my hard-drive is fixed!! Yippee!! I got loads and loads of offers of help from blog-readers, one of which was an offer from Ted to fix the drive if I shipped it to him in Portland, Oregon. So I did, and he fixed it, and shipped it back, and all it’s cost me is a the cost of the new drive and shipping each way. Amazing. Huge gratitude to Ted for that!

For all of last week, I was on Lindisfarne (AKA Holy Island), off the coast of Northumberland, teaching at the Borders School For Life. The idea behind the school is based on the Scandinavian folk high school idea, where learning is pretty much for the sake of learning, rather than for the certificate that you get at the end of it.

The theme for this week was spirituality and ecology, the the many talks, classes and workshops took in themes of the Celtic history of the Island and Northumberland (Lindisfarne was pretty much the first home of the Celtic Christians in England), some stuff on the wildlife in the area, the notion of nature as sacrament, and some other ecological and economic stuff.

There was also a strong creativity thread, which included garden design, all sorts of arty things, and me doing a series on the parallels between music and language, and how to see music as an extended metaphor for communication – looking at music theory and improvisation and examples of language and conversation… It went very well, and much fun was had by all. The rest of the tutors included lots of experts in their field – professors of economics and sociology, design lecturers, authors and the director of the centre for human ecology! All round a marvellous week, and one I’m sure I’ll go back to next year whether I’m teaching or not…

Since getting home, the small person and I have been to a friend’s wedding, and installed a waterfall in the garden, that given the current heatwave has been doubling up as a foot spa. mmmmmmmmm.

So this week is going to be lots of teaching, getting back up to date with the duo album with Theo Travis (artwork nearly finished, just final touches needed on the track mixing), and then off to Italy for a gig on Thursday night!

SoundtrackThe Cure, ‘Disintigration’ & ‘Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me’; Cloud Chamber, ‘Dark Matter’; Phil Keaggy, ‘Acoustic Sketches’; Bruce Cockburn, ‘You’ve Never Seen Everything’; Paul Simon, ‘One Trick Pony’; Gary Peacock and Ralph Towner, ‘A Closer View’.

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