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.

Improv…

I’m feeling rather lucky at the moment – Tuesday night, lovely Jez came round, went out for a curry, then had a jam for an hour… playing music with Jez is always a treat – he’s a very very musical chap, great listener, and exceedingly creative improviser (as those of you who have conversations will no doubt be aware) – the kind of stuff we play changes depending on our mood, the instrument (normally he’s playing an electric piano, here he was playing a real one), the room, whether I’m looping or not (I wasn’t), and whatever we’ve both been playing recently. So it really is very conversational, and quite revealing as to how we’re feeling…

Then, last night was the radio broadcast for LCR, which included lots of duo improv with Antoine Farfad – a bassist who was using a V-Bass processor to get some great synth sounds. More improv, very different context, and with someone I’d never met before let alone played with. So the whole thing was very different from the jez setting, but just as rewarding. Antoine’s playing was marvellous – something you’ll be able to check out next week when the show gets archived at the radio station website. I’ll add a link as soon as it’s there…

Then, this Sunday, I’m off to Brighton to play with Tess Garroway (see gigs page for details) – a jazz singer with a heavily improvisational slant. Just got a CD of her stuff yesterday which is excellent (listening to it right now). What fun – all this improv is great for developing listening skills, new approaches, learning new ideas, and finding new contexts for stuff that I already do…

What fun!

What else has been happening? er, lots of teaching, which has been great – new students, old students, lots of very interesting people with a desire to learn.

Got the new copy of Q through… very disappointing. Christina Aguilera on the cover? Q? huh? not good. And, in their 50 most outrageous people in rock article, GG Allin doesn’t get a look-in. And frankly, if there were a more outrageous person in the music industry, they’d probably be dead by now… GG made Marilyn Manson look like Cliff… a true nutter, very sad case, and now dead, which wasn’t a surprise to anyone. Supposedly there’s a documentary about him somewhere, but I’m not sure I’d have the stomach to watch it… dark stuff…

but I digress.

So today – teaching, and a workshop for a church band down in Kent tonight, which should be a lot of fun.

Soundtrack – lots of Mike Watt, mainly ‘Ball-Hog Or Tug Boat?’, which is marvellous. Also, this Tess Garroway CD, which is a mixture of live and studio stuff, and is very good. what else? ah, Lewis Taylor’s first album, which is unbelieveably good. Amazing. Genius.

A Play What He Wrote

Last night I went to the theatre (er, beginning to sound like a 12 year old writing his summer project – “we went on holidays and it was really good and then we went to the beach and it was really good and my dad fell in the sea and we all laughed and then my mum laughed so much she dropped her ice-cream and we all laughed but she wasn’t laughing any more because she said she had ice-cream on her best clothes and if daddy thought that was so funny…’ etc. etc. or, er, something like that)

Anyway, as I said. Theatre, Last night. Brilliant. Genius. Speechless.

The play in question was called ‘The Madness Of George Dubya’, and is apparently an update on Dr Strangelove (or at least that’s what the review in the Guardian said – I’ve never seen Dr Strangelove, so can’t really comment on the veracity of that… but I digress) – anyway, if it is an update, it’s an incredibly topical one. It was, in fact, written in three days in January, and rehearsed in 6, before beginning a sold out run at Theatro Technis in London, then moved on to The Pleasance Theatre in Holloway, London.

The story revolves around a gung-ho US general on an airbase in the UK, deciding to order an all out nuclear strike on Iraq, and being the only one who knows the code to call the order back, you’ve now got your suspence. However, the play revolves around the idiotic mumblings of the US president, and the pathetic attempts to solve the problem by our own prime ministerial buffoon, Blair. Throw into the mix Yasmina The Cleaner – an Al Quaeda operative working as a cleaner on the air-base, a couple of US pilots flying the first plane ordered to drop it’s payload (all the while discovering their long buried desires for eachother), some useless British civil servants, more US army generals and a breath-taking speech by an Iraqi Ambassador and you’ve got yourselves one of the most powerful, funny, moving, disturbing, remarkable theatrical performances I think I’ve ever seen.

Justin Butcher, the writer, has been carving a reputation for himself for a few years now – last year his play, The Seven White Masks Of Scaramouche Jones toured with Pete Possilthwaite delivering the one man show to sold out audiences round the UK. But Dubya is a whole other kind of triumph – it would have been impressive if he’d written it in 3 months. 3 days suggests some sort of pact with the devil in exchange for genius, or conversely an angelic visitation, complete with finished script. Truly unbelieveable. And on top of that, one of the most vital, vibrant and controversial comments on the current impending (pleasegoddontletithappen) war.

‘If’ they get another run at it, you would have to be stark staring mad to miss it. Already they’ve had coverage on CNN, in various US newspapers including the Chicago tribune, on MSNBC, 4 stars in the Guardian, 5 in What’s On, been in the Independent’s top 5 theatre shows in London for weeks on end. Seriously, it’s magical, you have to see it.

phew, that was exhausting. Tonight’s the last night – if you’re in London, you can catch it at either 5 or 7.30. But I’m certain it will get another run. It HAS to.

In other news, last night I was on nightshelter duty again (meant to be next week, but I swapped) – as was evil harv. He wasn’t meant to be, but while we were in the theatre, some sort of serious police ‘incident’ took place outside, and Harv’s car was in the cordoned off zone, and he was unable to move it til this morning!!! So the poor guy ended up sleeping in a freezing church hall on a couch… :o)

Came home, slept, got woken up about five times by the phone. One of the calls was telling me about the funeral details of a friend of mine who died of lukemia last week. I’m not sure what to think about that one. I didn’t even know he was ill til the day he died. 11am – a text saying was on life support. 3pm phone call saying he’d died. WTF???? What? Where? When? How? Andy was officially my land-lord when I live in Lincoln, but the house for most of that time was more like a live-in community. He was a fantastic cook, so we’d throw dinner parties fairly often, there were up to 5 of us living there at any one time – me, farmer Joe, DJ Ben, Biker Wendy… it was like some poorly scripted sit-com, with some very bizarre events. One favourite was Farmer Joe trying to make his own garlic bread, and misunderstanding the difference between a ‘clove’ of garlic and the whole bulb. So he crushed three whole bulbs of garlic, and put them on two slices of bread under the grill. The dogs were yowling for days. Ah yes, the dogs – Max and Polly. Insane and ever-present. Andy doted on them. He married Sharon just before I left Lincoln, and they’ve now got at least two kids (could be three, who knows). I can’t even begin to imagine how she must be feeling. He was only in his late 30s. Still officially a ‘youth’ (18-40). And now he’s gone. I can’t get to his funeral on Thursday – it’s in Lincoln and I’m already mad mad busy that day. But I’ll be thinking about him. About live on Richmond Road, dinner parties, mad dogs, video nights, trips to the pub, Dave Elcock at his wedding reception.

Last time I saw him was at Martin Clarke’s 40th birthday last year. he was smiling from ear to ear, telling me his news and looking remarkably pleased to see me. I wasn’t overly friendly with him (it’s always odd being back in groups of people from Lincoln – too much weirdness left there for me), but he was very eager to hear what I’d been up to and to tell me about his kids.

And now on a lighter note, tonight I’m going to see Muriel Anderson play at The Troubadour in Earl’s Court – lovely venue, I’m playing there myself at the end of March, and it’s where I recorded my first album! Muriel’s great, so I’m really looking forward to that one. If you’re going, I’ll see you there…

Soundtrack – been listening to a CD by Ollie Collins ‘Make Time Last’ – rather nice acid-jazz influenced layered bass and keys stuff, with some great sax playing. Before that, it was more of Michael Manring and I…

California III – this time it's serious

…or maybe not…

So anyway, 26th was the Echoplex Clinic at Bananas At Large in San Raphael, just north of San Francisco. Nice town, great shop. The clinic went really well, and I stole loads of ideas from Andre LaFosse’s tips on using the Echoplex – if you’re interested in the EDP at all, you HAVE to check out his site with the Echoplex tips page on it, and all his MP3s…

Anyway, the curry after the clinic was lovely, Scott Drengsen (solo bassist from the Bay Area) came along to the clinic, which was great, and Dan and I stayed with Anderson and Laura – very good friends who live in San Raphael. A lovely time was had by all!

Couple of days off spent with Billy-Bob and Mavis which was lovely, then onto the dates with Michael Manring along with the trio – the first of which was at Henflings in Ben Lomond (sounds Scottish, actually just outside Santa Cruz) – great venue, good turn out, lots of very cool music, and a bizarre moment when Rick Walker jumped on stage to join in with Michael Manring’s set…

the Next day we were up in Sacramento (this was a mucho-driving tour). Started out with a radio interview that Michael and I did for KVMR – very very cool station, we did a duo piece and then Michael did Red Right Returning (as featured, uncredited on the new Royksopp CD).

The gig was great – loads of people there, lots of CD sales, the line up was Michael and I (solo and duo) and Orbis (Mike Roe, Mark Harmon and Nick Willow). What a fun evening. It was also the venue owner’s birthday, and his name turned out to be Tim Looper – what a fine coincidence… :o)

Couple more days off, spent in Sacramento, then the gig at the Little Fox Theatre, with Michael and David Friesen. The three of us works really well as a show, so that was very cool. Lots of good people there, etc. etc.

The next show was probably the low-light of the tour – Cafe Du Nord, nice venue in San Francisco, had been looking forward to this. Got there, and noticed in the local paper that it was billed as a singer/songwriter night, with David Friesen and I listed as acoustic singer/songwriters! Huh? Turns out it was double booked, the guy who organised the acoustic night got really annoyed about it all, tried the cancel the night, it ended up with David and I playing truncated sets, and then the acoustic thing happening afterwards. All a bit miserable and a bit of a let down… Oh well.

Stayed in a motel 6 that night, then off to Santa Barbara – very nice town, had a wander round the farmer’s market. Clinic at Instrumental Music (is this beginning to read like bullet points???), which was great fun – the store manager is a friend from last year, Jamie Faletti, so it was great to see him, lots of great questions at the clinic, loads of CDs sold, all good fun.

Next night was another clinic at another branch of instrumental music, great turnout, the whole thing was videoed (bits of it may turn up here, who knows), some cool people there, nice curry afterwards with Jeff Kaiser (avante-garde composer and trumpeter), and some people from the shop. All good fun, good people, good food, good music. yadda yadda…

Ploughing on through busy schedule, the next day, I gave a masterclass at The College Of The Canyons, normally taught by fantastic solo bassist and jazz educator, Todd Johnson. Nice to hear from Todd afterwards that I’d just confirmed all he’d been telling them for weeks :o)

The second low-light of the tour was to follow – clinic at Jim’s music in Irvine – the shop hadn’t even put up a flyer in the shop for it, no promo, no-one knew, ergo very small number of people there. Bit of a waste of time, travelling 6000 miles to play in a shop that couldn’t care less if you were there or not. Still, kick the dust from your shoes and move on. etc.

The following night in Valencia more than made up for the Irvine balls-up. Great gig at Java and Jazz. Loads of people there, including lots of lovely Level 42 fans from the web digest. Todd Johnson, who organised the gig, played a fantastic solo set, then I did my thing, followed by some fun little jazzy duets.

The tour finished off with a nice little clinic thingie for Churchbassists in San Dimas…

All in all, a lot of fun. Well worth doing, loads of good gigs, tonnes of CDs sold, lots of good press (there’s a review of Not Dancing in the current issue of Bass Player magazine, and the loop trio gig in Santa Cruz made it onto the cover of the Santa Cruz newspaper…)

Hopefully I’ll be back in the US before long…

None More Dull

Yippee – tax bill paid, tax return sent off, which for you lot means no more fist-chewingly dull stuff about my tax return! :o) Now I can lull you to sleep with Bonsai talk instead… although, as I’m off on tour tomorrow, there should be plenty to talk about for the next four weeks!

Yesterday was another big teaching day – exhausting but rewarding.

Today will involve teaching from 12-2, then driving my CDs over to Chelmsford to be shipped off to LA on Monday morning. Then I’ll be packing, repacking, remembering things I’ve forgotten and repacking again, tidying up here to try and leave the house in a reasonable state for the rest of the household to inhabit for the next four weeks (not really fair to bugger off and leave the poor aged feline with all the cleaning duties – his lack of opposable thumbs makes filing a nightmare…)

I’ll be moving my ickle Bonsai tree out of the office so it’s not ignored in the plant watering ritual of the next few weeks. I’ve been unsubscribing from the myriad mailing lists and discussion lists that I’m on so as to reduce the volume of email traffic while I’m away (just the 50 bits of spam and viruses to deal with each day then…) – does anyone else get as many viruses sent to them as me? Is this intentional and malicious, or just that I’m on so many people’s email lists that whenever someone with my address gets got I get sent a copy? Norton picks them up OK, and the ones that get into my inbox without being deleted are easily recogniseable (I just delete most things with attachments unless I’m expecting them – so warn me first if you’re trying to send anything, and don’t send me unsolicited MP3s!! Nothing is more likely to put you on my email s**t-list than sending me a 10 meg file with no warning… grrrrr (evil harv!)

anyway, better get started on the tidy, before the teaching, before the CD delivering, before the packing, before the sleeping before the journey to LA, before the tour!

Soundtrack – yesterday I got ‘Jordan – The Comeback’ by Prefab Sprout. I’m increasingly convinced that Paddy McAlloon is one of the all time great British songwriters – I don’t think as yet I’ve heard a duff song by him. Right now, I’m listening to Calamateur again – this is so so beautiful and haunting, you really have to get it – the juxtaposition of FSU beats, ambient sounds, acoustic guitar and loads of samples of speech/interviews/news etc. all relating to cars, car accidents, traffic police. It’s awesome – Andrew – make sure you send a copy into The Late Junction on Radio 3, they’ll LOVE this!

BTW, I’ve just seen that the BBC Radio 3 Website has all the previous week’s Late Junction programs archived for listening on demand – GO AND LISTEN, it’s brilliant – a fascinating mix of world music, new music, eclectic pop and prog, bits of jazz, ancient music – all kinds of stuff, and now you can listen any time of the day! There really is no excuse…

Christmas time, no mistletoe, no wine

…just a very relaxed day, watching TV and videos, cooking and eating nice food and not doing very much at all!!

Went to church in the morning, which was fun and chaotic in the usual style of Christmas day services, came home and started our now traditional pattern of eating one course every three hours throughout the day. Started off with soup and garlic bread. That was after opening the pressies – I got a couple of books (Rich Hall’s autobiography, and Vanishing Footprints, subtitled ‘native voices speak’ it’s a book of gorgeous photos of indigenous people from around the world, telling their own story. Beautiful), the new Eddie Izzard video , Circle, which is very good, especially the hour and half of his Paris show, in French. The set from New York is very funny, but he comes across as slightly out of practice with standup, having spent so long in hollywood… and some other bits ‘n’ bobs.

Dinner was nut roast with a homemade spicey tomato, red pepper, mushroom and onion sauce, steamed veg and jacket potato (mmmm, delish!!), followed by watching the Izzard vid…

Oh, we watched Christmas top of the pops – was it worse than usual or am I just nearly 30??? 80% of the stuff on there seemed to be teenage girls dressed as hollywood hookers, singing out of tune. What on earth has happened to the record buying public??? On ‘I love 1984’ last night, there was a bit about the soul/jazz revival of ’84, with some talking head or other mentioning that it was a backlash to the rubbishness of pop at the time. Here’s hoping that something similar happens to end the reality TV horse-shit that seems to be taking over the charts. for the two biggest selling singles of the year to be Will Young and Gareth Gates is just nonsense. It’s not even like they sold because they were lowest-common-denominator catchy pop tunes – I’d rather see some PWL pre-fab crap there – they are there purely because of the exposure and media manipulation of the Pop Idol TV show. The songs themselves are sub-Barry Manilow bland MOR holiday camp bollocks. Grrrrrr.

Here I am listening to Theo Travis – outstanding saxophonist, playing original, moving, music, beautifully written and played and selling a few thousand copies, as opposed to the millions shifted by the losers. No, I’m not expecting Theo to start selling millions (he’d have to bland-out for that to happen), but it’d be nice if radio in particular, and TV programmers started to give some air time to quality music regardless of formatting and dull stylistic constraints…

Right, rant over.

I’m knackered at the moment, thanks to having taken the small persons car out of the drive with the intention of getting it valeted as an extra christmas pressie, only to have it stall on the road, and then have to try and push it back onto the drive, failing miserably but pulling lots of muscles in the process, then having to tow it back up with my car (which didn’t like that at all – I’m lucky I didn’t wreck the chassis!!). My muscles are aching like anything, and my shoulder is bruised from trying to push it.

Now it sounds like I’ve had a pain-filled misery-christmas, complaining about pop-nonsense. Not true. I’ve had a marvellous time, very relaxing. The Office is being repeated nightly at the moment, and is outstanding – Ricky Gervais is one of the most talented comics to emmerge in this country for quite a while…

Soundtrack – currently Theo’s album (see above), I’ve also been playing the MINIDISC of Theo and I playing together from Monday a lotl; I bought ‘Acoustic Soul’ by India.Arie for the Small Person for Christmas, and that’s excellent, really enjoying that, and I finally bought ‘Steve McQueen’ by Prefab Sprout on CD (very cheap from www.101cd.com ) – one of my all time faves…

BTW, Evil Harv can now be reached at evilharv@evilharv.com should you have any questions about all things eville… his evil blog will no doubt emmerge soon… :o)

Best Laid Plans Of Mice and Men…

…aft gan aglay… and that’s two nights of serious aglayness in a row! I’m
beginning to think that asking some mice to sort out my gigs for me was
not particularly a good idea…

After blogging yesterday, I went out and spoke to the workman, who said
they’d get the driveway entrance clear by 6… fine, I’ll go with that. Load
up the car, set off in small person’s small-person-car. No petrol. warning
light on. Think ‘oh, I’ll go to the second service station, it near enough’.
Car stalls going up hill… bugger. Restarts fine. Stalls again. twice. get’s to
petrol station, thankfully.

Arrive at St Luke’s, and notice that there’s no space to set up all my stuff…
Ring Justin-the-MD. he arrives back, and says that the – ehem – ‘ambient’
music at the beginning will be some jazz stuff – me, him and some sax
playing friend, playing off some charts from a rather ropey buskers fake
book. Guess I won’t be needing my amp or rack stuff… all of which is now
in my car outside the church (not really the kind of area you want to be
leaving musical equipment in the car in…) Also looks like the rest of the
evening is pretty much planned out… So I leave all the stuff in the car,
play the opening set through the amp that’s there (a really piss poor
sounding Peavey thingie…), and go home again…

Seems like they had a great night, but I’m not about to risk having the
small person’s small-person-transporter trashed and my music gear nicked
for anything…

And I missed out on a good gig in Norwich to be available. What bollocks.

Anyway, today, went to church this morning, which was nice, came home,
and have just spent the last few hours trying to fix the small person’s
iMac, which started doing that folder/?-symbol flashing thing, but then
when I booted it off the startup disk, didn’t even have the hard drive listed
as being on the computer. So it’s shagged, basically… not sure what to do.
Will have to go out and see Greenbelt-Britlinks-James who knows lots about
computers cos he’s dead clever, and see if he knows what to do…
Meanwhile small person will be working on this machine… See, more
plans gan algay – maybe she should stop letting mice plan the servicing of
her computer…

Soundtrack – me and Jez, David Sylvian’s ‘Secrets Of The Beehive’
(featuring the magical Danny Thompson on bass and David Torn on guitar),
and also Theo Travis, ‘Heart Of The Sun’ – proof that brits can do
contemporary jazz as well as anyone… quality stuff.

So much to do…

Teaching Schedule is now filling up, which is good… I asked my
students to get back in touch in early December, so the eager ones
are on it already and my diary is taking shape, which is nice…

Still feeling jet-lagged from the tour, sleeping late, sitting up late…
need to get back round the right way by the weekend.

Just found the site of a band called Dapp Theory
– jazz outfit based in NYC who have collaborated with Bruce
Cockburn on their album that’s out in January… very interesting
stuff. have a listen to the track Trickle Down on their website…

Right what now? need to go and post CD orders (mail order
ones, CC orders from evinsol.co.uk and from gemm.com
– it’s getting harder to keep track of what’s happening where!
Gemm seems like a very good set up though. I’ve only had the
stuff listed there a day or two and am already getting orders
daily from them, so I guess people must be looking for it! That’s
heartening… :o)

Also need to mail out all the review copies that I bagged up yesterday
– it’s going to be a fun trip to the post office with 40 jiffy bags or
something this afternoon!

Oh, and at some point soon I need to take the flight case back to
the Bass Centre that they so kindly lent to me for the L42
tour – this little Ashdown rig of mine, with the 4×8,
1×10 and 500W head, all fits into one normal 4×10 cabinet flight
case!! A whole rig in one medium sized case.. how cool is that?

Not Dancing For Chicken????

This was posted in the old blog format, but I thought I’d
repost it here as you may well have come looking for it now…
Here’s the explanation of where the ‘Not Dancing For Chicken’
album title came from…

Back in about 1992, MC Hammer was attempting a comeback,
and was doing the rounds in the press claiming to be from the
street, down with the kids etc. etc. Meanwhile, he was also
doing ads for KFC, and they were sponsoring the tour. At a
New York press conference it all got too much, and one young
journo asked Hammer what on earth he was doing. Hammer
replied ‘Hey, I’m just dancing for money’, to which the journo
replied ‘No, you’re dancing for chicken’.

Fast forward best part of a decade, and british comedian Mark
Lamarr is doing an interview with London listings magazine,
Time Out, and he recounts the story before explaining that for
him, ‘Dancing For Chicken’ has become the perfect metaphor
for all those corporate gigs that musicians/comedians/actors/etc.
have to do just to pay the bills, and the ones where the money
is so insane that all but the most ethically-minded of performers
will take them (like TV ads for a fast food giant with a dubious
health and safety record…).

At the time the phrase struck a chord with me as the antithesis
of everything that I’m trying to do with my solo career – I haven’t
chased a record deal, I haven’t made a smooth jazz CD in a bid
for radio airplay, I haven’t done a completely ambient recording
in a bid for new age stardom. I just do what I do, and if people
like it, great, if they don’t, fair enough… As it is, the last couple
of months of big tours and great CD sales have been vindication
of this route, but the business plan still stands intact. If it all falls
apart, I need to have music that I’m proud of, that represents
me. So I’ll continue to soundtrack the inside of my head, and
avoid Dancing For Chicken if I can in anyway steer clear of it… :o)