Composition famine…

I’ve not written any new music for quite a while. It’s not a problem – most areas of music tend to happen in terms of flurries of activity followed by plateaus, whether it be technique, concepts, composition or whatever. And right now, I’m working on arrangements of other people’s tunes – something I’ve done very little of as a solo player. I used to do a short version of ‘Fly Me To The Moon’ to finish gigs, and these days do ‘People Get Ready’, and now have just worked out a lovely solo arrangement of ‘What A Wonderful World’. I’ve also been working on a version of This Must Be The Place (Naive Melody), the Talking Heads track, which sounds great, but is really hard to play!! I need to make sure it’s well hammered into my skull before I attmept it live. It involves some pretty tricky looping (well, tricky for me…)

So I’m having fun with other people’s tunes (and maybe I’ll finally get round to having a go at ‘The Fish’ – something I’ve had a number of people nagging me to do for a while (yes, you, Catherine Street Team and California Bob!)

And as an off-shoot, I’ve got the beginnings of a new tune. It might end up as a solo piece, or maybe in one of the collaborations. This Monday and I met up with a fantastic drummer called Andrew Booker. Andrew has his own duo/trio (recorded thus far as a duo, now have a guitarist as well) called , whose CD is really cool (bass and drums duo, with Andrew singing like a less-heliumed John Anderson).

Anyway, he plays a tiny electronic kit, and adjusts really well to the slight imperfections of my loops, so we’ll hopefully be launching said trio on the listening public before too long – playing the tracks from Open Spaces with a drummer certainly took them into a very different space…

So, despite the famine, much creative noodling is taking place, and many new avenues are opening up…

Soundtrack, ‘Ghost Town’; , ‘Slow Life’; , ‘Live’; , ‘Stones’; , ‘Polarised’.

Another perfect Jonatha gig…

Tonight was gig 3 for me in a month. Of course, she was fabulous. Played beautifully, sang like an angel, bantered with the audience and wore a particularly groovy pair of bright coloured boots!

This was the first of three consecutive Tuesdays at on Denmark Street in central london. Please please please go and see her at one of the next two (15th and 22nd March, just in case you couldn’t work that out!) – I’ll be there again on the 22nd. By that time I’ll have racked up about one healthy two hour set’s worth of material (though I’ll have heard a few of the songs four times!) Go on, I promise it’ll be a magic night out.

Soundtrack, ‘Live’; , ‘Nothing But A Burning Light’.

Some things are just so… WRONG!!

OK, so I was checking out the site of a venue that a friend of mine’s band are playing at, and found this list of events for the week – I draw your attention to the listing for the 28th – “ALL YOU CAN EAT FISH AND CHIPS FOLLOWED BY KARAOKE @10PM” – all you can eat fish and chips?????????? WTF???? I don’t even eat fish, in fact, find the whole idea of eating any kind of animal completely twisted, but I’m still really really wierded out by the combination of this most british of institutions coupled with that most heinous of american serving disasters. It’s like asking if you want to supersize a Vegetable Balti. Just Plain Wrongness.

I mean, OK, so it’s an English theme pub, but still, ‘all you can eat fish and chips’????? no no no no no no no. Stop it.

Soundtrack, ‘Back In The Circus’.

fairwell, tooth.

A trip to the dentist this morning resulted in me coming home with one less tooth in my head than I had when I arrived – how come they take my teeth and then charge me £45 for the priviledge? surely they should pay me for my lovely knackered tooth!

Anyway, there’s now a gaping hole in the back of my mouth where said tooth used to be… it’s been broken for a long time, but now there’s just a space. Fortunately it’s far enough back for me not to end up looking like some kind of solo bass Shane MacGowan (thanks for that mental image, Evil Harv).

So I’ve been eating lots of ice-cream today, as instructed by my dentist. That’s the kind of prescription I like! ‘Take two scoops, 9 times a day’.

Teaching this afternoon was fun, trying to explain bass-ness while not dribbling blood and bits of gum and jaw-bone down myself. ewwwwww

so now I’m sat here, with an empty tub of Haaggen-Dazs in front of me and a dull ache in my jaw (from both the monster injection I was given and the tooth being dug out – that’s got to do some muscle damage…)

Still, I’ve got Jonatha Brooke’s gig at the Betsy Trotwood tomorrow night to look forward to! yay!

Soundtrack, ‘Hearts And Bones’; , ‘Big Dreams And The Bottom Line’; Peter Gabriel, ‘So’; , ‘Plumb’.

Big achievement

OK, so I’m blogging this a week late, but last weekend, I managed to get my email inbox down from over 1200 to 7! The main upshot of this was that I was able to ditch Outlook Express and switch over to , which also allows me to have all my news/blog feeds in the same programme as my email. which is nice. One more step away from Microsoft stuff.

On the subject of groovy free software, I mentioned a few days ago about , the free photo management thingie from Google. Well, I’ve been toying with it, and it’s even better than I first realised. It’ll generate webpages with your photos in, movie files of your photos as a slideshow, and all the edits are non-destructive, so you can do as much editing as you like, and then save a copy later… It’s great. Seriously, I’d have happily paid £100 for a piece of software this logical and useful. I’ve hardly opened photoshop since I started using this.

Soundtrack and Elvis Costello, ‘Deep Dead Blue’; , ’10 Cent Wings’ and ‘Back In The Circus’; , ‘Entremundo’; , ‘Legs To Make Us Longer’.

After a 10 year wait…

…I finally got to see live this evening. The venue was in Balham, hosted by the legendary Tony Moore.

Jonatha played five songs – Back In The Circus, Red Dress, It Matters Now, Linger and Because I Told You So – all of them incredible, all of them worth the 10 year wait. Fortunately it won’t be another 10 years, as she’s got lots of London gigs coming up, and those of you that are within about 2000 miles of London owe it to yourselves to catch one of her gigs. She really is that good. We talking Joni Mitchell/Bruce Cockburn/Paul Simon good. Up there with the greatest. No shit. This is your chance to see her play in a tiny venue, and say you were there first… well, ignoring the first seven albums… :o)

So, go to her website, listen to the albums (I think you can stream all her albums there…) check the gig list, but tickets and I’ll see you there (except tomorrow, cos it’s sold out and I was too late trying to get a ticket).

What's my name again?

I think he’s still the only other Steve Lawson I’ve met, and is now the editor of Total Guitar magazine (a magazine I’ve written for in the past…), but here’s photographic evidence that we met at NAMM last year!

so there you have it – two Steve Lawsons. If I was on a Dave Gorman-esque quest for more of them, this would be #2 and would take pride of place on the list… The big question, however, is why I’m doing a Garth Algar smile???

Soundtrack, ‘Day One’; Francis Dunnery, ‘Man’; , ‘Back In The Circus’ – going to see Jonatha play tonight at The Bedford!! How excited am I???

A like-minded teacher

There are a lot of really really bad bass teachers around. I know ‘cos I end up having to undo their efforts when students come to me with some really twisted ways of thinking about music, and some odd ideas about the student teacher relationship. So it’s great when I find a teacher who is speaking the same language as me.

is arguably the best bass tuition book writer working today. His books are always full of great material, and contain precious little filler material. I recommend them highly. He’s also an amazing player (come on Ed, do a solo album NOW!!), but I’d ever read the page about private teaching on his site before. Go and read it – he says all the right things, and I’m certain he lives up to them. It’s just a shame he lives in Tempe Arizona, or I’d definitely take a lesson or two with him.

Maybe I should start a list of teachers I would recommend. It’d be a pretty short list at the moment, given that I don’t really know that many other teachers, and even fewer whose work I would vouch for.

is another bass teacher I admire greatly, and the only person I’ve had a bass lesson from since I left college. He’s also one of my favourite bassists, and has recently released an amazing CD along with called ‘Get Happy’ – you can get it from Todd’s website – it’s one of my favourite CDs of the last year, and shows just how adept a chordal instrument 6 string bass is – Todd’s bass arguably sounds better than a guitar would along with Kristin’s voice as it stays out of her range, leaving more room for her. Add to that Kristin’s marvellous swinging upright bass playing and Kendall Kaye’s drumming and you’ve got one fantastic record. Again, it’s a shame that Todd’s tucked away in the mountains above Los Angeles, or I’d be getting regular lessons with him too!

soundtrack – McGill/Manring/Stevens, ‘Controlled By Radar’; , ‘Back In The Circus’ and ‘Plumb’ (don’t forget she’s playing a load of gigs in London, starting next Tuesday!!!!); , ‘Grand’; , ‘Entremundo’ and ‘Oriental Bass’ (Renaud is my new bass hero – the most frightening chops and musicality that I’ve ever heard from an upright bassist. Get these CDs!!)

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Things to Do In London When You're… In London

A couple of events that deserve a heads up, not involving me (more of those coming in the next day or so…)

Firstly, Jenny Eclair is doing a one-woman show at The Riverside Studios in Hammersmith, called The Andy Warhol Syndrome. It’s a play in which Jenny plays a former reality TV star, and it’s fab. I’ve seen it twice. It’s great, funny, moving etc. Go see it.

Click here for the details. There a couple of cheap ticket offers that look good value…

The second one is that one of my favourite singer/songwriters is finally coming to London! has a whole run of gigs coming up in London in tiny venues. If there’s any justice in the world, she’ll be playing the Brixton Academy in 6 months, so go and see her now while you can – the dates are on the tour dates page on her website – she’s playing the Bedford in Balham, The Betsy Trotwood in Farringdon and the 12 bar in the west end. I’ll be going to as many of the gigs as I possibly can. She’s a genius, up there with Joni Mitchell, , etc. in my list of faves. Truly marvellous. Take friends with you – you’ll thank me, and they’ll thank you.

Both of these shows are not to be missed. Great stuff. Go on, go and book tickets now, I dare you.

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As one year ends…

This is a great time of year for me – Christmas, then my Birthday (28th – you missed it) and then New Year – lots of time for reflecting on a year gone by, and looking forward to the year ahead. Time to compile daft lists of favourite things from the last year, and make resolutions about things to do in the coming year. To count my (many) blessings, and resolve to see the good things as they happen in the year ahead.

A couple of books that I find useful for this kind of thinking – Proverbs, attributed to King Solomon in The Bible, here translated by Eugene Peterson – some marvellous advice for living. The link starts you off at Chapter one.

And the Tao Te Ching. is an online version, though not a particularly inspiring translation. (my favourite translation that I’ve looked at so far is This one, by Ralph Alan Dale – definitely worth reading.)

So, anyway, I’m 32 now – not that it really means much; you see all those lists in magazines about ’50 things you should have done before you’re 30′, and I’m usually very relieved not to have done three quarters of them – most seem to involve a high risk of either death (yours or someone else’s), disease or at least a serious loss of dignity… No thanks, my life’s quite exciting enough. You never see ‘do a solo bass gig at the Royal Albert Hall’ on those lists…

One of my ongoing resolutions every year is to practice more, and for 2005, I’ve started early. Been practicing quite a lot in the last few days, hoping to keep it up into the new year. Not writing any new music at the moment, strangely, but I am working on a couple of new technical things that I’m happy with…

SoundtrackJonatha Brooke, ‘Plumb’; Brian Eno, ‘Music For Films’; Terje Rypdal, ‘Skywards’.

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