Quick update…

My mum is staying at the moment, which is yet another great excuse to do not much for a few days. Today we went to the Tate Modern, a huge art gallery in London. Apart from the walk through Southwark to get there, through what looked like some sort of post-apocalyptic hellhole, it was a wonderful experience – the art was largely marvellous (especially the collection of stuff that had been found in the Thames, and Bill Viola’s 5 angels of the millenium piece, which is incredible and I’m going to have to go and see again very very soon…) – the video loop of the naked guy punching himself in the face and the plums wasn’t quite so inspiring, and some of the explainations seemed to read far too much into the symbolism of some of the art, but all in all, an amazing day out.

On another note, the NAMM show (big trade fair thingie I was at in LA in January) has two types of people at it – those I have to talk to out of obligation to the mag that I’m doing the show report for (largely, this group is made up of flunkies from companies like Ibanez and Behringer, telling me how great it is that they can release their chinese made lame-o rubbish at such a low price, and then get all edgy when I suggest fair trade might be a good path to take…), and then there are the lovely people. And there are lots of lovely people. It’s not without coincidence that most of the lovely people are also the talented ones, who are there because they make amazing instruments. Some of the lovely people are people I just know a bit from chatting at NAMM shows. Others I meet up with some are Email buddies. Jill Azola, from Azola basses is an email buddy – sharing as we do a love of gorgeous instruments (her husband Steve is the genius behind the basses), and a love of cats (Steve and Jill were commuting daily from San Diego to NAMM because one of their cats was ill and needed daily TLC – see, my kind of peoplez), and it’s always a pleasure to drop by the Azola booth, fuel my desire for one of their basses, and chat about lots of non-NAMM related stuff with Jill and Steve.

Anyway, Jill just sent me this pic, taken at the show, of me with LA session dude and nice chap, Bob Lee – (I know two Bob Lees in the LA area – the other one is my amazing friend who works for QSC, knows everything about amps, and is a top bloke. this one is session bassist and Jamerson fanatic Bob Lee…) Steve Azola is the guy stood between us with his back to the camera –

so, a fun NAMM moment, with good people, toying around with marvellous instruments. Check out the Azolas if you’re into getting an electric upright – I’m saving up for one!

Soundtrack – ah, the new Jonatha Brooke CD arived today – Back In The Circus is, on first listen, as wonderful as anything else that Jonatha has done. She’s a genius, and a very consistently geniusish genius at that. She good! Highly recommended.

Hi, honey, I'm home…

after being away for about two weeks.

First week was in Denmark, visiting the International People’s College. IPC is a ‘folk high school’ – a scandinavian educational model that looks at learning as something that’s worth doing for its own sake rather than just for the piece of paper you’ll get at the end of it. The various folk high schools around Denmark, Sweden, Norway etc. have different emphases (emphasise?? no idea…) – some are all about sport, or film making or whatever, and this one is an international school (the clue’s in the name), drawing currently from 32 different countries as diverse as nepal, england, argentina, tibet, bangladesh, malta, poland, USA, romania, uganda, kenya, australia and brazil.

the focus of the college is on conflict resolution, cross cultural studies, development issues and for most of the students it’s seen as a great place to learn english. The staff are an amazingly diverse bunch – from cambodia, mauritania, denmark, australia etc. etc. and the food’s great.

The reason for the visit is that my mum’s involved in trying to set up a folk high school in Berwick On Tweed (middle of nowhere and turn left), and I taught on their summer school this year. So we both went on a fact finding trip, to see if all this folk high school stuff was hippie idealism or a the answer to the UK’s current education crisis (education, education, education said Blair. bollocks bollocks bollocks says the entire population of england, 6 years on.) It was amazing – a fully functional school, the classes dealt with some pretty intense stuff, lofty concepts and deep philosophical stuff, all within the framework of 32 cultures under one roof, all unwittingly capable of deeply offending one another! :o)

With a week at the college and a couple of days to look round Copenhagen, we had a marvellous week (also had a nice chance to drop in and see Anders-Streetteam at one of the most amazing drum shops I’ve ever seen!) Copenhagen’s a great city – here’s hoping I can sort out some gigs there soon…

Got home from there for one day, did a day’s teaching, and headed off to Amsterdam on holiday. Warning – if you’re living in London, heading off to Copenhagen and Amsterdam in the space of a week is not a great idea if you still want to feel really good about where you live… Don’t get me wrong, I do like living here, and some things about being in England are magic, but politically we’re losing it, and the whole crime/vandalism/transport/weirdness thing has become the british axis of evil. Amsterdam is beautiful – it’s great to see a city of that size operate with so little car traffic. Thousands and thousands of bikes, but precious little car useage. lots of canals, gorgeous canals, and some very groovy shops. The liberal drug laws seem like a cool thing (when was the last time you saw someone get stoned and start a fight??), and there were much less of an agressive feel there than on a night out in central london, but the ‘liberal’ attitude to porn and prostitution is, according to the UN and other sources, just a front for some seriously nasty illegal stuff. So much for unionising the prostitution industry – doesn’t really help the girls who are being trafficked from asia and eastern europe. London has a huge problem with this too, but at least we don’t pretend that being a prostitute is a great gig and that it’s all kosher here… scary stuff.

Still, it’s a great city, sex-tourism aside, and I hope to go back and do some gigs there too soon!

And now I’m back home – time to get to work promoting the CD, which hopefully you’ve all bought by now! :o) Theo did a huge mailout to radio and media while I was away, so reviews and airplay should start happening soon… til then, play the CD to your friends, steal their money and buy them it for christmas. Lots of people are saying it’s their favourite of the CDs I’ve put out, which is nice.

On the bad news front, I heard today that Mike Yaconelli was killed in a car accident a couple of days ago – if you’ve ever been to Greenbelt, Yak won’t need any intro. If not, he was an author, social activist, realist, speaker, comedian and all round remarkable human being who did far more in his 61 years than many people could acheive in 10 times that. His passing is a loss to the world. here’s the report from his hometown. Please spare and thought and a prayer for his family.

Soundtrack – while I was away I picked up a few CDs – Charlie Haden, ‘American Dream’; Jing Chi, ‘Live’; Living Daylights, ‘Electric Rosary’ and Metalwood’s latest, which is upstairs and I can’t remember the title, but they’re all very good indeed! Today I’ve been listening to Jonatha Brooke, ’10 cent wings’, which is oustandingly brilliant, like just about every note jonatha has ever uttered.

Hotel California!

sorry for the delay posting – I’ve not had that much computer access while I’ve been here.

anyway, the flight was fine, if a little long. and I arrived with all my gear intact (it’s always a little hairy flying with two Echoplexes and my Lexicon MPX-G2 as well as having my bass on the plane as hand luggage!) – anyway, I arrived, and Dan (tour promoter) picked me up at the airport, and took me back here, to where we’re staying. The weather is lovely (sorry for rubbing it in) – it’s hot even by southern californian standards. I could quite easily go outside and get sunburnt in a hour or so…

so what have we done so far? well, we picked up the amp stuff that I need for the tour from Ashdown, I had lunch with my chum Tanya, who lives here but is from Essex and used to write for Bassist. We went to the Baked Potato last night (we being Dan, me and Gene – a veteran chum of all my trips to the States – I stayed wtih Gene and his wife Linda for my first three or four visits to the states, and they’ve become really good friends over the years…)

Today Dan was off doing his gear rep bit, while Gene and I went to SWR to pick up some gear for Dan for the Bass Bash that is happening on Friday night (see gigs page for details), and then went shopping for CDs (now there’s a rare one for me…)

so haven’t done any gigs yet, but have just been getting aclimatised – I fell asleep on Monday evening at 5pm, and didn’t wake til 5am the next day – the worst case of jetlag I’ve ever had coming out here.

needless to say, I’m missing the small person and aged feline loads, but such is the peril of being a touring musician I guess – there has to be a down side somewhere, I ‘spose, and that’s it for me. It’d be great if I could bring them both with me… :o)

Soundtrack – I bought a few Cds with me – Jonatha Brooke ‘Steady Pull’, Joni Mitchell, ‘Travelogue’, Prefab Sprout, ‘Jordan’ and ‘From Langley Park To Memphis’, Unamerican ‘Unamerican’, Kelly Joe Phelps, ‘Sky Like A Broken Clock’, Phil Keaggy ‘Acoustic Sketches’, David Sylvian ‘Secrets Of The Beehive’ Gary Peacock and Ralph Towner ‘A Closer View’… right now I’m listening to one of the CDs I just bought – ‘Stanley Climbfall’ by Lifehouse.

More news on the aged feline…

Well, no more fits or seizures thus far from the little fella, and we’re taking him to the vets tomorrow morning… finger’s crossed he’ll be fine.

I’m my official capacity as his administrative assistant, I’ve been tending to his material needs – following him around with bowls of food, administering snuggles when required… He seems to be rather happy with the situation, though I need to talk to him about a pay rise…

Last night I went to the Kashmir Klub – the best acoustic music venue in London. Tony Moore who runs it has done more for live music in London in the last few years than just about anyone, and the quality is usually pretty high… Last night, the attraction for us (me, James from Deli, Si and Heli Jones) was Cathy Burton, who went down a storm at Greenbelt this year. She was pretty good. I do wish that more acoustic singer/songwriters would give some thought to the arrangements of their guitar playing – why do so many people seem to be happy with just strumming obvious chord shapes all the time??? It’s like band-in-a-box in terms of the inventiveness factor. It doesn’t take much to make the guitar part sound like it’s meant to be there, rather than just being there for something to do with your hands. Listen to Martyn Joseph or Bruce Cockburn, or Jonatha Brooke and you hear some masterful guitar work that can only add to the impact of the song. So often, fine songs are delivered in a rather limp way due to the unimaginative arranging…

anyway, rant over…

Today has been a teaching/admin (on behalf of me and aged felin) and blobbing day – neuralgia attack last night is only just wearing off (nasty pain down the left side of my head and face) after taking lots of vit B12…

Also, I registered a couple of new domain names for this site – www.stevelawson.net and www.steve-lawson.com – just in case people either a) don’t know what .co.uk means, or b) type the wrong thing into their machine (I can’t get stevelawson.com, as that belongs to a man with a big hammer who sells houses…)

Teaching again at 7 tonight.

Soundtrack – listening to ‘Not Dancing…’ a lot over the last couple of days, and enjoying it immensly I’m pleased to say. Also had Living Colour’s ‘Biscuits EP’ on in the car last night – must be 7 years at least since I last heard that. Very fine it was too.

Poorly Aged Feline/Remember James/NASA and The Great Glass Elevator…

Buna has an injured foot, poor thing… :o( Neither the small person or I
are sure how he did it, or what exactly is wrong but he’s limping quite a
lot, as though putting pressure on his front left paw is painful… it’s tragic
to watch cos we can’t fix it… a very helpless feeling. He’s not yowling or
showing any other signs of distress, so we’re not rushing him to the vets
straight away, but if he’s not noticeably better by Saturday, we’ll take him
then…

Took the small person to the doctors very early this morning, then came
home and fell asleep on the floor with our ill-of-foot eldery furry family
member for an hour or so!

Was teaching today – it’s been a moderately busy teaching week – lots of
people take some time out at Christmas (largely, I guess, due to
increased spending options around this time…), which is no bad thing for
me, as I’m still a bit knackered after the tour, and am still sorting out stuff
for the US dates – lots more dates are currently 80% there, and will be
added the the site early next week.

Haven’t yet encoded the new Steve/Jez duo track, but will do so ASAP, as
it’s very good indeed….

On an entirely more serious note, today is the anniversary of the death of
my friend James Holland – James was killed in a car accident two years ago.
I’m not sure if anyone still knows how it happened. Came off a straight
road and his the base of an old bridge… I still really struggle to get my
head round the randomness of that one. I guess it’s just ‘shit happens’ taken
to it’s earth shattering conclusion. Weird things happen all the time, it’s just
that most of them don’t end in fatalities. The track ‘Jimmy James’ was written
for James (for some unknown reason, if I rang him he’d go ‘Stevie Steve!’
and I’d go ‘Jimmy James!’ – there was probably some bit of Hendrix trivia
in there too at some point. Lots of things remind me of James. Whenever
I listen to any of the CD that he brought back from the States for me
(including three Jonatha Brooke albums…), Whenever I hear rubbish
heavy metal from the late 80s (both of us had grown out of listening to
Cinderella and Ratt by the time we met, but the memory lives on… :o),
any news item relating to Boris Becker (James looked remarkably similar to
the tennis star – we once hitched to Greenbelt, and after waiting for an hour,
I shouted at him ‘I knew you should have worn tennis gear, we’d have been
there by now!!!’ And most of all, the song that was played at his
funeral ‘Shining Star’ by Gabriel. Occasionally it comes on the radio and
really takes me by surprise. It came on during dinner on the L42 tour one
night… very strange one, that… Anyway, today is the anniversary, so have
a toast to James, and pray nothing like that ever happens to anyone you
know…

Back on more mundane and trivial blog-related thoughts, I must remember
to switch off comments section on here, Evil Harv has proved once again
why having them switch on would be a very bad idea… Though, to his
credit, he did sort me out with a ticket to see Buddy Miller tonight, which
I had to turn down in the end, sadly…

Listened to very bizarre radio thing this afternoon (on my new best friend,
radio 4), about building an elevator into space… hello? have I missed
something? a 38,000 mile long lift???? WTF???? Has someone been spiking
the water at NASA? It was very surreal listening, hearing academics
talking about stuff that Arthur C Clarke would dismiss as too implausible…
There you go, academics, failing to stop and ask ‘…er, why?’

Soundtrack – Listened to a bit of Fripp/Sylvian, ‘The First Day’
earlier on, but mainly just had the radio on… :o)

Plans for the rest of the evening involve tidying and cuddling the cat… a
taxing one, for sure…

Tomorrow is the gig in Norwich, which looks to be a
fascinating event. I’m really looking forward to that one.