Gig in Crouch End

Saturday night I had a gig in Crouch End, at a venue called The Loft – which isn’t actually a dedicated ‘venue’ but is an apartment belonging to Jenni Roditi, a composer, singer and musician who uses her flat as a venue. It’s spacious, beautiful and acoustically lovely.

I was invited to play by Rowland Sutherland – the genius flautist who has played at the Recycle Collective before now. The non-me part of the gig was a new quartet that he’s a part of with Alwynne Pritchard – voice, Thorolf Thuestad – laptop processing and Roger Goula – guitars.

My set followed on from the end of the football (apparently bad things happened to England – ah well), and went very well. I was slightly concerned that my stuff would be a little to pop for the audience, given the contemporary composition theme of much of what happens at the loft, but the portrait of Joni Mitchell on the wall gave much encouragement, as did the hearty applause of the audience. All in, a very well received set, with much positive feedback.

Mytle’s set was a mix of composed stuff, improvised stuff and mangled-beyond-recognition standards. I have a hard time with post-Schönberg classical singing – so much of it sounds like the soundtrack to encroaching mental illness (I think this is largely due to me relating so much in music to the process of personal soundtracking, whether playing or listening – it’s all about providing a soundtrack to the world…) – There were moments I really enjoyed, and it was all expertly done (all four musicians are hugely talented), but I did come away feeling slightly traumatised by it. Maybe that’s the intention? I’m certainly not averse to being left confused or upset by music, or any other art.

Anyway, ’twas an enjoyable, fascinating evening, in a lovely venue with a very warm audience. Great stuff. This kind of house concert happens a lot in the US, and I hope it catches on here (if you have got a big room in your house, and a lot of music loving friends, and want to organise a gig, please do drop me an email…)

Recycle Collective gig 5

Another fine ‘n’ fun Recycle gig last night. The run up to it wasn’t good at all – thanks to Arsenal playing at home, we got there 45 minutes later than we needed to, and even then I’d left my laptop at home which I’d planned to set up and record it.

Eventually got set up, but didn’t do a proper soundcheck, so it wasn’t til I started playing that I realised something was wrong somewhere in the system – the problem being that when I’m recording, I use all 6 of the Mic channels on my desk ‘cos those are the ones with insert/sends. When I’m doing a gig like this, I need to free up the mic channels for other things (like mics), and somewhere in the process, I’d managed to unplug one channel of the Looperlative from the back of the machine.

Much sonic struggling ensued through my first couple of tunes – the combination of trying out new tunes and malfunctioning gear was a tricky one – but the improvs with Cleveland and then the trio section went really well, so no worries there.

Leo Abrahams was up next, and play three amazing solo tunes (one called Slippery Jack was particularly amazing). we then did ‘My Song Is Love Unknown’ together, which was fine, but would’ve been better if I’d worked out what that weird minor chord was in the middle (!), and then onto the trio, which was really interesting. Leo introduced it as one of his own tunes, and played the progression from the tune (with a beautiful delay and filter guitar sound that I want to steal!), Cleveland and I responded to it in the way we would any improv, and it soon morphed away from whatever Leo had initially intended, as his first loop faded out, and we transitioned into some amazing space. Cleveland is quite possible the most intuitive musician I’ve ever performed with – his instinct for reacting so clearly to whatever is going on, and taking it to new heights is remarkable.

Third set was Cleveland solo to start – he’s got some new Echoplex tricks up his sleeve, and really knows his Lexicon processor now and put on a really great show. Followed by an equally marvellous duo set with Leo, that went to some very strange places in a beautiful and beguiling way.

The last of the trio sets comprised two beatbox-related tracks, with similar grooves but very different textures, the second of which ended up with some crazy double-time swing section that really ended the gig on a high.

All-in, much fun. ‘Twas nice to try out a couple of the new tunes in front of a friendly audience – need to get them down a lot tighter before next week.

For those of you asking for recordings, i’ve got some of it on the laptop, but it crashed three times (my guess is that trying to run a firewire powered soundcard and the laptop itself off the same battery is a bit much for the machine) – so I’ve got a few bits, and I’ll fire it up later to find out what. But the distraction of faffing with it reminded me that if we are going to record these things, I really need to a) get there a lot earlier (like we’d planned to without the Arsenal traffice) and b) DELEGATE.

Next RC gig is May 18th – see you there!

Easter Improv

just had a great fun gig at St Luke’s. Every Easter, the church is turned into an art gallery, housing various ‘stations’ – works of art based on bits of the easter story in varying levels of abstraction, dotted around the church, and used as a focal point for meditation/prayer. There’s a launch on Good Friday lunchtime and then the art is left up for the next week or so.

This year, Julie McKee and I were approached by a woman in the church to provide a soundtraack to her piece. She’d originally wanted something that ‘sounded like Handel’ i think was the request… clearly not going to happen, but mellow ambient loopy improv goo we can do. And we did.

So we set up in an inconspicuous place in the corner of the church, and improv’d to our hearts content. The words were taken partly from some stuff that Judy the artist has sent as being her inspiration, and partly from a prayer/poem written by the ever-wonderful Martin Wroe, taken from his book, When You Haven’t Got A Prayer – here’s the prayer in question;


underground and overground
everywhere and nowhere
always and never
sometimes and all times



That’s it – very simple, and easy to sing. Strangely enough, it’s the second time I’ve played on a musical setting of these words, the last time being on a demo by Steve McEwan… but anyway.

So I was looping and layering my own ambient loveliness and Julie’s voice, so the words were tumbling over one another in and out of layers of bass goo. Sounds pretty damned fine listening back to it.

Oh yes, I finally got round to recording an improv gig – yay for me! I recorded it direct into ProTools M-Powered, and am now bouncing it down so I can export it to my PC and edit it in Adobe Audition. Much as ProTools is proving useful for this kind of recording, it is a total pain in the arse to use. For one, it saves the stereo audio as two mono files rather than one stereo one, so I can’t just drag the raw data across. Secondly, in order for the program to even start up, I have to have both my M-Audio soundcard and the iKey plugged in! I had hoped that I’d be able to export multitrack sessions to my laptop from the PC and mix things in ProTools, but that’s clearly not going to happen… I definitely prefer Adobe Audition.. and when I eventually get an Intel-Powered MacBook Pro, I’ll be running Audition on that for sure…

For now, I’m currently bouncing down the audio from the two mono files to a stereo file (which happens in real time so is taking a full half an hour!!! what a pain!! grrr), and will then do all the loveliness that needs doing in Audition on the PC.

Anyway, depending on how good it gets when I’ve tweaked it, it may end up being available for download via the shop. It is rather lovely…

Imogen Heap gig

This is one I’ve been looking forward to for quite a while. I first saw Imogen Heap play at the Kashmir Klub about 6 years ago, at a ModernWood Management showcase gig, along with Nik Kershaw (who also had Leo Abrahams on guitar, to be featured at the next Recycle Collective gig) and the Dum Dums. I then bought her debut album in the US for some tiny amount of money, and it very quickly became one of the favourite CDs in this house. It’s great.

Last night she was playing Shepherd’s Bush Empire – a pretty huge venue for someone who this time last year was just finishing up recording a self-produced CD. However, between then and now, the track Hide And Seek from that CD, ended up being featured at some critical moment on The OC (I’ve never watched The O.C. – I’ve been to Orange County, and if the TV show is accurate, I can’t imagine in being very interesting, and if it isn’t, I’d just get annoyed with it). It was a huge radio hit all over the place, Radio 1 played it a lot here, and Imogen was right there in the spotlight where she belongs. The album’s lovely, BTW.

So, anyway, the gig – Shepherd’s Bush Empire – a v. large and pretty prestigious gig, though not the friendliest for the musicians or the audience. I’ve ranted here before about venues owned by Carling, and SBE is one of them with the corresponding focus on beer, leading to people talking. At times it was impossible to hear what Imogen was saying between songs, and during the two supports there was a bit of chatter coming from the main floor.

Ah yes, the support – first support was Zoe Keating – someone I’ve had a fair bit of email contact with as she’s a looping cellist, and was, I think the third owner in the world of a Looperlative, after me and Rick Walker. Her solo set was lovely, featuring unprocessed looped Cello (and the best live amplified Cello sound I’ve ever heard – apparently it’s an AKG contact mic, will get the details for any geeks wanting to know). Very lovely stuff.

Second support I didn’t get to hear much of… We arrived just before 8 so we could see Zoe play, and thanks to the craziness of guest-list goings-on, I had a ticket, but TSP’s hadn’t arrived yet ( we were meant to be going with TAFKASB, but she had to go to some punk gig instead…) so I went in to see Zoe’s set (not fair on TSP at all, but as my ticket was on Zoe’s guestlist, it would have been pretty dreadful to miss her solo set), then came out again to find TSP and sort out tickets. Which was all during second support.

Sadly, while my first ticket was seated upstairs, second tickets were standing downstairs only. We’re too old for that, but we did anyway, found a place by the stairs where TSP could see the stage and settled in for an evening of chronic backache.

Imogen came on and did her first number just solo, looping her voice with a Repeater (she so needs a looperlative!) – it was one of the most musical, clever, groovy and entertaining loop performances I’ve ever seen. It’s interesting that often the best loop-based performers are those that don’t make a big deal out of it, but that’s by the by. The rest of the night was a gorgeous mix of solo loopy stuff, solo piano stuff and was the first time she’d showcased the full band, with Zoe being marvellous on cello, plus drums, tuned percussion and a second keyboard player (the second support bloke), augmented by a few things on laptop.

Imogen’s stage presence was somewhat akin to an amiable old-school TV chef, like a glammed up Fanny Craddock cooking up the perfect gig; ‘now we’re going to add some Cello – would that be lovely?’ – sadly the constant chatter of audience members lubed up on nasty overpriced lager from the venue owners meant that a lot of the between song asides were lost, but the whole vibe of just chatting to the audience instead of trying to whoop them into some frenzy was right up my street.

All in all, musically and performance-wise one of the finest gigs I’ve seen in a long time, some of the most sophisticated looping and a whole slew of stunning songs (including one of the duets she did with Urban Species years ago, just her, the rapper from the band and piano – lovely stuff!). I just can’t wait to see her play the Barbican or Festival Hall, or the Albert Hall – somewhere with seats and an audience encourages to STFU during the whole gig.

The After-show party was a bit of a long wait – I really wanted to meet Zoe, so we stuck around for about 45 minutes til she showed up. Well worth the wait, as it’s always lovely to meet online-chums face to face. Also got to say hi to Imogen, who I’ve met on a few occasions before, but she couldn’t remember where. :o)

If she plays near you, DON’T MISS IT.


Right, back on my own laptop, nothing disappeared from the harddrive, all seems to be working. I’m still in the Apple Store using their wireless, so won’t know if the firewire is back working til I get home… watch this space.

Laptop update

Phone call just now from me to them (they still haven’t called me once). The repair is apparently ‘finished’ but my laptop is in testing… so I might not get it back today. Huh? It’s 10.30am, how long does it take to test to see if it’s working? One of you geeks might be able to fill me in on this, but running some kind of diagnostic test on a laptop to make sure the Logic board is working can’t take 24 hours can it?

Miserable git on the phone – I asked roughly how long after the test was finished would I be called, given that I’ve been promised three phone-calls so far and had none of them. No help at all. A request for a note to be put on it that the repair is already overdue and it’s urgent. No can do.

Useless losers.

A week without my laptop

So much for ‘Apple Care’ – it’s been a week since I dropped off my laptop to be repaired. For the last two days I’ve been phoning, getting put on hold, been told three times that I’ll be called back, and have yet to receive any calls at all, or talk to anyone who knows anything about my laptop. Until 5 minutes ago, the support website at said ‘information not available’ about the status of my repair. As I write, I’m still on hold (38 minutes and counting), but the website has updated to ‘repair in progress’. That’s fine except that it says that the laptop was dropped off at the shop TODAY!!!! That’s clearly total shit, as it was dropped off a week ago today. So it’s been sat there, with no-one knowing where it was, or caring, for a week before some fucking jobsworth realised that it might actually be wise to locate the laptop they’ve had FOR A WEEK and fix the damn thing.

Meanwhile, I’ve been using TSP’s laptop, which is exceedingly kind of her, but it hasn’t got my bookmarks or diary on it, hasn’t got Skype or Adium or any of the other stuff I use daily. Meanwhile Apple don’t give a shit. Bastards.

If you’re getting a computer repaired by Apple, my advice is phone them EVERY DAY. Call them as soon as you get home after dropping it off, check the website hourly and hassle the shit out of them until they fix it and get it back to you. Otherwise, it’ll just end up on a pile of non-urgent jobs, and get done when the pile gets so high they can’t find their way out of the office without fixing a few.

Balls to Apple Care. 42 minutes on hold – great service.

Antiwar march on Saturday

Saturday’s anti-war march was a fab event – met up with Jyoti, which was a delight, always nice to put a face to a blog. The march itself seemed rather upbeat, pretty huge (biggest one I’ve been on since the BIG ONE three years ago – organisers estimated 100,000, the police laughably suggested 10-15,000. Using the patented ma lawson method of doubling the police figure, halving the organisers and splitting the difference brings it to 40,000, but I’d say that was on the low side.)

The issues were a bit simpler than for the last few – people get very tetchy about protesting about military situations where there are British soldiers committed, as though it’s somehow treason to complain once they are there. Not much thought given to how little they want to be there, and the legality of them being there in the first place… This one was easier because of the dual themes – troops out of Iraq, and don’t attack Iran. The threat of a military strike on Iran is just nuts. Sure, the Iranian president is a crack-pot, but if anything is likely to bring together the myriad disparate factions in Iranian politics, it’s an attack by the US/UK Team America-stylee crack commando team. A damn fool thing to do, for sure.

So, I got to protest the lunacy of our jumped up nobhead of a prime minister, and hang out with lovely peoples all day.

And now I’m breaking my own rule and am using TSP’s laptop to access the net, as my desktop has bizarrely decided not to connect to the web. It’ll access email, chat, ftp, just nothing with an http in front of it. There are no proxies set up, and I can’t find any changes to the firewall settings (and switching it off doesn’t seem to change anything either) – any suggestions, lovely blogling geeks?

Here’s me on the march, from Jyoti’s photos –

No laptop for a week :o(

Dropped off the laptop at the Apple store this morning for its repair. No laptop for up to a week! What on earth am I going to do? Probably get some work done, to be honest… we’ll see, I shall report back on whether productivity is up or down. I think the only thing that’s likely to go down is my number of new people added to myspace. And I might even get a proper start on the new album… watch this space.

Don’t forget, Recycle Collective gig tonight – more marvellous music in London’s coolest venue, with me, Bj Cole and Thomas Leeb. you’d be nutz to miss it. :o)

broked laptop

Just been to the Apple Store on Regent Street to get my laptop seen to. The firewire port is fried, which I discovered when I tried to hook up my M-Audio soundcard last week, in order to get my new copy of Pro-Tools M-Powered working. No joy. Tried the soundcard on the PC, worked fine, so must be the Mac.

Took it in today, helpful bloke called Edd (two ‘d’s, it’s on the form) did the usual trouble-shooting stuff before agreeing that it was, indeed, fooked. The remedy, sadly, is having the Logic Board replaced, which means leaving my beloved ibook with them for up to a week. With my desktop beastie not really set up at the moment to manage my life, I’m taking the ibook home for a couple of days to get all the info I need on a daily basis transferred across, and I’ll drop this back in on thursday for the repair. Fortunately it’s a warranty repair, so it’s free, as was the replacement of my keyboard, which they did today, as most of the letters had rubbed off. Yay!

So next week, I’ll be laptopless for a week, unless I can convince TSP to lend me her lovely new ibook… fat chance – she’s got more sense than that.

© 2008 Steve Lawson and developed by Pretentia. | login