Italy post no. 7

(written 24/7/05 12.52)

Right, the big band that are headlining the gig have been on stage soundchecking since 10am. It’s now 2pm, I’m supposed to be on in an hour, and there are a whole load of other bands that need to soundcheck as well. Methinks I’m not going to be starting on time.. It’s a shame, as everything else about the organisation here has been very good – the food is great, the hotel is lovely, and there are loads of lovely helpful Italians around offering to carry bags, get food, or help in any way they can.

All that’s needed now is to get the soundchecks finished, but I as lovely and helpful as all the lovely helpful Italians are, that’s really down to the sound engineers…

So meanwhile I’m listening to Michael and the bassist from the big band shredding on some standards. niiiice.

And meanwhile the connection between my new phone an the laptop seems to have been buggered up somehow – every time I disconnected the phone, the laptop had to restart, so I tried using the drag-to-trash way of disconnecting things on macs, but that seems to have deleted the connection between the two, and I can’t see how to get it back. Bugger.

Question – was Donna Lee ever intended to be a big band tune? That’s a hell of a lot of notes to try and get 20-odd musicians to play!

Italy post no. 6

(written 24/7/05 10.45)

I’ve just arrived at the venue for todays, gig and it’s unbelieveable – it’s in the grounds of a huge chateau, known locally as ‘little versailles’ – beautiful gardens, an 18th century stately home, and a massive great covered venue in the gardens – huge stage, lighting rig. Ripe for some solo bass loveliness.

The range of acts playing is pretty broad for a bass-centric event – from me at the start, through to a big band playing some of Jaco’s big band stuff at the end, with Michael Manring as featured guest. It’s going to be a fun day.

As well as that, there’s a bit of a gear expo going on – lots of freaky looking high end basses, gadgets and amps galore. The problem with having a set-up that I’m as happy with as I am is that gear loses its appeal, unless it does the same thing only smaller.

Michael and I have been talking a lot in the last couple of days about how to reduce our processing setup down to a laptop and a handful of pedal controllers. The idea of taking two basses and one bag to gigs, especially once I get my powered Accugroove speakers, is sublime. I’m definitely going to start investigating what’s possible, and checking out possible pitfalls like latency. It’d open up all kinds of other options for loopage and processing too – being able to use the Ohm Boys filter live would be a dream, as well as being able to have the tail on a reverb or delay carry on fading whilst switching to a whole other channel to carry on playing, with different reverb and delay settings. Geek heaven!

Today is definitely going to involve a lot of sitting around not doing much, but I can’t think of a nicer place to be sitting around doing nothing in.

Italy post no. 2

(written 21/7/05 23.53)

So I’ve landed in Italy, and it looks like my rack made it through unscathed (haven’t plugged it in yet, but no external damage suggests no internal damage either, hopefully.

So now I’m staying with the marvellous Luca and Giovanna – two very dear friends who manage to make any trip to their place feel like a home from home. After the rather fraught journey, dinner at Cascina Capuzza and much intelligent chat with Luca and Gio was just what the doctor ordered. I’m now sat in bed, writing this having edited my address book export (a CSV file, messed up by any line where I’ve put a comma after a word…) so that it could be imported into the Mac address book.

Still haven’t found a way to copy my diary onto here… I think I’ll have to get a bluetooth thingie for the laptop and see if that recognises my phone any better than it does via the USB cable…

Italy post no. 1

(written on the plane, 21/7/05 18.02)

What a day!

Given the travel fuck-ups in London of late, I decided to leave plenty of time to get to Gatwick for the flight to Italy… Little did I know I’d need every second of the FIVE HOURS that it took to get from Southgate to the airport!

The Picadilly Line is already suspended up where I am, so I had to get the ‘rail replacement bus service’ from Arnos Grove to Seven Sisters (oh yes, I’m going into all the really dull details, just for you lovely bloglings… and cos I’m on a flight with not much else to do!) but when I got to Seven Sisters tube, a little man in an orange jacket (perhaps fresh from Guantanamo) said that the whole Victoria Line was suspended…

At this point, the serendipity of my having just got a new phone (Sony K750i) kicked in, as it has an FM Radio built in. I’d been listening to the mighty Robert Elms on BBC Radio London, and he’d done a quick announcement that something had happened just before I got to the tube, but as I crossed the road to try and get on a bus towards Victoria, the situation started to unfold in a fledgling way. The report came through that three ‘incidents’ had taken place, at Oval, Warren Street and Shepherd’s Bush tube stations, and soon after a fourth incident came through on a bus in Shepherd’s Bush. Radio London switched to rolling news, and kept updating with all the facts and no speculation, and did a remarkable job, which greatly helped with the next installment of my journey, definitely the strangest thing that’s ever happened to me on a bus…

…the radio broadcast is interrupted by my phone ringing, and it’s Muriel Anderson on the other end of the line – it’s always a delight to hear from Muriel and my immediate assumption was that she was coming to England to look for gigs. ‘I’m in Indianapolis, doing a live radio spot, and was wondering if you wanted to talk on air about the bomb situation’…!! I checked to see whether they meant the one from two weeks ago, or todays – not knowing whether news would have filtered as far as Indianapolis – and they confirmed it was today. Fortunately having been listening to the radio I was able to fill them in on all the latest official details, and quash a few rumours about huge explosions and the like… My first ever live international radio interview whilst on public transport, that’s for sure!

The bus proved to be a pretty unreliable way of getting across London – it stopped for over an hour on High Holborn, and then turfed us all out – but with the tube network being pretty much closed, I didn’t have any choice but to sit it out, and watch the three hour margin I’d left myself gradually ebb away. The second bus moved much quicker once we got past Oxford Street, and eventually we got to Victoria, and I made it straight onto the Gatwick Express.

At this point, I want to praise British Airways. my initial idea for this trip was to take my rack on the plane as handluggage, and put my bass in the hold in a foam-flight-case. But I weighed my rack-case this morning and it was 50lbs! Not the kind of thing you can get away with as hand luggage. So the plan switched to taking the bass in a soft case again, and checking the rack, hoping it’ll get through OK (it is packed with all my clothes too, so should be padded OK).

I’m used to having to sweet-talk my bass onto a planes by all means neccesary – starting with chat about favourite shades of nail varnish, moving up to compliments on people’s hairstyles, and culminating in blind panic if it looks like I’m going to have to put a soft case in the hold… At the BA check in desk, not a question was asked. The lovely lady who took the rack from me was fine with me taking the laptop and the bass onto the plane, and was very helpful with labeling up the rack as fragile and getting it hand carried down to the plane. None of the other BA staff questioned me taking the bass on board, and it’s now nestling in the overhead compartment above my head!

So as you can now tell, I made it onto the plane, from whence I write (to be uploaded when I find some delicious Italian WiFi at the other end). I’m sat here, listening to Gillian Welch, sipping tomato juice (why do I only ever drink tomato juice on planes? I really like it!) having just eaten a lovely veggie meal, along with everyone else: BA are smart enough to just serve veggie food to everyone, so there’s no questions about who gets what food! smart as plums.

Anyway, the situation with the ‘incidents’ as I left it in London was that there had been four explosions, all much much smaller than the ones two weeks ago, and that no-one had been killed, and there were very few casualties at all – the only confirmed one being the owner of on of the rucksacks that exploded.

Whoever it was who did it did a rather good job of ballsing up London’s transport for another day, and have probably scared quite a few commuters. I’m just glad that the bombs either malfuctioned or were only detonators with no payload. Enough already with the bombing, please!

…and in that serendipitous way that chance can provide a day’s soundtrack, the track that’s just come on iTunes is John Martyn’s ‘I don’t want to know about evil’ – I don’t want to know about evil, I only want to know about love… I’ll find the lyrics and post them when I find the delicious italian wifi.

Soundtrack – John Martyn, ‘Solid Air’.

First entry from new toy

For a while now, TSP and I have been wanting to get a laptop between us – I could use it for travelling, and TSP could use it for writing when away.

So on Thursday I nipped into the Apple Store on Regent’s Street in London, and on the advice of Photographer Steve, asked if they had any ‘refreshed’ stock – that is computers that have been bought, but then brought back within the 30 day returns period. They are fully checked, reformatted and warrantied etc. as new, just 10% cheaper than the brand new ones! Result.

So we’ve now got a 12″ bog-standard bottom of the range iBook between us, which it has to be said, kicks ass. OSX 10.4.2 is fantastic! It’s called ‘Tiger’, but I haven’t found the ‘install Seigfried and Roy theme’ button yet that makes everything orange… I’m loving some of the features in OSX – the dashboard and expose features are really cool, and the way Safari handles RSS is very cool indeed. I still have to connect to the net via an ethernet cable plugged into my pc, as we’ve not set up wireless or anything yet, but thus far, it’s much coolness.

Soundtrack – Tracy Chapman, ‘Tracy Chapman’ (came across her singing ‘Thrill Is Gone’ with BB King earlier on today, and her voice sent shivers down my spine, so I borrowed the CD off TSP as I’ve only got her stuff on vinyl)

laptop looping

A converasation with The Cheat at the weekend (well, the part of the conversation that wasn’t about the temperature of his flat) reminded me that I hadn’t blogged about Mobius. It’s a software looping application (Windows-only, sadly), that basically emulates 8 Echoplexes at once, is mappable to a MIDI footcontroller (or any other kind of midi controller), and basically rules. And it’s free.

Go and get it now before they realise how great it is and start charging for it.

Thanks to MKS over on the forum for alerting me to its existence (though all I really needed to do was read the discussion about it that had been happening on Loopers Delight).

Soundtrack – Michael McDonald, ‘Blink OF An Eye’ (is Michael McDonald a guilty pleasure? There’s something remarkable about his voice, and the music appeals to the slick Steely Dan/80s-grown-up-pop part of my music taste.I’ve always wondered what he’d sound like without the Karl Marx beard – he sounds like he’s trying to sing through a cat, so maybe he’d develope a really clear voice without it. Keep the beard, Mike)

Can't get started.

Just got back (well, ‘just’ meaning late Saturday night) from a lovely week in the south of france. Enjoyable holiday, and a chance to brush up on my v. rusty french. Really ought to go there more.

The problem with holidays is getting started again when you get back. It’s especially tricky this time as on Saturday afternoon, just before we got the plane back, I tripped over on Nice beach, grazed my shin and have strained the muscles in my arms and shoulders. So I’m aching lots, and tired from the journey, and out of sync with what I was doing before I went away.

Sunday was a Soul Space service at St Luke’s, which was lots of fun – more ambient noodling, which is always a creative pursuit. Ambient church services are a great place for trying stuff out like that as it gives that elusive musical element – context. Playing ambient music in my stupidly untidy office is pretty tough, so I need to tap into other things to inspire whatever I’m working on. In a space like the chancel at St Luke’s, with cool projections, low lighting, candles and a theme (this week was the road to Emmaus), there’s something to play for, something to soundtrack, something to be inspired by. I had planned to record it, but the lead that connects my mixing desk to the minidisc player was needed to plug a laptop into my set up in order to play a couple of tracks off CD.

So now I’m trying to get working. I’ve got normal stuff to do, like buying birthday cards (seems almost everyone I know was born in April), and some food shopping, as well as things to do with next week’s gigs and other stuff.

WAKE UP STEVE!!

SoundtrackSteve Lucas, ‘Gamma Jazz’; Muriel Anderson, ‘Heart Strings’; Andrew Cronshaw, ‘Ochre’.