Day one of NAMM proper

So the mayhem started today. Having a US mobile phone has proved to be an absolute God-send, keeping me in touch with all the disparate groups of people I need to meet up with.

A mellow morning, wandering around, seeing friends, explaining the Looperlative to a few people, Lunch with Laurie and Janek, then back to do some playing, first on the Looperlative stand, then Accugroove. Headed up to Modulus to play too, but there was a guy playing Stick in the booth next door, so it wasn’t going to happen.

Then BassBash – v. nearly late getting their thanks to traffic, but we found a way through. Got there, set up and played some duet stuff with Trip, which went down great. Then had to run off to do my second gig of the evening with Jason Feddy – no rehearsal, really shitty charts, but a whole lot of fun. Jason’s songs are great, and he’s one of the nicest people you could ever hope to meet (a Leeds lad living in Laguna Beach… oh yes.)

Jason’s set was v. late, and it meant that I was held up at the hotel til way later than expected, which lead to my first let down of NAMM – NAMM is all about let downs, people arranging to meet up and missing eachother etc. This one was that I was supposed to go and pick up Jeff Schmidt again from the BassBash, but couldn’t cos I was playing! Here’s hoping Jeff got back (it was walkable, but it’s a way!) – sorry Jeff!

And the evening ended watching Dave Pomeroy playing bass for Doyle Dykes. Great stuff.

The one stupid thing I forgot to do today was drink enough water, and I’m feeling a little dehydrated now. Must do better tomorrow.

Sunday in CA

Starting any day with a tofu and tortilla scramble is a good way to ensure it’s going to be a good day. Yum – must get recipe from Jeff.

Lazy breakfast followed by recording – an hour’s duo material, looped and processed trumpet and me doing my looperlative thing. Some amazing music – Jeff uses a looping/processing rig on his laptop, programmed in Max/MSP, which is an unbelieveably versatile set-up. loads of great sounds and ideas coming out – I’m listening the the CDR of it at the moment, unmixed, and the only downer is that Jeff’s signal picked up some radio interference at points. It’s rarely a problem, and in a couple of places sounds very cool, but it’s a shame it’s there… we’ll work with it, edit where necessary. All in all, it’s some great music, and will probably crop up as a download album in the online shop soon.

Also bought myself a US phone today – last year I ran up a MASSIVE mobile phone bill, without actually spending long online at all! So I’ve just bought a prepay phone and a load of minutes, to save me lots of pennies when calling TSP and also phoning chums in the US.

Time for sleeps now.

travelblog 1

so I’m in the departure lounge at heathrow, waiting for my gate number. Bagel for breakfast, sipping mint tea.

Yesterday was a manic day – first the lost passport, the the found passport (we all like passports have gone astray… etc.) then 6 hours teaching, 5 hours with a bag of poo on my head (actually it was bodyshop henna, but it’s somewhat akin to having a bag of poo on your head. Packing, dismantling music rack and reassembling travel rack, software update for Looperlative, 10 minutes playing with said new software, which rules, one curry, about half an hour of Big Brother (keep reading Lizzy for the real deal on it), and then finally 3 hours of sleep.

A crap night’s sleep before a flight is actually a godsend – I’ll sleep on the plane, and may avert most of my jetlag.

Still buzzing from Thursday night’s gig – I enjoyed every single aspect of it, and good reports are still coming in.

more from LA in a few hours…

2005 – a year in review

Good year? Bad year? not sure…

Musically, not a bad year – didn’t release any albums, but I guess that means that the last one is still doing OK, so didn’t feel any major pressure to get something new happening. Now I’m glad I waited due to all the new musical ideas offered up by the Looperlative.

Some great gigs – bassday, bassfest thing in Italy in July, Edinburgh festival (where staying with Jane and Gareth was also a year highlight – much fun). Gig with Ned Evett in Petersfield was much fun, as was recording with Ned. Finished an albums worth of material with Calamateur, AKA Andrew Howie, and there’s a lot of great stuff on there – I’m excited about what we might be able to do with that. Recycle Collective started – was v. small, but musically one of the best gigs I’ve been involved with.

Teaching’s been great – lots of very fine students, lots of beginners making progress, and meeting lots of lovely new people. also started a new column for Bass Guitar Magazine – good to be back writing again (which reminds me, I’ve got one to finish ASAP!)

Personally, it’s been a fairly good year – one big scare with the ginger fairly aged feline, who was given roughly two weeks to live, but with chemo got rid of a satsuma sized tumor IN A WEEK!!!! – we’re still amazed by that, and he’s going great. Life with both the fairly aged felines has been lots of fun (I really feel sorry for all those of you with cat allergies who have to lavish your attention on human offspring as a replacement…) seeing them both take over the house and garden and settle in.

another year of doing no work on the house… hmmm, maybe I should start by just TIDYING MY OFFICE!!! lazy bastard…

World events – both the best and worst things that happened this year were the same – the Make Poverty History campaign was such a monumental success at getting poverty reduction and the plight of people living in extreme poverty in Africa, Asia and Latin America into the minds of every day people, it felt like there were really a chance to make a proper change. millions of people signing petitions, emailing MPs and congressmen, documentaries being made, and of course Live8 and the march in Edinburgh.

And then the worst thing – the gargantuan fuck-up that the G8 leaders made of the opportunity to do something for the world’s poor. Never before in the history of the world had there been such a wellspring of popular support for governments making decisions in favour of the poor, diverting cash and resources to help those in need, changing trade laws to balance things out. Millions upon millions of people around the world were calling for it, huge numbers of politicians were calling for it. Even mad right wing american jihadists like Pat Robertson were on-side (!!), but still those sad twisted old men of the G8 sat round the table in Gleneagles, in their opulence and grandeur and bollocksed the whole thing up. Their pledges fell woefully short, and then they even undid a lot of that. It was disgusting, sickening and saddening that such an opportunity had been wasted. Bono and Bob Geldof had done an amazing job of getting the campaign off the ground, from their involvement in the commission for Africa, and DATA, through to organising Live8, but they bottled it when the announcement was made, took the encouraging words one step too far and declared the Gleneagles bullshit to be a triumph. I’m guessing they aren’t too happy with where it’s gone. The follow up at the World Trade Talks in November was equally shit. A tragedy on a scale that all the terrorists in the world couldn’t hope to achieve.

The week of Live8 and the G8 was a busy one, given that it was also the week of two other disasters – firstly London getting the Olympics (another monumental waste of money which will leave the PPP funding bodies rubbing their grubby hands in glee), and then the London bombing. The bombing had begun to feel like an inevitability for a while – there was no way that the huge disquiet amongst the world’s muslim population about the Iraqi occupation and the continued support for Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land was going to go unmarked in the UK. And finally it did, four huge bombs, three on the underground, one on a bus, quite a few people dead (though not as many as lost their lives in Iraq that weekend… that didn’t make the world news). A tragedy, but one that the government still refuse to admit was linked to the situation in the middle east. Stupid stupid fools.

But at the end of the year, some great news, perhaps the first great news in british life for a long time – registered civil partnerships for Gay couples. Finally gay people can get married (no, I really don’t care if you don’t want to call it a marriage or a wedding – it is, and that’s great.)

And the media spectacle of the year was certainly George Galloway in front of the US senate committee, absolutely ripping them apart. The most damning indictment of the Bush administrations lies and coverup in Iraq, and right there in the heart of the beast. Genius! Galloway can be a bit of a bellend, and his campaign in the General Election (ah yes, we had one of those – what a non-event that was) was horrible and divisive, but on that one day in the Senate, he ruled the world.

oh, media event of the year joint first was Harold Pinter’s nobel prize acceptance speech – another damning destruction of the history of US foreign military intervention.

What else? A few noteable partings – we lost the great Ronnie Barker, one of the finest comic actors and writers Britain has ever produced; Mo Mowlam, one of the few politicians of conviction we still had; Rosa Parks, the unwitting god-mother of the civil rights movement in the US; Andrea Dworkin feminist writer and thinker.

And on a personal level, the death of Eric Roche was a terribly sad loss – a huge talent and dear friend who has featured in this blog more than almost anyone else. Playing at the tribute gig to him on what would have been his birthday was a huge honour.

Blogwise, it’s been my most bloggingest year ever – over 510 posts this year, over 450 visitors a day (??? I’m sure there’s a mistake there somewhere…) and the demise of being able to tell people what I’ve been up to – ‘so, steve, what have you been up to?’ ‘well, I had a gig th….’ ‘yeah I read about that’ ‘oh, well I went out to see a…’ ‘ah yes, that film, read your review of that’ ‘THEN WHY DID YOU ASK???’

Thanks for reading, for emailing for commenting on the blog, and particularly thanks if you’ve been buying CDs and t-shirts, coming to gigs, spreading the word, and generally helping me pay the bills this year. Love you lots! x

Soundtrack – The The, ’45 RPM – the singles’.

Happy Christmas!

It’s Christmas Eve, the christmas shopping is done, lots of videos rented to watch over the next couple of days, a Looperlative to play with – we’re all set.

All that’s left is to wish all you lovely bloglings an exceedingly happy christmas. It’s a bit late to say it now, but I really hope you haven’t overspent on pressies and trimmings – as I say every year, the best present you can give your family is a debt-free new year (even if they tell you it’s an X-Box).

Take it easy, enjoy it, enjoy the time you have off from work, think through all the things you have to be grateful for, and chill.

We’re doing absolutely nothing – just me, TSP and the Fairly Aged Felines, relaxin’ eating some cool veggie food (well, me and TSP – I don’t think the cats are going to be wanting sprouts and sweet potato!), watching some festive TV, and enjoying some time off, before getting stuck into last year’s tax accounts early next week…

Tonight we’ll go to midnight mass, and tomorrow we’ll probably go to church in the morning, but other than that it’s lots of slobbing out in front of the TV and a bit of bass playing in between.

And if you’re celebrating something other than Christmas, enjoy it, and please sign into the forum and tell us all about it – I’m not that up on the specifics of most of the other celebrations that take place around this time that the Americans group together as just ‘holidays’.


Looperlative is back again!

My Looperlative arrived back today, fixed from my having ballsed it up last time, and with a software upgrade.

So I’ve been experimenting, and used it while teaching. I’m getting the hang of the way it operates, and am still compiling my list of things I’d like it to do – the great thing about it having the ethernet port on the back is that bob can keep the list, implement the list in order of how important the modification is or how easy it is (I think some of the things I’ve suggested are going to be very easy indeed for a man with Bob’s wikkid skillz, while others are going to take some more complex programming…) I’ve also not hit on any bugs in the software as it stands, which is a great sign. I’m still getting used to the specific things that it can/can’t do at the moment, and what the workarounds are for the things I’m used to doing on the EDP.

It’s interesting how different bits of musical equipment reflect both the personality and preferences of their inventor – the Echoplex is very much Matthias Grob’s vision, and the way it operates is clearly derived from his musical world-view. The looperlative reflects Bob’s background, which thankfully looping-wise features a lot of me. :o) So the controls and way it works makes loads of sense to me already. The feeling of this only being the tip of the looperlative iceberg is pretty big though. The possibilities are enormous.

Anyway, enough blogging, more looping! This looping in stereo lark is amazing – just been playing a version ‘Highway 1’ from Not Dancing For Chicken, and for the first time ever I’m able to loop the sparkly bit at the beginning in stereo, so that ping-pong delay keeps ping-ponging all the way through… :o)

The myth of 'customer service'

For two days running, I’ve been trying to call the phone number of a government department to get some advice. Yesterday’s was Customs and Excise (trying to find out how to send the Looperlative back to Bob for him to repair my huge mistake), and today it’s called the Inland Revenue, to find out why I’ve suddenly been sent a bill for FOUR YEARS of national insurance payments, with one month to pay and no prior warning, despite having paid my NI on my last god-knows-how-many tax bills…

Sadly, both lines are permanently engaged. I’ve been trying for ages. Yesterday, I eventually gave up and emailed HMRC and they kindly called me back this morning with the info I required (very confusing call though – apparently, they can’t really deal with the idea that you can be sent an electrical item to beta test that has a declared value – either it’s a beat unit and isn’t worth anything, or it’s worth something and therefor you bought it. The notion that there’s a declarable insurance value because of the work that’s already gone into it, despite it not having a street value due to it being a prototype is not something covered in UK customs legislation… doh!)

So today I’ll be mostly hitting redial and hopefully eventually finding out why I’ve suddenly got this bill, and what it’s for!

today was meant to be looperlative day…

OK – here’s how my first draft blog post looked this morning –

Finally, last night Bob and I (well bob, really – I just pushed the buttons I was told to!) got the Looperlative updated and working. I’m now vaguely conversant with the ways of Windows Hyperterminal, and have typed lots of numbers into it to make the box work. Just don’t ask me what the numbers mean, or ask me to repeat it without Bob talking me through it…

Anyway, it’s working, my MIDI pedal board is hooked up and I’m putting it through its paces. I’m going to go through my tunes and see which of them I can do on here with the software as it stands. Even at this level (with software revisions happening all the time) the feature set is great. Just having stereo in/out and 8 tracks of stereo independent loopage is fantastic, and programming a midi controller to have it do whatever you want it to do is really easy.

sadly, at that point, I think I blew it up… loose end of a power supply cable came into contact with the board… schoolboy error on my part, bit of a major f***-up, which has changed my day’s plans somewhat.

Such a shame as I was just getting to grips with what the box could do. Here’s hoping it’s mainly a software problem (at the moment I can’t tell, as not long after that happened, my rubbish power supply blew up… am off out now to get a new one).

All in all, a dreadful start to the day.

SoundtrackMartyn Joseph, ‘Deep Blue’.

the patience of a toddler at Christmas.

This morning I was woken by a delivery man, with a big box for me.

Inside the big box was this –

It’s a ‘looperlative LP1’ – a new loop-box that I’m beta-testing. The feature-set thus far is unbelievable. It’s going to be the coolest hardware looper ever built that’s for sure.

The only problem is, I haven’t got a UK power supply that’ll work with it yet! I’ve got one on order but it’ll be a couple of days… so I have to wait, itching to try it out, to get looping, to make some lovely music.

It’s rather exciting, so it is.

Soundtrack – Free, ‘The Free Story’.