Developmental Myopia…

I think it’s fair to say that my progress thus far as a solo performer has been a series of myopic fixations. And not without good reason – I’m the kind of person who thrives on creative restrictions, giving me something to bang up against and come up wtih interesting ways to subvert or supercede those limitations.

This is most evident in the development of the compexity of my live and recording set up, and the way advice that I receive often takes years to filter into practice.

A few examples –

back in 2000, when I was first doing solo gigs, I had also recently signed up to the Loopers Delight discussion list . I was a fairly avid fan and advocate for the Lexicon JamMan that I Was using at the time. Much of the discussion on the list revolved around the relative merits of various looping devices and a lot of the users therein recommended the Echoplex Digital Pro over the JamMan because it had feeback control. Pah! says I, who needs that, I can just stick a volume pedal inline after the JamMan and fade it out that way, not really getting the point of feedback, and not having the wisdom to enquire further as to its usefulness. Fast forward a couple of years to me getting an Echoplex, and finally the merits of a feedback control are very plain to see. Had I asked earlier, maybe I’d have got to grips with the loop function in my Lexicon MPX-G2 a lot earlier, that having feedback control….

About a year later on Looper’s Delight, another discussion comes up about how to wire all the different boxes together (I think a picture of the kind of geeks we are who sit around discussing looping all day….) – and various wise and learned loopers are talking about running looping devices in Auxiliary channels on mixing desks (if you don’t know, you don’t need to know, believe me – skip all this waffle and read something else instead), and once again, me having up to that point run my gear all in a straight line poo-pooh’d the idea, suggesting that such things were overly picky and not to be worried about. Jump forward a couple of years to the recording of Not Dancing For Chicken, and I discover that by borrowing the Small Person’s mixing desk, I can put the various looping devices in auxiliary channels and make everything much tidier and the signal much cleaner…

On the preliminary sessions for Not Dancing For Chicken, Jez and I set about recording it in his studio. ‘shall we put each looper and processor into a separate channel on the computer?’ asks jez. No, says I, cos I want to be able to record it all through a mic’d bass amp… One failed session later I realise that on studio recordings, mic’ing bass amps for reverb and hifi regenerating delay sounds is probably not such a great idea. Still, I then went home and recorded the entire album in stereo when I could fairly easily have separated it all out if I’d not been fixated on my one way of doing things… Fast forward once again to this latest album that I’m just finishing up, and having finally bought a mixing desk with insert sends on each channel, I’ve been able to record the signal from each of the G2s and each of the Echoplex onto separate tracks, making the signal cleaner, the mix far more maleable and the end result my best yet…

So those, along with various other options I really should have taken up a long time ago have lead me to a place where I have a hugely versatile set up, incorporating about 5 years worth of accumulated advice, all of it seemingly on a three year slow release mechanism… From a mono rig with a bass combo at one end and only one looper with no feedback control at the other to my current set up which is stereo live and has six different channels in the studio, allows me to use one of the processors before or after the loops, or both, loop from one EDP to the other, fade one, sync them, apply effects from the Kaoss pad and pan any of the above signals to anywhere in the stereo field – it’s been a fun journey thus far.

Having said all that, my rate of technological uptake has kept pace with the speed at which I’ve learned what each bit of kit does. I got good with the JamMan, then added the G2, got good with those before adding the Line 6 DL4, swapped the JamMan for an Echoplex which then became two echoplexes, then added the kaoss pad and a simple mixing desk and finally added a second MPX-G2 and a more complex desk… If I’d just gone out about bought the set up I have now five years ago, I’d have had no idea what to do with any of it…

so there you go.

Soundtrack – me! oh yes, the new album is pretty much finished to pre-master stage – I’m just tidying up some mix elements before sending it off to Denis Blackham at Skye Mastering to add his fairy dust to it. I’ve mastered all the previous CDs myself, but this one deserves the full treatment. theo put me onto Denis, and it transpires that he’s mastered albums with me on before… However, the bit that sold me on him was that he mastered Spirit Of Eden by Talk Talk, which is one of my all time favourite albums. So he’s the man for the job!

more great live music in London.

Given that he’s so supremely crap at ever letting me know when he’s got a gig on, it was a rare pleasure to see theo travis play with his quartet at Pizza Express on Dean Street (this distinction is an important one, given that Dean Street Pizza Express is a proper jazz club, as opposed to a pizza restaurant with a couple of blokes in the corner playing some jazz…)

Anyway, it was a double bill, with Aussie bossa singer, Karen Lane, who was very good indeed, helped along by having Andy Hamill on bass – one of my favourite double bassists anywhere…

Theo’s quartet also featured Andy, along with Marc Parnell on drums and Simon Colam on piano, looking almost exactly like Howard Jones did 20 years ago… Mixing Theo’s prog fetish with acoustic jazz, his is one of the finest jazz quartets I’ve seen in a long time. It’s mad that bands this good aren’t put on in double bills with the big american jazz stars that come over – it’d be a great way to expose the Barbican and SBC-going masses to some home-grown talent. There aren’t many of the american young jazzers that could keep up with Theo’s quartet, or Ben Castle‘s quartet.

So what else is new? Well, my copy of Adobe Audition 1.5 arrived this morning – which rather helpfully supports VST plugins so I’ve got loads more to choose from, which is nice… Just recorded a fun jazzy piece, with lots of backwards looping, which as with everything else I’m doing may or may not end up on the album. It’s track #25 to be recorded though, so the chances of it being a double album are pretty strong…

Soundtrack – mememememememe.

New album on the horizon…

So work has officially started on my new album… I’m in what’s commonly called ‘pre-production’ at the moment – getting the tunes, sounds, ideas and technicalities together before starting the actual recording session. That’ll begin as soon as I get my new desk through the post (a Mackie 1402), and a soundcard that’ll handle 8 inputs, allowing me to record each of the loops and processed signals separately – the desired effect being that it’ll drop the noise floor, and allow me to make sure the levels are just right all the way through the signal chain.

The 6 tracks I’ve recorded in the last week bode well for the album – no massive departures from what I’ve been doing for the last wee while, just a better and deeper take on the same kind of ground. being able to post-process the loops is going to offer a different sound canvas, and compared to Not Dancing For Chicken, running two (or possibly 3 or 4) Echoplexes will make for a more seemless looping process.

The gigs with Muriel Anderson next weekend will give me a good chance to road test a few ideas, as well as play the newer versions of the old tunes, incorporating some of what’s possible with the new setup… Having a feedback pedal for one of the Echoplexes is really handy, though I’d like to get one that works a little more smoothly…

What else is happening? Ah yes, went to Reading last night to another Delicatessen event – that’s the people who co-promoted both of the solo bass night gigs at 21 South Street in Reading, and is co-run by The Cheat and Sarda.

Last night’s musical stars were Cathy Burton and Juliet Turner – two singer/songwriters that I really like, so seeing them on the same bill was a bit of a treat. I’ve known Juliet for a few years (she rather wisely picked out my duo with cellist Harry Napier as her favourite musical act of greenbelt a few years ago – not that she has an official published list of such things, as far as I know…), and have known Cathy for quite a while too.

Cathy was on first, playing solo with just an acoustic guitar (bit of a treat, given that she usually gigs with either a band or at least with a keyboard player) – she was great, playing songs from her first album, and her soon to be released second CD.

Juliet was on top form, playing in a duo with Brian… Grace? not sure of Brian’s surname, but he’s a top-notch guitarist, and thoroughly nice bloke. Juliet played stuff from all three of her albums, all of which are marvellous, told weird stories, chatted, took the piss out of the audience, and was generally wonderful. A most enjoyable evening was had by all.

So now, it’s a trip out to the shops to get some cat litter, then back here to maybe record another idea or two for the new CD…

anyway, here’s another webcam pic…

Soundtrack – right now, me; before that, John Scofield, ‘Up All Night’, Prince, ‘Musicology’; Jonas Hellborg, ‘Ars Moriende’; Bruce Cockburn, ‘You’ve Never Seen Everything’.

half way through and I've rarely had so much fun

What a week!

The Exeter gig was sold out three weeks in advance, the Petersfield gig was sold out, the clinic at Basstech was standing room only, the Brighton gig was standing room only (no idea what the fire limit was for the room!). Blimey, this solo bass stuff is really catching on!

We’re having so much fun, it’s unreal. Michael’s been playing through my amp set up, which means that I can now also loop and process him as well, which has opened up a whole new soundworld for us to explore! And seeing as how I nicked the whole bass + looping deal from him in the first place, it’s no wonder that he reacts to what’s happening in the loop so unbelieveably well. I can throw just about anything at him, and it works!

Fortunately last night was recorded, by two different people, and videoed for us, so I’m looking forward to seeing some of that!

If you came to one of the gigs – thankyou very much. The audiences have been great, and the feedback’s been marvellous.

And to cap it all, I don’t think I’ve laughed as hard as I have in the car on the way to the gigs in a long time.

Miss the next three gigs at your peril!

Soundtrack – Kelly Joe Phelps, ‘Slingshot Professionals’; Rob Jackson, ‘Wire, Wood and Magnets’.

Making it up as we go along!

Had a marvellous gig last night with Orphy Robinson and Corey Mwamba – Corey on Vibes, and Orphy on Marimba, assorted Hand percussion, steel pans, QY-70 drums, wind-synth, etc.

I had mic feeds off of both guys into my looping set-up, and mainly used the one from Corey’s vibes, given that Orphy was looping himself (with an RC-20) and making a marvellous noise without my help!

The venue was Derby Dance Centre – a lovely venue, with a very friendly audience. Slightly surprising given how intense parts of the first set were, with orphy toying with controlled mic feedback and triggering some pretty mad beats off the QY-70…

Second set was more mellow – started with me looping and processing Corey’s vibraphone, Orphy joining him for a vibes duet, and finally me coming in over the top, which drifted into a solo bass thing (which was fortunately recorded, as it was unlike anything I’ve played before…) only to have them rejoin and take it off in another different direction.

The whole gig was a lot of fun, has some magic moments, was an insense listening experience, and bodes well for more trio stuff like that in the future.

What else is happening? bits of teaching, sending out CD sales (and surprisingly sold a load of CDs at the gig, despite playing nothing that sounded remotely like the CDs at any point in the show! :o)

Soundtrack – at the moment, the sound of computers humming.

Boo!!!! …no, really, I enjoyed it…

…I was just saying your name!!!

Last night went to see Boo Hewerdine play. You’ve probably not heard Boo play, but you’ll have more than likely heard his songs, him having written for Eddie Reader, KD Lang and others. I saw him play at Greenbelt this year, and really enjoyed it, and as the gig was part of Delicatessen, organised by sarda and the cheat, then I had to go. Add to that the presence of Rob Jackson, looping guitarist and very nice bloke, and you’ve got yourself a great evening.

Airstar opened the evening – it’s always odd watching them, having played with them before, but nice to hear the songs, which are really strong, and to see the cheat doing a remarkable unwitting impersonation of paul field

Then Boo came on – somewhere in a parallel universe, Boo’s old band, The Bible, are hailed as the savours of itellegent pop and selling hundreds of thousands of records, while Paddy McAloon is out touring arts centres playing gloriously miserable songs to 90 enthralled punters who feel like their in some secret society for knowing who he is…

…in this universe, it’s clearly the other way round. Boo’s between song banter is hilarious and provides the perfect counter-weight to his miserable unlucky-in-life songs. Rob Jackson’s guitar playing is a thing of great beauty and wonder, and fortunately Boo gets this and gives him some room to loop and layer is Frisell-esque Telecaster loveliness through a few of the tunes. And Rosalie Deighton’s BVs are a little quiet, but add yet another layer to a glorious live sound.

So now I’m sat listening to Rob’s album ‘Wire, Wood and Magnets’, and it’s fantastic – really really lovely. The missing link between Frisell’s country exploits and Phil Keaggy’s acoustic instrumentals. Great sounds, great playing, and some exquisite tunes. Hopefully Rob and I will be recording something or other together soon, so watch this space. We’re also thinking of doing a gig or two – maybe theo and I, with Rob as well… lots of possibilities, but for now, go and buy his CD – there are lots of downloads on his website, so have a listen, then get it. you can buy Rob’s CD at the Burning Shed shop, which also happens to stock loads of other really really cool music – lots of Theo Travis’ other albums (start with Heart Of The Sun, it’s a masterpiece), NoMan (another great miserable adult pop band), and Peter Chilver’s albums (soundscape stuff, lots of fine bass work and a very silly sense of humour just beneath the surface).

Soundtrack Rob Jackson’s album’s just finished, and I’m now listening to Boo’s live album.


In the middle of an interesting musical challenge. Am currently in the process of transcribing, and learning so I can record, a bass solo piece by someone else, for a UK guitar magazine. Normally, when I learn a piece, I’m asked to inject some of myself into the process – people tend not to ask looping fretless 6 string bassists to play generic parts, funnily enough – but this time, my job is to sound as much like the original as I can. How bizarre does this feel? very bizarre indeed. It’s not that it’s particularly difficult (bit’s of the tune are tricky, but not of it is actually ‘hard’), it’s just that it feels… alien! My tendency is to reinterpret the piece, make it more ‘me’. Not allowed this time.

Anyway, it’s all good discipline. I’ve got a couple of weeks to do it in, which should be fine, even with all my teaching in between, and finishing off the album with theo

talking of which, Theo came round this morning to make sure the mix/eq on all the tracks was where we wanted it to be. So I reinstalled my fixed harddrive, which is working marvellously (God bless Ted!)

So we tweaked some of the EQ, I added a tube amp simulator to one of the bass tracks, and we listened. And we liked what we heard. And got all animated about how much we’re looking forward to releasing the album. Which should be available for preorder in the next couple of weeks. I’ll be putting another MP3 on the site before too long… maybe later on today. Watch this space.

Soundtrack – last night, top banana radio was back on air – paul’s v. fine show. other than that, Talk Talk, ‘Spirit Of Eden’ (on of the world’s perfect albums) and lots of the track that I’m doing for that guitar mag I mentioned above.

Bass overload!

This morning was fun – Victor Nicholls, a very fine looping bassist came round for a jam and to swap a few ideas. He’s a very fine musician, and rather annoying from the point of view of my constant harping on about the need for fretlines on fretless basses in that he plays an unlined fretless with marvellous intonation! Still, that’s one more on the plus side to outweigh the millions of tuneless warblers using excessive vibrato to simulate being ‘in tune’… you’re not fooling anyone!

Anyway, I digress. Victor came round, and made some great noises – he really ought to do a solo album (victor, you really ought to do a solo album). the other projects that he’s been involved with that I’ve heard have been very good – you can check one of them out and find out some more info about Victor at

Yesterday, I hooked up a TL Audio 5051 preamp that I’ve borrowed from student simon into the FX loop on my Lexicon MPX-G2 – it sounds amazing. Really really great tone. I’m going to have to get one of these for the solo rig. On thursday I used it as a mic pre for BJ Cole’s sound, and that’s pretty damn fine too. So it’s going to be time to buy a bigger rack very soon, so I can get my other echoplex and this preamp into the rack. Also time to switch to a stereo set up for live work – powered speakers are on the horizon…

this afternoon I’ve been mocking up some artwork for the me and theo album – we haven’t even got titles for the tracks yet, or even agreed on a final running order, but it’s always nice to have something to work from, so he can come round, have a look at what I’ve done so far and say whether he loves it or hates it! The whole process of putting an album together is so much fun – I could quite easily do it four or five times a year, given the budget (so go and buy some CDs now, as it’s all dependent on how fast the last album sells… ;o)

soundtrack right now, it’s Daft Punk, ‘Homework’; before that Nik Kershaw, ‘To Be Frank’, and lots of me and theo and me and BJ!

Let's go round again…

busy weekend. Have spent a fair amount of time in the last few days recording with Matthias Grob – Matthias is the inventor of the Echoplex, and a stunning guitarist (he built his own guitar as well, natch) and we’ve been coming up with all manner of delicious improv, ranging from ambient soundscape stuff to more funky things through to some scary out noises. All rather marvellous and invigorating. As with all this recent duet activity, I’m hoping to have some up online before too long – now that Sarda is back from the states, maybe he’ll get this server of his happening, and I’ll be able to move my site away from zetnet for eva…

Anyway, I digress – Matthias and I have been looping and chatting for a couple of days – talking lots of what we do, why we do it and how to get it across to people… All very stimulating stuff.

What else? ah yes, saturday there was a party for the 30th anniversary of the Greenbelt festival – a fun event, held at Lambeth Palace (the official residence of the AB of C – a nice gaff, which makes up for the rather crappy salary that goes with the job, as interestingly enough, all Church Of England Clergy are on the same wage, whether parish priest or Archbishop…) Anyway, was a fun time to catch up with lots of GB related chums that I’d not seen for a while.

This week is going to be BUSY – first up, I’ve got a recording sesh on Thursday )(more on that later, no doubt), then Friday night I’ve got a rather fun gig, filling in for the keyboard player in Lovesjones. ‘What, you don’t play keys!” – indeed I don’t, but I do make odd noises with a bass, so will be covering the keyboardish role on bass… then doing a solo set.. at Jazz After Dark in Soho… on Friday night.

Also got to relearn some of the improvs that Theo and I have done over the last couple of months for our gig next Tuesday at the National Theatre. So busy week of learning stuff. Still editing the tracks with theo. And the news stuff with Matthias. And hopefully hooking up again with BJ Cole. And listening through the tracks with Patrick Wood. Blimey, how much recording have I been doing lately???? loads, I tell yer!

What else is new? Oh, The CD shop at Bass Guitar Magazine’s website has started stocking my CDs, which is nice of them.

And a track from Not Dancing (Amo Amatis Amare) is on the cover disc that comes with Bassics Magazine – oh, have I mentioned that already? well, here’s the confirmation that it is indeed Amo Amatis…

Soundtrack – been listening to loads of the duo stuff with Matthias, obviously, and the tracks with Theo, and Matthias’s CD, which is great (out on Pillow Mountain Records v. soon) other than that, Kenny Wheeler’s album ‘Angel Song’ has been going round a lot in the kitchen, and today I’ve been listening to Coltrane’s ‘Complete Africa Brass Sessions’ which is incredible – I put it on to play during Mark’s lesson this morning, and it’s been in the player ever since…

To loop or not…

To Loop – have a read of this article by david torn, archived on the loopers delight website, it’s very good.

To Not Loop – well, to loop a tiny bit – have a listen to the new MP3 of me and Theo Travis that I’ve just added to the MP3s section on the site. It’s very good, and involves very little looping.

One gig I went to that I forgot to mention was Iain Archer, last thursday at Delicatessen in Reading – Deli, you’ll remember is the club that hosted me and Michael Manring and David Friesen, as well as being where I’ve played with Airstar, Julie Lee and Pierce Pettis, and is run by Evil Harv aka The Cheat, and Jimbob aka Sarda aka TAFKA-The-Man-Who-Knows. Anyway, Iain was brilliant – I’ve seen him play countless times before, and recorded and gigged with him as part of Andy Thornton’s band. His new single and album are out very soon, and are certainly eagerly awaited in this house (The Small Person and The Agen Feline are both Archie fans as well….) Also on the bill on Thursday were Electric Gaudi (used to be called Gaudi, but got threatened with legals by la famile de Gaudi the artiste…) featuring my student howard on bass, and a fine job he did too!

Soundtrack – just been listening to ‘In A Silent Way’ by Miles Davis, streamed from – what an amazing bit of music! must buy the album v. soon. before that, was listening to Lucious Jackson, ‘Fever In Fever Out’ and Muriel Anderson, ‘Theme For Two Friends’ – both very fine albums.

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