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 www.big-hair.co.uk.

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 launch.yahoo.com – 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.

duets…

What a fine week! – Monday, as mentioned was a day recording with Theo. Thursday was a day recording with BJ Cole, and Friday was a day transfering music from Patrick Wood’s ADAT to my computer, and then recording a bit too. These three duo projects are rather fun and invigorating and are producing all manner of fascinating music. The duets with BJ are from a looping perspective going to be the most technically demanding, as we tend to be heading towards tracks with lots of sections, which is great, cos it’ll force me to learn some new EDP tricks – probably time to pay Andre’s site another visit. Talking of looping – there have been some rather heated discussions on the looper’s delight mailing list the theme of what on earth ‘live looping’ means – does it refer to a technical approach to music making? does it imply anything specific in terms of style/genre/aesthetic? is it enough of a hook to build a festival round? While the discussion has been fascinating, the main bizarre thing about it has been just how upset some people have got with it all – it’s way too easy to let email lists encroach on your ‘real’ life, and also to get disagreements mixed up with personal attacks…

Anyway, duets – lots of cool stuff already played/recorded, and lots more to come. I’ll be editing some of what’s already gone, and will hopefully have some stuff up on the site soon… Talking of duets, If you’re in Southern California, Todd Johnson – solo bassist extraordinaire – is hosting a fantastic series of duet gigs in a coffee shop in the Santa Clarita Valley – see Todd’s Site for more info…

what else? Yesterday – teaching and gardening – gardening should have just involved cutting the lawn, but The Small Person had left a large pile of sticks on the lawn, which last time I’d cut the grass I just cut round. So this time the sticks were still there, and the grass had grown through it, making moving the sticks a bit of a big job. Anyway, I did move them, and cut the rest of the lawn, but was knackered afterwards. How dull was that? you don’t care to you? and quite rightly so, there are far more pressing bits of info you could be reading.

And today? church this morning, followed by a day of musical tinkering – bass practice, listening to duet stuff, drum programming etc. The off to see The London Improvisors Orchestra – lots of very skilled musicians making a very inspiring racket. The ones I’d heard of included BJ Cole (who’d suggested I go along), Evan Parker, John Edwards and Steve Beresford.

Soundtrack – lots of interesting stuff over the last few days. Michael Jackson, ‘Off The Wall’, Holly Penfield, ‘Fragile Human Monsters’, an Esquivel compilation (do a search for him on line – he’s great), Medeski Martin and Wood, ‘The Dropper’, and right now I’m listening to Jeff Kaiser/Brad Dutz, ‘The Order Of Her Bones’ – an experimental duet CD for trumpet and percussion, Jeff’s own pfMENTUM records, which is also the label that released Ted Killian’s fantastic ‘Flux Aeterna’ album.

quick misc. update

Er, what since last week?

Saturday was Gawain the DJ’s wedding – very nice bloke, very nice wedding. bit of a 50s theme. Even more heartening is that he’s even taller than me, and his now-wife is even smaller than the small person. Good to know we’re not the most mismatched people on the planet!

Sunday went to see Masse play at The Foundry in London’s East End. The venue has a very varied and interesting program of stuff on, but is a bit of a dump… Anyway, Masse – bass and drums duo, both looping, processing, improvising, very good stuff indeed. bass-man jeremy was on top form – lots of Echoplexing, and a great tone from a rather special homemade bass cab. If you get a chance to see them play, jump at it.

Monday was more recording with Theo Travis – the best thing about playing with Theo is that we’re never quite sure what it’s all going to end up sounding like. We re-did one of the ideas from a very early session (when we were recording in mono), and it came out sounding completely different anyway… very nice. We’ve now got about an hour and a half of quality stuff towards the album. We’ll keep going until there’s no filler material at all, though it’s feeling pretty consistent already… We’ve got a gig booked, at the National Theatre in London on June 17th, which you really ought to be at!

Monday night was Jude’s leaving do – leaving do? she’s only going to the US For a few months. But anyway, it was a fun time, catching up with Sarda and The Cheat.

And yesterday was spent teaching and editing the stuff that Theo and I recorded.

That’s all really dull – what else is happening? well, Donald Rumsfeld has finally admitted that they are unlikely to find any WMDs in Iraq – no shit sherlock! Isn’t that what Scott Ritter and Hans Blix said months ago, before you bombed their world to pieces????? Clearly this was realised even before they went to war (why else was the notion of ‘freeing the people of iraq’ only brought in as on of the aims just before christmas when getting rid of WMDs had been the expressed sole intention for the year or so before that???) Anyway, seems that the illegal invasion will soon be recognised for what it was – Blair will spin the whole thing, talk about moral responsibility and all his usual BS. Sincere perhaps but sincerely wrong, sorry Tony. Meanwhile, iraqi kids are stepping on undetonated cluster bombs (possibly containing depleted uranium), and the cleanup is going rather slow. Add to that the Brukheimer-esque makeover given to the ‘rescue’ of Jessica thingie, and you’ve got yourself one seriously morally dubious world situation… Now, who was it who veto’d the instigation of an international criminal court again?

Soundtrack – lots of me and theo, obviously. Right now, I’m listening to Medeski Martin and Wood, ‘The Dropper’ – had heard them before and liked what I heard, but BJ Cole recommended this as the one to get. And very fine it is too… What else? Michael Manring, ‘Book Of Flame’ and Morphine, ‘B-Sides and Otherwise’.

Strongbad the good

Ok, if you’re on broadband (and perhaps even if you’re not, I’ve not tried it on dial-up), get thee to www.homestarrunner.com – some very bizarre and surreal cartoons, but totally addictive, especially strongbad’s emails – one of the characters answers emails from the public… Truly brilliant.

What else? Had another gig last night with Tess Garraway and Joss Peach in Brighton, which was fun. Due to a misunderstanding with the venue, it was a shorter gig that had been planned, but was much fun nontheless, especially as I had a line from Tess’ voice into my loop set up, so could layer up loads of vocal stuff…

Yesterday I received a copy of Andrew Buckton’s new album, Rocket Ship, which is marvellous. It was recorded at the tail-end of last year, with me on bass, jez carr on piano and buck on guitar and voice. Tom Hooper then added some drums and percussion. There’s a fair bit of E-bow and looping from me, providing lots of atmospherics, including one tune where I do loads of looping and SFX, while Jez plays the actual bass line (as has been noted before, Jez is not only a mighty fine pianist, but a stellar bassist too…) The album is fantastic. Really great songs, very personal moving lyrics, and I don’t sound bad on it either… 😉

Hopefully it’ll be available online somewhere before too long.

What else has been happening? Ah yes, yesterday before the gig with Tess, I was recording more stuff with Patrick Wood – if you have a look at the MP3s page, you see there’s a duet track with Patrick. He’s very good, very very good, and we get together every few weeks to make a good noise. More mad loopy stuff, as you’d expect. Will no doubt be releasing a duo album with Patrick at some point. Still editing the stuff I’ve recorded with Theo… there really ought to be lots of this stuff online, but at the moment, I maxxed out on my webspace, so really need to change servers before I get to add any more. Was all set to move to a new host when sarda said he was planning to get a server. So now I’m waiting for that…

Anyway, when it finally happens, you’ll get to hear lots of what I’ve been up to.

Oh, and on the subject of me and Theo, we’ve got a gig at the National Theatre in London on Tuesday 17th from 6-7.30pm. And then on the same day at 9pm, Rick Walker – the percussions that I play with in California – has got a solo gig at The Klinker, so it’s a fine evening for music – well worth coming to see us, grabbing some food, and heading over to Rick’s gigs. I’ll be at both, anyway!

Er, what else? ah yes, Matthias Grob came to stay. Who’s Matthias? He’s the inventor the Echoplex, that rather amazing looping tool that I’ve got four of. And a great musician in his own right. And an all round top bloke. We’d arranged to meet for lunch with a friend of his up town, but he was late, so I had a very nice lunch with Jenny at the ICA, and then Matthias turned up at my place a bit later on. We went for curry. and he gave me a copy of his brand new CD, which is coming out on my label! Yup, Matthias is the first non-me Pillow Mountain Records release. How does that work? for someone who doesn’t like record companies… well, he’s using the name. Doing all the leg-work himself, but using the Pillow Mountain name out of recognition for the fact that our music bears a similar meditative quality I guess. The looping connection, and just that he’s a top bloke. I’m sure people who like what I do will like what he does. So he’s on PMR. It’ll all be official soon, and on the website etc…

Soundtrack – right now, it’s Andrew Buckton’s album ‘Rocket Ship’ (see above) which has been on all day. It’s great. you need to get it when it’s available. Yesterday I was listening to the new album from Andy Sheppard and John Parricelli, ‘PS’, which is great – guitar and sax duets, some looping/processing from John. All good. Recommended.

A week in the life of…

…yep, sorry evil harv, I’m just going to write about what I’ve been up to again… ;o)

Main event of the week was another recording session with Theo Travis – I’d invested in a few new studio toys (a pair of powered monitors which make mixing a lot easier, and a new mic for recording flute/percussion etc…) so the session was better than ever, with some rather groovy results. The album’s really coming along – we’ve got loads of recordings to choose from already, but are in no hurry to just release anything. We’ll keep recording until we get a full album of stuff we love with no fillers. It’s slightly different to the way I normally work, in that we’re allowing ourselves to edit some of what we do (on one of the tracks we recorded on Thursday I removed an entire solo that I’d played, cos it was a bit dull…) but what you end up with at any one time is still just the two of us playing and looping in real time, with no additional overdubs… Theo was playing Soprano Sax as well on this session, which added a lot to what we were doing. It is, I guarantee, going to be a stellar album.

Thursday night, Evil Harv, Jimbob (AKA Sarda) and a couple of other chums went down to the Kashmir Klub – possibly London’s most important music venue, in that it costs nowt to get in, no-one gets paid, but the quality of the acts on is (usually) very high, (I played there with Susan Enan once) with occasional high profile people there (Lewis Taylor played there a lot earlier this year, and I’ve seen Nick Kershaw, Imogen Heap, The Dum Dums, Nerina Pallot and Doctor Robert (from the Blow Monkeys) play there). Anyway, Thursday wasn’t a great line up (better than most acoustic nights around, but not really up to The Kashmir’s usual standard) so we went off for coffee instead. The sad news is that the Kashmir is closing, at least for a time – the guy who owns the venue is doing something else with it, and despite them filling it night after night, he’s kicking them out. They are looking for a new venue, but who knows how long that will be. Please visit the website, and if you can sign petitions, write letters or just offer moral support to Tony Moore who’s been running it for 5 years, please do. It’s a great club, he’s a great bloke and London needs it.

Today, Evil Harv and I went to the London Guitar Show, at Wembley Conference Centre. It was fun, though alongside the NAMM show, it feels a little small and parochial. As most of the people there hadn’t been to NAMM, it was fine (I remember loving shows like that when I was a kid), and it was great to catch up with some friends I’d not seen for a while – Nick Beggs was playing on the Bass Guitar Magazine stand, doing his rather fabulous stick thang. It was fun to see the rest of the guys from BGM too. I had a nice chat and a coffee with John East, who makes the U-Retro preamp that I’ve got in my 6 string fretless, and bumped into Svetlana, who used to teach at BassTech, and is now playing bass for Moby! Also saw the Ashdown people, Nick Owen from the Bass Centre, lovely Hoda who now works for SWR and The Bass Centre, and all manner of other people that I only ever see at trade shows!

Another bizarre coincidence – was chatting to Barry Moorhouse from the Bass Centre about wanting to do more support slots. ‘You know who you should support’ says Barry, ‘The 21st Century Schizoid Band!’ – ‘I already have’ says me, and as I’m saying it, up comes Jakko Jakszyk, guitars from the Schizoids. which was a lovely surprise, as I’ve not seen Jakko since I did the tour with the them at the tail end of last year… We caught up on news and then I came home.

soundtrack – yesterday was the St Luke’s May Fayre, so I’ve got the usual haul of CDs, though it’s rather fewer than some years… Right now I’m listening to Lucious Jackson, ‘Fever In Fever Out’, which is rather good. Yesterday it was John McLaughlin, ‘Que Alegria’, which is also rather good, if a little note-heavy in places. Theo leant me a marvellous album – Arild Andersen, ‘The Molde Concert’, feature Bill Frisell on guitar – gonna have to buy that one. And in the car I’ve had Talk Talk, ‘Laughing Stock’ on regular rotation. And of course, in between all that, lots of the duo stuff with Theo…

Coming Up – a weekend of delicious improv!

I’m really looking forward to my gigs this weekend – I’ve got two, tomorrow night I’m playing at an alternative worship service called ‘Up’ at an anglican church in Thame (St Mary’s maybe?), where Jez, Evil Harv and I will be improvising 14 pieces based on the stations of the cross – for each one, we’ve got a painting or image to represent it and hopefully trigger some ideas. It should be really good, and probably quite emotionally involving, as the stations take us from Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemene through to his burial…

Then on Sunday, I’m playing at the Barbican ‘ere in London – on the free stage from 6-7, with Orphy Robinson, who is best known for his vibes playing, but on this one will be playing Marimba, Steel Pans and misc. percussion, with us both looping and processing our sounds (and I’ll be looping orphy’s loops too!) – we had a bit of a play this morning just to see what was possible, and it sounded great, so I’m really looking forward to this one too. We were going to be joined by top pedal steel player, BJ Cole but he’s got a gig he can’t get out of… I’m sure we’ll get to try the trio version soon. Instead we’ve got a singer coming to sit in one a few numbers, which should be a lot of fun too… Please come down if you’re in London, it’s a great way to spend a sunday evening in London…

Before that, I’ve got a full day’s teaching on Saturday, and am playing in church on Sunday morning, so it’s going to be a pretty full weekend playing-wise! And I must remember to change the batteries in my bass, as they’ve just run out…!

soundtrack – right now, Donny Hathaway Live. Earlier on, Bill Frisell with Elvin Jones and Dave Holland and while teaching today I was using Joni Mitchell – ‘Hejira’, Pat Metheny – ‘Bright Sized Life’ and Anita Baker ‘Rapture’… Also had a listen to ‘Beauty And The Beast’ earlier – the improv piece that Jez and I uploaded to my site as a Christmas pressie a few months back. If you’ve not heard it, head over to the MP3s page and have a listen…

Improv…

I’m feeling rather lucky at the moment – Tuesday night, lovely Jez came round, went out for a curry, then had a jam for an hour… playing music with Jez is always a treat – he’s a very very musical chap, great listener, and exceedingly creative improviser (as those of you who have conversations will no doubt be aware) – the kind of stuff we play changes depending on our mood, the instrument (normally he’s playing an electric piano, here he was playing a real one), the room, whether I’m looping or not (I wasn’t), and whatever we’ve both been playing recently. So it really is very conversational, and quite revealing as to how we’re feeling…

Then, last night was the radio broadcast for LCR, which included lots of duo improv with Antoine Farfad – a bassist who was using a V-Bass processor to get some great synth sounds. More improv, very different context, and with someone I’d never met before let alone played with. So the whole thing was very different from the jez setting, but just as rewarding. Antoine’s playing was marvellous – something you’ll be able to check out next week when the show gets archived at the radio station website. I’ll add a link as soon as it’s there…

Then, this Sunday, I’m off to Brighton to play with Tess Garroway (see gigs page for details) – a jazz singer with a heavily improvisational slant. Just got a CD of her stuff yesterday which is excellent (listening to it right now). What fun – all this improv is great for developing listening skills, new approaches, learning new ideas, and finding new contexts for stuff that I already do…

What fun!

What else has been happening? er, lots of teaching, which has been great – new students, old students, lots of very interesting people with a desire to learn.

Got the new copy of Q through… very disappointing. Christina Aguilera on the cover? Q? huh? not good. And, in their 50 most outrageous people in rock article, GG Allin doesn’t get a look-in. And frankly, if there were a more outrageous person in the music industry, they’d probably be dead by now… GG made Marilyn Manson look like Cliff… a true nutter, very sad case, and now dead, which wasn’t a surprise to anyone. Supposedly there’s a documentary about him somewhere, but I’m not sure I’d have the stomach to watch it… dark stuff…

but I digress.

So today – teaching, and a workshop for a church band down in Kent tonight, which should be a lot of fun.

Soundtrack – lots of Mike Watt, mainly ‘Ball-Hog Or Tug Boat?’, which is marvellous. Also, this Tess Garroway CD, which is a mixture of live and studio stuff, and is very good. what else? ah, Lewis Taylor’s first album, which is unbelieveably good. Amazing. Genius.

Sleep perchance to… wake up again at 4 in the morning…

Jetlag!

never had it this bad before – three days in a row I’ve woken up at 4.30am, and usually I can sleep wherever and whenever I want… not good. In fact, have spent loads of time asleep since I got back – combination of jetlag, exhaustion from touring, and some sort of cold/throat infection thing I seem to have picked up somewhere along the way. Not dying, but not exactly on tip top form either…

So what have I been up to? not much, to be honest. Still trying to catch up on emails etc. Working on some more gigs for later in the year – newcastle in may, and a london one quite soon, I Think… more on that ASAP…

Saturday, if I’m well enough, I’ll be going on the stop the war demo in London – could be huge, should be huge. The more of the news I see, the more insane it all seems to get. Colin Powell trying to suggest the french are just getting their UN-kicks by stalling? er, no, I think you’ll find they’ve thought you were mad since day one for suggesting this war… Anyway, I’ll be there, infecting everyone with my viral stuff, but hopefully helping to let Blair know we think he’s a dickhead.

Today will be a tidying day – my mum’s arriving later on (coming down for the demo), and the house is a tip.

Soundtrack – yesterday, I just listened to ‘Lessons Learned…’ about six times in a row – definitely my favourite of my albums at the moment, and possibly destined for a CDR release before too long, maybe with another CD of ambient noodlings… we’ll see… Other than that, been listening to ‘The Willies’ by Bill Frisell (excellent as always), ‘Kakusei’ by DJ Krush (down tempo IDM – very cool indeed), and ‘this sentence is true (the previous sentence is false)’ by Sheila Chandra, which, as with all her stuff, is stunning. what else. Oh yes, the new album from Theo Travis, an album of solo alto flute looping called ‘Slow Life’, it’s lovely, naturally, as is all of theo’s music. And lastly, the new album from Michael Franti – ‘Sounds From The Front Porch’, which is just what the doctor ordered as the world heads towards more rich people bombing poor people.

And one last site to check out – www.axisofjustice.org – great site, run by Tom Morello I think, from Audioslave – is the audioslave album any good? been meaning to check it out… very good site anyway. go there and get informed!

oh and by the way, I posted a link to Todd Johnson, the bassist’s, site the other day as www.toddjohnson.com which turns out to be a hocket player or something… anyway, Todd’s real web address is www.toddjohnsonmusic.com – go pay him a visit, and ask him sports related questions… :o)