A week in the life of…

me. what a surprise.

When did I last blog (quick check…), Ah yes, Sunday – right since then? I’ve done some teaching, we’ve scrapped the small person’s car, and on Monday night I went to a ‘Bob Harris presents’ gig at The Stables in Wavendon. The lineup was great – Heather Myles (Mary Chapin Carpenter sings Buddy Holly sort of vibe), Nick Harper and Thea Gilmore.

Nick Harper was the main attraction for me – having seen him play at Greenbelt, after having been introduced to his music by Catherine Streetteam (thanks!), I’ve been looking for a chance to see him play again, and as the marvellous JJ aka mini-harv is promoting the series of shows.

Nick’s live shows have to see seen to be believed. He sings and plays acoustic guitar, but the twist is that he takes two processors with him, one for voice and one for guitar, distorts his guitar to sound like an electric on occasion, puts big delays on his voice, and tunes his guitar down a fourth from usual so gets an insane amount of low end out of it anyway. A genuine one man band, with more on stage energy than most four piece bands and zero gimmick factor – just an amazing show with some great songs. His new album, blood songs, is excellent.

Thea’s set was good, though a bit of the guitar and nearly all the bass parts were on backing tracks, which – call me old fashioned – just doesn’t work for a ‘rootsy’ show – at some points there were three guitars and keyboards going – surely one of them could have actually played a bass line??? Her songs were fine, and he voice is lovely, but the canned part of the show really didn’t do it for me. When she dropped it back to a more acoustic sound, she was really really good, and if she was doing a solo tour, I’d go and see her again in a heartbeat. But the tracks have to go.

The other bizarre highlight of the evening was being recognised by some people who had seen me play at the Stables with the Schizoid Band, and came up to say hi – which I was doing the merch table for Nick… not often that one gets spotted doing merch, but it made for an interesting diversion from selling CDs!

Other than that, it’s been a week of buying christmas cards, writing a christmas newsletter and then today finding out that my new bass will be shipped over from the states this week!!!! HOW EXCITING IS THAT????? I can’t wait. Anderson, the artist relations guy at Modulus, reckons it’s incredible – and despite working in artist relations, he’s not usually given to hyperbole, so I’m even more excited than I would have been!!!

Soundtrack – Nick Harper, ‘Blood Songs’; Martyn Joseph, ‘Whoever It Was Who Brought Me Here Will Have To Take Me Home’ (more magic for the welsh cockburn); Mabulu, ‘Marimbo’ (Mozambique african hip-hop crossover stuff. Marvellous); Stevie Wonder, ‘Songs In The Key Of Life’ (certainly in the key of my life).

Too many downloads??

One of the uber-cool things about having this new webserver is that I’ve got a really excellent stats program that tells me all about who’s been visiting which pages they’ve been looking at, and what they’ve been downloading. I had no idea I was getting so many downloads!! hundreds of MP3 downloads a week, it’s remarkable.

Which begs the question, is there too much audio on the MP3s page? Is it stopping people from buying the CDs, cos the MP3s are enough? It’s a pretty bleedin’ selfish thing to do to download all the audio, burn it to CD and never buy the proper CDs, but maybe that’s what people are doing – I’ve made it too easy for people not to buy the CDs… I mean, I’m still selling CDs, but not in the quantities you’d expect given the amount of downloaded material there is off the site…

So, here’s the challenge. If you want more downloads, you gotta start buying more CDs! Lots of CD sales = lots more MP3s being made available. If you’ve not got all the CDs yet, then shame on you – go and get them now, via the paypal links etc…

And if you have got them, er, convince someone else to buy them…

What have I been up to? Well, on the music equipment front, I’ve bought a Mindprint Envoice preamp, which is absolutely lovely – really nice clean tube sound, with a great compressor and parametric EQ as well. I’m running it in the FX loop on my MPX-G2, and it just sounds delish.

I’m also in the process of negotiating a new amp deal, after finishing my working relationship with Ashdown – I’ve been using Ashdown stuff for about 5 years, and they make great amps, but a solo player doing what I do needs a certain kind of support from a company like that, and I wasn’t getting it. They seemed to have lost interest in helping to promote what I do, so it was time to head elsewhere. A shame in some ways, given the length of my time promoting their stuff (most of my students use ashdown amps, and I get about 15-20 emails a week asking questions about ashdown related stuff – BTW, from now on, it’s probably better to direct those questions through their website…) but also an exciting time, as I’m in the process of finalising a deal for a ‘signature’ powered cabinet – I’ve been after these for years, and Ashdown never made them. Finally, it looks like I’m going to get really hi quality full range powered speakers so I can start running in stereo. It should all be finalised by the end of the week, so I’ll post more about it then…

I’ve also spoken to Modulus, and my new bass should be ready in about a week! how exciting is that?????

Soundtrack – Zakir Hussain, ‘Making Music’; Three Prime, ‘Three Prime’.

Normal Service Has Been Resumed

Apart from a slight residual sore throat, it seems life is back to normal… or maybe touring is normal, I’m just not used to normal yet…. who knows. Whichever, I’m settled back in at home. The last couple of days have involved a fair amount of teaching, some tidying, though not much, lots of cuddling the aged feline, who appears to have pretty refined taste in vegan food – mushroom pate, Quorn sausages and vegan bacon to be precise!! Today I’ve been sending out CD orders, which keep rolling in, reassuringly, then went down to the Gallery, originally to see Martin Peterson who makes the Sei basses, but he’s away, so I spent some time chatting to Alex, who now runs the shop there – very nice chap, who used to work at the Bass Centre. Nice to see that they’ve got a Lexicon MPX-G2 in the shop (the same effects processor that I use, in case you were wondering) – so if you’re looking for one, that’s the place to look!

My E-Bow has broken! I mean, it still works, but the catch on the battery compartment has gone, so I’ll have to keep the battery in place with an elastic band. What with that and my mobile phone, which has the battery gaffer taped in place, it’s a bit of a heath robinson life I lead…

It’s nice to be back playing a four string bass again – on the US tour, I borrowed a 6 string fretted bass from Modulus, and has my own 6 string fretless with me, so coming home and playing my four string is like picking up a toy – it’s so easy… and what’s more, I’ve been doing loads of tapping stuff since I got home – a technique I almost completely dropped about five years ago, but one that I’ve been showing to a couple of students recently, and which has been presenting some fun musical options… watch this space to see where that ends up!

Was reading ‘Further Along The Road Less Travelled’ by Scott Peck on the train, which is a fascinating book. Basically, it brings together psycotherapy and spirituality. Scott’s a christian, but arrived at where he is now on his journey via 20 very valuable years as a zen buddhist, and his zen thinking still informs much of his life and writing, leading to a fascinating take on where his training as a psychiatrist and his spirituality meet. Reading this follows on nicely from a great section in Frank Skinner’s Autobiography that the small person read to me the other day, where he talks about his Catholic faith, and a very very powerful experience he has at a Catholic church in Japan, which lead his to talk about the strangeness of being a person of faith in contemporary society, where most people cringe if you mention God, and also have a pretty skewed view of what it is to be a christian… I tend to avoid the label, for the most part, at least on first meeting people – primarily so that people’s experience of me will inform their thinking of what a christian is, rather than their misconceptions of what a christian is prejudicing them against me… This can be particularly a problem in the US, where much of what happens in the name of ‘the church’ is pretty seriously f-ed up, and where ‘christian’ is synonymous with a certain type of right-wing, republican, moral conservatism that doesn’t really reflect anything of what I perceive the life and teaching of Jesus to be about… always seemed a lot more radical than that to me… Anyway – the point being, it’s always interesting to read stuff -be it Scott Peck or Frank Skinner – by people who are struggling with the same questions about integrating faith and life that I, and just about every other ‘normal’ christian that I know is dealing with… It’s hard not to end up embarassed by the horse-shit that happens in the name of God – poor thing, She’s got the worst PR of anyone in history, and it’s our fault…

Er, where was I?? oh yes…

Soundtrack – been listening to Dave Pomeroy’s ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’ album – all bass and voice, very good indeed. Dave was playing at the NAMM Bass Bash, and was brilliant. Also been listening to Mike Watt, another guy who played at the Bass Bash – his CD, ‘Contemplating The Engine Room’ is stunning – like a punk Tom Waits. Great story telling, some amazing guitar playing from Nels Cline, and Mike’s bass and voice doing baritone duets with eachother. outstanding.

There's no place like home…

So, I’m home, safe and as sound as I’ll ever be… Jetlag got me bad though – this is the longest trip I’ve had to the states, and after four weeks over there, my body had adjusted rather well to the time difference, so now my body clock is screwed up. So I slept a bit yesterday afternoon, then went to bed at 12 last night, woke up at 5.30, awake til 8.15, then was asleep on and off til 6.30pm!!!! Am up again now, ploughing through email and trying to rebuild some semblace of a life… Fortunately I don’t start teaching again til next week, So I’ve got time to sort through the mountain of post and email… Fortunately both the small person and the aged feline seemed to recognise me when I arrived home, so nothing to drastic can have happened. Still haven’t unpacked yet though… need to get some washing done…

So what happened while I was in the states? Really sorry for not keeping this thing up to speed – hopefully next year I’ll have a lap top with me and will be more concientious (spelling, harv?).

Anyway – first up was the NAMM show – huge great music gear trade show – equal parts hideous schmooze-fest, and great chance to catch up with musical chums I’ve not seen in ages…

Good people I saw who I already knew – Peter Murray, Geoff Gould, the Modulus and Ashdown people, Ed Friedland, Lee Sklar, Joe Zon, Matt Garrison, Doug Wimbish, Michael Manring, David Torn, Doug Lunn, Vida Vierra, Steve Rabe, Steve and Jill Azola, Mike Tobias, Norm Stockton, Adrian Ashton, Dan Knowlton, Mark Wright, Frank Gambale, Rufus Philpot, Pete McCann, Mike Roe, Dave Pomeroy, Trip Wamsley, Lenny Jordon, Bill Leigh, Jamie Faletti, Dale Titus, Kerry Getz, Rick Turner, Clive Roberts, John Ferrante, Kim Flint, Richard Zvonar…

And Fine people I met for the first time – Elijah Torn, Will Calhoun, Daniella Sheppard, Derry Daugherty, Mike Dimin, Mike Watt, Kira Roessler, Charles Normal and Softcore (his band), Tedd Killian, Chris Tarry, Greg Heet, Dan and Laurie Schinder, Kevin Van Pamel… and lots more in both groups that I can’t remember in my near comatose jetlagged state…

Playing-wise, I was playing at the Ashdown Booth each day at 3pm, doing my solo stuff, and also hanging around a bit chatting to people there… Also played a little on the Modulus stand, with Leo Nobre and then with Bill Walker. Spent a lot of my time at the show just catching up with friends, putting the word around about the gigs and clinics, and checking out new stuff, of which there wasn’t all that much (though Ashdown did have a couple of gorgeous fake-suede bass cabs – very sexy indeed…)

Music at the show that was worth watching was pretty scarce – Ed Friedland was playing some great stuff at the Carvin Booth, and Michael Manring was doing his solo bass twiddling for Zon and SWR and astounding everyone as always. Bill Walker was making a fine noise at the Duncan-Turner Research booth, and that was Matt Garrison spent plenty of time playing at the Fodera booth, playing beautifully. That’s about all I saw…

Evenings were taken up with going to or playing gigs and eating dinner – Thursday was Frank Gambale at The Baked Potato (a bit of a NAMM ritual for me, catching Frank at least once during the weekend), Friday was the bass bash, organised by Dan Elliott who booked my tour, and acted as road manager for me. That was a great event – a few technical hitches (the venue wouldn’t let them start setting up the stage area til gone 7!), and the whole thing over-ran (bit of a NAMM tradition there…) but all in all it was a great night’s bassic entertainment – have a look at some of the pictures from the event at www.bassically.net. I did a couple of long solo numbers (No More Us And Them and MMFSOG) and the Michael Manring joined me for an improv thing that I’ve got on CD, so will hopefully post here before too long…

Anyway, Saturday night was dinner with David and Elijah Torn, Dani, Doug and Vida, and then Sunday was the first gig of the tour at Roccos in Hollywood.

The gig went really well, though the turnout was low (if everyone else was feeling the way I did after four days of NAMM, it’s not that surprising) – we didn’t start til late… musically, we had no idea how Rick Walker Andre LaFosse and I were going to gel, but the trio stuff turned out great. We all did solo sets (the running order was a bit of a shambles but it sort of worked out) then Michael Manring did some marvellous solo tunes, and all of us played together… The nicest thing about it was how inconspicuous the looping element of it all was – last time we did a loop tour, partly due to the limitations of the jamman, the looping defined the music in a very strong way. This time, with the extra subtleties available with the echoplex, we were able to loop in a music more transparent way – bringing loops in and out to allow ourselves to mutitrack, but without having to just build a loop then stop…

A couple of days off on Monday and Tuesday were spent visiting Ashdown, and Dan was chasing up last minute stuff for the tour (he worked really hard and did a great job…), then Wednesday we left SoCal and headed for San Luis Obispo for the second trio gig…

…and I’m going to stop there for a while, or my arms will fall off, or I’ll fall asleep, or my arms will fall off in my sleep, or something equally bad.

anyway, the rest of the story will follow ASAP…

Clocks go winding down…

Is it just me, or does everything just slow down in the run up to Christmas (or ‘holidays’ as most americans seem to have euphamistically rechristened it)? I’ve got lots that I really ought to be getting on with, but can’t get motivated at all… I really need to get working on my tax self-assessment (oh yeah, Steve, they really want to read about that, you loser…), and could do some other admin stuff, tidy my office, practice, learn more about the Echoplex (and there’s much to learn), but instead I cuddle the cat (OK, that’s worthwhile, I’ll give you that), surf the net (the usual suspects – talkbass.com, activebass.com, thedudepit.com, level42webdigest.com, ashdownmusic.co.uk, modulusguitars.com, krimson-news.com and other stuff from my links page…)

then I play the helicopter game (got 1768 today), followed by Chuckie Egg, followed by something to eat, followed by more cuddles with the cat, followed by some washing up (to assuage the guilt… hang on, harv, I’m I making up words again??), and here I am…

Tonight is the Deep 2 Deep Christmas curry – lots of cuddly bassists and some of their partners having curry and talking nonsense. What fun, I’m very much looking forward to it.

Before then I need to get to the vets to buy more cat food (of the renal variety), and maybe pick up a jar of coffee as well somewhere along the way (which means a trip to Asda as none of the little shops near us stock cafe-direct or clipper… question, is it worse to buy fair trade coffee from a multinational, or multinational coffee from a corner shop???? Oh, the moral maze in which we find ourselves!!!!)

Anywa, I guess even in writing this, I’ve convinced myself to get off my sorry ass and do SOMETHING – probably visit the vets, as that’s the most pressing thing…

BTW, a tip for last minute pressies – www.sendacow.com – an infinitely better idea that piling yet more crap that nobody needs into your relatives ‘presents to give away again next year’ cupboard…

Soundtrack – an interesting musical day. Started with Prince, ‘Sign Of The Times’, both discs (good stuff), followed by a CD by a group called Pocket, featuring a student of mine on bass. Interesting stuff – the guitarists are usually ‘free’ players in the LMC sense of the term, but this is their ‘tunes’ album – got a bizarre nursery rhyme quality to it that I’m not sure if I like or not, but Chris’ bass playing is very good… And now I’m listening to ‘Oracle’ by Gary Peacock/Ralph Towner; this is the first of their duo CDs, and I know the second one much better (A Closer View), but just about everyone I speak to prefers this one, so I’ll give it a few spins and see what occurs… :o)

feel free to send chivvying messages to me throughout the day, encouraging me in a polite and friendly way to do some f-ing work!!!!