When work is more fun than fun…

I do feel very lucky to get to make my living playing and teaching music… the playing side of that is obvious, but the teaching side is just as much fun, just as rewarding and just as challenging. I get to meet a fascinating bunch of people, all of whom I learn things from as well, many of whom are very creative and capable musicians, I get the challenge of creating a course of study that will help them to maximise their musical potential, I try to guide them through all the psychological pit-falls that can befall anyone trying to do something creative and especially for those who need music as a release from the stress of work etc… It’s a big responsibility, and one that sadly, it seems from what I’m told, a fair few teachers don’t take seriously. Fortunately, there are enough of us left for people to be able to find a good teacher if they look hard enough, but I guess the fact that I have students who travel from all over the south and midlands of England and even Wales suggests that there are still some areas where it’s pretty hard to find a good teacher…

Anyway, as I say, I feel very lucky to get to meet all these fascinating people. I benefit from it emmensely both musically and from the friendships that develop, and obviously the feeling of watching someone that you’re teaching discover whatever it is that they were looking for in music is a great feeling – teaching them what they want to know, and even more, teaching them what they didn’t know they wanted to know but actually wanted to know more than the stuff they thought they wanted to know.. :o)

Er, what else? Well, I’m still in post-tour consolidation at the moment – catching up with all my students, finally getting round to some of the promo stuff to do with Not Dancing For Chicken that I really ought to have done when it came out but didn’t cos I was on tour, and hopefully, eventually, sorting out my office, which is still a complete tip. In between all that, I need to make sure that the aged feline gets his medicine (high blood pressure), and gets a good brushing (to prevent hair-balls), and start booking some more gigs (oh, BTW, I’ve added a couple of dates to my gig page, and will be adding another two or three in the near future…)

For those of you that are on the Street Team – don’t forget to re-sub to the new topica list. The street team was getting a little big for me to handle via email, so I’ve created a topica list, like my main mailing list, so that you can manage it yourself, and I don’t have to try and find out what your new email address is when you decide to change it without warning me!

For those of you that are musicians in bands, I heartily recommend the street team idea – it’s very reassuring to have a bunch of people who like your music and are willing to help out getting the word out about gigs and cds and everything – even a handful of willing friends can be a bonus, and if you get an international list then it can be really useful in helping to build profile.

even if you’re not on the street team, feel free to have a look at the street team ideas page, so that if you feel like helping out in an unofficial capacity, you can do!

So what’s up for the next wee while? Er, I’m working at the nightshelter again this evening (was meant to be rota’d on next weekend, but have swapped) am meeting up with evil harv this evening – he organises delicatessen (click the deli link over the the left hand side of the page there for more on deli – a great acoustic night in Reading), and I’ve got a suggestion for another weird deli night, like the solo bass one we did last year with me, Michael Manring and David Friesen… watch this space for more on that…

And tomorrow I’m going to see Muriel Anderson play at the Troubadour in Earl’s Court – she’s very good, and well worth checking out, should you want to. I’ll meet you there!

SoundtrackBeen working through some CDs borrowed from Not At All Evil Dann – some Django Bates (some of which is excellent, some didn’t do it for me), and a CD by Richard Leo Johnson, which is sort of Michael Hedges meets Oregon, and is rather lovely. After that today, I’ve been listening to a recording of Michael Manring and I, live at the Anaheim Bass Bash – I’ve got my whole set here, but haven’t been paying much attention to the other tunes in it, just this duo with Michael, which with any luck will surface here as an MP3 before too long…

California III – this time it's serious

…or maybe not…

So anyway, 26th was the Echoplex Clinic at Bananas At Large in San Raphael, just north of San Francisco. Nice town, great shop. The clinic went really well, and I stole loads of ideas from Andre LaFosse’s tips on using the Echoplex – if you’re interested in the EDP at all, you HAVE to check out his site with the Echoplex tips page on it, and all his MP3s…

Anyway, the curry after the clinic was lovely, Scott Drengsen (solo bassist from the Bay Area) came along to the clinic, which was great, and Dan and I stayed with Anderson and Laura – very good friends who live in San Raphael. A lovely time was had by all!

Couple of days off spent with Billy-Bob and Mavis which was lovely, then onto the dates with Michael Manring along with the trio – the first of which was at Henflings in Ben Lomond (sounds Scottish, actually just outside Santa Cruz) – great venue, good turn out, lots of very cool music, and a bizarre moment when Rick Walker jumped on stage to join in with Michael Manring’s set…

the Next day we were up in Sacramento (this was a mucho-driving tour). Started out with a radio interview that Michael and I did for KVMR – very very cool station, we did a duo piece and then Michael did Red Right Returning (as featured, uncredited on the new Royksopp CD).

The gig was great – loads of people there, lots of CD sales, the line up was Michael and I (solo and duo) and Orbis (Mike Roe, Mark Harmon and Nick Willow). What a fun evening. It was also the venue owner’s birthday, and his name turned out to be Tim Looper – what a fine coincidence… :o)

Couple more days off, spent in Sacramento, then the gig at the Little Fox Theatre, with Michael and David Friesen. The three of us works really well as a show, so that was very cool. Lots of good people there, etc. etc.

The next show was probably the low-light of the tour – Cafe Du Nord, nice venue in San Francisco, had been looking forward to this. Got there, and noticed in the local paper that it was billed as a singer/songwriter night, with David Friesen and I listed as acoustic singer/songwriters! Huh? Turns out it was double booked, the guy who organised the acoustic night got really annoyed about it all, tried the cancel the night, it ended up with David and I playing truncated sets, and then the acoustic thing happening afterwards. All a bit miserable and a bit of a let down… Oh well.

Stayed in a motel 6 that night, then off to Santa Barbara – very nice town, had a wander round the farmer’s market. Clinic at Instrumental Music (is this beginning to read like bullet points???), which was great fun – the store manager is a friend from last year, Jamie Faletti, so it was great to see him, lots of great questions at the clinic, loads of CDs sold, all good fun.

Next night was another clinic at another branch of instrumental music, great turnout, the whole thing was videoed (bits of it may turn up here, who knows), some cool people there, nice curry afterwards with Jeff Kaiser (avante-garde composer and trumpeter), and some people from the shop. All good fun, good people, good food, good music. yadda yadda…

Ploughing on through busy schedule, the next day, I gave a masterclass at The College Of The Canyons, normally taught by fantastic solo bassist and jazz educator, Todd Johnson. Nice to hear from Todd afterwards that I’d just confirmed all he’d been telling them for weeks :o)

The second low-light of the tour was to follow – clinic at Jim’s music in Irvine – the shop hadn’t even put up a flyer in the shop for it, no promo, no-one knew, ergo very small number of people there. Bit of a waste of time, travelling 6000 miles to play in a shop that couldn’t care less if you were there or not. Still, kick the dust from your shoes and move on. etc.

The following night in Valencia more than made up for the Irvine balls-up. Great gig at Java and Jazz. Loads of people there, including lots of lovely Level 42 fans from the web digest. Todd Johnson, who organised the gig, played a fantastic solo set, then I did my thing, followed by some fun little jazzy duets.

The tour finished off with a nice little clinic thingie for Churchbassists in San Dimas…

All in all, a lot of fun. Well worth doing, loads of good gigs, tonnes of CDs sold, lots of good press (there’s a review of Not Dancing in the current issue of Bass Player magazine, and the loop trio gig in Santa Cruz made it onto the cover of the Santa Cruz newspaper…)

Hopefully I’ll be back in the US before long…

None More Dull

Yippee – tax bill paid, tax return sent off, which for you lot means no more fist-chewingly dull stuff about my tax return! :o) Now I can lull you to sleep with Bonsai talk instead… although, as I’m off on tour tomorrow, there should be plenty to talk about for the next four weeks!

Yesterday was another big teaching day – exhausting but rewarding.

Today will involve teaching from 12-2, then driving my CDs over to Chelmsford to be shipped off to LA on Monday morning. Then I’ll be packing, repacking, remembering things I’ve forgotten and repacking again, tidying up here to try and leave the house in a reasonable state for the rest of the household to inhabit for the next four weeks (not really fair to bugger off and leave the poor aged feline with all the cleaning duties – his lack of opposable thumbs makes filing a nightmare…)

I’ll be moving my ickle Bonsai tree out of the office so it’s not ignored in the plant watering ritual of the next few weeks. I’ve been unsubscribing from the myriad mailing lists and discussion lists that I’m on so as to reduce the volume of email traffic while I’m away (just the 50 bits of spam and viruses to deal with each day then…) – does anyone else get as many viruses sent to them as me? Is this intentional and malicious, or just that I’m on so many people’s email lists that whenever someone with my address gets got I get sent a copy? Norton picks them up OK, and the ones that get into my inbox without being deleted are easily recogniseable (I just delete most things with attachments unless I’m expecting them – so warn me first if you’re trying to send anything, and don’t send me unsolicited MP3s!! Nothing is more likely to put you on my email s**t-list than sending me a 10 meg file with no warning… grrrrr (evil harv!)

anyway, better get started on the tidy, before the teaching, before the CD delivering, before the packing, before the sleeping before the journey to LA, before the tour!

Soundtrack – yesterday I got ‘Jordan – The Comeback’ by Prefab Sprout. I’m increasingly convinced that Paddy McAlloon is one of the all time great British songwriters – I don’t think as yet I’ve heard a duff song by him. Right now, I’m listening to Calamateur again – this is so so beautiful and haunting, you really have to get it – the juxtaposition of FSU beats, ambient sounds, acoustic guitar and loads of samples of speech/interviews/news etc. all relating to cars, car accidents, traffic police. It’s awesome – Andrew – make sure you send a copy into The Late Junction on Radio 3, they’ll LOVE this!

BTW, I’ve just seen that the BBC Radio 3 Website has all the previous week’s Late Junction programs archived for listening on demand – GO AND LISTEN, it’s brilliant – a fascinating mix of world music, new music, eclectic pop and prog, bits of jazz, ancient music – all kinds of stuff, and now you can listen any time of the day! There really is no excuse…

Count Down to La La Land

Another very busy teaching day today, which was very good.

What wasn’t so good was that my CDs didn’t end up on the Ashdown pallette going to LA, so I’ve got to sort out alternative shipping for them. Fortunately, Ashdown are helping me out with that, via DHL, but with all the teaching I’ve got booked in tomorrow, last minute shopping, packing, picking up my car from the garage where it’s just had it’s MOT done and snipping my new bonsai tree (photos soon), I’m gonna be rushed off my feet!

And what’s more, I need to get some practice in, so as not to look a fool in LA…

Looks like Gibson may be able to lend me a couple of Echoplexes while I’m there, which would be very nice, not having to fly with mine. I did buy a bigger suitcase anyway yesterday… I’m there for four weeks, after all!

Anyway, time for bed now.

Soundtrack – ‘autocity ep’ by Calamateur – this is BRILLIANT!! It’s a mini CD, for a fiver, by one half of Scottish alt-noise-ambient-geniuses Old Solar. Lots of weird speech samples, and fantastic atmospherics. You have to check this out. go to www.calamateur.co.uk to find out more, and buy the CD; it’s a very limited edition, and will become a collectors item very soon. Lots of other good stuff on the site (no MP3s yet though, so you’ll just have to take my word for it and order it. And while you’re there, look out for the Old Solar album, cos that’s magic as well – it’s called ‘Many Visitors Have Been Gored By Buffalo’)

Cold Cold Ground

Bleedin’ heck, it’s COLD!!!!! Freezin’, even!!

Our central heating still isn’t fixed, so we’ve got the electric heaters and the gas fire on full, trying to defrost our frozen tootsies… and my new slippers are helping too! See, I’m 30 now, so slippers are de riguer…

It’s ages since I last blogged, what have I been up to? Well lots of teaching – this week is, in fact, my busiest ever private teaching week (as in, I’ve done more teaching than this, but only when private stuff was combined with college teaching) – it all comes in very handy for going to the US…

Saturday evening was fun – first off went to ‘Up’ – a mellow and ambient alternative worship thingie in Thame, Oxfordshire – lots of candles, guided meditation things, mellow music, strange sensory things to ponder. All very chilled out, and a fine way to start the new year. Went straight from there to St Luke’s, where I was on duty overnight at the Homeless night shelter we have there for three months a year… all very uneventful, though it was great getting to talk to Becky, who was on duty with me, who I’d seen at church but not really had much of a chance to chat to.

Got one hour’s sleep overnight, so not surprisingly, I went straight to bed when I got home at 7am…

Watched a very interesting TV program last night called ‘without prejudice’ – basically a game show with no game, where instead of answering inane questions to win the prize, a panel of ‘normal’ people get to choose who they want to have the prize money (50 grand) based on a range of information, and their first impressions… the bizarre thing was that I found myself thinking that non of the people deserved the money… which is odd when contrasted with quiz shows, where apparently guessing the catch-phrase, keeping ‘out of the black and into the red’ or not being the weakest link are perfectly valid ways for people to receive silly amounts of money. Odd one, but worth watching.

Today I finally got round to buying a Bonsai tree – something I’ve wanted to do for a long time. I bought a part-grown one, and if this works out, I may have a go at growing some from seed. What I do need though, is a name for my tree! so I need suggestions, and the winning suggestion will receive a CDR of ‘Beauty and The Beast’ and the new version of Highway 1 that are in MP3 form on my site – proper CD quality versions of them! So, name that bonzai – email me with your suggestions, please! I’ll try to post a picture of it as soon as I can, to help inspire you…

Soundtrack – just now been listening to Prefab Sprout, ‘From Langley Park To Memphis’, which is great and of curio value as my sister used to live in Langley Park… :o) Also been listening to Thelonius Monk, ‘Monk’s Greatest Hits’, which is fantastic – the writing and his melodic phrasing are out of the world; Duke Ellington and Ray Brown, ‘This One’s For Blanton’, Metheny/Haden, ‘Beyond The Missouri Sky’, Anita Baker, ‘Rapture’.

Talking 'bout a Resolution

(sounds like a whisper)

It’s that time of year again, when we realise that we kept very few of our resolutions from last year (though I did set myself one goal of doing 30 solo gigs, and I did over 60, so that was good… :o)

anyway for this year, here’s a few muddled up ideas for what I’m planning/aiming for/wishing for/etc.

  • read more (and therefor, travel more on the tube, as that’s where I get most of my reading done
  • eat more vegan food (should be easy as the small person is on a dairy free diet at the moment anyway…)
  • cook more (I’m on a roll at the moment, so need to keep it up)
  • keep office tidy (yeah, right – need to get it tidy in the first place. Having said that, made a start today on my desk… it’s getting there)
  • practice more (bass that is, not medicine or law or anything – at the end of the two tours with Level 42 and the Schizoid band, my playing was probably the best it’s ever been, need to work on maintaining that…)
  • spend less time just mucking about on line (opening the chat room at thedudepit.com hasn’t helped…)
  • get my tax sorted out, and then stay on top of it (fairly short term aim, but it needs to be done in the next few days!)
  • do at least 50 solo gigs (with 20 or so already booked, this one shouldn’t be too tricky to acheive…)
  • release another duo CD (plans are already afoot)
  • start work on at least one book (either method, theory, looping concepts or general musical-based musings… still haven’t decided – suggestions to the usual address…)

So there you go – that’s my year mapped out… a bit.

what are yours?

The Small Person and I had a lovely quiet new year – watched ‘Bend It Like Beckham’ yesterday, and ‘Monsters Inc’ today – both highly recommended, fine fine films. Went for a drive up to Crews Hill today – lots of garden centres there – but the whole world was aparently under about three feet of water – blocked roads ‘n’ everything…

Soundtrack – I’ve spent a lot of time these last couple of days listening to a couple of improv sessions that I did with keyboardist Patrick Wood during the first half of 2002 – one extract from that is now up on the site, as the new version of Highway 1, though I’m not sure it was even called Highway 1 back then… It’s an interesting comparison to listen to it alongside the version on ‘Not Dancing For Chicken’ (which of course, you have already?), and the live version from the Bartok gig that’s also on the MP3 page. Go on, you know you want to…

Other than that, I’ve been listening to ‘Free’ by Peter Chilvers, which is, as it says on the tin a ‘free’ album – you burn a copy, and your only commitment is to make sure you burn two more copies and pass it on! It’s a fascinating experiment in the pure power of exposure – loads of people will have the CD, and hopefully lots of them will go and buy other CDs by Peter (his first solo album ‘He Wrote This’ is excellent, and available from burningshed.com) – there’s been a lot of discussion of late on the whole merits of ‘free’ music, whether it be CDR copying or MP3 downloading. Singer/Songwriter Janis Ian wrote this article for Performing Songwriter magazine last year, and it’s brilliant – she’s my new hero! Read the article and her follow up – both very good. Then, download the MP3s, and if you like what she’s doing, buy the CDs, and prove it works…

Anyway, what else have I been listening to? oh, Anita Baker ‘Rapture’ – often when I get something out to play to a student during a lesson, it stays in the play for a few days, and this did.

30 somehow…

So here I am, 30 years and two days old. And feeling every bit of those two days over 30…

Anyway, the rest of my birthday was fine – went to a party at Hoda’s in the evening (Hoda = lovely chap who works for Ashdown, throws good parties, and is a top chum), which was great fun, especially as Oroh was there (Oroh = fab bass-playing talkathon, and top chum). I hadn’t seen Oroh in ages, so it was great to be able to catch up.

The rest of the last few days at home has been split between sleeping (I’m heading towards an almost aged-felinesque sleep pattern – today, got up at 1!!), watching episodes of ‘Phoenix Nights’ on video, and sitting up very late watching the current late night trinity of The Office, Buzzcocks and I Love The 80s – all fine viewing, though it does mean we’ve been going to be after 2 each night, and The Small Person is working today… it’s fine for me sleeping in til 1pm, but not when she has to be up at 8…

Anyway, the office tidying has begun, finally – so far that means I’ve put away some CDs, and thrown out a couple of boxes of old flyers from past gigs. Oh, and taken lots of cups to be washed into the kitchen (next jobs – tidy kitchen and check cat tray).

The California gig list is just about complete – promoter-Dan has done the most amazing job on getting all these gigs, in such varied places and with varied lineups. It’s going to be so much fun!

So what’s on for the rest of the week? Some teaching, more tidying, sort out my tax return thingie, arranging the specifics of my trip to the states (accomodation, travel in and around CA, getting money changed up, etc…), and sending out more copies of ‘Not Dancing’ for review and radio – it’s been kind of slow, due to the CD coming out in the middle of the Level 42 tour, but I need to kick it into gear now…

right, off to do some tidying!

Soundtrack – lots more ‘Bright Sized Life’, India Arie ‘Acoustic Soul’, some unreleased Andre LaFosse MP3s (very good indeed), and ‘Southern Hummingbird’ by Tweet (Missy Elliott protege who’s quite good, if a little rude at times!)

Curry, Theatre and the run up to Christmas

The Deep 2 Deep curry was great fun – organised by Wulf (and yes, he has brothers called Magnus and Leofrick…), 6 of us went out for curry. a fine time. Is having curry ever not a fine time? Wulf also had a CD of his bootleg of the Bass Centre clinic that I did with Michael Manring last month – not bad quality, so I’ll see if I can clean it up in Soundforge and put some of it on the website… We’ll see…

Anyway, Saturday was a great day too – not-at-all-evil-Dann proved his not-at-all-evilness by inviting me to the theatre to see The Play Wot I Wrote, at the Wyndhams theatre near Leicester Square (has evil harv ever taken me to the theatre? I think not… proving his evility) Anyway, the play was brilliant – lots of marvellous physical comedy, top gags, Morcambe and Wise routines (that’s the major theme of the play)… all great stuff. Why don’t I go to the theatre more often? It’s great! I really ought to… there’s new year’s resolution number 3 (the rest will be revealed at new year…)

Anyway, theatre followed by dinner with Dann and his not-at-all-evil family. Then home.

Also started reading Further Along The Road Less Travelled again – what a great book – a fantastic followup to ‘The Road Less Travelled’, sort of a bringing together of thinking on physcology and religion… fascinating stuff. I do like the way Scott Peck’s mind works, and will have to work my way through the rest of his stuff in the next year (Resolution #4?)

Found another cool 80s computer game on line – this time it’s Bomb Jack – not as addictive as the Helicopter Game (I’ve now got about 1760 on it, and the addictiveness of it is testified to by the thread that has been going on in the Miscillaneous forum at www.activebass.com about it!!

Today was the St Luke’s Nativity at church – always a pretty anarchic affair (particularly a couple of years ago when it was re-written to reference psycho half way through, Norman Bates having become the inn keeper!!!!) – the kiddies were on top form, and a fine time was had by all.

Then home to do the Christmas Food Shop. Asda was packed (shouldn’t have gone there…)

Soundtrack – a bit more of Gary Peacock/Ralph Towner, then the new Joni Mitchell CD, ‘Travelogue’ which is a series of orchestra + voice versions of her back catalogue. Her last album was her doing a load of standards with a couple of her own tunes thrown in which were the best tunes on the CD, heralding the way for this. It’s gorgeous, lush, sumptuous and a slight shame that there’s no new material on it at all. Very lovely indeed, and beautifully packaged, with lots of Joni’s paintings on the sleeve. And now I’m listening to Beauty And The Beast by Jez and me, which is also very good – you can download it from the MP3s page on the site, if you like, as a christmas pressie from Jez and I. It’s not available anywhere else…

Christmas taste bypass effect…

What on earth happens to people at Christmas? Yesterday I went out for
lunch with my mum and Babs (known as ‘aunti Babs, but no idea what
relation she really is to me… distant, I think, but one of our grooviest
relations and great fun..). We went to Crew’s Hill, north of Enfield, which is
the garden centre capital of the world… But also, for the next couple of
weeks, home to the most hideous ‘Christmas Wonderland’ shop that I’ve
ever come across! Millions of shiny santas, singing Bing Crosby’s dressed
as Santa, gaudy decorations, cheap plastic christmas trees, crass nativity
scenes devoid of all realism. It was horrible!!!! Scary thing was it was full! on
a monday afternoon, full of families, with kids (er, aren’t they meant to be
in school???) buying cheap nasty tat. No wonder the country’s going down
the pan when parents prioritise bad taste christmas junk over an education…
very sad…

On the up side, I did manage to find a squirrel-proof bird-feeder. Our last
one got eaten by the squirrels (not just the nuts, but the base of the feeder
as well!!) This one is built like a brick s**t house – try to get into that, you
furry terrorists!!!!

soundtrack – yesterday, I got sent a CD by John Lester, a singing
solo bassist living in Paris, but from San Fransisco. Very good it is too, well
worth looking out for (there’ll be a link to his site on the Solo Bass Network
site as soon as I find one…) This morning, I got Cupid and Psyche by Scritti
Politti through from 101CD.com. What a fantastic album!!! This is an absolute
blinder… great stuff.

Got lots of teaching on today, and will hopefully get round to adding
some photos or MP3s or both from the Level 42 tour to the site…

Poll Dancing…

The Evo E-Zine – which I posted about a couple of days ago when they added
a coulple of reviews of my gigs, also has a poll of who their readers would
most like to see interviewed/featured/reviewed – bizarrely enough, as of last
night, I was in third place! If you feel like heading over there and voting for
me, that would be lots of fun! :o) At the moment, I’m just behind Jon Anderson,
and just ahead of King Crimson and Peter Gabriel! Very bizarre…

Currently listening to Mel and Sue on Radio London – the only justification
of celebrity Big Brother is that it’s given them more comedy ammo… Sue
was by far the most interesting person in the house, and is even better
deconstructing it from the outside…

Soundtrack – been listening to King’s X – ‘Manic Moonlight’, Prince
– ‘Sign Of The Times’ and a Nick Harper compilation from Catherine-from-
the-street-team. Also been playing a lot in the last couple of days, so
whenever I get a groovy loop going, I leave it running for half an hour to
get the idea into my head… My new Gibson Echoplex is amazing
– been experimenting with a lot of the extended functions in the software
revision, like some of the quantize functions, different replace/substitute/insert
modes and the double/half speed thing… lots of fun to be had by all! Should
manifest itself in an MP3 or two before christmas…