More MySpace stuff

I’ve spent the last hour or so sorting out a MySpace page for the Recycle Collective – everything’s in place except the audio, and that’s cos I’m writing all of this from in bed, and the MP3s are on the other computer, so I can’t upload them… :o)

The MySpace thing is just huge now, so it’s mad not to have a page for whatever it is that you do. I’m going to have to set one up for the Stevie/Theo duo… and if anyone wants to do a Stevie-fan-page, feel free (The Cheat, you’ve got some time, have a go! ;o)

and now, it’s time to get up, and get ready for tonight’s gig in Portsmouth – see you there!

Soundtrack – The The, ’45 RPM’.

contender for the king of mint teas crown…

Had to buy a box of mint tea bags as soon as I got here – too many places where you can’t get things that are neither caffeinated or fizzy. So a trip Trader Joes was in order. Why don’t we have Trader Joes in the UK? It’s fantastic. Anyway, TJs mint tea is gorgeous – up there with Dr Stuarts. Oh yes, bloglings, it’s that good – try to refrain from drooling on the keyboard at the very thought of such at thing.

So I’m a happy minty stevie today.

SoundtrackJeff Taylor, ‘promo ep’ (all the songs from his myspace page plus one more – great stuff); Steve Lawson/Jeff Kasier (the improv stuff we recorded on sunday – marvellous noises – watch this space.)

Peter Murray – Ants and Angels

one of my blog resolutions for this year is to do more CD reviews… You’ve already had BJ Cole’s marvellous ‘Transparent Music’, and today I got a copy of Peter Murray’s ‘Ants and Angels’.

Pete is someone I know best as a bassist, having seen him live playing for Ron Sexsmith in London a few years ago, and having jammed with him a few times at NAMM shows in LA over the years. ‘Ants and Angels’ is much closer to the Ron end of things than the ‘jamming with stevie’ end of things. It’s a proper singer/songwriter album, with a heavy dose of XTC/Squeeze/Elvis Costello – all those great early 80s songwriters – and tunesmiths like The Rembrandts/Lit/Fountains Of Wayne etc. The songwriting, production, playing and packaging are all top notch – it’s amazing to think that it’s a self-produced album. I guess the quality of the musicians on it is a testament to Peter’s standing in the Toronto music scene – everything is impeccably played, the tunes are incredibly strong – if it gets in the right hands, he’s guaranteed a couple of radio hits off this. Really, it’s a must for fans of intelligent alt-guitar singer/songwriter stuff. From the ultra-catchy punky tracks like the opener ‘Gen X DJ on E’ and ‘Ears Make Wax’ to the more mellow almost Neil Young-ish tunes like ‘Murray Vs The Ants’ and ‘Skydiver Friends’, the album is packed with great hooks, instantly memorable stuff.

Have a listen to some of the tracks at Peter’s MySpace page – and follow whatever ordering instructions are there. Definitely one of the strongest self-produced albums I’ve ever heard.

four things…

OK, end of year meme, nicked from sharklady’s blog

A. Four jobs you’ve had in your life
1. waiter
2. factory worker (stitching little ‘R’s into Russel Athletic sweatshirts!)
3. Market research observer for Philips
4. solo bassist

B. Four films you could watch over and over
1. the wedding singer
2. so I married an axe murderer
3. bugsy malone
4. muppet’s treasure island

C. Four cities you’ve lived in
1. London
2. Perth
3. Lincoln
4. Berwick on Tweed (er, cities?????)

D. Four Tele programs you love to watch
1. question time
2. never mind the buzzcocks
3. newsnight review
4. family guy

E. Four favourite places you’ve been on holiday
1. Krakow
2. Lake Garda, Italy
3. North Norfolk coast
4. Nashville

F. Four websites you visit daily
1. BassWorld
3. MySpace
4. Jonatha Brooke forum

G. Four of your all-time favourite restaurants
1. Romna Gate, North London
2. Henderson’s, Edinburgh
3. Mia’s, just outside Reading (best curry I’ve had in years)
4. Ristorante Cascina Capuzza, Desenzano del Garda, Italy

H. Four of your favourite foods
1. just about any veg Curry, but Mia’s Veg balti is pretty remarkable.
2. Fajitas
3. Caprese Salad
4. fresh fruit salad.

I. Four places you’d rather be right now
1. North Norfolk
2. on the banks of Lake Garda
3. Mexico (I’ve never really been but I’d sure like to go… ;o)
4. driving across the US with TSP.

J. Four things you find yourself saying
1. ‘sorry, I forgot’
2. ‘imitate, assimilate, integrate, innovate’
3. ‘anecdotally’ (way of covering myself when presenting loosely observed trends amongst my friends as scientific data)
4. ‘OK, I’ll do it, when I’ve checked my email.’

(and sharklady, note anglicised questions – you’re from here, stop typing like you’re from there!)

2005 – the year of the blog.

At least, it has been for me. This, believe it or not, is my 507th blog post of the year (not including the ones I’ve posted on myspace,, big bottom etc.) – out of the total blog count on this version of my blog of 780-something, that makes it my bloggingest year yet by quite some huge margin.

And I’m not done yet! Still got all those end of year blogs and more festive blogging and birthday blogging to come… yay!

Strike a blow for the indies

That’s indie musicians, not the west or east indies. I mean, anything you can do for those indies would probably be much appreciated too, but I haven’t got time to get into that.

This week something marvellous occurred – the current number one single in the pop charts in the UK is ‘The JCB Song’ by Nizlopi (listen to it on their myspace page. They run their own label, have been gigging doggedly on the acoustic folky singer/songwriter scene in the UK for years, and write songs about childhood experiences, not getting jiggy or bling or whatever other nonsense usually populates the upper reaches of the chart.

And for months, there’s been this rumour going round the net that The JCB Song could be christmas number one. I can’t remember where I first heard it – a whisper from here or there. They had a page done with the video on it, which is a hand-drawn childish cartoon of a kid riding in a JCB with his dad (for the US readers, a JCB is a big mechanical digger). It’s beautiful. They’ve done an amazing job of evoking childhood with both the song and the video, and they’ve somehow got it to number one.

Like Show Of Hands managing to fill The Albert Hall, this is one of the most magical moments when real music invades the world of the shallow money-driven reality-tv horse-shit that populates the charts for the rest of the year. When some genuine talent sticks it’s head over the parapet and says ‘here’s a song you might really like, even without some godawful backstory told by the X-Factor to try and convince you that I’m just a roofer done good, living out his dreams, as opposed to a third rate karaoke singer with a dreadful backing track, lining Simon Cowell’s pockets.’

So, the big news is that yesterday I bought a song while it’s at number one for the first time since 1986! the last one was I think ‘Rock Me Amadeus’ by Falco, though it might have been Spitting Image’s ‘The Chicken Song’ – either way, I’ve still got them both. :o)

If Shane from X-Factor does make it to number one, it’ll be another one of those ‘Fairytale Of New York’ moments – a song that gets played everywhere every christmas due to it being one of the finest christmas songs ever written. But can you remember what was the christmas number on the year it was released? Fairytale was number two…

It’ll be the same with this – years to come, people will talk about Nizlopi, they’ll play the song and cry cos it’s gorgeous, and they’ll rue the day that some loser who ended up playing butlins within a year was at number one instead. UNLESS YOU BUY IT. Go on, it’s 79p on iTunes, or the other download services. Go and get it, strike a blow, enjoy the song, and feel like you’ve done something worthwhile.

'yeah, I listen to everything'

the daftest answer ever to the question ‘what music do you like?’ – it crops up a lot on MySpace – people who write under their music preferences ‘everything’ or ‘all kinds of music’. That’s rubbish.

I’ve got pretty extensive taste, but I dislike MOST music… There are literally millions of bands in the world. There are probably a few thousand that I quite like, and a few hundred that rock my world. A few dozen that have changed my life. That’s a pretty poor percentage. The thing that makes special music special is that we have to track it down. We look for it, we feel great not only because of what it is, but what it represents.

If I loved all music, it’d be like air. I don’t have favourite air. I might notice the sea air as being particularly bracing, but I don’t get bags of it shipped in, I don’t trawl ebay looking for Berwick on Tweed air just because it reminds me of my childhood. No, because all air is equally fantastic. Air is an amazing thing. It keeps me alive, I’d be very dead without it, and can’t say enough nice things about it. But it isn’t ‘special’.

Great music isn’t like air. There is a lot of great music out there, but you have to hunt for it. It’s rare that a major record label releases anything ‘great’. They often spoil potentially great things by sticking their lame-assed focus-group-led coked-up-executive-with-no-clue oar into the discussion, but they rarely let genuinely great records get through. That’s what makes Hejira so special. Or Songs In the Key Of Life, Plumb, Steve McQueen, Nothing But A Burning Light – they are amazing records on major labels. Extra kudos to Joni, Stevie, Jonatha, Prefab Sprout and Bruce for managing to get past the ‘hmm better make it a bit more shit just to make sure it gets on the radio’ moment…

So stop pretending that you’re into everything, or that you like ‘most music’ You don’t! You probably don’t even like the best of most styles of music – it takes a fairly broad set of ears to deal with the, um, idiosyncratic intonation of Chinese Opera, Tuvan throat singing, Tibetan Chanting, Ana music, or even Tom Waits at his most weird.

If you’re in a band, the likelihood is that it’s not going to rock my world. That’s not your fault, it’s just the law of averages. It shouldn’t stop you sending your CD out to people – I send mine out to all manner of people, safe in the knowledge that it’s not going to blow all of their minds. I hope some of them dig it, and am particularly grateful when people who aren’t already friends email me to say they really dig what I do. Last night, I got a text message from the lovely Jane who was listening to Grace And Gratitude and it was helping her out at the end of a tough day. A couple of weeks ago I got an email from a soldier who said it helped him through the tough time telling his folks that he had to go to Iraq. that stuff is worth a thousand people saying ‘yeah, I quite like your CD’.

It’s OK to not be blown away by everything, and people who don’t like your music aren’t losers with no taste. But remember to cherish everyone who is touched by what you do – it’s a huge privilege to be able to help soundtrack memorable times in people’s lives, whether it’s music that helps them celebrate, or comforts them in dark times, or just fits the occasion – one of my proudest musical moments is when a friend of mine took my CD in to be played while she was giving birth!

Let people know if their music means something to you – that’s one of the great things about having a blog; being able to big up great music, to get the word out about fab stuff that’s out there, the things that move me. And more often that not, the artists will find it while vanity searching, and drop me an email, which is always fun.

Cherish great music – it’s an honour not a birth-right.

Soundtrack – Iona, ‘Beyond These Shores’.

the myspace survey…

Lots of people seem to have answered these questions on their myspace page… lots of the questions are rubbish, but here’s mine…

Name: Steve
Birthday: December
Birthplace: Wimbledon
Current Location: southgate
Eye Color: brown
Hair Color: brownish… some grey, some henna
Height: 6′ 2″
Right Handed or Left Handed: left
Your Heritage: ?
The Shoes You Wore Today: deck shoes
Your Weakness: vanity searching
Your Fears: a Tory government
Your Perfect Pizza: mixed veg
Goal You Would Like To Achieve This Year: next solo album
Your Most Overused Phrase On an instant messenger: lol
Thoughts First Waking Up: post? email?
Your Best Physical Feature: height
Your Bedtime: after midnight
Your Most Missed Memory: going to the beach during school lunch hour
Pepsi or Coke: neither, ever
MacDonalds or Burger King: to burn down or put a brick through the window? tough call…
Single or Group Dates: single
Lipton Ice Tea or Nestea: neither
Chocolate or Vanilla: vanilla
Cappuccino or Coffee: either decaf, but preferably mint-tea
Do you Smoke: no
Do you Swear: swear to what?
Do you Sing: yes
Do you Shower Daily: no, don’t own a shower
Have you Been in Love: yes
Do you want to go to College: I went, it was fab
Do you want to get Married: yes
Do you belive in yourself: yes
Do you get Motion Sickness: not often
Do you think you are Attractive: define attractive
Are you a Health Freak: healthy – yes, freaky – clearly not
Do you get along with your Parents: yes
Do you like Thunderstorms: yes
Do you play an Instrument: yes
In the past month have you Drank Alcohol: no
In the past month have you Smoked: no
In the past month have you been on Drugs: no
In the past month have you gone on a Date: depends on how you define date
In the past month have you gone to a Mall: no
In the past month have you eaten a box of Oreos: no
In the past month have you eaten Sushi: no
In the past month have you been on Stage: yes
In the past month have you been Dumped: no
In the past month have you gone Skinny Dipping: no
In the past month have you Stolen Anything: no
Ever been Drunk: yes
Ever been called a Tease: no
Ever been Beaten up: yes
Ever Shoplifted: yes – an onion when I was 7
How do you want to Die: in my sleep aged 90-something
What do you want to be when you Grow Up: I’m still working on the growing up part…
What country would you most like to Visit: somewhere in southern africa.
In a Boy/Girl..
Favourite Eye Color: no preference
Favourite Hair Color: ” “
Short or Long Hair: ” “
Height: ” “
Weight: ” “
Best Clothing Style: ” “
Number of Drugs I have taken: prescription or illegal?
Number of CDs I own: too many to count, but thousands
Number of Piercings: 3
Number of Tattoos: none
Number of things in my Past I Regret: none

Last night's gig

Last night was the first of the Recycle Collective gigs. Usual Darbucka affair WRT to getting there, setting up, dealing with people who are ‘just there to eat’ etc. But all fine.

Music was great – Trip played a fabulous set, as always, and went down supremely well. The sound was great (well, except an earth hum off his bass whenever he wasn’t touching the strings, which was less than ideal…) and his between song banter was funny and engaging too. Good stuff.

After him, our first surprise guest of the series – JazzShark had sent me a link a week or so ago to a guy she’d seen live, called Jeff Taylor – the MP3s on his MySpace page were amazing. a few days later another message arrives from La Shark that Jeff is coming to London. So we exchange emails, meet up for lunch on Monday, and he says he’s coming to the gig, so I suggest he brings his guitar.

He did, and so I got him to play three songs, which were fantastic. A great performer/vocalist/guitarist/songwriter. The whole thing. He really ought to be huge. I’m sure he will be, and the select audience from Darbucka will be able to see that they saw him first.

Then onto Theo and I – we played a mixture of the tunes from Open Spaces and some improvised stuff, including a marvellous improv thing with Jeff on beatbox/vox/weird noises. the sad part of all this (sorry, guys) is that once again, the minidisc has let me down and is blank. It might be that it was still blank from the last time I tried to record a gig, and I’d not formatted the disc. either way, I’ve once again missed out on documenting some marvellous music. Bollocks. It’s getting to be something of a frustration with me – I’ve not been able to record a live gig for lord knows how long, and would really like a document of how I’m playing these tunes now (and I really ought to have had a copy of the Edinburgh show!) I need to come up with a fool proof way of doing it. If I had a roadie I’d get a rack-mountable minidisc deck wired into the rack so I could just put a disc in and go, but I just haven’t got the car space or the muscles to carry it.

So all in all, a great night’s music. The only disappointment was the size of the crowd, which was surprisingly small. I guess there are a few factors, like the Jazz Festival being on, and it not being that long since my last Darbucka gig, but it’s been well publicised… It seems like Theo and I generally struggle to pull a good crowd in London, which is frustrating, as it’s probably the most rewarding musical collaboration I’ve ever been involved in. He does fine if he’s playing with his quartet, and I do fine if I’m playing solo, but together it doesn’t seem to get the peoples in.

The next Recycle gig definitely needs to be bigger. I know these things are meant to grow, but still…

Anyway, it was a fab night, those that were there seemed to love it, Trip got to play London and went down a storm, and we all got to hear Jeff Taylor in a setting that we’ll remember for a long time.

Today, Trip and I are down at the ACM in Guildford for another clinic/masterclass thingie, which will be a lot of fun – it’s a great school, and is always good to go and play for the students there. Hopefully we’ll leave them with something quality to take away.

SoundtrackBill Frisell, ‘East/West’ (new double live album from my favourite guitar player – great stuff, a return to form)

A Saturday doing not much

I so rarely get a saturday off! I’m really relishing this one – it’s nearly 3pm and I’m still not dressed, just sat here faffing about online in my dressing gown. Actually, does uploading gig dates to count as work? If it does, i’ve been working, but it certainly doesn’t feel like work compared to my usual 5/6/7 hours of teaching.

The reason for the day off was that there was a possibility that I was going to be flying out to Verona to play at a bass-day gig there, but it didn’t come off, so I’m here and happy and mellow and enjoying the rest.

Especially as yesterday was a bit of a frantic day flyering (echoes of Edinburgh in that sentence). Headed into town late morning to meet Dweez from the forum for lunch and to give him a big pile of flyers to dish out (gotta love them street-team lovelies!), and then off up Upper Street in Islington putting flyers and posters in all the little cafes along there that have flyer racks and walls devoted to posters for local events. The split between the corporate and the family-run couldn’t be more stark. All those places where decisions are purely made on their financial efficacy wouldn’t be seen dead allowing flyers for events not associated with the brand to be put in them. All the little funky family-owned cafes/bars/restaurants etc. are more than happy to help promote events in their local community. Good peoples, one and all.

After that, it was up to the Gallery in Camden to deliver more posters and flyers, and to see Alex who works there. A fun visit, for sure.

Where else for flyers? Ah, there’s Mole Jazz in King’s Cross. Back on the tube (via my lovely new Oyster Card) and head off to King’s Cross. Who’s this coming towards me carrying more camera equipment than your average hollywood film set? Why, it’s Steve Brown, photographer extraordinaire, and carrier of much photo-gear. Serendipity like this definitely calls for a coffee break. So we head off in search of Mole Jazz, which no long exists and is now a ‘Subway’ sandwich shop, so we find nearby little cafe and stop for lovely chat. It’s coincidences like this that make London special – bumping into your friends when you all live in a village of 30 people isn’t a surprise, it’s just called ‘going outdoors’. In a city of 11 million people, it’s a bit less likely, and therefor to be treasured.

It occurs to me while chatting to Steve that the commuter jazz series at the QEH (where it has transplanted from the RFH while the renovations are taking place) would be a great place to hand out some flyers, as well as to see some of the old RFH commuter jazz peoples. So i head down there, only to discover that it’s not every week, and this is an off-week. Ah well, at least I got to see the new shops ‘n’ cafes development on the Riverside bit of the RFH – it’s lovely, and I’ll have to investigate there further.

So, where next with flyers? Darbucka, of course! Posters and flyers delivered, time to head home. A knackering day, and one that earns me a mellow Saturday, fo shizzle.

Soundtrack – Sam Phillips, ‘Fan Dance’; Renaud Garcia-Fons, ‘Entremundo’; Prefab Sprout, ‘Steve McQueen’.

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