A timely reminder.

Was rehearsing with this morning for the couple of gigs we’ve got coming up over the next two weeks, and was reminded once again how much fun playing with Theo is! It really is the simplest most immediately effective musical hook-up I’ve ever had, and I’ve had quite a few others that were pretty painless. When we were trying to remember how ‘Flutter’ goes (the opening tune from For The Love Of Open Spaces), we actually played the first minute of the tune twice in a row – that’s the most work we’ve ever had to do on anything!

Anyway, we were sounding just fine, and it gave me renewed impetus to get more gigs with Theo. He’s a fantastic musician and a top bloke. If you haven’t got his new CD, Go here to get it.

And now I’m listening to – those of you in the US will probably have heard her (she was on Letterman recently), those of you in the UK might have heard of her if you keep up with David Torn-related news (he produced the record), but she’s pretty much unknown on this side of the pond at the moment. She’s a solo acoustic guitarist, in the Hedges/Forcione/Roche/Ross school of playing, and is magic. Writes great tunes and is a great performer. I’m hoping to bring her over for some gigs together this coming summer. ‘Til then, check out her site and buy the CD on-line from the states!

SoundtrackKaki King, ‘Legs To Make Us Longer; Steve Lawson and Theo Travis, ‘For The Love Of Open Spaces’; , ‘Matthew Garrison’.

Another fine gig with Theo

This afternoon, Theo and I had a gig in the Royal Festival Hall Foyer – which, dispite being in ‘a foyer’ is actually a really really nice gig – big audience, lovely atmosphere, perfect for big spacious loveliness.

The setlist included a handful of tunes from For The Love Of Open Spaces – Flutter, Uncle Bernie, In A Place Like This and Lovely – one each of our solo tunes (I did Grace And Gratitude) one arrangement each of a tune we’ve written (Amo Amatis Amare with Theo on soprano sax, and then All I Know from Theo’s Heart Of The Sun album), and a couple of big spacey improvs.

All in all a top gig – the sound was great and we played very well indeed. Very positive reaction from the audience, and we’ve already been booked to play there again. Good stuff.

Theo’s one of the easiest musicians in the world to play with – an expert looper, and an amazing listener, he slots in around what I’m doing and directs the music in very subtle ways. It’s great being on stage with someone who is such a fine melodic improvisor and does textural ambient stuff as well. A real treat.

I’ve been listening to Theo’s new album, Earth To Ether, a lot over the last few days – it’s a hugely diverse representation of most of the things Theo’s been up to of late. There’s stuff with his quartet, a solo flute-loop thingie and a couple of songs with Richard Sinclair (70s prog-pop stalwart, out of Caravan/Hatfield And The North etc.) Richard’s voice is a little disarming at first – mainly because it’s so rare to hear jazz sung with an english accent. Richard avoids the trap of brit singer trying to sound like they grew up in New York, but he’s SOOO english that it takes a bit of getting used to it. But I’m used to it now, and really enjoy it.

There’s a strong pastoral, rural feel to the album – Theo seems to be inspired by open space a lot (hence the title of our CD), and it gives everything he does a very warm feeling. The other brit saxophonist I’ve been listening to a lot recently is Ben Castle – another superb musician, and every bit as eclectic as Theo. His is an urban eclecticism that provides a fantastic compliment to Theo’s broad sonic vista. Ben’s stuff also sounds like he’s playing whilst smirking a lot of the time – lots of very comedic stuff, but he always makes you feel like you’re in on the joke. Very clever stuff, hugely enjoyable. I strongly recommend both CDs – Ben’s is called ‘Blah Street’.

SoundtrackMatthew Garrison, ‘Matthew Garrison’; Theo Travis, ‘Earth To Ether’; Ben Castle, ‘Blah Street’; Jackson Browne, ‘Looking East’; Sheila Chandra, ‘Moonsung’.

radio days

Last night was big fun! not Big Fun – they were a crap 80s pop group – no, big fun for me, on four different BBC radio stations simultaneously! The Sue Dougan show is broadcast on BBC Radio Kent / Solent / Southern Counties and Berkshire, 7-10pm, monday to friday, from Tunbridge Wells. I was down in Sussex visiting my grandparents yesterday anyway, so it timed well.

We’d planned for me to go in and play live, but due to (perfectly reasonable) concerns about the possibility of tripping the power circuit with all my music gear, it ended up not being possible – so I’d carried all my stuff in for nothing. Still, it didn’t matter, as it meant that Sue just played tracks from Grace and Gratitude and For The Love Of Open Spaces instead, and chatted for ages about my whole process, purpose and inspiration for doing music. Sue asked a lot of very interesting questions, and not being a bassist, passed on the ‘what strings do you use?’ question. All in all, much fun was had – big thanks to Sue and her producer Steve.

What else of late? Central heating boiler started leaking a week ago, so we got John the plummer round, and a very fine plumber he is too. Yesterday and today he replaced the boiler and swapped over our totally-useless-70s-style skirting board radiators for normal ones. As I was away visiting my grandparents, The Small Person was left with the job of moving all my stuff in my office/studio to give John The Plumber access. No mean feat, given the amount of crap I’ve accumulated. Still, it’s a great excuse to actually tidy up… yeah, riiiight…

Other than that, I’ve been sorting out flyers and press releases for my edinburgh festival dates – the venue people are incredibly pedantic when it comes to style, but it’s probably a good thing, and I’m pretty nifty with Quark and Photoshop so it’s not taking me long to make the changes.

oh, and on Sunday, my mum, The Small Person and I went up to the Otter Trust in Norfolk for a day out – TSP and I had been there before, mum hadn’t. It’s such a cool place – otters are exceedingly groovy animals anyway, but the trust also has deer and wallabies and millions of ducks ‘n’ geese. A fine day out. ‘Twas also nice to find out that the captive breeding and releasing programme of the otter trust has brought the wild otter levels back to where they were about 50 years ago, to the point where they can’t release any more without upsetting the balance. Very good!

Stuart Maconie played ‘Shizzle’ from the new album on his Freak Zone show on the other night, and describe it as ‘if david lynch directed Seinfeld, this would be the theme tune’ – very nice! :o) 6 music is a fantastic station – I listen to Jane Gazzo’s Dream Ticket in the evenings, and stream Bob Harris and Tom Robinson‘s shows during the week from the archive.

In other music news, much of last week was spent recording with Calamateur, AKA Andrew Howie. I’ve known andrew for over a decade, he even bought my old bass off me when I left college, and he’s since become a fantastic singer/songwriter. His latest album, The Old Fox Of ’45, is wonderful, and we were working on some new stuff, some of it was me putting bass and strangeness onto tracks he’d already been working on, one of the tracks was just a vocal and guitar that I then messed around with a bit and added some bass and strangeness to, and the last one we did from scratch, using varisped samples of a crappy old nylon acoustic guitar I’ve got here, some weirdness from the Kaoss Pad and Andrew’s voice. All fine stuff! Sadly, most of it is pretty much unplayable live, or we’d do the new tune on the upcoming gig dates we’ve got together…

Soundtrack – Lewis Taylor, ‘Lewis Taylor’; Billy Bragg, ‘Talking With The Taxman About Poetry’; SplatterCell, ‘OAH’; David Torn, ‘What Means Sold, Traveller?”; Talking Heads, ‘Sand In The Vaseline’; me.

All systems go on the new CD!

So, the new Cd – Grace and Gratitude – is recorded and is being mastered as I write, the artwork’s finished and been sent off to the manufacturers, there’s a page up in the e-shop about it with some MP3s and preordering details, and gigs are getting booked! This is the fun bit – I really enjoy the hustle and bustle of making this work – making CDs, booking gigs, sending out press releases and all that. It’s a little daunting, and I’m easily distracted, but when I’m on a roll, it’s great fun.

It looks like I’m going to be doing a few dates with Rob Jackson around the time of the album release, which I’m really looking forward to – Rob’s a hugely talented solo guitarist, and I’m sure that anyone who digs what I do is going to love his music. I’m trying to book a launch gig at the moment, and might be going out to check out a venue this afternoon… watch this space.

Had a great response to the MP3s so far, which is good news – I think this is my best album… I’ve thought that with each album I’ve released, and I don’t think it’s just that I’m enamoured with newness… It seems like there’s a definite progression from one to the next. This one takes some of the more advanced looping that’s going on on ‘Open Spaces‘, and combining it with the more melacholic side of my solo stuff (Ok, except Shizzle, which is good ole’ fashioned stevie-style-funkiness).

So what’s still to be done? Posters need to be sent out for the gigs, more gigs need to be confirmed, Edinburgh promo needs doing, websites need informing that the CD is out, as soon as I get the master CD back I need to start burning CDRs to send out to radio for airplay ahead of the release date, and I need to resume talks with the various distributors who’ve expressed an interest in the CDs, and see if we can come to some sort of mutually beneficial deal to get this stuff into the shops… On top of that, I have a set of John Lester’s tunes to learn, and I need to go back and learn all the tracks on the CD in order to be able to play them live! I also need to mix and master the extra disc, ‘Lessons Learned From An Aged Feline Pt II’ – I’ve got lots of extra tracks that I really like, so I think it’s going to be a rather lovely CD once again…

Other than that, I had a marvellous gig last night with Jez, Tom Hooper on drums and Michael Haughton on sax – it was a function gig in a gorgeous hotel near Bath. Now those of you who do function gigs will know that the staff in hotels and function suites often treat bands as less than vermine, but the entire staff at this hotel were SOOOO helpful. It made such a refreshing change! The event organiser was totally on top of everything, we played really well, got paid – what’s not to love? It was great fun getting back to playing with a quartet, and we used my Accugroove/Mackie/QSC set up as the PA, and it sounded incredible. Ain’t no other bass rig I could use as a PA for sax, piano bass and drums!!

Got back at 4.30 this morning, so slept in late. Am only now just getting into the land of the living. Need to go and post off some Cd orders, reply to some email, go and check out a venue for the album launch, contact some venues and send out some press stuff. Busy day!

Soundtrack – right now, Public Enemy, ‘It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back’; yesterday – cathy burton, ‘Speed Your Love’; Brian Houston, ‘Thirteen Days in August’; David Torn, ‘What Means Solid, Traveller?’

CD round-up…

Been listening to Cipher a fair bit recently – Cipher is Theo Travis’ other duo with a bassist, this time the bassist in question is Dave Sturt. Most of the gigs they do are providing soundtracks to silent movies, but their last CD, ‘One Who Whispers’ was conceived as such, as far as I know.

Anyway, however it came together, it’s fantastic – you really ought to get it. If you enjoyed ‘For The Love Of Open Spaces’ (which you really ought to have by now…), then you’re love the Cipher CD – lots of very fine bass playing, lovely ambient textural stuff, and Theo’s marvellous sax playing over the top. All available from the Cipher website.

I’ve also been listening to Ben Castle‘s new album, Blah Street, which is fantastic. Ben’s quartet features some of the finest musicians around – Tim Harries on bass, Mark Edwards on keys and Winston Clifford on drums, and the new record is stellar. Also worth of note is the ‘Bop Idol’ game that you can play on Ben’s website. very bizarre… Anyway, his CD is out now, and you can get it from usual places, like Amazon.

Another album I’ve listened to a bit recently is ‘Adventures in Hammered Dulcimer’ by Scott Brannon – one of the many many CDs I was given at NAMM this year (I’m about a third of the way through listening to them). To be honest, this almost didn’t get listened to, cos the artwork really doesn’t say ‘Play Me’ to me – it’s in the same ballpark artistically as the Ragatal sleeve was (which, you’ll know if you’ve seen it, is pretty dreadful). Anyway, I gave it a listen and really enjoyed it! Folky Jazzy instrumental stuff, with some proggy elements, and the rather refreshing sound of hammered dulcimer thoughout. Recommended, if you can stomach the artwork…

So there you go, a few things for you to buy this month!

And how about another webcam photo? here’s me about 40 seconds ago…

Happy Christmas (tour is over)

Last night was the last night of the tour with Michael Manring. Another great gig in a long string of great gigs. I think this was probably the most enjoyable tour I’ve ever done – all the gigs went supremely well, nearly all of them were filled to capacity, the promoters of the gigs were all marvellous, the audiences were all very responsive, we all sold loads of CDs. There are lots of very fine reviews coming in on various forums (see the interact forums on my site for the biggest repository, and if you were at the shows, please sign in and say hi!)

Thanks to everyone who came to the gigs, and especially those of you who took the time to come and say hi. It’s always lovely to meet people at gigs.

Thanks also to Bass Guitar Magazine for their sponsorship, Mansons Guitar Shop for hosting the clinic in Exeter, Stiff Promotions for promoting the Petersfield and Southampton shows, Ali Martin for doing the posters for those two gigs, Sebastian Merrick for co-promoting the Troubadour gig, Ayshegul for all her hard work on the Troubadour show, Catherine for doing CDs at the Troub, Delicatessen for the Reading gig, especially evil harv and Terri, Richard Ravenhill for doing such a killer job on the Brighton show, Grant Sharkey for his help promoting the Southampton gig, Mark the soundman at Joiners for the best live sound we’ve ever had, and my street team for loads of promo assistance, flyering, and generally being very cool indeed. And of course, to Michael Manring and John Lester for doing the shows – what fun!

So the next gig is Thursday in Stoke Newington – that’ll be a lot of fun, as it’s with Theo Travis, so we’ll be playing the material from ‘Open Spaces’.

Soundtrack – Prince, ‘Sign Of The Times’; David Sylvian, ‘Secrets Of The Beehive’; Rain Tree Crow, ‘Rain Tree Crow’; Paul Simon, ‘Greatest Hits’; Abe Laboriel/Greg Mathieson.

A trip back in time…

Saturday night, The Cheat and I went to see Level 42 in Guildford, which was obviously a very different trip down memory lane than it was for the people who’d just come to hear some great pop tunes from their childhood… It was great to catch up with the guys in the band and crew, and to say hi to a few people in the audience who remembered me from the support slot last year (and to be refered to as ‘Chicken Man’… which was slightly unnerving and flattering at the same time… perhaps I need a feathered coat instead of the furry one… :o)

Anyway, it all brought back lots of fine memories, and the band played really well – slightly different set list from last year, with some really nice unexpected additions to the set list. Didn’t get home til the early hours of sunday morning.

Sunday was fun – one of the tunes from ‘Open Spaces’ was used as a musical interlude in part of the St Luke’s service, and then last night I spent a few fun hours catching up with David Torn – a very busy chap, and astonishing musician who’s playing around England this week with Tim Berne, so I’m going to three of the gigs – London, OXford and Birmingham.

And today, the new dyson arrived… :o) Ahh, domestic bliss. Took me a while to figure out how to get it working properly (what? programming effects units and operating four loopers at once I can handle, using a vacuum cleaner is a whole other world…) but once I did, we were away!

And now I’m waiting for a BT engineer to arrive, and while I’m doing that I’m listening to The Late Junction on BBC Radio 3, who last week played Flutter from ‘For The Love Of Open Spaces’ – fantastic! The Late Junction is a very very cool and very eclectic show, which I listen to a lot anyway, so getting airplay there is marvellous. you can hear an archive of the show – it’s the wednesday show in the ‘listen on demand’ archive, and you can see the playlist here – if you do listen to it, please email them and tell them how much you enjoyed hearing us on the radio!

so now I’m going to get on with mixing some of hte tracks from the Italian sessions of a few months ago…

Soundtrack – right now, The Late Junction. before that more of Rob Jackson, and John McLaughlin, ‘Que Alegria’.

Is There Something I Should Know???

…and other such classic Duran hits were all in evidence at the gig at The Forum on Tuesday night. And what a fantastic gig it was!! Really really great to see a bunch of ‘pop stars’ who can a) write fantastic melodies, b) come up with really interesting arrangements and c) play as well as anyone. Seriously great stuff. Oh for the days when pop stars could play instruments!!! It set the dick-heads that currently litter the charts in stark relief, that’s for sure…

Anyway. What else?? Of course, the big news is that the album is here!! All the advanced orders have now been sent out, so you should be getting them early next week. the packaging, CD printing, sound quality and everything is just great – Theo came round yesterday to sort out the press-list and to sign all the extra discs, and we were like a couple of kids with new toys! I’ve been listening to the CD almost constantly since it got here on Wednesday, and it just sounds fantastic! Even though we played it, it’s still hard to conceive that it was all done live… a strange feeling indeed. Anyway, if you haven’t got it already, you can order it now! Paypal/Gemm and post are what we’ve got happening at the moment, but CDBaby will be sorted v. soon, as will evinsol, hmv and a few others…

anyway, here’s the paypal button –

One word of warning to anyone planning to do the same thing, all the backordering on GEMM decimates your rating – if you did buy the CD through GEMM, please go and give us a good feedback rating, or it looks like we’re a bunch of charlatans…!

Wednesday night was fun – Bob Lee, buddy from California was in town, so Bob and I, along with a couple of other guys from the churchbass discussion list met up for a curry. I’m always amazed at the myriad friendships that the internet facilitates – it makes a nice counter argument to www.internetisshit.org, which, while I think they’ve got a point, does take it too far… :o)

Tomorrow I’ve got my first gig in ages with Jez – you know, the piano guy on ‘Conversations’ – it’s a wedding reception, which is cool cos I don’t get to play standards very often, and playing with Jez would be a pleasure even if the gig was all TV Themes!

Soundtrack – Me and Theo (both discs), Billy Bragg, ‘Must I Paint You A Picture?’, The Cure, ‘Greatest Hits’, Scritti Politti, ‘Cupid And Psyche’, John Lester, ‘Big Dreams And The Bottom Line’ – if you’re in any way interested in solo bass and singer/songwriters, you NEED to hear John’s music – he’s seriously good – great tone, fantastic voice, fine lyrics, and all really well produced – GO AND BUY THIS CD.

orders come flooding in…

…big thanks to everyone who’s bought the CD so far – lots of orders are in already, well on the way to covering cost before the CD comes out, which is always nice – it’s a slightly precarious thing this releasing your own CDs. Modern computer recording has made that side of it a lot easier, but without the funds to do blanket advertising etc. we rely on word of mouth more than anything, so please let your chums know about it…

Anyway – what’s been happening over the last few days? Well, Saturday was the Stop The War march in London – somewhere between 20 and 100 thousand folks out (usually split the difference is close – so say 50thousand), marching from Hyde Park to Trafalger Square. Much was made of it not being as big as February’s march, which is quite honestly shabby journalism – since when did marches protesting the complexity of requests to withdraw troups and playing poodle to Bush ever gather the same emotive response from the general populace as stopping the government going into a war that was at that point still avoidable?? Nonsense. It was a huge display of public unrest, with lots of the banners calling for an end to lies and spin, sick of Blair’s failure to engage with public opinion or even his own party. With the Labour conference going on at the moment, he’s getting a bit more of a battering, but still not enough. The party are refusing to allow a debate on Iraq at the conference – knowing obviously that Tony’s position is completely out of step with just about every labour supporter in the country. So much for living in a democracy.

Anyway, the march was good – it’s always nice to know that you’re not alone in finding the actions of the leaders of the west dispicable. Nice to stand alongside lots of very normal, but very pissed off people. The most moving group I saw was the ex-servicemen against the war group – decorated servicemen from the second world war saying enough’s enough…

So on Monday I went down to Eastbourne – firstly to fix Tess’ Echoplex, which wasn’t broken at all, and then to check the chromalin artwork for the new album, which was approved and sent off, with the delivery date set at the 13th october! how exciting – get those orders in now! :o)

Came back and headed over to have a play with BJ Cole and Orphy Robinson – our new trio of Pedal Steel, Bass and Steel Pans is really exciting – it’s cool because we haven’t taken written tunes in at this stage, just jamming to find the sound of the band, what works, what doesn’t, and lots of what we did on Monday worked. Hopefully we’ll be gigging soon

and talking of gigs, I’ve got a few dates coming up, it seems. Lots of unconfirmed but highly likely stuff. Just need to sort out logisitics to firm them up. And now I need to sort out a date or two with theo over the coming months…

Oh, and talking of Theo, there’s a new MP3 up from the extra disc – ‘It’s Not Gonna Happen’. The track’s called ‘As Long As My Arm’ and the MP3 is a 6 minute edit from a 15 minute track!


SoundtrackJoni Mitchell, ‘Hejira’; Jughead, ‘Jughead’; Prefab Sprout, ‘Jordan The Comeback’; Steve Lawson and Theo Travis, ‘For The Love Of Open Spaces’.

Yet More Lessons Learned From The Aged Feline…

So The Aged Feline came home on Saturday, after two days in the vets, on a saline drip to try and flush out his rapidly failing kidneys. We were a little concerned about both his health and him coming home resenting us leaving him there for two days (though we did visit him both days he was in), but no such fears – health-wise he seems fine (he goes back in this thursday for a blood test), and as for how he is with us – if anything he’s even more cuddly than usual. In a world of grudge-bearing, point-scoring and all the political crap that’s going on, The Aged Feline models the kind of forgiveness that we all need to learn from. He has no idea that what we are doing is for his good, and yet he still bears us no ill will. Amazing. So much for our claims to intellectual supremecy…

Finished off the artwork for ‘For The Love Of Open Spaces’ today – just need to fill out the MCPS AFL form and we’re there – should have advanced ordering up in a day or so!

SoundtrackJohn Lester, ‘Big Dreams And The Bottom Line’; Unamerican, ‘Unamerican’; Andre Lafosse, ‘Normalise’; Steve Lawson, ‘Lessons Learned From An Aged Feline Pt 1’.

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