Greenbelt Pt 2

So where were we? ah yes, Sunday. Met up with Patrick Wood, and gave him the passes for him and his family, then wen to the sunday morning communion service – 15,000 people taking the Eucharist is no mean feat, but it went without a hitch… oh, except the PA cutting out 10 minutes from the end.

Anyway That followed by another trip to Martyn Joseph’s songwriter thingie, The Rising, featuring Cathy Burton, Denison Witmer and Pierce Pettis – another fantastic sesh, and Martyn played a song or two of his own which was a treat – he’s kind of Greenbelt’s unofficial troubadour, and plays a full gig most years, often with fun special guests like Tom Robinson or Steve Knightly. This year, he just did The Rising.

After the Rising, it was back to Cheatsville, AKA The Performance Cafe, for an afternoon of astoundingly good acoustic music – Stephenson and Samuel (Stocki with Sam Hill), Ben Okafor, Old Solar and Denison Witmer all one after the other! Even though the programme was put together by Evil Harv, and it pains me to say this – it was fantastic.

The evening’s music began with Brian Houston in The Performance Cafe, then Cathy Burton rocking out on the mainstage (bit of a shock for those who’d only seen her in The Rising, especially the QOTSA cover!), and back then the catching the last train to cheatsville to see Pierce Pettis and my other join fave gig of the weekend (along with Cleveland Watkiss) Duke Special, AKA Pete Wilson (not the former govenor of California). I’ve known Pete for years, heard him as The Booley House, and just Booley, but Duke Special is a whole other level – beautiful songwriting, outstanding performance, and Greenbelts own Hobbit, Chip Bailey on drums and percussion, playing perfectly, dramatically, sensitively. A genius pairing, playing oustanding music, with the occasional backing track on minidisc, but with a replica gramaphone there to make it less rubbish! A truly awe-inspiring performance – they are on tour loads, so check the website to see them when they come near you.

Monday and we’re into the home straight. It’s also the day when stevie-thoughts momentarily turned to work, as Patrick Wood and I had a gig in Cheatsville in the morning, and an improv workshop in the afternoon. The gig went very well, was equal parts mellow ambient and dissonant scariness, lots of fun for us, and a very positive reaction from the audience. The rest of the afternoon involved listening to Peter Tatchell (fascinating and no doubt hugely disappointing the representatives of the national press that were there due to the total lack of sensational material – Peter was friendly, charming, and laid out his thoughts on human rights in great detail, and there wasn’t really much for anyone to disagree with), then off to hear Anita Roddick speak about trade (oh, it was Trade Justice day, in partnership with Christian Aid), then back to the performance cafe to hear Nick Harper (Catherine Street Team – you were right, he’s a genius and a very nice bloke), Cathy Burton (minus rock posturing this time), then off to sort out stuff for the improv seminar, which went well, and over ran by half an hour.

The day finished with The Polyphonic Spree (good but not my bag) followed by Billy Bragg, who was so breath-takingly wonderful it was almost contrived. Almost too good – all that he said and sang was great (except some new song called ‘no power without accountability’ that was turd-on-toast). Finished off with ‘waiting for the great leap forwards’ into ‘a new england’ and an accapela encore of the old hymn jerusalem. A real spine tingling moment.

All in all, one of the best Greenbelts ever. Great music, great speakers, great atmosphere, great weather, great food, great campaining stuff, great friends. All good, and because I was playing music less than usual, I was able to spend loads of time with The Small Person, which was a treat I’ve not had at Greenbelt for many a year, and the thing that pushed it into the top 3 greenbelts ever for me. I’ve been going to Greenbelt since 1990, and only missed 91 and 96 since then. lots of great greenbelt memories, and this weekend swelled the stash of marvellous moments. It’s truly the finest weekend of the year.

soundtrack to follow in next post…

clearing out my closet..

…no, not in the eminem sense! With the impending release of my duo CD with Theo Travis, I need to make some space for the new CDs, hence the ‘special offers’ link now posted in the sales bit of the website front page… if you or any of your chums have been waiting for some reason to get my CDs, now’s the time to do it – cheaper than ever if you buy all three! :o)

Anyway, talking of new releases, I’m just listening through some of my recordings with Patrick Wood, keyboardist and guitarist extraordinaire, with whom I’m playing a duo set at Greenbelt. We’ve been talking about the possibilitiy of doing a limited edition CD for the festival, so I’m listening through the recordings with a view to editing some of it down…

Oh, I’ve just noticed that this is my hundred and first post in this version of the blog! happy birthday for yesterday, I Guess… silly of me not to notice and post something of great pith and moment in my last blog entry, but still, it’s a landmark and must be made mention of somehow. I’ve no idea how many blog entries were in the old version – maybe I’ll go back and read some.

What else? nothing much. Just parcelled up a box-load of CDs to send of the cdbaby.com – cdbaby is an excellent site for independent musicians. The way my cd sales breakdown, the majority are either at gigs or through evinsol.co.uk, but that’s largely because evinsol tends to get them listed before anyone else, and is the place I use for pre-orders of a new CD when it comes out (the usual deal will be available when the CD with theo comes out, with advanced orders getting a very limited edition free extra CD!)

But aside from that, cdbaby has been a really good sales outlet for me, as it’s made my music available to a lot of people who wouldn’t otherwise have found it – the search functions there are really intuitive, and it seems like a lot of people shop there as a way of finding new hidden gems, and of supporting independent music – something I obviously endorse wholeheartedly. I’ve bought some great cds from cdbaby – cds by Pamela Sue Mann, Ron Miles and Alex Skolnick, all three of which are Excellent, and highly recommended. click on any of those links to head over to cdbaby and hear samples of their stuff!

…it’s a simple as that, which is the odd thing with the internet – the potential market at any one time is ENOURMOUS. I mean, huge. millions. but it’s the same for any artist, and we’re all vying for people attention. The best we can hope for, being fair and realistic, is that people who connect with what we do can find it. The mainstream industry relies on sensationalism, titilation and crass hype to foist sub-standard music onto the public. The indies having neither the money of a billionaire not the morals of an alleycat can’t really stoop to that, so we’ve got to rely on actually being worth listening to (imagine that!) – so far, it’s working out ok… ;o)

Soundtrack – right now, it’s the duo tracks with patrick wood, before that, Cara Dillon‘s album – she’s a folky singer with a beautiful voice, and some gorgeous songs – well worth investigating.

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…

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.

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.

In the news…

Just been sent a scan of a nice piccie of michael manring and I in the news pages of bass player magazine’s april issue – I’ll have to go buy a copy as soon as I can find one, but for now… thanks to Steve Barr for the scan

Soundtrack – right now, is the version of Highway 1 with Patrick Wood that is up on the MP3s page, if you want to join me…

And if you’re in London, do check out the new gig date added for this Sunday!

Bloglessness…

Blog posts seem to be getting rarer – sorry about that. This time the reason is that I’ve been away for the last couple of days, recording at dB Studios in Lincoln. The session was for the next album by Chris Bowater – he’s a gospel singer/worship leader, who I used to gig with a lot when I lived up in Lincoln, and I’ve played on his last three CDs (this one being the fourth). It was a really interesting session to play on in that it ran the whole gamut of bass playing from ‘duck eggs’ (one note in each bar) through to E-Bow and looped atmospheric stuff (on one track I did a ‘normal’ bass line, fretless melody line, and then three layers of twinkly, sparkly ebow loveliness!) – it was a lot of fun to be playing at both ends of the spectrum, very arranged and very open. On the fretless melody tracks, it was largely a case of playing a meandering melody through the whole track which will then be cut up and used at the basis for some other themes (doubled by the string quartet or whatever). Chris’ music is interesting in that even though his main ‘gig’ scenario is leading congregational singing in churches, his albums are far far more ‘music-led’ than most of the stuff written for that setting – the church music scene in general is pretty stagnant and normally at least 5 years behind anything else that’s happening in music, but Chris being a very highly qualified and experienced pianist and writer tends to put a lot more emphasis on the creativity of what he does, which is quite inspiring when it comes to coming up with bass parts…

Much fun was had as the producer/engineer was Dan Bowater (Chris’s son, and the owner of the studio), who I’ve known for 10 years and have toured with on a number of occasions, and the drummer was Gabriel Alonso, who produced and played on Chris’s last two albums, so it was a pretty comfortable setting…

Then today, I was back recording with Patrick Wood again – Patrick is the keyboardist on the MP3 track based on Highway 1 that’s over on the MP3 page – he’s a marvellous musician, and it’s always a treat to play with him. We recorded two very long improvs (improvs, I’m finding, are rarely short… :o) – and I’m hoping to get mixes of them soon to put up on the site, as they were both some of the best stuff that Patrick and I have played together… Me thinks there may be a limited edition album release coming up before too long… ;o)

So what else has been happening? Ah yes, we’re at war. Well, I say we, but it’s not in my name, as the saying goes. Despite opposition from the UK population, the UN, and his own back-benchers (culminating in the biggest labour back bench revolt in recent parlimentary history), President Blair has seen fit to send British troops into battle in Iraq, without UN sanction or backing, and without any kind of clear plan for a post-Saddam Iraq, or any kind of scenario regarding the future of the Kurds in Northern Iraq, who are shitting themselves given that the Turks who have a history of killing lots of them but are currently in a four year cease-fire are at present in diplomatic talks with the US regarding the use of Turkish air-space and land for accessing Iraq, and who may use the opportunity to cross into Northern Iraq (allegedly, they already have 20,000 armed soldiers stationed there) and resume hostilities. Have I heard mention of this from Blair or Bush? nope…

So, if this does end as quickly as it’s likely to (250,000 ‘allied’ troops? methinks this won’t go on and on, though I guess they thought that about Vietnam…), who’s next? Iran? Yemen? Saudi? Sudan? North Korea? They have been talking about trying to broker peace in Palestine – surely that’s a higher priority right now, given the numbers of Palestinians that have been slaughtered, and the number of suicide bombing retaliations that there have been (is suicide bombing retaliation or just an act of insane desparation??)…

…and what on earth is Britain doing in Iraq anyway? didn’t we bollocks it all up last time we installed a puppet king there? and what about sorting something out in Zimbabwe (a former collony that we are clearly more responsible for, and should be able to apply a lot more diplomatic pressure to), which also has a crazed dictator who is sanctioning extra-judicial killings and other atrocities…

I’ll keep praying for peace, whatever happens.

Soundtrack – during the few moments that I’ve not been listening to news reports on the radio, I’ve been listening to myself (just downloaded Fruity Loops Studio, and have been recording some stuff with it – a bargain at $49 for the update…), also listening to The Cure’s Greatest Hits (very very fine), and now am listening to Lifehouse – ‘Stanley Climbfall’, the opening track on which (Spin) is breathtakingly good.

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.