Like a Rolling Stone… With a Rolling Stone

So I’m sat listening through the lastest set of tiny tweaks on the new album, and the phone rings. It’s Harry Cellist offering me a ticket to see Bob Dylan at the Fleadh in Finsbury Park in 25 minutes! Quick chat to the small person to postpone prearranged domestic chores to a later hour, and I’m on the tube on my way to Finsbury Park to see his Bobness.

Bob has been on my list of ‘artists I really need to see before the drop dead’ for a long time, so I’ve very glad I saw him. There’s something very bizarre about Dylan – no-one else on earth would get away with singing simple blues tunes in the style of a punch drunk tramp impersonating Marge Simpson, and yet there’s something utterly compelling about his performance. Add to that the presence of the mighty Ron Wood on Stage (you can say what you want about jumped up rock stars, Ron Wood is one hell of a guitarist…) and it made for a pretty fine gig.

However, it was a gig in front of about 30,000 people, in a damp field in North London with the sound changing whenever the wind changed direction, not being able to see much and being bumped into by drunk people every couple of minutes.

Contrast that with Friday night’s entertainment, sat in a beautiful old church building in Reading listening to Brian Houston and Sarah Masen sing and play. Both exquisite singer-songwriters, Brian sounding not unlike Bob Dylan in his younger days at times, but with a Van Morrison accent. There were probably 35-40 people there, it was warm, dry, no drunks that I spotted, the sound was close to perfect, the drinks were cheap and the music of an arguably higher quality than most of what goes on on big stages round the country at all the festivals over the summer.

And you missed it.

The good news is that Brian and Sarah are playing in London tomorrow night at Bush Hall in Shepherd’s Bush, along with two other fantastic singer/songwriters, Cathy Burton and Duke Special. Shit, that’s four really really really great acts on one bill. In a lovely venue. In-doors. for about

ooh, aren't we the indie-friendly corporate rock star!

So Korn decided to do a video about how screwed up the record industry is, about how usurous record deals are, the evils of the FCC etc. etc.

Korn? er, yes – signed to Epic (a Sony subsidiary), spending record company money like they’re going for a world record. STILL signed to a major label

this article at contains the line “For a platinum band that allegedly spent $4 million on its 2002 album Untouchables, fighting its label and MTV may seem hypocritical.” – MAY seem hypocritical??????? Dude, if they had an ounce of integrity they’d jack it in, go indie, release their own records, deal with the fallout of dropping out of the label and use it as a chance to highlight the evilles of the industry.

But no, they just do the faux-rebellious thing, and the tragedy is that in the US it’ll be lapped up. Lots of losers will be outraged (ex-ref everything from Britney and Maddy kissing, to Janet Jackson’s boob-thang, to Prince writing SLAVE on his face…) – the industry thrives on this kind of crass controversy. The only way to fight it is opt out. You try and fight it from within, you just make more money for The Man. If you bail out, they lose. Prince did the right thing – cut loose, made records for himself, but recently blew it by signing to Sony!! – the purple one is clearly more of a maroon these days…

Where were ‘the rebels’ when Pearl Jam attempted to subvert TicketMaster’s hold on the live scene? Where are the rebels boycotting Clear-Channel events? Nowhere – they just make crass protest vids, that make them and their record companies even more money.

Bollocks to Korn. I wouldn’t buy their records anyway, but if I was going to, I’d have boycotted them.

(thanks to The Captain for the link)

Soundtrack – nothing right now, but I’m about to put on the Jughead album – Greg and Matt Bisonette with Ty Tabor – amazing Foo Fighters/Lit/Rembrants-esque stuff. Marvellous.

Photography is the new Rock 'n' Roll

Well, not really, but we did go to two stunning photography exhibitions today.

We’d only planned to go to one, as a birthday treat for the small person, but when we got to the Natural History Museum, there was a second free exhibition displayed outside.

The free exhibition was ‘earth from the air‘ – an exhibition of aerial photography by Yann Arthus Bertrand. His work focuses on the twin poles of the majesty of the natural world and the influence of mankind upon it. Lots of pictures of bizarre natural phenomena and of man’s impact on everything. Seeing it on Good Friday, it acted as a kind of devotional tool – amazing to see the wonder of creation, and the fallen-ness of the human race in its abject inability to fulfil the mandate to protect the planet.

For there we moved onto the Wildlife Photographer Of The Year exhibition – clearly these people get to glimpse through God’s letter-box, and then come back and show us their holiday snaps. Some of the most startling images I’ve ever seen, beautiful, moving, illuminating, awe-inspiring. It’s only on for another week, so if you can get to it, do. After that, it’s on tour, so check it out!

London’s museums are one of the things that give me hope for the city. Some things about living here are so f***ed up, it’s frightening. Other times, there are glimpses of magic. The museums are some of those magical places – free to get in, brimming with information and inspiration about the world. They went through a few years of charging to get in, but fortunately went back to being free. When I was a lil’ kid and we had no money, the museums was one of our favourite days out – Sundays were really really cheap on the underground, and the museums were free to get in. I was captivated by the blue whale in the Natural History Museum, and developed a fascination with whales and dolphins as a result. The British Museum is another fave london haunt.

So the funding for them now comes from the shops, restaurants and from donations, so I always make a point of buying food and books when there – today we had lunch there, and bought the catalogues to both the exhibitions. If you go, and can afford it, do support the museums – helps to keep it free for the people who can’t afford it.

SoundtrackRebecca Holweg, ‘June Babies’ – went to see Rebbeca play yesterday in the foyer at the Royal Festival Hall – her hubby is bassist Andy Hamill, whose solo CD is fanastic too. Rebecca’s gig was great, as is the CD. Highly recommended jazzy singer/songwriter.

3 gigs, 7 bands, 2 comedians and a couple of lovely new bass cabs

Boy, it’s been a busy weekend!

Teaching all day Saturday, on Saturday night I went up to Hoddeston in Hertfordshire to drop in on the Greenbelt Angels Weekend – the Angels are the year round financial supporters of the Greenbelt festival – an arts festival that means so much to people that they will give a monthly donation, and buy their tickets a year in advance, and bring their friends, and then turn out for the angels weekend. Which is largely a mini-greenbelt affair, but with greater emphasis on the organisers of the festival letting the angels know about what’s happening, and brainstorming new ideas.

Anyway, Saturday night was all entertainment – first up Old Solar, a very fine band from Scotland, featuring my very good friend Andrew Howie, who also records solo under the name Calamatuer. Both acts have been played a fair bit by John Peel and had rave reviews, and were rather good, a few guitar tuning problems not withstanding.

Following them was Cathy Burton – angel-voiced singer/songwriter, and another good friend. Cathy’s great. Marvellous songs, lovely stage manner, will be huge soon (musically speaking…!)

then comedy stuff – Jude Simpson was new to me – comedy poet, very funny indeed, runs a comedy/poetry club in Hammersmith, well worth going to hear. She was followed by John Archer – northern comedy magician, and one of the funniest people I’ve ever seen do a gig. Think Peter Kay taking the piss out of Paul Daniels but actually being really really good at sleight of hand… He’s great, and it’s always a treat to see him do his thang.

Sunday morning I was playing bass in church (first time in about two years), and Sunday evening I went to see Bill Frisell at the barbican. He was playing with Djelimady Tounkara, a Malian guitarist I’d seen him with before. Also on stage were Greg Leisz, Jenny Scheinman and Sidiki, er, someone (can’t remember his surname), on Percussion. It was a fine gig, but I do tend to go to Bill Frisell gigs with such extraordinarily high expectations that I found some of the two chord jam tunes just a little too long and twiddly for me. Bill was brilliant as always, so I guess I’m just not a huge fan of Djelemady’s guitar playing. Greg is a god-like genius of the pedal steel – an instrument I’m very quickly falling in love with the sound of (playing with BJ Cole obviously doesn’t hurt!!). Jenny was fine, and Sidiki laid down some rather groovy rhythmic things, but the overly long I – IV – I – IV jams in the first set kind of spoilt it a little for me…

Monday night was another ‘Bob Harris Presents…’ gig at The Stables in Milton Keynes. this time featuring Julie Lee, Vigilantes Of Love, Dolly Varden and Show Of Hands.

Julie Lee is amazing. I’ve played with Julie on a number of occasions, and she’s a gem of a person. She’s also an incredible singer and songwriter. I get this buzz just before she starts whenever I see her play in front of an audience hitherto unfamiliar with her, knowing that they are about to discover something very special indeed. Like the first time you sit someone down and play Hejira by Joni Mitchell to them…

The Vigilantes are another marvellous band – their song ‘Resplendent’ is in my ‘perfect songs’ list (a virtual compilation that’s ongoing in its construction), and they’ve got quite a few other truly wonderful songs. Bill Malonee is a great singer, and Jake (does Jake have a surname, or indeed need one?) was splendid on guitar and vox.

Dolly Varden – husband and wife duo from Chicago. I liked ’em, but will reserve judgement til I’ve heard a full set at The Borderline on Wednesday (VoL overran, as is Bill’s habit, so their set was cut short…)

And finally, Show Of Hands – they played greenbelt a few years ago, and I gave it a miss. WHAT A FOOL!!!! they were amazing. Truly truly remarkable. Brilliant, splendid. Repairs any lost belief you might have in the power of folk music. Steve Knightly on voice, guitar, mandola etc. Phil Beer (great name!) on vox, violin, guitar, mandolin etc… just a duo, but a HUGE sound. Great songs, great voices, amazing stage presence (it’s not at all surprising that they just won the ‘best live act’ award at the british folk awards). I can’t say enough good things about them, they were amazing, and are playing at the Borderline on Tuesday 9th March, so go if you can (I’m teaching til 9 that day, but will find out what time they are on stage, and see if I can race down after teaching…)

And then today, to cap a marvellous weekend, my new AccuGroove bass cabinets arrived!!! Yippee. And a day early – bravo FedEx. These are the passive ones – my signature powered cabs are still in development (we want to get them perfect), so I’m using these for now. I’ve plugged them in, and they sound incredible. Lovely, clear, full. I’m a happy bunny.

soundtrack – right now, I’m listening to ‘The Free Story’ – a much underrated band, with a killer bass player. Guy Pratt asserts that Andy Fraser is more influential in real terms in the rock and pop world than Jaco. I’m inclined to agree. Amazing stuff. And Paul Rogers voice is killer.

Road Tales Pt 1.

As you may be able to tell by the time this is posted, I’m jetlagged. very jetlagged. Two hours sleep, then wide awake. It’s 4.38am, and I’m trying to think of things to do, listening to Muriel Anderson’s ‘A Journey Through Time’ (Muriel’s great, and will hopefully be coming to the UK in April…), and chatting to Trip on MSN.

So California stories – flew in on Sat 10th, and got the SuperShuttle to Anaheim, where I was recording a record with Kofi Baker and Ned Evett. Got set up and crashed out.

The next three days were a mix of hanging with Ned while Kofi taught, and then recording all evening – as late as my jetlag going that way would allow us. the material was largely improvs, most of which we then played again in some sort of structured way to see what came out. It’s now all in the editing – some great material was certainly recorded, but the wheat and chaff need separating! Kofi and Ned are both marvellous musicians, so it was a lot of fun to do, and a bit of a challenge to be back playing complex rythmic twiddly stuff after lots of ambient noodling…

then, NAMM – huge trade show in Anaheim, music gear manufacturers, dealers, distributors, journos and players descend on the convention centre, in a desparate attempt to do business. the makers are trying to hawk their wares – some by just making good stuff, others by getting porn stars to stand around on their booths, or lame 80s has-been rock stars doing signings… normally means the product isn’t worth looking at.

I was playing for Modulus and AccuGroove, and doing a show report for Bass Guitar Magazine, and catching up with lots of old friends – it’s one of the downsides of being a bassist is that there are rarely more than one of us on a gig, so we only meet up in airports and at NAMM… Also got to meet up with lots of friends from talkbass, the dudepit, churchbass, TBL, the lowdown, and my street-team! the now annual tradition of dinner with David Torn, Doug Lunn and Vida Vierra was as marvellous as ever, and playing at the Bass Bash was a blast, as was my gig in the lobby of the Marriott next to the show (ah yes, solo bass goes loung-core…)

NAMM ended sunday, on monday trip and I drove to Costa Mesa for a coffee house gig lined up for us by Bob Lee – nice little coffee shop, played outside, Seth Horan turned up and did a couple of tunes and was wonderful. Trip’s set was marvellous too, and his ‘did I suck?’ question at the end was so laughable it almost warranted a kick in the plums. Lots of friendly faces turned up, including Fred Hodson from Talkbass (thanks Fred!), Kerry Getz and Jason Feddy. Crashed at Kerry’s house, and on Tuesday morning Bob Lee showed Trip and I round QSC, and they lent me a poweramp for the tour (the AccuGroove powered cabs weren’t finished in time for the tour, so I took a pair of passive ones, and used the QSC amp, which sounded great.

Tuesday afternoon was the gig at CalArts with Andre LaFosse, which went well, and included a marvellous duo version of MMFSOG. Then off to see Vida and Dani for a few days. I’ve probably spent 3 months total in California now over the last 5 years, and this was the first time I’ve been to the beach! Took a walk along Venice beach, wandered around book shops and record shops, and soaked up the atmosphere. Also took a walk round the Yogananda peace garden in Santa Monica which is a beautiful inspiring place, where I’d be spending a lot of time were I living nearby…

Wednesday night went to see Abe Laboriel playing with 3 Prime at the Baked Potato – a trip to LA wouldn’t be complete without either seeing Abe or going to the BP, and as always the band were amazing.

Friday started with breakfast with Jimmy Haslip, and was followed by the long drive to Santa Cruz, which was even longer due to it taking two hours to get out of LA! But got to Rick and Jessica Turner’s place late evening, and talked for hours. Some tours are all about heavy gig schedules and travellings. Others are all about the people you meet. This was a people tour – the gigs were great, but it was the friendships, talking long into the night, eating lovely food, plotting world domination that made this trip special. I travel half way round the world and get treated like family, it doesn’t get much better than this.

Saturday (24th Jan we’re up to), was dudepit clinic day, at Bob Streetteam’s house – 11 guys, lots of a basses, and a day of talking and thinking about music, and playing some stuff to demonstrate a few concepts which will hopefully keep the guys going til next year. Bob did a sterling job of organising and hosting the event – well above and beyond any expected level of support from a street-teamer. I’m constantly amazed at people’s generousity. There’s plenty of dark stuff going on in the world, and while governments are going about their f-ed up evil business, nice people are running counter to it, demostrating friendship and grace that makes you smile at the world, and gives you hope.

Sunday was KPIG day – Michael Manring and I playing solo and duo on this most wonderful of radio stations.

Next couple of days are spent shuttling backwards and forwards between AccuGroove world HQ (Mark’s house) in Cupertino, and Santa Cruz, catching up with more old friends and hanging out with the Turners and Muriel Anderson.

Then the ‘big’ gigs – three dates with Michael Manring and Trip Wamsley. All three gigs went really really well – loads of friends turned up, Trip and Michael both played really really well, we all sold CDs, had a blast, played some very cool trios and a tasty cover of Bruce Cockburn’s ‘Pacing The Cage’ each night. Each gig afforded us more time to see friends – staying with Bob Streetteam, and Mike Roe was great – and to play lots of fine music to lovely people. The Espresso Garden show was sold out, with lots of people unable to get in (fortunately they were able to stand by the door and listen, but still…)

Then, the long drive back to LA, introducing Trip to the delights of Prefab Sprout on the way, back to see Doug, Vida and Dani, out for Doug’s birthday, a trip round socal delivering gear back to its rightful owners, and a deep sleep.

Sunday, departure day, started with a dance class – no, I didn’t dance, much as I’d have liked to – I was part of the percussion section, which was more fun than one should have on a sunday morning. Doug dropped me at the airport, and after 74 levels of security checking, got on the plane, and fortunately sat next to a fascinating woman called Gael, and chatted for most of the way home, pausing to watch ‘Whale Rider’ and ‘School Of Rock’.

A great trip – possibly my fave trip so far to the states. some great gigs, new family, catching up with old friends, fun at NAMM, great contacts for the future, and a sense that all is not lost with the world despite the crapness of so many things from Dubya to the Dean Girls.

Doug, Vida, Dani, Rick, Jessica, Elias, Trip, Michael, Kelly M, Dan, Wally, Mark, Suzy, Bob A Kelly A, Mike, Kofi, Ned, Kerry, Bob L, DT, Seth, Becca, Jimmy, Anderson, Gael, Keith, Muriel and any others who’ve slipped my mind momentarily – many marvellous friends old and new, thankyou all. (good lord, three weeks in LA and I’ve come back an unreconstructed hippie…!)

And now it’s 5.23am, I need sleep. badly.

more on Tuesday’s gig with Theo soon…

Soundtrack – Muriel Anderson, ‘A Journey Through Time’, Mike Roe, ‘Say Your Prayers’, Luca Formentini, ‘Subterranean’ – three lovely friends with three lovely albums.


Right, so my phone line was finally fixed – had to replace the line from the house to the pole outside. Two days without BB access was really bad… but I got lots done… there’s a lesson in there.

Wednesday evening was the Tim Berne gig at The QEH in London. My interest was particularly high due to David Torn playing guitar, but the band also featured Marc Ducret on guitar, Craig Taborn on keys, Tom Rainey on drums and the Arte Saxophone Quartet.

Met up with Theo at the gig, and watched the first half – hard going, very dense writing for lots of saxes. Half time, moved back a few rows to sit with Bill Bruford, and musically it all became a lot easier to deal with. Firstly a piece just for the sax quartet, then the other quintet playing some amazing stuff. Ducret was oustanding – I was familiar with his playing from before due to Franck Vigroux being a huge fan of his and playing me a lot of his work, but seeing him live was a revelation – amazing stuff. The whole band was great, really energetic, some marvellous improv. After-show party was fun – nice to see Mick Karn again, who I met briefly a few years ago in my past life as a Bassist journo.

It was so good in fact that I did it all again on Thursday! Though not before meeting John Lester for lunch, and spending a couple of hours on the anti-Bush march. The march was amazing – huge, colourful, noisy and featuring some particularly, er, ‘forthright’ slogans…

Then off to Oxford for the Tim Berne gig again. This time at the Zodiac, a club I’ve played at with Airstar. More of a rock club vibe, and a very different sound for the improv bits, another blinding gig. Loved it.

And today has just been about teaching, answering stuff on thedudepit, talkbass and my own forum, which let’s be honest, kicks the ass of all those lame-o forums… :o)

Soundtrack – right now, Billy Bragg, ‘Must I Paint You A Picture’, before that, Pat Metheny, ‘One Quiet Night’ (fantastic); Shawn Colvin, ‘Fat City’; Bill Frisell, ‘Good Dog Happy Man’.

What's your favourite colour, baby??

…Living Colour

Went to see Living Colour last night – woah!!! What a fantastic gig. Back on track, version 2.0 of the lineup – Reid, Calhoun, Glover and the mighty Doug Wimbish on bass.

I almost didn’t get in – Doug has said he’d put me on the guestlist months ago, but as I walked past the back of the venue on my way there, I saw him getting onto the tour bus, and he’d not done it! So we nipped inside and got passes for me and Jez – phew! Anyway, it was the loudest, sweatiest, funkiest, heaviest gig I’ve been do in ages. THe amazing thing about Living Colour is that they can change from thrash to hip-hop to dub to funk to straight rock to Avante Garde to Electronica to soul to d ‘n’ b to full on oldschool reggae in a heartbeat AND DO IT ALL LIKE THEY LIVED TO PLAY THAT STYLE – it’s amazing. Most bands that diverse end up in a sort of stylistic tourist trap, dabbling with all the influences but never nailing anything properly, and being totally unconvincing. Living Colour are the real deal, four extremely gifted virtuosos playing at the peak of their ability, and the crowd at The Garage lapped it up.

‘Twas very nice to catch up with Jez for lunch beforehand (went to a marvellous Turkish restaurant on Upper Street called Gem – highly recommended), and to get some time to chat to Doug after the show. Hopefully we’ll do some playing together at some point.

Was also talking to Will Calhoun about the Lovebubble project with David Torn, which Will described as some of his favourite music he’s recorded in the last 5 years, and said I should hassle Torn to get it released… so I will! :o)

soundtrack – not much to be honest, been working in quiet for a few hours today.

Return of the King's (X)..

Went last night to see King’s X at the Mean Fiddler. They don’t play in London all that often, and their last gig here was one of my all time favourite gigs. And last night was no dissappointment. The sound was a bit ropey for the first few songs, but after that, ’twas amazing. Such an incredible band – it’s odd how a band can seem so un-cool on paper (odd time metal riffing with beatles-esque harmony vocals) and yet be perhaps the most timeless band I’ve ever heard. It’s testemony to this that their latest album, Black Like Sunday is all tracks that were written before 1986, and still sounds as fresh as any of the recent stuff!

Doug Pinnick, the singer/bassist is 53 and looks about 30 on stage, and only about 40 up-close – definitely the best advert for prolongued canabis useage that I’ve ever seen!!!!! He’s got a remarkable stage presence, and a vocal with more soul than just about any rock vocalist ever… and can scream like Aretha Franklin.

I interviewed Doug years ago for Bassist magazine, and spent about 3 or 4 hours chatting over dinner – most of which was totally unusable for the interview but a great time nontheless. It was nice to get a chance to say hi last night, though they were flying out of Heathrow at some ungodly hour this morning, so no aftershow party…

Anyway, the gig confirmed why they are still one of my alltime favourite bands, even though I’ve listened to precious little metal for the best part of a decade. An utterly unique band, and one that have never even got close to the commercial success they so richly deserve.

Soundtrack Frogwings, ‘Croaking At Toads’; Hank Jones/Charlie Haden. ‘Steal Away’.

Politics is the new Rock and Roll

Apparently the mighty and wonderful Tony Benn has released an album! It’s a collection of his speeches, with some ambient music behind it. I’m sure it’ll be as marvellous as everything else that Tony puts his hand to – he was on the radio this morning, on Danny Baker’s Show, and was on top form.

anyway, must dash, things to do, write more later!

Evolution or Revolution?

The music industry is changing, that’s for sure. To do what I’ve done even 10 years ago would have been a heck of a lot more difficult and expensive to get off the ground. The cost of recording studio set ups has plummeted with the home computer market, the net has thrown the doors wide on forming underground niche networks through which to make a small-scale name for yourself, and online shops are waking up to the growing sales of independent albums (interesting that while the majors are all crying ‘foul play’ over file sharing, the indies are selling more records that ever…)

Maybe people respond well to having the chance to buy CD directly from an artist – I know I do! I love browsing CD Baby looking for interesting music, having a listen to the streaming stuff and then buying a CD or two, knowing that the artists are getting the dough for their hard earned work.

So is this a natural shift, or are we about to see the collapse of the industry as we know it? The mainstream charts are getting less and less relavent to your average joe – how many ‘big’ albums have I bought in recent times? Right now, I think I own two CDs in the top 40 – Athlete’s ‘Vehicles and Animals’ and Coldplay’s ‘A Rush Of Blood To The Head’ – that’s a pretty high proportion for me! A large amount of my time is spent listening to indie stuff, self produced CDs (with nothing to distinguish them as self produced other than the care and attention that’s gone into them, and the rather more matey sounding sleeve notes!)

But, if the truth be told, there are times when I wonder if the record company route might be easier – someone else to do the work. Then I read articles like this one by Steve Albini – he produced In Utero by Nirvana, and here outlines the details of a major ‘rock’ deal (some fruity language again, so avoid if easily offended). Thanks, but no thanks, I’ll stick with ‘jamming econo’ as the mighty Mike Watt calls it – the DIY ethic is a powerful one, and it doesn’t take much searching to find like-minded souls with whom to share a thought and a word of encouragement. I’ve met loads of indie musos through Looper’s Delight, the solo bass network, and just through gigs, web surfing, at NAMM and so on. Tomorrow I’m meeting up with a very fine solo bassist called John Lester, another solo bassist ploughing a furrow in London, and making some amazing music (check out his site, he’s great).

Anyway, I thank God I had the chance to go indie when I did, and that it’s all working out so well… looking forward to putting out the new record with theo, and then starting work on the next solo one! I’ve done loads of practicing over the last few days and am getting a few ideas together for new tunes… what fun…

Soundtrack – Terje Rypdal, ‘Skywards’, Duke Special, ‘Lucky Me’, and an advanced copy of Andre LaFosse’s album ‘Normalise’, which is marvellous. I mean, really really good! not easy listening by any stretch, but some of the most adventurous, funky, glitchy fascinating sounds ever to come from a guitar… Go and have a listen to some of the tracks in Andre’s MP3 archive, and then order the CD…

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