A couple of alternate views from people who think giving music away is a good idea…

Jeff Schmidt just posted a link on his blog to this article on AlterNet by Bob Ostertag, an experimental musician in the San Francisco scene, explaining why he’s made his entire back catalogue (or all of it that he has the rights for available online for free.)

The Long Tail blog (by Chris Anderson, author of The Long Tail and Editor In Chief of Wired mag) features a post about the perils of thinking about the music industry as being solely about the sale of CDs, and says that it’s actually really healthy if you look at a load of other indicators – Gigs and Merch, Download sales, Licencing for TV/Film/Ads, Vinyl Sales (which I’d group with other ‘premium product’, generally – bought by DJs because there’s still kudos in vinyl DJing, but also largely by fans who often don’t even own record players – single sales are half about how great a medium vinyl is for DJs, and half an anachronistic throw-back for fans who don’t see the actual ‘music’ but need to be even more of a music fan. It strikes me as a way of classifying your allegiance – I like this band enough to download, this band enough to buy the CD, and this band so much that I’ll even buy their singles despite as yet having nothing to play them on…)

Anyway, both posts are interesting, though as Jeff points out, Bob does descend into a rant about the mendacity of big corporations, record labels etc. I’d love to see some figures for what Bob’s doing, as he says in the article that making records has always been a ‘break even at best’ exercise for small labels. I’m assuming he’s talking about the labels that put his stuff out. It never has been for me. My solo Cds have always made money (less so on the duo CDs, but they have made some) and their sale, especially at gigs has been really important to my income stream. That doesn’t automatically mean that I ‘deserve’ that in the long run, but it does give the lie to the idea that ‘nobody’s making money out of releasing music on indie labels’ or whatever other myths are abound…

Anyway, have a read of them both – Chris’ position is vey similar to that of Gerd – the music industry is healthy, it’s just the process of charging per-unit for recorded music that’s on the way out…

…did you just call me Pardner???

We’re here in Texas. Plano, just outside Dallas to be precise. It seems like a rather lovely place – still strip-mall-based, like so many american cities, but definitely a better class of strip mall than most (and a huge Whole Foods market to be explored…)

We’s here for a house concert tonight – the house is gorgeous, and the concert is going to be marvellous.

Now where did I blog from last? Ah, yes, Nashville – well the Nashville house concert at Sarah and David’s was a whole lot of fun – we set up on their front porch, blankets were laid out in the yard, and we played for lots of lovely friends, surrounded by fairy lights, candles and the sounds of crickets between songs. A most enjoyable evening was had by all, and the duo stuff between the lovely L and I just gets better and better. Her ability to ‘learn’ a loop after one listen is uncanny, and to stack harmonies on something that seems pretty random… She also bought a gorgeous new guitar – a nylon-strung takamine that sounds incredible. Really relaly lovely, and got for a fantastic bargain at Nashville Used Music, or whatever that big shop out on Nolansville road is called.

So favourite things about Nashville? the people, Fido’s, Baja Burrito, the gig, TOGH being there, The Belcourt (Sheriff ElRon and I went to see Rock The Bells – a film about delusional people putting on the last ever gig by all the members of the Wu Tang Clan (though even with ODB being dead, I’m sure they could just get Shane McGowan to fill in, and people would just think Dirty was looking a little pasty…)… Nashville is a town full of good things (and rubbish, it is the home of CCM too, and therefor plays host to much of the most mediocre nonsense ever produced in the name of popular music, as well as the occasional gem…) and certainly somewhere both L and I could live if pushed…

From there we embarked on what i think is the longest drive of my life (yup, I just checked, this was the previous winner) – 700 and something miles from Nashville to Lake Charles Louisiana. Which was, to be honest, a pretty easy drive. Freeways here are much much clearer in general than motorways in the UK, (if you’re not in or around NYC, LA, Chicago or San Francisco), so we never seem to hit much traffic, and just drive from one place to another at 70 mph all the way. In our extensive research, we’ve discovered that IHOP and Denny’s do the best options for vegetarians on the highways of the US. TGI Fridays is shit, Waffle House isn’t actually food, and the burger places are all horrible, with indie places being either non-existent, or really risky in their quality… so we’re happy for IHOP and Denny’s.

The trip to Louisiana was for a house concert at Trip Wamsley’s house – Trip, as y’all know, is one of my most favouritest solo bassists in the world, and fun to hang out with too… it was nice to witness him in his natural habitat, for sure.

The gig was really lovely – Trip played first, and played really well, as always, then L and I got to do our thing, and had much fun, sold a load of CDs, and all was good.

On Sunday, i put down a load of bass tracks for a track on Trip’s new album, and realised just what a HUGE improvement putting this ART tube preamp in the FX loop on my Lexicon has made. It sounded incredible. I can’t wait to hear what Trip does with it. The evening was spent watching Ross Noble DVDs, and hanging out. Much fun at the Trip-house with Trip, Mrs Trip and lil’ Bubba Trip.

And so on into Texas, heading from Chez Trip to Plano TX, from where I’m writing this, trying to decide whether to walk or drive to Whole Foods – how far was it again??

Oh, and the title? We stopped in a auto-mart or some such place, to get directions, and the dude behind the counter actually called me ‘Pardner’ (as in Partner with a silly accent, for all you Englishes) – indeed. He sadly didn’t say ‘you ain’t from around here are you boy?’, but there’s still time for that…

Strangeness on a train…

It’s a universal process – you get onto your chosen mode of public transport (plane, train, and I guess coach…), and until take-off or departure, you sit in your designated seat, waiting and hoping against hope that a better seat is available and that you get there before someone else does. It requires a certain amount of focus and determination to secure the four-in-a-row empty seats on a 747, and in all my years of flying I’ve only managed it once – on the way back from San Francisco, jan 2006.

But that’s not the point of this ‘ere blog post – the point of this, my dear bloglings, is to tell of a bizarre happening. On, in fact, that is still unfolding around me as L and I sit here on the TGV from Lyon to Paris (Lyon because we managed to miss our direct train from Geneva to Paris, and had to re-route – it’s times like this that you thank God for month-long rail passes, fo shiz…)

No, the strangeness unfolding around us began with us following the universal process listed above. We boarded the DOUBLE DECKER TGV (DOUBLE DECKER???? How bad-ass is that! I’m like a 10 year old kid, all excited to be travelling on such fantastic futuristic transport. It couldn’t be better unless the Jetsons were serving drinks!) and took our allocated seats (on the top deck, no less – YAY!!) and the carriage seemed pretty empty. all good. The train pulled away, and no-one else showed up, so L and I moved to the table seats in front of us, to get a lil’ more leg roomage. All good for about 4 or 5 minutes, when four oriental women arrived (I’m trying to work out if they are Chinese, Japanese, Korean, or from somewhere else – I’m not having much luck working it out, and it’s not that important, but I do like the be able to furnish you with these details). So these four show up, and start looking curiously at the numbers on both the tables (that’s 8 seats for four people), and point out that these are their seats. No problem, we move back to our seats. And, it seems, just in time, as their arrival then proved to be akin to the appearance of a couple of scout-orcs over the hill in a LOTR battle scene, and over the next 5 minutes EVERY seat in the carriage was filled with oriental peoples from the same party! All of them, hundreds of them, appearing from nowhere. Where the hell were they when the train pulled away from the station? Who gets on a train and doesn’t go and find their seats?? Where does one hide that many tourists on a train? So many questions, with very few plausible answers… Definitely the strangest thing I’ve experienced on a train.

more on hunting

So tonight’s episode of holiday showdown had a gun toting military family from Lincolnshire going on a holiday-swap with a bisexual anarchist ouple of video artists.

The military monkeys took the anarchists to Texas on a holiday of shooting guns, trying to shoot boar and roping cattle.

then the bi people took the Lincolnshire rednecks to San Francisco for a week of hanging out with trannies, filming the streets of SF for a VJ gig.

What was startling was seeing a bloke, who thought nothing of whooping his teenage son into a testosterone fueled frenzy over a huge gun, describe two men kissing as disgusting and something that no decent person would let their children see… but aiming a Magnum at a human-shaped target (or boar, or deer) was fine.

We’re back to the topic of moral equivalence. OK, so it was intentionally car-crash TV, but the juxtaposition of gun-toting misogyny with anarchist sexual liberalism was a really interesting one, given that bigotry, intolerance and downright nastiness of the Lincolnshire smiling militia.

Shooting good, lovin’ bad. Very odd equation, that one.

As Michael Franti sang – ‘it’s not about who you love, it’s all about do you love’.

As it happens, the wife of trigger happy dan (with his remarkably gay moustache, that made him v. popular in SF!) actually took to the VJ gig really well, but she also couldn’t deal with transgendered dancers in a club. That I’d have had a problem with as well – not because they were transgendered, but just from a human rights angle, I’m not into exploitation at all, and I don’t think transgendered people should be objectified in that way any more than I think women should be. There were a few things in the SF scenes that I’d have issues with, but none of it because it was ‘sick’ or because they were ‘woofters’, more that that level of sexual-obsession tends to stem from either hurt, poor self image or narcissism, none of which need celebrating, just understanding.

But of the two holidays, I’d take a week with the lovely freaky drag-queens of San Fran over a week with the gun totin’, wife subjugatin’ rednecks any day… All the freaky people make the beauty of the world, to quote the lovely Franti again…

Postcard from SF Airport

I’m officially on my way home, sat in San Francisco airport, waiting for my flight.

The last few days have been fantastic – catching up with friends around the bay area, and then Saturday’s masterclass and gig.

Friday night was spent firstly having dinner with Rick Turner and with two lovely new friends from Third World Guitars in the Dominican Republic. I also got to try out Rick’s brand new 6 string Renaissance bass, which was just as fantastic as you’d imagine (John Lester is going to be wanting one of these, for sure…)

Then it was out to see another friend’s band play – a rock/metal covers band called Mr Meanor – great players, who’ve clearly put a heck of a lot of time, energy and skill into what they do – it’s great to see a bar band that plays with such conviction. The weird thing was how few of the songs I knew – the US and UK rock charts in the 70s and 80s were clearly very different!

Onto Saturday – It’s the third time I’ve taught a masterclass here, and the biggest so far – I set a limit of 20 people and we had 20 people, which was good – two long sessions of almost three hours each with an hour off for lunch and trying eachother’s basses etc. it was, as is my usual teaching approach, a lot more about the mental approach to playing than it was about ‘licks to play over a D minor chord’ – I probably only played for about 15 minutes total in the class, but spent most of the time answering questions, and dealing with a lot of the misconceptions that we’ve all grown up with about the music making process. the feedback thus far from the people who came along has been great, and hopefully the discussions will continue on the forum.

From the masterclass, we headed over to the espresso garden – this was my fifth gig at the Espresso Garden, and possibly, sadly, my last, as the venue is being sold, but doesn’t have a buyer as yet. It’s a great venue that has hosted gigs by some of my favourite musicians – John Lester, Kris Delmhorst, Muriel Anderson, Martyn Joseph – a great listening room for acoustic music. It’s the fourth time that Michael and I had played there together, and the second time that we filled it, which felt good. We also had Jeff Schmidt along with us, who played a lovely opening set, and joined us for a cool improv at the end of the gig.

I think the most startling thing about the gig was Michael’s sound – due to the logistics of the gig, he had Mark Wright from Accugroove bring him a couple of speakers to use, which meant that all three of us were going through Accugroove stereo rigs – I’ve NEVER heard Michael’s bass sound that clear or focussed. It was incredible.

It was also a lot of fun for me to be using the Looperlative on a solo gig – it’s the first time I’ve done it, and it sounded great – I even tried a version of ‘Despite My Worst Intentions’, which I’ve never played with that box (and it has some pretty complex looping stuff going on with it) and it worked a treat, it made sense, and felt good.

All in, a marvellous day!

Yesterday was another magical day – the morning spent with Mark Wright, the afternoon with Michael Manring, the early evening teaching a great bassist called Arianne Cap, then dinner with Arianne, her husband Wolfgang, and with Jeff Schmidt and his wife Valerie, followed by late evening with Anderson Page from Modulus and his wife Laura – a day chock full of encounters with fantastic inspiring lovely friends. California is like that for me – I get to see so many great people, who energise me, inspire me musically, politically, spiritually… I really don’t think I could ever live out here (maybe that’ll change), but some of my favourite people in the whole world are here. Thanks to all of you for what you feed into my life.

Another MP3

Added another MP3 to the site, from the new CD… well, I didn’t add it today, it had already been added, but only the Street Team had access… …you should sign up for the street team if you want to swap your help in plugging the music for some exclusives, and hopefully cheap tickets to gigs in the future…

It’s be a webalicious couple of days – today I added a page to the site for the new album, and yesterday, I designed the site for the London Guitar Festival. I played at the festival last year, opening for Antonio Forcione, which was great fun. This year, I’m just on web duty.

oh, maybe you’d like the see the cover of the new CD –

– there you go.

The picture on the cover there is of Union Square in San Francisco – an urban open space! The rest of the sleeve is very nearly finished – I just need to add a picture of me, and we’re done.

Been listening to Sigur Ros a lot lately, and it inspired a couple of new sounds – some really mad distortion/reverb type things. Very nice.

Soundtrack – Right now, I’m listening to WYCE – Sarda’s laydee-friend is presenting the show. other recent stuff – Talk Talk, ‘Spirit Of Eden’; Sigur Ros, ‘Agaetis Byrjum’; Mo Foster, ‘Time To Think’; and the final mix of ‘For The Love OF Open Spaces’, and boy, does it sound fine!

California III – this time it's serious

…or maybe not…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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