Me over at DGMlive.com

DGMlive.com run occasional series of Q and A things with Crim-related artists. My Crim-Credentials are that I opened for 21st Century Schizoid band back in 2002, and the they’ve just published two Q and As with me – desert island crim and the last book I read.

The desert island crim I wrote ages ago, and I think my list would’ve changed by now, as I’ve listened to Red a few times of late, and Larks Tongues In Aspic… But it’s still a good list, and reflects that my favourite Crimson period is definitely the early 80s period.

Happy New Year!

Oh yes, it’s 2004. Another year over a new one just begun, as a songwriter no longer at the top of his game and desparately in need of his old writing partner once wrote.

So out with the old and in the new, hopefully. Or maybe it’ll just be ‘what goes around comes around’. Who knows.

I’m hoping for the usual crap – more time to read, more gigs, more CD sales, less big countries blowing up small countries, less reality TV, more properly researched documentaries, more decent comedies on TV, more going to the cinema, more exercise (!!), more journies on public transport, less using the car, more bass practice, less time wasted online… yeah yeah, right.

So this afternoon, I had a listen to an album I’ve not heard for a while – ‘Beyond These Shores’ by Iona. This is an album that when I first got it blew my mind, but as I’ve only got it on tape, and the tape is just about worn out, I hadn’t listened to it in ages. However, the small person has got it on CD, I remembered this afternoon. So put it on. and. wow. Unbelievable. Still as good if not better than I remember it. Great songs, amazing playing, fantastic production, moving lyrics (it’s a sort of concept album on the legend of St Brendan sailing from Ireland to America a few hundred years before Columbus…) – truly wonderful. Seriously, it’s great, get it.

It’s kind of apt at the start of a new year to be listening to an album about a journey into the unknown – not that stepping over into 2004 is like sailing the atlantic in medieval times – after all it’s just another day in ‘actual’ terms – but new year is a rite of passage, giving us a chance to pause, take stock, rethink, set some goals, change the way we do things, and also chops the past into convenient chunks for us to assess whether they were good or bad.

2003 was very different for me musically than 2002 – ’02 was the year I did the two big tours with Level 42 and The Schizoid Band, but ’03 was a year of fewer gigs but a lot of musical experimenting – loads of new improv settings, gigs with Orphy Robinson, Tess Garraway, Corey Mwamba, Filomena Campus, Josh Peach, Seb Rochford, Theo Travis, Mano Ventura, Michael Manring, Jez Carr, Harvey Jessop; I’ve also recorded loads of improv stuff this year – most importantly the new album with Theo Travis, but also material with quartets in France and Spain, duets with Matthias Grob, Luca Formentini, BJ Cole and Patrick Wood. Loads of space to develop new ideas, much of which will be launched on anyone who wants to hear it in 2004.

So, here’s to the new year – may all your gigs be well paid and your audiences attentive.

Soundtrack – The Smiths; ‘Louder Than Bombs’; Bill Frisell, ‘The Willies’; Rob Jackson, ‘Wire Wood and Magnets’; Iona, ‘Beyond These Shores’;

A week in the life of…

me. what a surprise.

When did I last blog (quick check…), Ah yes, Sunday – right since then? I’ve done some teaching, we’ve scrapped the small person’s car, and on Monday night I went to a ‘Bob Harris presents’ gig at The Stables in Wavendon. The lineup was great – Heather Myles (Mary Chapin Carpenter sings Buddy Holly sort of vibe), Nick Harper and Thea Gilmore.

Nick Harper was the main attraction for me – having seen him play at Greenbelt, after having been introduced to his music by Catherine Streetteam (thanks!), I’ve been looking for a chance to see him play again, and as the marvellous JJ aka mini-harv is promoting the series of shows.

Nick’s live shows have to see seen to be believed. He sings and plays acoustic guitar, but the twist is that he takes two processors with him, one for voice and one for guitar, distorts his guitar to sound like an electric on occasion, puts big delays on his voice, and tunes his guitar down a fourth from usual so gets an insane amount of low end out of it anyway. A genuine one man band, with more on stage energy than most four piece bands and zero gimmick factor – just an amazing show with some great songs. His new album, blood songs, is excellent.

Thea’s set was good, though a bit of the guitar and nearly all the bass parts were on backing tracks, which – call me old fashioned – just doesn’t work for a ‘rootsy’ show – at some points there were three guitars and keyboards going – surely one of them could have actually played a bass line??? Her songs were fine, and he voice is lovely, but the canned part of the show really didn’t do it for me. When she dropped it back to a more acoustic sound, she was really really good, and if she was doing a solo tour, I’d go and see her again in a heartbeat. But the tracks have to go.

The other bizarre highlight of the evening was being recognised by some people who had seen me play at the Stables with the Schizoid Band, and came up to say hi – which I was doing the merch table for Nick… not often that one gets spotted doing merch, but it made for an interesting diversion from selling CDs!

Other than that, it’s been a week of buying christmas cards, writing a christmas newsletter and then today finding out that my new bass will be shipped over from the states this week!!!! HOW EXCITING IS THAT????? I can’t wait. Anderson, the artist relations guy at Modulus, reckons it’s incredible – and despite working in artist relations, he’s not usually given to hyperbole, so I’m even more excited than I would have been!!!

Soundtrack – Nick Harper, ‘Blood Songs’; Martyn Joseph, ‘Whoever It Was Who Brought Me Here Will Have To Take Me Home’ (more magic for the welsh cockburn); Mabulu, ‘Marimbo’ (Mozambique african hip-hop crossover stuff. Marvellous); Stevie Wonder, ‘Songs In The Key Of Life’ (certainly in the key of my life).

A week in the life of…

…yep, sorry evil harv, I’m just going to write about what I’ve been up to again… ;o)

Main event of the week was another recording session with Theo Travis – I’d invested in a few new studio toys (a pair of powered monitors which make mixing a lot easier, and a new mic for recording flute/percussion etc…) so the session was better than ever, with some rather groovy results. The album’s really coming along – we’ve got loads of recordings to choose from already, but are in no hurry to just release anything. We’ll keep recording until we get a full album of stuff we love with no fillers. It’s slightly different to the way I normally work, in that we’re allowing ourselves to edit some of what we do (on one of the tracks we recorded on Thursday I removed an entire solo that I’d played, cos it was a bit dull…) but what you end up with at any one time is still just the two of us playing and looping in real time, with no additional overdubs… Theo was playing Soprano Sax as well on this session, which added a lot to what we were doing. It is, I guarantee, going to be a stellar album.

Thursday night, Evil Harv, Jimbob (AKA Sarda) and a couple of other chums went down to the Kashmir Klub – possibly London’s most important music venue, in that it costs nowt to get in, no-one gets paid, but the quality of the acts on is (usually) very high, (I played there with Susan Enan once) with occasional high profile people there (Lewis Taylor played there a lot earlier this year, and I’ve seen Nick Kershaw, Imogen Heap, The Dum Dums, Nerina Pallot and Doctor Robert (from the Blow Monkeys) play there). Anyway, Thursday wasn’t a great line up (better than most acoustic nights around, but not really up to The Kashmir’s usual standard) so we went off for coffee instead. The sad news is that the Kashmir is closing, at least for a time – the guy who owns the venue is doing something else with it, and despite them filling it night after night, he’s kicking them out. They are looking for a new venue, but who knows how long that will be. Please visit the website, and if you can sign petitions, write letters or just offer moral support to Tony Moore who’s been running it for 5 years, please do. It’s a great club, he’s a great bloke and London needs it.

Today, Evil Harv and I went to the London Guitar Show, at Wembley Conference Centre. It was fun, though alongside the NAMM show, it feels a little small and parochial. As most of the people there hadn’t been to NAMM, it was fine (I remember loving shows like that when I was a kid), and it was great to catch up with some friends I’d not seen for a while – Nick Beggs was playing on the Bass Guitar Magazine stand, doing his rather fabulous stick thang. It was fun to see the rest of the guys from BGM too. I had a nice chat and a coffee with John East, who makes the U-Retro preamp that I’ve got in my 6 string fretless, and bumped into Svetlana, who used to teach at BassTech, and is now playing bass for Moby! Also saw the Ashdown people, Nick Owen from the Bass Centre, lovely Hoda who now works for SWR and The Bass Centre, and all manner of other people that I only ever see at trade shows!

Another bizarre coincidence – was chatting to Barry Moorhouse from the Bass Centre about wanting to do more support slots. ‘You know who you should support’ says Barry, ‘The 21st Century Schizoid Band!’ – ‘I already have’ says me, and as I’m saying it, up comes Jakko Jakszyk, guitars from the Schizoids. which was a lovely surprise, as I’ve not seen Jakko since I did the tour with the them at the tail end of last year… We caught up on news and then I came home.

soundtrack – yesterday was the St Luke’s May Fayre, so I’ve got the usual haul of CDs, though it’s rather fewer than some years… Right now I’m listening to Lucious Jackson, ‘Fever In Fever Out’, which is rather good. Yesterday it was John McLaughlin, ‘Que Alegria’, which is also rather good, if a little note-heavy in places. Theo leant me a marvellous album – Arild Andersen, ‘The Molde Concert’, feature Bill Frisell on guitar – gonna have to buy that one. And in the car I’ve had Talk Talk, ‘Laughing Stock’ on regular rotation. And of course, in between all that, lots of the duo stuff with Theo…

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.

Some interesting recent listening

Back when I was in school (late 80s), we had a small group of friends who would all head down to fat george’s record shop on Bridge Street in Berwick on a Saturday morning to order records… any old records… the more obscure the better.

In those pre-internet times, the source of all knowledge about what was available was the Music Maker Publications big red book of records, which listed just about everything that was on general release.

I bought some great stuff through that, and some total bollocks. Great stuff, like Steve Berry – ‘Trio’, John Zorn – ‘Spillane’, the best of Weather Report etc. etc… and some rubbish like ‘Electric Storm in Hell’ by White Noise…

One record that we all really wanted to get but could never find was ‘Ladies Don’t Have Willies’ by a band called 64 Spoons. It seemed like the most preposterous title for a single – add to that the daft band name, and we had to know what it sounded like. But sadly, week after week, George couldn’t find it, it was out of print… whatever, it never turned up.

Fast forward 15 years, and in the last two tours I’ve done, with the Schizoid Band and Level 42, I’ve been touring with two ex-members of said Spoons! Jakko Jakszyk (guitar/vox with Schizoids) and Lyndon Conner (keys/vox with L42) were both in 64 Spoons!

Enter not-at-all-evil Dann, delving deep into his extensive CD collection to provide an early 90s compilation of Spoonerisms from the late 70s/early 80s… and bizarrely enough, it’s pretty good. Very good in places. Very silly and self conscious in other places, but sort of Squeeze meets Cat-Food era Crimson, meets Joe Jackson with a touch of Blockheads-funk… The kind of thing, that were it more widely known, would now be forcing people onto the dance floor at schooldisco.com events.

Still haven’t heard Ladies Don’t Have Willies though…

After that, the next CD I listened to couldn’t be more different Juldeh Camara is a West African singer/composer and player of the one string fiddle! I first heard his stuff on Charlie Gillett’s show on BBC London, but then met up with Duncan Noble – a bassist who has assembled a touring project with Juldeh, playing in the UK early next year.

It’s amazing how Juldeh manages to keep your attention… even mesmerise you with just fiddle and voice. And judging by the range of material on the CDR that Duncan gave me, he’s more than happy to recontextualise his playing and writing into whatever setting is around, from acoustic blues to funk/soul stuff… I really hope that their tour doesn’t clash with my dates in California next year, as I’d love to see this live…

Finally got stuck into the last chapter of Derek Bailey’s ‘Improvisation – its nature and practice in music’ book last night. It’s an amazing book, but I do have a habit of dropping books somewhere in or around the last chapter… seems to be a theme running through my life (do half the washing up, write half a song, tidy half my office, etc. etc…)

Anyway, the last chapter is all about the Musicians Improvisors Collective (MIC – I think that’s what it stands for…), and is very interesting indeed. The whole book is very highly recommended for anyone interested in improv and its relationship to music making as a whole…

Busy day today – meeting Jam-comedy-writer this afternoon, and going to see Moby play tonight… well, going to meet up with Greta Brinkman, who happens to be playing with Moby. Evil Harv’s coming as well, so that’ll be my dose of eville for the week sorted then…

before that, need to tidy up here, as my mum arrives for a short stay later on. Always nice to see my mum, cos she’s great!

Celebrity Big Brother – nonsense

Just finished watching Celeb Big Brother – what nonsense.
I know, I know – I watched it so I can’t complain… well, I
am kind of fascinated by reality TV… what is it that makes
it interesting? Why do we give a monkeys about 6 celebs
we wouldn’t turn over to watch if they were on anything
else? Sue is the only one of these I ever bother to wathc or
listen to doing anything else (her weekend lunchtime show with
Mel on Radio London is one of the finest things on radio…)

So why did I watch? I guess it’s that continued hope that it’s going
to suddenly become really interesting… like surfing the net way
beyond the point where you’ve exhausted all the things you really
wanted to look at, in the hope that you’ll find something fascinating…
which never happens…

Anyway, changing the subject entirely, this particular blog setup can
allow for a ‘comments’ function, where you blog-stalkers can post
responses to my dull ramblings… a function I’d love to use… if it
wasnt’ for evil harv’s evil schemes, and his total in ability to stop
himself from posting shit, given the chance…

soundtrack – been listening to the Best of Howard Jones
this evening, which brings back fab memories of touring with him
back in 1999, and contains some excellent songs (the definitive
versions, to my ears, of which are on his ‘Live Acoustic America’
CD, which the small person has stolen, so I couldn’t listen to
that just now…)

Also been listening to more of that new Keith Jarrett CD – good stuff.

Just got an email from not-at-all-evil Dann, who is a very fine writer,
who has just posted a couple of reviews of gigs involving me onto the
‘Evo’ site – the first one is of the 21st Century Schizoid Band and me
live in Croydon
, and the second one is of the manring/friesen/lawson gig
at Ocean in Hackney
– both well worth checking out. As is the rest
of the Evo site.