When work is more fun than fun…

I do feel very lucky to get to make my living playing and teaching music… the playing side of that is obvious, but the teaching side is just as much fun, just as rewarding and just as challenging. I get to meet a fascinating bunch of people, all of whom I learn things from as well, many of whom are very creative and capable musicians, I get the challenge of creating a course of study that will help them to maximise their musical potential, I try to guide them through all the psychological pit-falls that can befall anyone trying to do something creative and especially for those who need music as a release from the stress of work etc… It’s a big responsibility, and one that sadly, it seems from what I’m told, a fair few teachers don’t take seriously. Fortunately, there are enough of us left for people to be able to find a good teacher if they look hard enough, but I guess the fact that I have students who travel from all over the south and midlands of England and even Wales suggests that there are still some areas where it’s pretty hard to find a good teacher…

Anyway, as I say, I feel very lucky to get to meet all these fascinating people. I benefit from it emmensely both musically and from the friendships that develop, and obviously the feeling of watching someone that you’re teaching discover whatever it is that they were looking for in music is a great feeling – teaching them what they want to know, and even more, teaching them what they didn’t know they wanted to know but actually wanted to know more than the stuff they thought they wanted to know.. :o)

Er, what else? Well, I’m still in post-tour consolidation at the moment – catching up with all my students, finally getting round to some of the promo stuff to do with Not Dancing For Chicken that I really ought to have done when it came out but didn’t cos I was on tour, and hopefully, eventually, sorting out my office, which is still a complete tip. In between all that, I need to make sure that the aged feline gets his medicine (high blood pressure), and gets a good brushing (to prevent hair-balls), and start booking some more gigs (oh, BTW, I’ve added a couple of dates to my gig page, and will be adding another two or three in the near future…)

For those of you that are on the Street Team – don’t forget to re-sub to the new topica list. The street team was getting a little big for me to handle via email, so I’ve created a topica list, like my main mailing list, so that you can manage it yourself, and I don’t have to try and find out what your new email address is when you decide to change it without warning me!

For those of you that are musicians in bands, I heartily recommend the street team idea – it’s very reassuring to have a bunch of people who like your music and are willing to help out getting the word out about gigs and cds and everything – even a handful of willing friends can be a bonus, and if you get an international list then it can be really useful in helping to build profile.

even if you’re not on the street team, feel free to have a look at the street team ideas page, so that if you feel like helping out in an unofficial capacity, you can do!

So what’s up for the next wee while? Er, I’m working at the nightshelter again this evening (was meant to be rota’d on next weekend, but have swapped) am meeting up with evil harv this evening – he organises delicatessen (click the deli link over the the left hand side of the page there for more on deli – a great acoustic night in Reading), and I’ve got a suggestion for another weird deli night, like the solo bass one we did last year with me, Michael Manring and David Friesen… watch this space for more on that…

And tomorrow I’m going to see Muriel Anderson play at the Troubadour in Earl’s Court – she’s very good, and well worth checking out, should you want to. I’ll meet you there!

SoundtrackBeen working through some CDs borrowed from Not At All Evil Dann – some Django Bates (some of which is excellent, some didn’t do it for me), and a CD by Richard Leo Johnson, which is sort of Michael Hedges meets Oregon, and is rather lovely. After that today, I’ve been listening to a recording of Michael Manring and I, live at the Anaheim Bass Bash – I’ve got my whole set here, but haven’t been paying much attention to the other tunes in it, just this duo with Michael, which with any luck will surface here as an MP3 before too long…

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…

There's no place like home…

So, I’m home, safe and as sound as I’ll ever be… Jetlag got me bad though – this is the longest trip I’ve had to the states, and after four weeks over there, my body had adjusted rather well to the time difference, so now my body clock is screwed up. So I slept a bit yesterday afternoon, then went to bed at 12 last night, woke up at 5.30, awake til 8.15, then was asleep on and off til 6.30pm!!!! Am up again now, ploughing through email and trying to rebuild some semblace of a life… Fortunately I don’t start teaching again til next week, So I’ve got time to sort through the mountain of post and email… Fortunately both the small person and the aged feline seemed to recognise me when I arrived home, so nothing to drastic can have happened. Still haven’t unpacked yet though… need to get some washing done…

So what happened while I was in the states? Really sorry for not keeping this thing up to speed – hopefully next year I’ll have a lap top with me and will be more concientious (spelling, harv?).

Anyway – first up was the NAMM show – huge great music gear trade show – equal parts hideous schmooze-fest, and great chance to catch up with musical chums I’ve not seen in ages…

Good people I saw who I already knew – Peter Murray, Geoff Gould, the Modulus and Ashdown people, Ed Friedland, Lee Sklar, Joe Zon, Matt Garrison, Doug Wimbish, Michael Manring, David Torn, Doug Lunn, Vida Vierra, Steve Rabe, Steve and Jill Azola, Mike Tobias, Norm Stockton, Adrian Ashton, Dan Knowlton, Mark Wright, Frank Gambale, Rufus Philpot, Pete McCann, Mike Roe, Dave Pomeroy, Trip Wamsley, Lenny Jordon, Bill Leigh, Jamie Faletti, Dale Titus, Kerry Getz, Rick Turner, Clive Roberts, John Ferrante, Kim Flint, Richard Zvonar…

And Fine people I met for the first time – Elijah Torn, Will Calhoun, Daniella Sheppard, Derry Daugherty, Mike Dimin, Mike Watt, Kira Roessler, Charles Normal and Softcore (his band), Tedd Killian, Chris Tarry, Greg Heet, Dan and Laurie Schinder, Kevin Van Pamel… and lots more in both groups that I can’t remember in my near comatose jetlagged state…

Playing-wise, I was playing at the Ashdown Booth each day at 3pm, doing my solo stuff, and also hanging around a bit chatting to people there… Also played a little on the Modulus stand, with Leo Nobre and then with Bill Walker. Spent a lot of my time at the show just catching up with friends, putting the word around about the gigs and clinics, and checking out new stuff, of which there wasn’t all that much (though Ashdown did have a couple of gorgeous fake-suede bass cabs – very sexy indeed…)

Music at the show that was worth watching was pretty scarce – Ed Friedland was playing some great stuff at the Carvin Booth, and Michael Manring was doing his solo bass twiddling for Zon and SWR and astounding everyone as always. Bill Walker was making a fine noise at the Duncan-Turner Research booth, and that was Matt Garrison spent plenty of time playing at the Fodera booth, playing beautifully. That’s about all I saw…

Evenings were taken up with going to or playing gigs and eating dinner – Thursday was Frank Gambale at The Baked Potato (a bit of a NAMM ritual for me, catching Frank at least once during the weekend), Friday was the bass bash, organised by Dan Elliott who booked my tour, and acted as road manager for me. That was a great event – a few technical hitches (the venue wouldn’t let them start setting up the stage area til gone 7!), and the whole thing over-ran (bit of a NAMM tradition there…) but all in all it was a great night’s bassic entertainment – have a look at some of the pictures from the event at www.bassically.net. I did a couple of long solo numbers (No More Us And Them and MMFSOG) and the Michael Manring joined me for an improv thing that I’ve got on CD, so will hopefully post here before too long…

Anyway, Saturday night was dinner with David and Elijah Torn, Dani, Doug and Vida, and then Sunday was the first gig of the tour at Roccos in Hollywood.

The gig went really well, though the turnout was low (if everyone else was feeling the way I did after four days of NAMM, it’s not that surprising) – we didn’t start til late… musically, we had no idea how Rick Walker Andre LaFosse and I were going to gel, but the trio stuff turned out great. We all did solo sets (the running order was a bit of a shambles but it sort of worked out) then Michael Manring did some marvellous solo tunes, and all of us played together… The nicest thing about it was how inconspicuous the looping element of it all was – last time we did a loop tour, partly due to the limitations of the jamman, the looping defined the music in a very strong way. This time, with the extra subtleties available with the echoplex, we were able to loop in a music more transparent way – bringing loops in and out to allow ourselves to mutitrack, but without having to just build a loop then stop…

A couple of days off on Monday and Tuesday were spent visiting Ashdown, and Dan was chasing up last minute stuff for the tour (he worked really hard and did a great job…), then Wednesday we left SoCal and headed for San Luis Obispo for the second trio gig…

…and I’m going to stop there for a while, or my arms will fall off, or I’ll fall asleep, or my arms will fall off in my sleep, or something equally bad.

anyway, the rest of the story will follow ASAP…

still no time to blog

arghhh!!!

way too busy – loads of great gigs, shedloads of Cds sold, thousands of miles covered, stadiums sold out, war averted due to solo bass loveliness, much fun had, muchos laughs had, many good people met. all fun – full report at 10

and now the weather

lovely

Taking the Rough With The Smooth…

Ah, what an eventful day yesterday was…

Started out teaching – all good so far. The no-at-all-evil-Dann arrived, we
packed up my amps/basses/toys etc. loaded them into the car and headed
of for Norwich, in good time. Hit traffic first on the M25 – so headed off up
the A10 instead of M11 – then again, very badly, on the A11 towards Norwich.
Got to the gig halfway through the collective soundcheck, unloaded my stuff,
then it took me 10 minutes to find a parking space (10 minutes we didn’t
have). Fortunately I wasn’t going through the PA (the joys of having an
Ashdown that sounds better than most PAs…), so soundcheck took
about 8 seconds once the gear was set up…

The gig itself was marvellous – started off with Darkroom, playing ambient
soundscape-y processed noise stuff (very good noise), I then joined in
over the top, they faded out, and I went from that improv into ‘No More Us
And Them’. From a very look bleepy version of that, I went into Highway 1,
at which point, fellow solo bassist Peter Chilvers joined in, played some
e-bow over the intro, and we were then joined by Roger Eno and Theo Travis on
acoustic guitar and sax respectively. What a
fantastic version of Highway 1!! I’m so glad it was recorded and can’t wait
to hear it. If the mix is anywhere close to OK, It’ll be magic… Roger was
playing some lovely arpeggiated stuff on acoustic guitar, while Theo and
I traded lines off each other, me with my Fripp-meets-Satch lead sound,
while Peter Chilvers kept the whole ambient side of it shifting and changing.
LovelyLovely.

I then faded out, and that trio continued, and then each act overlapped with
the last – Centrazoon, Andy Butler, GP Hall, Theo Travis. And after Theo’s
set, loads of us piled onto the stage for a remarkably coherent loop-jam,
with Tim Bowness, Theo and I trading melodies over some pretty marvellous
ambient waffle from Peter, Andy, Dave Montague, GP and the Darkroom
guys! All in all, a very fine evening’s music. The audience wasn’t huge, but
hey, that’s what happens when you go for quality over pop-credibility…

Getting the car back to the venue was a fun experience – Norwich has an
insane one-way system… Anyway, arrived back, and we all went off for a
drink and a chat. Very nice it was too, and many collaborations were
discussed and plans are afoot.

About 12.50, I jump in the car to come home. All is well, til I reach
Cockfosters (about two miles from home) and the engine cuts out and the
oil light comes on… fortunately I can roll the car most of the way to the
nearest Jet petrol station, and push it the last few feet. Put some oil in.
Still won’t start. Making odd noises. ring AA. 1.5 hours later, man arrives
with truck, ‘your cam belt’s broken’. Bugger. Big expense. Anyway, car
gets towed home, I unload the gear, and get to bed just after 4.30am!

Supposed to be teaching at 10am. Small person rings them at 9 to cancel.

Supposed to have a gig at St Luke’s tonight. Due to driveway restructuring,
small person’s small-person-car is inaccessible. Ring Justin (St Luke’s MD),
and leave message saying can’t make 2.30 rehearsal, maybe can’t get there
at all… Justin calls back says get a cab… maybe…

And here we are. Good gig, broken car. As The New Fast Automatic Daffodils
once wisely sang ‘Every silver lining has its cloud’…

Soundtrack – in the car, not-at-all-evil-Dann and I were listening to
all manner of stuff – Jane Siberry, Sigur Ros, Don Ross, SadHappy, Defeat
The Young, etc. etc. Then got sick of good music and put on ‘Long Cold
Winter’ by Cinderella, which I’m ashamed to say, stayed in the player for
about an hour… :o) After that, on the way home, I stuck in a No-Man
compilation (Tim Bowness’s rather wonderful band – think Prefab Sprout,
late-ear Talk Talk mixed with the best of Marillion and something else poppy
and deep…), and now am listening to Cipher, Theo Travis’ side project
of fascinating spacey stuff. Theo’s a fantastic musician that I look forward
to working with again very soon, hopefully…

Meanwhile, this morning, while I still slept, Small person took aged feline to
the vets, only to have him stop limping for the vet, but choose instead to
deposit a huge great steaming turd on the vets examination table. A choice
comment on vetinary science in general, methinks, from the perspective of
a small furry vetinary science consumer, wishing for an easy life.

Christmas taste bypass effect…

What on earth happens to people at Christmas? Yesterday I went out for
lunch with my mum and Babs (known as ‘aunti Babs, but no idea what
relation she really is to me… distant, I think, but one of our grooviest
relations and great fun..). We went to Crew’s Hill, north of Enfield, which is
the garden centre capital of the world… But also, for the next couple of
weeks, home to the most hideous ‘Christmas Wonderland’ shop that I’ve
ever come across! Millions of shiny santas, singing Bing Crosby’s dressed
as Santa, gaudy decorations, cheap plastic christmas trees, crass nativity
scenes devoid of all realism. It was horrible!!!! Scary thing was it was full! on
a monday afternoon, full of families, with kids (er, aren’t they meant to be
in school???) buying cheap nasty tat. No wonder the country’s going down
the pan when parents prioritise bad taste christmas junk over an education…
very sad…

On the up side, I did manage to find a squirrel-proof bird-feeder. Our last
one got eaten by the squirrels (not just the nuts, but the base of the feeder
as well!!) This one is built like a brick s**t house – try to get into that, you
furry terrorists!!!!

soundtrack – yesterday, I got sent a CD by John Lester, a singing
solo bassist living in Paris, but from San Fransisco. Very good it is too, well
worth looking out for (there’ll be a link to his site on the Solo Bass Network
site as soon as I find one…) This morning, I got Cupid and Psyche by Scritti
Politti through from 101CD.com. What a fantastic album!!! This is an absolute
blinder… great stuff.

Got lots of teaching on today, and will hopefully get round to adding
some photos or MP3s or both from the Level 42 tour to the site…

Adventures in Solo Bass

A couple of years ago, I started a website… not my own, I already had that
one, but another one – The Solo Bass Network – designed as a links and info
page for anyone interested in solo bass stuff, and a portal to finding all the
solo bassists around…

Just after starting to site, I got way to busy to actually collect the info needed
to keep the mailing list happening, so it has lain dormant for the best part of
18 months.

Finally, today, I got round to switching the list format to ‘anyone on the list
can post’, so that people can post their own news (like, that was a
revelation!) – so I’ve updated the site a bit, and hopefully, the possibilities
for spreading the word about solo bass related stuff will expand…

If you’re interested in solo bass, do check out the site – the directory has
got tonnes of links to solo bassist’s websites, and an ickle write up on each
of them…

soundtrack – on a solo bass theme, I’ve been listening to Trip
Wamsley’s as-yet-unreleased new album, and very fine it is too.. you can
find trip’s site via the Solo Bass Network! :o)