Tour blog Pt II

So Thursday – started out with a seminar/workshop/clinic/masterclass (I really out to work out different definitions for each of these so I know what it is we do) at the British Academy Of New Music – run by Access To Music. The National Events Co-Ordinator for ATM is Jono Heale – a fantastically resourceful guy, and a bassist, who has all manner of wonderful ideas for getting interesting bass playing out there to the public, and ideas on interesting bass playing out there to bassists.

The seminar/workshop thingie went really well – at the beginning, for whatever reason, no-one spoke at all. Just sat there, which was slightly un-nerving. But as the students loosened up and started asking questions, it was great. Some really good questions coming up.

So we set off from the school in Bromley-By-Bow and headed over to Petersfield for my fifth (fifth!) visit to Traders this year, and second one with Michael. This was another gig organised by Stiff Promotions – Iain Martin, who runs Stiff is one of those people who if there’s any justice in the world, will be the next Harvey Goldsmith. He books great music, looks after artists, does great promo, loves what he does and has developed a bit of a reputation in Hampshire for only booking quality stuff. Exactly what a promoter should be like. If you’re in that area, you should get on his mailing list, and support the gigs – he promotes shows in Southampton, Petersfield, Portsmouth, Brighton, Winchester – all over that bit of the South of England. support the shows, take your friends, and help it grow!

Anyway, the gig went really well as always at Traders, though there were a couple of flies in the ointment – first was that they’ve installed a pole-dancing pole on the stage at the venue… now, even putting moral and feminist considerations aside (which we didn’t), it made it impossible to play on the stage, and we set up in front of it. Add to that just the fact that it’s a pole-dancing pole, not some root support, and it becomes a real problem in what is otherwise a great venue. I really hope that at the very least make it removeable. I’d hate to see a band try and set up around it.

The other thing was that on the way out of the venue, somebody stole a framed, signed poster of Michael and I that belonged to the venue. Geoff and Patch who run Traders are big supporters of live music, really enjoy it, and have a collection of signed posters from all the shows that they’ve had at the venue, so having one of them stolen off the wall is particularly shitty for them. Please, if it was you, or you know who it was, send it back. It’s signed to someone else! All you had to do was ask and we’d be able to find a poster to sign for you. Please, take it back.

Friday was a day off, so we did what any self repecting bassist does on a day off in London – went to the Gallery – as I’ve said many times before, we’re really really lucky in London to have the two finest bass shops in the world in the one city, with The Gallery and The Bass Centre. Michael had been to the Bass Centre before, when we did our clinic there a couple of years ago, but this time we visited Martin Peterson at his Camden hide-out. It’s a real Aladdin’s cave (particularly apposite in Pantomime season… maybe Martin and Alex should dress as Widow Twanky and Aladdin??) So we spent a good few hours talking bass and trying out toys there.

Saturday, I was playing at The Captain and Tenille’s wedding, which was great fun. The rest of the band was Cathy Burton‘s band. Sadly, my Neuralgia kicked in just before the service, so I had to rush off at the end, to get a Vit B fix before my vision started to go… which was a downer, as the reception would have been cool too.

And Sunday was the gig at The Headgate Theatre in Colchester. The Headgate is a fantastic amateur run charitable venue, with the best acoustics of just about any venue I’ve ever played. Everything sounds great in there.

This was the second of the gigs where we added a Q&A/Masterclass to the beginning of the gig. We did this for Petersfield and Colchester for a number of reasons – firstly, so that we could have a chance to explain a bit about what we do; inevitably, after a gig there are a thousand questions from people about how the hipshots and detunable bridge work on Michael’s bass, about the Ebow, about looping, about my processing, about what strings we use etc… So the chance to answer those in a more structured way proved very helpful. It also meant that we could make the gigs slightly more economically viable. It’s great to be able to play gigs like the Headgate and Traders and make it pay, and this is one way to make it a bit easier on everyone. For both venues, money taken over the bar is a big factor in it working for them, so people arriving early is good for the venue too.

The live music economy is a tricky balance, given that venues need to make money on food and drink, so artists and promoters need to think of ways to give a gigging audience ample time for ordering at the bar! That way everyone wins.

So that was that. Tour over, some great gigs, some fab new friends, great clinics, CDs sold, and the mortgage paid for another couple of months :o)

Then, today, Michael left, about 10 minutes before the postman delivered a box of CDs for him to sell on the tour… DOH!!

Soundtrack – Iona, ‘Book Of Kells’; Cuong Vu, ‘Come Play With Me’; Nick Harper, ‘Double Life’; Patrice Rushen, ‘Straight From The Heart’.

…and Last night's gig

Forgot to mention last night’s gig in previous blog entry.

‘Twas back at Traders in Petersfield, another marvellous Stiff Promotions evening. This time, it was me opening, then Jez Carr doing his thang, with some duo strangeness at the end. It was the first gig Jez and I have done like this in a v. long time – we do a lot of normal ‘standards’ gigs for weddings and parties etc. but don’t get to improv or play originals nearly as often as we’d like. My solo set went well – I’m playing pretty well at the moment, due largely to the large number of gigs I’ve done since the album came out at the beginning of August. I’ve played Traders three times this year before tonight, so it was really nice to have some new material to play, from Grace And Gratitude.

Jez’s solo set was on next, and he played fantastically – a mixture of originals and choice jazz tunes (Waltz For Debby, Search For Peace and Blame It On My Youth), he had the audience in wrapt attention. Hugely compelling stuff.

The for the duo set, we started as we always do – just start playing and see where it goes – the magic was still there, and the first duo improv went all over the map, pretty seamlessly blending styles, keys, swapping chordal and melodic roles between us. Top stuff, very exhilarating. We then played a couple of standards to finish – Breakfast Wine, a tune we’ve been doing for a while out of the Real Book, which was OK, but I made the mistake of not switching back to fretless, and the melody didn’t really come across the way it does on the fretless. And then Autumn Leaves – a bit of an old chestnut but we played it really well. We were already half an hour over time, and still got called back for an encore (a v. good sign, methinks), and Jez suggested in a moment of inspiration that we play ‘Bittersweet’, from And Nothing But The Bass Fortunately he remembered it even better than I did, and we played a lovely version, a very fitting end to a top night.

If you were there, feel free to post a review in the Reviews section on the forum. And thanks for coming!

Grace And Gratitude Tour, first leg Blog

Well, the first leg of the tour is over, and a lot of fun it was too!

The four dates were Cambridge, Southampton, London and Brighton, at each of them I was joined by Rob Jackson in support and also for some duet stuff.

Cambridge kicked it off – the venue was a place called CB2 – a tiny and very groovy cellar venue, with a low stage and nice simple lighting. Rob and I also had Peter Chilvers along on this one, and his set kicked off the show – a set of solo looping keyboard/sampled string stuff which was beautiful. Actually, he didn’t kick it off, I did with an ambient loopy thing, just cos we’d forgotten to bring a CD player for background music… :o)

After Pete came Rob’s first set of the tour – I’ve got Rob’s CD, ‘Wire Wood And Magnets’ and have heard him playing guitar for Boo Hewerdine before, but this was the first time I’d seen him play a whole solo set, and he was fabulous. Really really beautiful music. Very funny between songs, and a gorgeous tone. We mic’d up his little Cornell amp and ran it through my AccuGroove/QSC/Mackie rig, which sounded fanastic. Catherine street-team did an amazing street-teamers job of flyering and postering before-hand, bringing friends, doing the door and CDs!!! Good lord, the woman’s a god-send.

Then came my solo set – the first time I’ve played the tunes off the new CD live. I did the title tune, Shizzle, The Kindness Of Strangers, Despite My Worst Intentions and a few older numbers. Shizzle was a little bit shambolic but I largely pulled it off, although on ‘Despite My Worst Intentions’ I clicked ‘next loop’ to start recording the B section and it was already there!!! Possibly the weirdest two seconds I’ve ever had on stage, suddenly stepping sideways into some futuristic world where Echoplexes know what you’re about to play! what had happened was I’d played the tune in the soundcheck, but hadn’t wiped that loop, just the A loop, so everything else was in Loop 1, and Loop 2 was merrily waiting to be retriggered. Very odd indeed.

Stayed at Robs, brunch at The Orchard in Grantchester (the first of quite a few nice posh lunches on this tour), then back to mine to change, and get ready to head down to Southampton. I brought the box of CDs in doors to replenish from the previous night’s sales, and completely forgot to put them back in the car!!

Drove to Southampton, stopping for a bite to each in a pub in Buriton, Hampshire with Iain Martin from Stiff Promotions and his brother Ali.

The gig was at The Hobbit – a HUGE pub in Southampton, on about 5 different levels, outdoor bits, etc. absolutely massive. the music was in a little room in the middle, with a stage and a built in PA. The venue hire bands in to play, but don’t charge on the door. We set up, I realised I only had two CDs there to sell (doh!), and lots of friendly faces turned up. But the music wasn’t set to start til 10pm, and by then, a lot of very hammered people had also turned up and set themselves up by the stage, who proceeded to talk/shout/laugh/make dickheads of themselves loudly for the next three hours. The venue did nothing. No concern for either Rob or I, or the majority of the people there who wanted to listen to the music. So much for treating the musicians well. Given that the place was huge, it wouldn’t have been hard for the venue to ask them to move to another part of the venue, or for them to even have charged a couple of quid to get into the room we were playing in, thus filtering out the losers.

Anyway, the nice people outnumbered the morons, and we had a great night inspite of the shouting. Always nice to see friendly faces in the audience, especially Grant, Aidan and my Southampton mini-me, Vicky.

long drive home in the middle of the night, back to London.

Saturday night was Launch gig at Darbucka – possibly the grooviest venue in London, sumptuously decorated, great food, lovely arabic vibe. A marvellous place. Very nice to see so many friendly faces there (though I’m not sure how good it is that about a third of the audience already had the new CD via the advanced ordering thingie on the site!).

At both the Southampton gig and the London gig I had a bit of a Nightmare getting ‘The Kindness Of Strangers’ to work – it’s a really tricky tune to get the for rhythmic loops at the beginning in time with. you’ve got an initial loop, that gets kicked up an octave, as you start recording the next tune layer, then another little melodic line, and then the dubby bassline that takes it from a one bar phrase to 16 bar phrase. it was at about the time of my third restart on the tune that I realised how much harder the new stuff (and my new live setup) is to play! Blimey, these tunes are much more complex, and as more of them were improvised on the spot than on ‘Not Dancing’, it’s taking me longer to learn them.

At both the Southampton gig and the London gig, Rob played marvellously again, and it became very apparent that it’s a really good touring combination, me and Mr Jackson.

Theo also came and played with us on the London gig, played a beautiful solo tune, did a couple of duets with me, and a really nice trio tune to end a marvellous night. Thanks very much to everyone who came down.

And finally Sunday night in Brighton. Or not – it was actually in Southwick, just outside Brighton, which on Pride weekend, is not the greatest place to be (my fault for choosing to tour in August, a notoriously bad month for touring). Add to that the venue changing hands a week before and the new owners putting up NO posters for the gig, and you’re not on for a big crowd.

thankfully promoter Rich did a great job, got his mates down, the room was fantastic with a view over the harbour, and the gig was great fun. A really nice listening audience in a gorgeous venue. Can’t say fairer than that!

So all in, a great four days. There’s some work to be done on the new tunes to get them up to the standard of the album, but they’re already sounding lovely in the set.

I’m now really looking forward to leg II – Glasgow, Berwick and Edinburgh. See you there!

soundtrack – right now, Michael Manring and David Cullen, ‘ Equilibre’. Before that, The Low Country, ‘Welcome to The Low Country’.

mini-tour report.

Dropped Muriel Anderson off at Stansted airport this afternoon, after three gigs with her over the weekend, and three very fine gigs they were.

First up was Lauderdale House in Highgate, part of the summer concert series – it was especially nice to catch up with Mo Foster who dropped in to say hi before the gig, and to meet Terry and Hugh who organised the concert series. Performers on the small club venue level rely on a select group of dedicated, generous magic people who put lots of effort into making great music available to concert goers, and Hugh and Terry fit that category. Hugh’s a marvellous guitarist in his own right, and you can catch his at one of the future concerts at Lauderdale… Anyway, the gig went well to a ‘select’ audience, who were very generous in their CD and DVD buying :o)

Saturday was a day off, and a chance for Muriel to see a bit of London (after I dragged her down to Brick Lane for Sarda‘s leaving curry) – the small person and I took Muriel to see Trafalgar Square, Downing Street , The Houses of Parliment Big Ben, Westminster Abbey etc. before walking back along the south bank of the Thames for coffee in the National Theatre…

Sunday was the second of our gigs, this one was at the Ship Theatre, Sevenoaks in Kent, and was part of the Sevenoaks guitar festival, organised by another one of these marvellous promoter people, John Levett. The Ship is a gorgeous theatre, part of a private school, with tremendous acoustics and a lovely listening audience. Muriel and I got to do more duet stuff, experiment with a few improv things as well as playing on eachother’s tunes, and much fun was had by all!

And finally, Monday was back at Traders in Petersfield, promoted once again by the truly marvellous Stiff Promotions – if only every small town in the UK had its own Iain Martin, I’d be touring constantly. Thanks to Iain and Jeff who owns the venue, Traders has a fantastic program of live music, this being my third visit there this year, having played solo and with Michael Manring. As with both my previous Traders gigs, this one was sold out, and Muriel and I did even more duet stuff and improv, definitely boding well for future collaborative stuff.

So a marvellous three gigs. My new mixing desk arrived on Friday morning, so this gave me a chance to try it out, and my setup of Accugroove 110 cabs, QSC poweramp and Mackie Desk worked beautifully for Muriel’s guitar. I’ve never played through another bass rig that could reproduce the sound of an acoustic guitar as faithfully as this!! Amazing stuff.

On the bad news front, Muriel and I found out just before we started the tour that our mutual friend, Eric Roche has just been diagnosed with cancer of the saliva gland. Eric is an oustanding fingerstyle acoustic guitarist, teacher and music journalist, so our careers have followed similar paths in lots of ways, Muriel and I visited Eric today, and he’s doing really well – he’s an amazing guy (his marvellous music makes even more sense when you meet him). Please pray for him, if that’s something you do. And to aid you in your prayers, you should get his latest CD, ‘With These Hands’ – I’m listening to it at the moment and it’s beautiful. He’s playing in Brighton tomorrow night, and has a few other gigs around before he goes for surgery in a couple of weeks time, so catch him live or get the CD, or both. His new CD can be bought here from Amazon (sorry, couldn’t find a small shop that had it listed…) and his site has details of his other CDs. Go get ’em.

Soundtrack – right now, Eric Roche, ‘With These Hands’. earlier on, Denison Witmer, ‘Philadelphia Songs’ (he’s playing in London this week, hoping to catch him at the Windmill in Brixton on Sunday); Nick Harper, ‘Double Life’; Tom Waits and Crystal Gayle, ‘One From The Heart’; Ralph Towner/Gary Peacock, ‘A Closer View’; Joni Mitchell, ‘Travelogue’; James Taylor, ‘October Road’.

photos from traders gig in february

So I finally got round to looking at the photos I was sent of the gig at Traders in February – some of them are rather good! So here’s a selection. The smiley chap in the highly dubious T-shirt is Iain Martin who runs Stiff Promotions (hence the slogan), who organised the gig, and the Petersfield and Southampton gigs on the tour with Michael Manring.

and here’s one from the Traders gig last week, with Michael Manring –

there you go!

Soundtrack – nothing yet today.

Happy Christmas (tour is over)

Last night was the last night of the tour with Michael Manring. Another great gig in a long string of great gigs. I think this was probably the most enjoyable tour I’ve ever done – all the gigs went supremely well, nearly all of them were filled to capacity, the promoters of the gigs were all marvellous, the audiences were all very responsive, we all sold loads of CDs. There are lots of very fine reviews coming in on various forums (see the interact forums on my site for the biggest repository, and if you were at the shows, please sign in and say hi!)

Thanks to everyone who came to the gigs, and especially those of you who took the time to come and say hi. It’s always lovely to meet people at gigs.

Thanks also to Bass Guitar Magazine for their sponsorship, Mansons Guitar Shop for hosting the clinic in Exeter, Stiff Promotions for promoting the Petersfield and Southampton shows, Ali Martin for doing the posters for those two gigs, Sebastian Merrick for co-promoting the Troubadour gig, Ayshegul for all her hard work on the Troubadour show, Catherine for doing CDs at the Troub, Delicatessen for the Reading gig, especially evil harv and Terri, Richard Ravenhill for doing such a killer job on the Brighton show, Grant Sharkey for his help promoting the Southampton gig, Mark the soundman at Joiners for the best live sound we’ve ever had, and my street team for loads of promo assistance, flyering, and generally being very cool indeed. And of course, to Michael Manring and John Lester for doing the shows – what fun!

So the next gig is Thursday in Stoke Newington – that’ll be a lot of fun, as it’s with Theo Travis, so we’ll be playing the material from ‘Open Spaces’.

Soundtrack – Prince, ‘Sign Of The Times’; David Sylvian, ‘Secrets Of The Beehive’; Rain Tree Crow, ‘Rain Tree Crow’; Paul Simon, ‘Greatest Hits’; Abe Laboriel/Greg Mathieson.

Oh Lucky Man

or is that just lucky me?

Had a marvellous gig last night – Traders in Petersfield. Nice little music venue, attached to a Thai restaurant (great food!), in small town between Guildford and Portsmouth. Enthusiastic listening (or maybe just bemused…) audience, who listened, applauded and bought CDs. What more could any self respecting solo bassist ask for?

I do feel very lucky to do what I do for a living – I get to play gigs to nice audiences, sell CDs to friendly people who email me to say thanks (as though them buying the CDs wasn’t thanks enough!), collaborate with fascinating musicians, and travel around some interesting bits of the world, from California to Petersfield. And then after all that, I get to teach bass to lots of lovely people. The trade offs against things like job security, enourmous record sales, fast cars etc. are more than worth it. :o)

‘oh what a lucky man…’ hang on, that song is about some bloke whose life goes down the pan… maybe I’ll go for something else, er… gimme a moment to think of something… ‘My Life Is Good!’… nope, next line of that is ‘…you old bag’, so that doesn’t work. Maybe songs about being grateful for stuff aren’t as prevalent as ones about people who took it for granted and ballsed things up.

anyway, I digress.

Michael Manring and I will be back at the same venue next month, and I’m really looking forward to it! I mean, I was anyway, but now even more so cos I know what to expect.

Also of note is that it was the first gig booked for me by my new booking dude for that area, Iain at Stiff Promotions – lovely bloke, insanely efficient and helpful, and an allround god-send to musicians. Bodes well for future ventures!

Soundtrack – nothing much today. I’ve had a few days of mainly silence, which has made a nice change…


So I was just getting over my jetlag from LA when I did a shift at the St Luke’s homeless shelter overnight on Saturday, got to bed just before 4, slept til gone 3 on Sunday afternoon, and couldn’t sleep last night til 4am… sod it, back to square one.

Well, the latest on Paul is that I saw him on thursday in hospital, and he’s doing really really well considering what he’s been through. Amazing really.

I’m back teaching again now, after leaving a few days blank when I got back in order to get over the jetlag. I really miss teaching when I’m away (it was great to do the masterclass in San Jose as a chance to do some teaching while in the US). And the promo for the gig with Michael Manring are in full swing – emailing radio and magazines, doing up flyers and posters to stick up and handout… all good fun.

i’m also working on getting some gigs for/with Muriel Anderson – wonderful guitarist, and lovely person, that I saw play in London last year, and who is back here in May – so been talking to promotion people about that too, hoping that we can get some stuff together. And then there’s the ongoing work of getting solo gigs and duo gigs with Theo! It never stops. Fortunately I’ve not got a couple of promoters who are helping out – Iain at Stiff Promotions is doing a marvellous job, and Richard Ravenhill who is putting on the Brighton gig is a superstar too!

Got an email at the weekend saying that my AccuGroove cabinets should be shipped out to me this week – I’m rather excited about getting them, having played through them in the States for the tour, and loving the sound. We still don’t know if these ones will be the prototypes of my signature powered cabs, or just passive ones, requiring a poweramp separately for now, but either way, the sound is the nutz, and I’m rather excited! :o)

The combination of my new bass, new cabs, and some groovy new sounds on my Lexicon MPX-G2 has given me a great renewed impetus for writing – as soon as it all arrives, I’m going to start work on the next solo album. I’ve got lots of ideas and concepts to work on, and am finding the right kind of music for the fretted 6 string. It won’t be out til the end of the summer at the earliest, and depending on what happens with distribution deals, I may have to repress ‘And Nothing But The Bass’ before then (as it’s just about sold out), but I’m really looking foward to working on it!

There are also plans to head back out to Italy soon, and do some more recording with Luca Formentini – Luca’s new solo album, ‘Subterranea’ is out now, and is excellent – a really inspired collage of guitar-originated sounds that for the most part sound very little like a guitar, along with some found-sound samples and lots of processing. CDs like that stand or fall on the ambience, and Luca’s Cd is beautifully recorded and put together, and has been spinning a lot in my CD player over the weekend. I’m really looking forward to making some more music with him.

Soundtrack – right now, Prefab Sprout, ‘Life Of Surprises’ (am in a Prefab Sprout obsessional phase at the moment). before that, The Ben Taylor Band, ‘Famous Among The Barns’; Luca Formentini, ‘Subterranea’; Kofi Bakerk, ‘Karisma’; John Lester, ‘Big Dreams And The Bottom Line’; Daft Punk, ‘Homework’; and Vida Vierra, ‘Woman Of The Waters’ – Vida – along with her husband Doug and daughter Dani – is one of my favourite people in the world, and is a marvellous singer/songwriter, dancer, choreographer and activist. Most of my favourite memories of this most recent trip to California aren’t of gigs (though the gigs were great), but are of spending time with Vida Doug and Dani, and with Rick and Jessica Turner – lovely people one and all.

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