Updating the site

Did a bit of a site update yesterday and today – firstly I added a Paypal feature for selling CDs (and sold a load within minutes of it going live!), and then added a new MP3 from the new album with Theo Travis, called ‘For The Love Of Open Spaces’. The album is sounding so good, I’m really excited about it. The track in question is called ‘Uncle Bernie’ and I’ve taken a four and a half minute excerpt from the middle, just to whet your appetite for the rest of the album… I’ll change it in a week for another clip… :o) Had lots of good feedback already, so feel free to go and have a listen.

Been an interesting day chez stevie – the small person managed to spill tea all over her imac keyboard, which out of protest stopped working for a number of hours. much time was spent researching replacement keyboards and shops open on sunday. By about half an hour ago though, almost all the keys are back working, presumably as they dry out… hopefully by tomorrow morning it’ll all be back to normal.

Still, it was great fun dismantling the keyboard and washing all the keys individually!

soundtrackSigur Ros (can’t remember how to spell the title), Pierce Pettis, ‘State Of Grace’, Francis Dunnery, ‘Man’ – Francis is playing in London tonight, The Cheat has gone, and I was going to go with him, but never got round to it…

Blimey, has it been that long???

Well, what’s happened since I last blogged? Well firstly, my hard-drive is fixed!! Yippee!! I got loads and loads of offers of help from blog-readers, one of which was an offer from Ted to fix the drive if I shipped it to him in Portland, Oregon. So I did, and he fixed it, and shipped it back, and all it’s cost me is a the cost of the new drive and shipping each way. Amazing. Huge gratitude to Ted for that!

For all of last week, I was on Lindisfarne (AKA Holy Island), off the coast of Northumberland, teaching at the Borders School For Life. The idea behind the school is based on the Scandinavian folk high school idea, where learning is pretty much for the sake of learning, rather than for the certificate that you get at the end of it.

The theme for this week was spirituality and ecology, the the many talks, classes and workshops took in themes of the Celtic history of the Island and Northumberland (Lindisfarne was pretty much the first home of the Celtic Christians in England), some stuff on the wildlife in the area, the notion of nature as sacrament, and some other ecological and economic stuff.

There was also a strong creativity thread, which included garden design, all sorts of arty things, and me doing a series on the parallels between music and language, and how to see music as an extended metaphor for communication – looking at music theory and improvisation and examples of language and conversation… It went very well, and much fun was had by all. The rest of the tutors included lots of experts in their field – professors of economics and sociology, design lecturers, authors and the director of the centre for human ecology! All round a marvellous week, and one I’m sure I’ll go back to next year whether I’m teaching or not…

Since getting home, the small person and I have been to a friend’s wedding, and installed a waterfall in the garden, that given the current heatwave has been doubling up as a foot spa. mmmmmmmmm.

So this week is going to be lots of teaching, getting back up to date with the duo album with Theo Travis (artwork nearly finished, just final touches needed on the track mixing), and then off to Italy for a gig on Thursday night!

SoundtrackThe Cure, ‘Disintigration’ & ‘Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me’; Cloud Chamber, ‘Dark Matter’; Phil Keaggy, ‘Acoustic Sketches’; Bruce Cockburn, ‘You’ve Never Seen Everything’; Paul Simon, ‘One Trick Pony’; Gary Peacock and Ralph Towner, ‘A Closer View’.

that's entertainment

So, it’s the end of Big Brother for another year. It was pretty poor quality TV, though a nice change to see someone who genuinely seems like a decent person win – Cameron comes across as a likeable enough chap. Davina McCall has turned into a big of a tabloid-esque gossip monger, but still. Serves me right for watching it.

For far more edifying entertainment, check out the BBC‘s radio on demand service – especially the archive of Radio 3 programmes – The Late Junction and Jazz on 3 are great shows, but I’m rarely in a position to listen to them when they are on, so I listen to the archive instead. If you do tune in, please drop them a line and request some of my music – they have played me in the past, and will be receiving a copy of my CD with Theo Travis when it comes out in a month or so’s time.

Soundtrack – right now, Late Junction. before that, me and theo, before that, me, before that Bill Frisell, ‘Ghost Town’; Trip Wamsley, ‘It’s Better This Way’.

clearing out my closet..

…no, not in the eminem sense! With the impending release of my duo CD with Theo Travis, I need to make some space for the new CDs, hence the ‘special offers’ link now posted in the sales bit of the website front page… if you or any of your chums have been waiting for some reason to get my CDs, now’s the time to do it – cheaper than ever if you buy all three! :o)

Anyway, talking of new releases, I’m just listening through some of my recordings with Patrick Wood, keyboardist and guitarist extraordinaire, with whom I’m playing a duo set at Greenbelt. We’ve been talking about the possibilitiy of doing a limited edition CD for the festival, so I’m listening through the recordings with a view to editing some of it down…

Oh, I’ve just noticed that this is my hundred and first post in this version of the blog! happy birthday for yesterday, I Guess… silly of me not to notice and post something of great pith and moment in my last blog entry, but still, it’s a landmark and must be made mention of somehow. I’ve no idea how many blog entries were in the old version – maybe I’ll go back and read some.

What else? nothing much. Just parcelled up a box-load of CDs to send of the cdbaby.com – cdbaby is an excellent site for independent musicians. The way my cd sales breakdown, the majority are either at gigs or through evinsol.co.uk, but that’s largely because evinsol tends to get them listed before anyone else, and is the place I use for pre-orders of a new CD when it comes out (the usual deal will be available when the CD with theo comes out, with advanced orders getting a very limited edition free extra CD!)

But aside from that, cdbaby has been a really good sales outlet for me, as it’s made my music available to a lot of people who wouldn’t otherwise have found it – the search functions there are really intuitive, and it seems like a lot of people shop there as a way of finding new hidden gems, and of supporting independent music – something I obviously endorse wholeheartedly. I’ve bought some great cds from cdbaby – cds by Pamela Sue Mann, Ron Miles and Alex Skolnick, all three of which are Excellent, and highly recommended. click on any of those links to head over to cdbaby and hear samples of their stuff!

…it’s a simple as that, which is the odd thing with the internet – the potential market at any one time is ENOURMOUS. I mean, huge. millions. but it’s the same for any artist, and we’re all vying for people attention. The best we can hope for, being fair and realistic, is that people who connect with what we do can find it. The mainstream industry relies on sensationalism, titilation and crass hype to foist sub-standard music onto the public. The indies having neither the money of a billionaire not the morals of an alleycat can’t really stoop to that, so we’ve got to rely on actually being worth listening to (imagine that!) – so far, it’s working out ok… ;o)

Soundtrack – right now, it’s the duo tracks with patrick wood, before that, Cara Dillon‘s album – she’s a folky singer with a beautiful voice, and some gorgeous songs – well worth investigating.

celebrating two old guys…

Yesterday I went to visit my grandparents – my Grandad is 93, and apart from his memory being really unreliable, he’s in remarkable shape for a guy his age. Last week he tripped over some broken tarmac while on holiday in Devon and damaged his hip. Had three days in hospital, couldn’t walk when he came out. Fastforward a week and he’s up and about on a zimmer frame, which is pretty impressive for a 93 year old body. I think part of it is forgetting that he’s ill…!

Anyway, he’s a fantastic old bloke, full of wonderful stories from his youth – I found out not that long ago that he was an avid record collector in his younger days, which must be where I get it from. I’m going to have to visit him soon armed with a minidisc recorder and get some of his great stories down for history. Aural history is an amazing thing… or do I mean Oral history? Do you speak it or listen to it? hmmmm. Anyway, rock on, grandad, you’re a star! Much credit must also go to my step-nan, Margaret, who’s one of the most amazing women I know – she’s well into her 80s, and looks after the old man incredibly well. She’s a retired nurse, and knows loads about most things. She’ll feed you til you burst. I’m very lucky to have two such marvellous grandparents…

Who’s the other old guy? Well, today is the aged feline’s birthday! He’s 18, which is in cat years about the same age as my grandad! He too is in remarkable shape for his age, and seems to be getting fitter over the last year not worse. His old joints are a bit creaky, and lying down is a bit harder than it used to be, but he’s not having any of those fits he was having anymore, and is still the most loveable snuggly little chap in the whole world. If you have a look at the sleeve to Not Dancing For Chicken, there’s a piccie of him inside (which is as good a reason to buy a CD as there has ever been…) Anyway, much birthday snuggling for The Aged Feline today – would love to give him lots of quality snacks, but he’s on a renal diet so we’ve got to be v. careful what we give him… if he’s lucky, he’ll get a few of his faves later – mushroom pate, cucumber and a little bit of red pepper…

What else is going on? ah yes, was recording today with BJ Cole, pedal steel genius – BJ’s a very nice bloke, and an awesome musician. The challenge of combining two such full sounds as my bass sound and BJ’s steel is a fascinating one, and one that we’re getting the hang of – some of the stuff we recorded today is fab!

Also been mixing the tracks for my album with Theo Travis this week. that’s the mixing this week, not the album. that won’t be out til september at the earliest. But it’ll be worth the wait – it’s gonna be fab!

Anything else of note this week? Lunch with Jam on Tuesday was class – he’s a comedy writer, and all round top bloke. Very funny (obviously), and a good friend. Sitting in a cafe in soho in the sunshine with jam is a pretty near perfect way to spend a tuesday afternoon.

soundtrack – right now, James Taylor, ‘October Road’ – this was lent to a friend for MONTHS, but I finally got it back, and it won’t be leaving the CD player for a while. It’s a work of god-like genius. Other than that, Charlie Hunter, ‘Return Of The Candyman’; Daft Punk, ‘Homework’; Simeon Harris, ‘Realms Of Elements’ and lots of me and theo!

Gigs seen, gigs played

long time no blog, appologies.

Anyway, last week I went to two gigs. First one was a guy called Michael W. Smith. Second one was Kelly Joe Phelps. The comparison was quite incredible. WH Smiths was playing at Hammersmith Apollo (cap. – 3,500), KJP was at The Stables (cap. – 350). The WH Smiths gig I went to cos his bassist is a friend of mine, and very nice bloke. The gig itself was pretty excruciating – it’s always hugely frustrating to see great musicians stifled by a really really bland act. It was clear that the guys on stage were very fine players, but the overall vibe was blandola. Safe in the extreme, sort of Richard Clayderman meets half-assed Riverdance. The chat between songs was cornball par excellence – Forrest Gump with a guitar. Clearly I was in the minority here as the largely frhu audience were well up for Smith’s crass between song chat and attempts at brit-relavence (favourite moment – at the end of one song, he starts reciting the words to ‘God Save Our Gracious Queen’, before waving a huge Union Jack and playing.. wait for it… ‘Pride’ by U2 – a band from Dublin. Which is in the Republic of Ireland. Oh shit, big mistake. Which WH was clearly oblivious to..)

Anyway, it was very nice to meet up with Anothony, a great bassist, and very nice guy. Next, I’ll just body swerve the gig, and spend more time chatting…

Onto Kelly Joe Phelps. so far from WH Smiths that it’s not true. The support act was Brian Houston, a fantastic dylan-esque singer/songwriter from Belfast that I’ve seen play lots recently. He’s brilliant. nuff said. KJP’s band was Scott Amendola on drums (last seen by me playing with Sex Mob in San Jose in July 2001) and Keith Lowe on upright bass. From the off, the gig was amazing – the communication between then was brilliant, the songs were really open to loads of improv, they were making eye contact, having a great time playing fresh, creative, free-wheelin’ music. It was fun, exciting, new, engaging, dangerous, moving wonderfulness. Everything that George Michael Dubya Smith wasn’t. I could watch that every night. Got the latest album, which is great. again. All three of his CDs that I’ve got are great. ‘Shiny Eyed Mister Zen’ is in my all time top 20. Get it.

What else? ah yes, recording session – hip-hop R ‘n’ B track with the guys from Commonwealth (I played on a remix of one of their singles last year) – there was already a synthbass part on the track, which was well played and written anyway, so a lot of it was about recreating that with a more live feel, then adding some fills and a slap line. It took a while to get the feel they were after, but it was worth it. I’m sure the final track will be very fine indeed. It’s a good song. I’ll let you know when it’s out.

The weekend was spent in Lincoln – Rick’s stag do – went out in Nottingham for a fun night out. Always nice to catch up with chums from Lincoln.

Oh, almost forgot – gig on Friday, with Lovesjones. A bit of a left-field one this, as I was covering for the keyboard player, and the stage was TINY so I could only use my processor and one bass for the whole set, but it went well. A few of the tunes were ones I’d not been sent, but playing keyboardy stuff is a piece of piss – it just involves waffling around in the key, you don’t have to be there on the downbeat, and you don’t even have to get the right root note! Bass is a far more satisfying role to play… Anyway, it was loads of fun, was was followed by a solo set, which also went well….

To this week… Monday was a teaching day, then the small person and I watched the 2nd Harry Potter film, which is fantastic, even better than the first (which I really enjoyed as well…) Tuesday Andrew arrived – not seen him for ages, great to catch up.

Gig with Theo Travis at the National Theatre went very well. Nice big crowd, we played very well except one bizarre moment when Edwina Curry walked past and we both fell about laughing… not easy to play flute whilst laughing. Anyway, good gig, boding v. well for future theo ‘n’ steve gigs.

After that, dropped stuff at home and headed off to The Klinker to see Rick Walker and Matthias Grob play. We got there half way through the set, which sounded really good. The Klinker’s a very strange club, but a great place for experimenting. V. much looking forward to tonight’s gig there with Rick Walker. Didn’t stay long at The Klinker as I was knackered.

Wedneday was a do-nothing much day (though I did buy a new Bonsai, so we’ll see how long I can keep this one alive for!)

and now today – gig tonight at the Klinker. See you there!

SoundtrackBruce Cockburn, ‘You’ve Never Seen Everything’; Public Enemy, ‘It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back’; The Smiths, ‘Louder Than Bombs’; THe Bears, ‘Live’; Coldplay, ‘Parachutes’; Kelly Joe Phelps, ‘Slingshot Professionals’; Medeski Martin and Wood, ‘The Dropper’; Bruce Cockburn, ‘Humans’; Chagall Guevara, ‘Chagall Guevara’.


If anyone knows the origins of this, do let me know, I’d love to credit it… I got it from the Humans list – a Bruce Cockburn discussion list…

“The World Health Organisation today issued a new warning against non-essential travel to the entire Western hemisphere following renewed concerns about the spread of Severe Loss of Perspective Syndrome (SLOPS). Officials are warning travellers not to visit the UK, the US, almost all of Western Europe, and Canada, following further outbreaks of the disease, which has led to mass panic among the media, thousands of ecstatic children being kept out of school by their credulous and moronic parents, and increased profits for DIY stores as the idiot public rush to bulk-buy face masks and boiler suits.

A WHO spokesman said, “You’d be much better off going to somewhere like Thailand or China, because all you’ve got to worry about there is SARS, and let’s face it, you’re about as likely to die from that as you are to get kicked to death by a gang of zombie nuns.”

The SARS virus has now claimed a staggering 500 lives in only six months, which makes it considerably more deadly than, say, malaria, which only kills around 3000 people every single day. Malaria, however, mainly effects only darkies what speak foreign, whereas SARS has made at least one English person feel a bit iffy for a couple of days, and is therefore considered much more serious.

The spread of SLOPS has now reached pandemic proportions, with many high-level politicians seemingly affected by the disease. The rapid spread of SLOPS has been linked to the end of the war in Iraq and the need for Western leaders to give the public something to worry about. Otherwise, they might start asking uncomfortable questions about domestic issues, and that simply would not do. Anyone who appears to be exhibiting symptoms of SLOPS should be dragged into the street by their genitals and shot.”

Soundtrack – Scritti Politti, ‘Cupid and Psyche’; Joni Mitchell, ‘The Hissing Of Summer Lawns’; Theo Travis, ‘Heart Of The Sun’; Medeski Martin and Wood, ‘The Dropper’; and some Howie Day live tracks from The E-Tree Music Archive

To loop or not…

To Loop – have a read of this article by david torn, archived on the loopers delight website, it’s very good.

To Not Loop – well, to loop a tiny bit – have a listen to the new MP3 of me and Theo Travis that I’ve just added to the MP3s section on the site. It’s very good, and involves very little looping.

One gig I went to that I forgot to mention was Iain Archer, last thursday at Delicatessen in Reading – Deli, you’ll remember is the club that hosted me and Michael Manring and David Friesen, as well as being where I’ve played with Airstar, Julie Lee and Pierce Pettis, and is run by Evil Harv aka The Cheat, and Jimbob aka Sarda aka TAFKA-The-Man-Who-Knows. Anyway, Iain was brilliant – I’ve seen him play countless times before, and recorded and gigged with him as part of Andy Thornton’s band. His new single and album are out very soon, and are certainly eagerly awaited in this house (The Small Person and The Agen Feline are both Archie fans as well….) Also on the bill on Thursday were Electric Gaudi (used to be called Gaudi, but got threatened with legals by la famile de Gaudi the artiste…) featuring my student howard on bass, and a fine job he did too!

Soundtrack – just been listening to ‘In A Silent Way’ by Miles Davis, streamed from launch.yahoo.com – what an amazing bit of music! must buy the album v. soon. before that, was listening to Lucious Jackson, ‘Fever In Fever Out’ and Muriel Anderson, ‘Theme For Two Friends’ – both very fine albums.

quick misc. update

Er, what since last week?

Saturday was Gawain the DJ’s wedding – very nice bloke, very nice wedding. bit of a 50s theme. Even more heartening is that he’s even taller than me, and his now-wife is even smaller than the small person. Good to know we’re not the most mismatched people on the planet!

Sunday went to see Masse play at The Foundry in London’s East End. The venue has a very varied and interesting program of stuff on, but is a bit of a dump… Anyway, Masse – bass and drums duo, both looping, processing, improvising, very good stuff indeed. bass-man jeremy was on top form – lots of Echoplexing, and a great tone from a rather special homemade bass cab. If you get a chance to see them play, jump at it.

Monday was more recording with Theo Travis – the best thing about playing with Theo is that we’re never quite sure what it’s all going to end up sounding like. We re-did one of the ideas from a very early session (when we were recording in mono), and it came out sounding completely different anyway… very nice. We’ve now got about an hour and a half of quality stuff towards the album. We’ll keep going until there’s no filler material at all, though it’s feeling pretty consistent already… We’ve got a gig booked, at the National Theatre in London on June 17th, which you really ought to be at!

Monday night was Jude’s leaving do – leaving do? she’s only going to the US For a few months. But anyway, it was a fun time, catching up with Sarda and The Cheat.

And yesterday was spent teaching and editing the stuff that Theo and I recorded.

That’s all really dull – what else is happening? well, Donald Rumsfeld has finally admitted that they are unlikely to find any WMDs in Iraq – no shit sherlock! Isn’t that what Scott Ritter and Hans Blix said months ago, before you bombed their world to pieces????? Clearly this was realised even before they went to war (why else was the notion of ‘freeing the people of iraq’ only brought in as on of the aims just before christmas when getting rid of WMDs had been the expressed sole intention for the year or so before that???) Anyway, seems that the illegal invasion will soon be recognised for what it was – Blair will spin the whole thing, talk about moral responsibility and all his usual BS. Sincere perhaps but sincerely wrong, sorry Tony. Meanwhile, iraqi kids are stepping on undetonated cluster bombs (possibly containing depleted uranium), and the cleanup is going rather slow. Add to that the Brukheimer-esque makeover given to the ‘rescue’ of Jessica thingie, and you’ve got yourself one seriously morally dubious world situation… Now, who was it who veto’d the instigation of an international criminal court again?

Soundtrack – lots of me and theo, obviously. Right now, I’m listening to Medeski Martin and Wood, ‘The Dropper’ – had heard them before and liked what I heard, but BJ Cole recommended this as the one to get. And very fine it is too… What else? Michael Manring, ‘Book Of Flame’ and Morphine, ‘B-Sides and Otherwise’.

lots of interesting musical things…

…but first, I must tell you that there are 453 deleted emails in my outlook express right now – I’ve just gone through my inbox, which had near 600 emails in it, and replied to or filed all but 24 of them!! yippee, what a liberating feeling. NOTE TO SELF – must try to stay on top of email from now on…

anyway, music stuff – lots of exciting things. Saturday night was a sad event, the last night of the Kashmir Klub. so I went along with evil harv, sarda and cap’n-birdseye-pirate-ben. we were promised lots of special guests, but no-one was expecting Rick Astley to play. Yup, 80s pop legend, who quit music years ago, was there playing guitar for a friend of his, and was talked into doing a song. So he did ‘Never Gonna Give You Up’, just him and an acoustic guitar, and it was GREAT! His voice sounded marvellous, and the song, stripped of the cheesey late 80s SAW production stood up remarkably well, sounding every bit the multi-million seller it was… For an 80s obsessed pop-fiend like myself, it was a real treat. Also in attendance for the evening – Lewis Taylor, Keith Emerson, Kiki Dee, and a few other celebs…

Then Monday night I went round to see BJ Cole – awesome pedal steel player. Pedal Steel is such an evocative sound anyway, but in the hands of someone with BJ’s skill, it soars. We had a bit of a jam, and listened to lots of tunes, and are getting together again next week – how exciting!

And last night was the best of the lot – went to see alex cook singing ‘The Pirates Of Penzance’. Alex is a drummer I toured with for a few years in the mid 80s, and a very good friend, so the thought of him dressed as a pirate singing light opera was too tempting to turn down. Sad thing was, he was actually really really good. Far too good to be funny. I was hoping for classic am-dram silliness – people falling off the stage, kids crying, out of tune oboes. But alas the singers were great, the band very good, the staging excellent. Far too good for an amateur production. Next time, rehearse less!

So tonight, I’m off to see Maria McKee at Shepherd’s Bush Empire with Evil Harv and Radar. Should be lots of fun.

Soundtrack – Prefab Sprout, ‘From Langley Park To Memphis’; Pat Metheny, ‘Imaginary Day’; Marc Johnson, ‘Sound Of Summer Running’; Rain Tree Crow; The Dum Dums, ‘It Goes Without Saying’; Theo Travis, ‘Heart Of The Sun’; Stevie Ray Vaughn, ‘Texas Flood’ and some forthcoming tracks from BJ Cole’s next album, which are fabulous!

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