Home now

Home now, after a very easy trip indeed – lunch in Roosendaal station, met a very lovely Horn player on the train from Roosendaal to Brussels called Helen MacDougall (my record on meeting lovely people on trains on this trip has been outstanding, smoking losers in Germany and Switzerland notwithstanding). Eurostar doesn’t take long, so home late afternoon. And it’s good to be home! Oh yes, knowing that I don’t have to drag two basses around on my back, towing a suitcase and a rolling rack behind me.

All in, a great tour. A GREAT tour. Loads of great gigs with fantastic people in great venues. A load of great new friends, and some old friends reacquainted. The train thing really worked, though I learned a couple of lessons for next time –

1) get an all-europe pass whatever, it’ll make life much easier
2) book any long distance journeys as far in advance as possible (just book the seat anyway, cos even if you cancel, it’s only going to cost you a couple of quid to make the booking…
3) I’m going to find a way to get all my stuff into one bigger bag, rather than two smaller ones.

Beyond those, it was perfect, and all being well, I’ll be back touring in Europe in March, so if you’re anywhere in the general European area (basically anywhere between Turkey, in the south, Poland in the east, Finland in the North and Portugal in the west) and want to book me, or know a venue I could play, drop me a line!

My next gig is on Friday in South Wales, so I’ve got a couple of days of chilling and recouping before that…

EuroBlog #4

So, Monday – when Oteil and Barri eventually surface, we head into town, and find that Monday is a pretty mellow day in Verona. It’s a bit rainy, but we find a cool little buffet lunch place in the big square outside the Palazzio and have lunch. A lovely couple from San Diego recognise Oteil (he’s in the Allman Brothers Band, who are HUGE in the US…) and we have a nice chat with them.

Then to shopping. This time, instead of being honourary girl, I’m hanging outside the shops with Oteil while Barri heads for the boutiques. It’s one of those things about living in London – I forget that if you’re from small town Alabama, shopping in Verona is pretty damned amazing. Being from London, it’s less of a novelty. But a day spent walking the gorgeous historic streets of Verona with Oteil and Barri is a day very well spent – many laughs, lovely snacks, and a last drink at a pavement cafe. Just as I’m leaving we run into the rest of the Epifani crowd, and as I head off to the train station to head back to Luca and Gio’s, Oteil and Barri have found their ride back to the hotel! Hurrah for coincidence!

Back with L and G, and all is well with the world. A gorgeous dinner and onto mixing the record that Luca and I recorded back in July. And Wow! The tracks sound really great. I remember there being some good stuff, but not this good. This is some really exciting music. The blend of our sounds is amazing, and we bring out different sides in eachother’s playing. I’m drawn into some darker sounding stuff, and Luca is inspired to more melodic playing. We’re constantly swapping roles on these tunes, and the editing and mixing goes pretty smoothly.

Today (Tuesday) I’ve been carrying on with the mixing, while Luca was out at work, and after a pizza with Luca and Andrea Nones (from the Ground Collective – the wonderful chap who keeps booking me for gigs in Brescia), it’s back to mixing. We’ve now got about 40 minutes of really great music. So are pretty much there for the album. I’ll be back here late Thursday to finish off the ‘shaping’ of the tracks, with just polishing to be done before mastering. When it will get released is anybody’s guess, but hopefully we’ll at least have a myspace page before too long!

Italy is such a great place to come and visit – the people here are some of the most open, warm and friendly I’ve ever encountered, the audiences are wide-eared and accepting, the musicians are creative and expressive, the language sounds like song, and the scenery is gorgeous. I think I’d struggle with living here, given the tangled web of beaurocracy that seems to surround everything here, unless you have an old boys network to deal with it, but I look forward to coming back from the day I leave.

Having said that, I’ve now been away from home for over a week, and I’m starting to miss TSP and the Fairly Aged Feline quite a lot. My love of Italy is balanced by the novelty of touring having worn off years ago… ideally, I’ll have to work out a way to bring both of them with me, but methinks the Fairly Aged one would take to journeys across the continent.

Tomorrow, it’s off to Venice for my last Italian gig of this tour… Exciting stuff!

Euro Blog 3

So, saturday and we’re onto the EuroBassDay – Verona is a city I’ve visited a few times before, and the organiser of the Bass Day, Giambattista Zerpalloni is an old friend. I get to the venue, and run into lots of Italian friends from prevous visits, and Oteil Burbridge, who I’ve met a few times at NAMM shows, and always got on very well with.

I check in at the hotel (which is miles away from the venue, but nice), and then go back and get ready to play. First up is a half hour Looperlative demo in the main concert hall (the venue is the Palazzio Della Grande Guarda, right in the main square in Verona – a stunning location for a Bass Day!) which goes very well. the LP1 once again behaves itself, proving that it’s fixed, and the response is v. positive.

After that, it’s time to just relax. I head off out to get away from the noise of bass, run into Oteil and his lovely wife at a restaurant in the square, and have dinner with them. A hugely enjoyable meal that set the tone for the rest of the weekend – playing a bit of bass punctuated by hours and hours of hanging out with totally wonderful people.

The rest of the american contingent are Epifani endorsers – Oteil, Andrew Gauche (gospel bass legend), Lincoln Goines (stunning Latin groovemeister and lovely fretless player), Dominique DiPiazza (French solo bassist, possessed of the most terrifying flamenco skillz I’ve ever seen on bass), Nic Epifani and Joey Lauricella from Epifani and Fodera. It’d be tough to find more enjoyable company at a bass day. Hours and hours of hanging out, chatting, joking, and occasionally playing. We get back to the hotel at past 2am, and crash.

Day two of bass day, and I’m on earlier – 2.15 – and it’s a 45 minute set. Oteil agrees to come and play a duet, and in the middle of a gig that also features Grace And Gratitude, MMFSOG, Nobody Wins, Scott Peck, Deeper Still and What A Wonderful World, we do an extended improv thing that just blew my mind. Really really lovely RecycleMusic at a bass day. Totally delicious (I really want to get hold of the video of it!)

After that it’s escape time again, and this time, Oteil’s wife Barri and I head out shopping, me being the honourary girl of the group, so deemed acceptable as shoe and handbag shopping partner. I also prove to be an expert haggler and berry gets get a 45€ bag for €15.

Out for dinner with the whole Epifani crowd again for more fun and japes, and back for the final gig, which goes on far too long, features a few stunning moments (musical hero of the weekend is a harmonica player living in Holland called Tollak who really does have a musical midas touch), and ends with a fairly loose and messy 8-bass cover of Big Bottom, all of us taking solos. Dominique wisely hides and sits this one out. Fun, but hardly a stunning musical finale to the weekend.

Bass Days are a weird thing – on the one hand, there are occasional moments of great music, and some fantastic people (even moreso at this one than usual), but there’s also an awful lot of slapping and tapping and overplaying and noisy nastiness. On balance, I really enjoy it, but I could happily go another year without hearing anymore slapped or tapped demi-semi-quavers.

Another late night, and we’re up to now, sat in my hotel on Monday morning, about to go and spend the day in Verona with Oteil and Barri. Yay for the touring life!

The Allotment

My mum came up to help flyering yesterday, and while here, we went to a play. As a general rule, I don’t go to plays at the fest. I don’t really go to plays anywhere. Theatre just isn’t an art form that enters my radar.

But I’d been accosted by a flyering lady on the Royal Mile, who told me about this show, and it sounded fascinating, and I’m REALLY glad we went.

It’s called The Allotment, and is set, predictably, on an allotment, where a well meaning but fairly clueless mature student is conducting an experiment in the therapeutic value of horticulture for her MA, and recruits four asylum seekers to work on it. Their clash of worlds values, her ineptness and cliched outlook make for a fantastic story, brilliantly written, superbly acted and far too good for what you expect at the Fringe.

The theatre company website says that it’s touring in the East Midlands in Sept/Oct, so if you can get to see it either here at the Fringe or on tour, go, it’s fab. I hope they bring it to London at some point, I’d love to see it again.

Juliet Turner and Pierce Pettis, Bush Hall, 17/2/06

As y’all know, I do make a habit of going to gigs by people I know. Well, I know lots of lovely talented marvellous people, and I like to support live music as much as I can anyway, so being able to combine supporting live music, and seeing lovely friends makes for a doubly marvellous night out.

Thus it was last night. ‘Twas also rather nice to do something special with the lovely Gareth and Jane, and we all toddled off to Bush Hall in Shepherd’s Bush, a rather lovely venue that was clearly at one point a ball-room, and and is now a rather lovely gig venue for about a 2-300 peoples.

Pierce Pettis was already on when we got there, and sounding marvellous. I hadn’t seen Pierce since the Cheat and I went to stay with him in Alabama, Oct 2004, so it was lovely to see him again, and hear him. The couple of new songs he played were gorgeous – a Narnia one and one where he was joined by Juliet and Brian on BVs called ‘Vera Cruz’ – gorgeous stuff. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a bad song by Pierce, even on the three CDRs of unreleased stuff that he gave the Cheat and I when we visited (BTW, I think it’s my turn with the CDs, The Cheat!)

The half time break was almost as much fun as the gig – catching up with many friends that I hadn’t seen for ages. It’s nice with gigs like this, that I can pretty much guarantee that I’m going to know about 20% of the audience.

Then Juliet Turner – most years, I see Juliet play more than just about any other artist that I’m not actually touring with. 4 or 5 times, I guess. And never ever get bored of her songs. She’s a fantastic songwriter, with a unique turn of phrase and way with rhythm. In Ireland she’s a big star, having gone platinum and won reader’s polls in Hot Press (the Irish answer to Q, NME and Mojo all rolled into one) – and she’ll get there over here too, for sure. Cos she’s fab. Apparently she’s got all self-concious about the amount she talks on stage, which is a shame, because her between-song banter was pretty stripped back tonight, and she’s a great story teller. As is Pierce, who was equally subdued. It might just have been one of those venues. I’ve played in those before now, they just don’t lend themselves to getting the kind of feedback from the audience that you need to sustain rambling stories.

Anyway, both Juliet and Pierce, and Juliet’s guitarist Brian Grace, were on top form, a fab night was had by all, and I’m already looking forward to seeing them all again!

As a side note, we got into a discussion last night about the lack of availability of Pierce’s early albums – the ‘big hair’ years. When Pierce was on Windham Hill, he had a hair cut that I also flirted with in the late 80s, the ‘mushroom cloud’, where all your photos look like holiday snaps taken on Bikini Atoll during the h-bomb tests. here’s the best one I could find of Pierce online –

anyone got any others? :o)

Cliff gives up recording… hmmm

So Sir Cliff has given up recording because radio won’t play his tracks – what a damn stupid reason not to record music! It says a lot about Cliff’s motivation and his relationship with his fan-base, who would buy whatever he put out regardless of the perceived radio-snub.

In general, I have a bit of a soft-spot for Cliff. He’s faintly ludicrous, but whenever he actually speaks or is interviewed, he aquits himself superbly, and is pretty hard to fault.

However, refusing to make records because a handful of style-crippled stations won’t play music by a man pushing 70 is pretty foolish. If he wants to retire from recording, good luck to him, but don’t try and lay the blame at the feet of radio. If that happened to me (like I’ll ever have enough radio play to notice if anyone stopped playing it!) I’d see it as a challenge to make better music, unless it was just that the demographic my music was aiming towards was different from that the radio station was targeting (as is clearly the case with Radio 1 and Cliff).

He’ll keep touring, which I guess is good news for his fans, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the occasional live album came out. I guess that would even give him a way to sneak the occasional new song on there. Although, maybe that’s what this is about – he just can’t be bothered to learn any news songs!

Anyway, it’s a shit reason for not recording, and Cliff should really know better.

Soundtrack – The The, ‘the Singles’.

Italy post no. 11 (last one!)

(written 25/7/05 17.07)

So, on the plane on the way home. It turns out there was wifi available in the airport once you’d gone through to the departure lounge, but I met up with a guy from Naples who was at the gig yesterday, so spent the time chatting to him instead of online. So none of this stuff will be uploaded til I get home.

The good news is that I’ve had no hassle at all getting my bass onto the planes on this trip – it remains to be seen if my rack makes it home safely; it’s currently in the hold, at the mercy of the gorillas that throw your stuff around in a way euphamistically refered to as ‘baggage handling’ – I think baggage mutilation or baggage stomping would be more accurate.

Anyway, it’s the home stretch, and I’m hugely looking forward to heading out for curry tonight with TSP and Jez. Can’t wait to be home.

It’s been a very successful trip – a lot of opportunities have presented themselves for further touring in Italy, and I’ll hopefully be back there in November. Which gives me about three months to learn how to explain the story behind Shizzle in Italian.

From this evening though, it’ll be full speed back into Edinburgh, as well as the gigs in Guildford and Berwick, and planning some more dates for September, writing an extended improv framework for a performance at Greenbelt and planning a couple of tours for early 2006 with Theo in the UK and Michael Manring in the US.

…And now I’ve just been fleeced to the tune of £4.60 for a particularly hideous cup of hot chocolate (I’m dying for a mint tea – I’ve had none for days!!) and a cheese and pickle sandwich… don’t you just love budget airlines?

Oh, things are looking up, I’ve just noticed that one of the flight attendants has taken that crap-mowhawk-boy-band hair thing one stage further and is teetering dangerously on the boy-band/flock of seagulls cusp. Somehow bad 80s hair makes the journey more palatable.

SoundtrackMaurizio Rolli, ‘Archivi Sonori’; Jonatha Brooke, ’10 Cent Wings’; James Taylor, ‘Hourglass’.

Italy post no. 5

(written 23/7/05 14.37)

So I’m now in Bollate, near Milan – today is the clinic day of the Noi Bassisti bass event, with me, Michael Manring, Lorenzo Feliciati …. and others doing clinics. What I always forget is that doing a clinic with a translator means you can only say half as much. The hour flew by, but people seemed to be into it. We’ll see if I get any more feedback as the weekend goes on.

It’s great to see Michael again – after touring with someone as much as Michael and I have, it’s very tempting and easy to slip into your own homegrown language, particularly in a foreign country… …so we’ve succumbed, but are trying to explain the things we’re laughing at to the people around; an occasionally fruitless task given that no-one seems to laugh at the same stuff as us.

The journey from Brescia to Bollate was made very easy by Andrea and Marco from the film gig last night offering to drive me here, and drop me off. The Italians are such lovely people! I’ve not met one I don’t like. Italian audiences have all been very up for new music, and effusive in their feedback, and the promoters have – contrary to the reputation – been fantastic. I like it here!

Still haven’t had a chance to log on for long enough to see what’s going on in the world – given the amount of time I normally spend reading online news and blogs, it feels very odd to be cut off from the net here. I had a chance to log on briefly this morning, which is when I uploaded the other blog posts, but for the most part, I’ve been netless.

A full compliment of toys!

One of the strange things about overseas touring is that I can only take a small section of my usual live rig with me. The lovely people at always take care of the Cabinet side of things, and I can always borrow a poweramp from or in this case, from Accugroove again, but there’s no way I can fly with my entire rack – three processors, two echoplexes and a Mackie desk. What I took with me for NAMM this time was two Echoplexes and one of the Lexicons.

I hadn’t really figured out what I was going to do about carrying it all around, and the day before NAMM started, and I went shopping for a soft rack bag to carry it all around in. Fortunately, I didn’t actually get one, as when I got to NAMM, Dale Titus sorted me out with a 3U soft rack case WITH WHEELS. Dale’s a very nice man. The case is a Warwick Rockbag, and seems pretty solid. It certainly saved the day when I suffered a (suspected) broken toe on the Friday morning of NAMM. Getting out the shower, I caught my toe on the top of the rail on the bath. cue much pain and screaming, to the bewilderment of Bob and Alison’s cats. Nail was ripped and bleeding, toe wasn’t moving. No point going to the doctor with a suspected broken toe as all they’ll do is what I did – splint it to the toe next to it. It obviously wasn’t so broken that it would set weird (was still toe-shaped), so I did that, hobbled for a few days, and waited for my toe-nail to fall off (it’s still there, just a bit blackened… ewww, TMI!)

Anyway, where was I? Ah yes, not being able to take all my stuff to NAMM – so I was playing through the G2, with two outs into two EDPs, split most of the time into two separate amps! It sounded pretty odd, and didn’t really afford me much control over where things were going, or what the relative levels of the different layers and sounds were. It was useful in that it provided a new set of limitations within which to try and create something of substance (always tricky with 85db of background nastiness at NAMM), but now I’m home and have finally wired up my rack again, it feels great to have my main sound back in stereo, the loops separately pannable, and the option to post process everything again. This set up is so maleable. I need to work on a smaller version of this so I can do more of this on tour. The new rack bag will certainly help in Europe, but I still don’t think I can fly with much more than I’ve got here…

Anyway, I’m going to have fun getting reaquainted with my toys over the next few days… in the few minutes when I’m not teaching!

Soundtrack – Scritti Politti, ‘Cupid And Psyche’.

Tags – , ,

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’.

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