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 acousticmasters.com 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’.

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…

Becoming A Citizen??

So the news today is full of this story about how the first ‘citizenship ceremony’ has taken place today, with people becoming UK citizens by swearing an alliegence to the Queen… Don’t know about you, but if that was a requirement of being a citizen of anywhere, count me out! I won’t sing the national anthem, wouldn’t swear an allegience to any flag or monarch, and find the notion that people wanting to become british citizens have to do so really distasteful. So people who are anti-monarchy on principle aren’t entitled to become british citizens? Or are they just required to lie? Either way, it’s pretty odd.

But it has got me thinking about what it means to be a ‘citizen’ of anywhere. Why do we need any sense of alliegence to a monarch, flag, piece of land or culture? What is the value system that I subscribe to, beyond finding most of what goes on in the world pretty distasteful. I’d find it hard to swear an alliegence to any group that a) contained humans, and b) would let me in… :o)

And why do we need to – surely people are required to agree to obey the law of the land – as they are when visiting. But beyond that, what does citizenship mean over and above that? Why should someone switch their ‘alliegence’ away from their country of birth because their life circumstance means they’ve ended up having to live here?? I mean, If I was born in a war-torn country, I’d want to get the hell out of it, but it wouldn’t neccesarily mean that I didn’t still love it, and that appreciating the generousity of my host country would be enough?

Maybe the key is in the application – to become a british citizen. Can you live in the UK long term without that? I guess so… so where’s the advantage? travelling in and out again…? I dunno, it’s all very strange, but I’m still not happy with swearing alliegences to flags and monarchs, especially given what the monarchs have done through history, and what the flag represents round the world now…

I swear an alliegence to the independent republic of steve, one nation under the influence…

Anyway, gig tonight in Petersfield – looking forward to it. See you there!

Soundtrack – mainly BBC Radio London, but also the recordings with BJ from ‘tother day.

Road Tales Pt 1.

As you may be able to tell by the time this is posted, I’m jetlagged. very jetlagged. Two hours sleep, then wide awake. It’s 4.38am, and I’m trying to think of things to do, listening to Muriel Anderson’s ‘A Journey Through Time’ (Muriel’s great, and will hopefully be coming to the UK in April…), and chatting to Trip on MSN.

So California stories – flew in on Sat 10th, and got the SuperShuttle to Anaheim, where I was recording a record with Kofi Baker and Ned Evett. Got set up and crashed out.

The next three days were a mix of hanging with Ned while Kofi taught, and then recording all evening – as late as my jetlag going that way would allow us. the material was largely improvs, most of which we then played again in some sort of structured way to see what came out. It’s now all in the editing – some great material was certainly recorded, but the wheat and chaff need separating! Kofi and Ned are both marvellous musicians, so it was a lot of fun to do, and a bit of a challenge to be back playing complex rythmic twiddly stuff after lots of ambient noodling…

then, NAMM – huge trade show in Anaheim, music gear manufacturers, dealers, distributors, journos and players descend on the convention centre, in a desparate attempt to do business. the makers are trying to hawk their wares – some by just making good stuff, others by getting porn stars to stand around on their booths, or lame 80s has-been rock stars doing signings… normally means the product isn’t worth looking at.

I was playing for Modulus and AccuGroove, and doing a show report for Bass Guitar Magazine, and catching up with lots of old friends – it’s one of the downsides of being a bassist is that there are rarely more than one of us on a gig, so we only meet up in airports and at NAMM… Also got to meet up with lots of friends from talkbass, the dudepit, churchbass, TBL, the lowdown, and my street-team! the now annual tradition of dinner with David Torn, Doug Lunn and Vida Vierra was as marvellous as ever, and playing at the Bass Bash was a blast, as was my gig in the lobby of the Marriott next to the show (ah yes, solo bass goes loung-core…)

NAMM ended sunday, on monday trip and I drove to Costa Mesa for a coffee house gig lined up for us by Bob Lee – nice little coffee shop, played outside, Seth Horan turned up and did a couple of tunes and was wonderful. Trip’s set was marvellous too, and his ‘did I suck?’ question at the end was so laughable it almost warranted a kick in the plums. Lots of friendly faces turned up, including Fred Hodson from Talkbass (thanks Fred!), Kerry Getz and Jason Feddy. Crashed at Kerry’s house, and on Tuesday morning Bob Lee showed Trip and I round QSC, and they lent me a poweramp for the tour (the AccuGroove powered cabs weren’t finished in time for the tour, so I took a pair of passive ones, and used the QSC amp, which sounded great.

Tuesday afternoon was the gig at CalArts with Andre LaFosse, which went well, and included a marvellous duo version of MMFSOG. Then off to see Vida and Dani for a few days. I’ve probably spent 3 months total in California now over the last 5 years, and this was the first time I’ve been to the beach! Took a walk along Venice beach, wandered around book shops and record shops, and soaked up the atmosphere. Also took a walk round the Yogananda peace garden in Santa Monica which is a beautiful inspiring place, where I’d be spending a lot of time were I living nearby…

Wednesday night went to see Abe Laboriel playing with 3 Prime at the Baked Potato – a trip to LA wouldn’t be complete without either seeing Abe or going to the BP, and as always the band were amazing.

Friday started with breakfast with Jimmy Haslip, and was followed by the long drive to Santa Cruz, which was even longer due to it taking two hours to get out of LA! But got to Rick and Jessica Turner’s place late evening, and talked for hours. Some tours are all about heavy gig schedules and travellings. Others are all about the people you meet. This was a people tour – the gigs were great, but it was the friendships, talking long into the night, eating lovely food, plotting world domination that made this trip special. I travel half way round the world and get treated like family, it doesn’t get much better than this.

Saturday (24th Jan we’re up to), was dudepit clinic day, at Bob Streetteam’s house – 11 guys, lots of a basses, and a day of talking and thinking about music, and playing some stuff to demonstrate a few concepts which will hopefully keep the guys going til next year. Bob did a sterling job of organising and hosting the event – well above and beyond any expected level of support from a street-teamer. I’m constantly amazed at people’s generousity. There’s plenty of dark stuff going on in the world, and while governments are going about their f-ed up evil business, nice people are running counter to it, demostrating friendship and grace that makes you smile at the world, and gives you hope.

Sunday was KPIG day – Michael Manring and I playing solo and duo on this most wonderful of radio stations.

Next couple of days are spent shuttling backwards and forwards between AccuGroove world HQ (Mark’s house) in Cupertino, and Santa Cruz, catching up with more old friends and hanging out with the Turners and Muriel Anderson.

Then the ‘big’ gigs – three dates with Michael Manring and Trip Wamsley. All three gigs went really really well – loads of friends turned up, Trip and Michael both played really really well, we all sold CDs, had a blast, played some very cool trios and a tasty cover of Bruce Cockburn’s ‘Pacing The Cage’ each night. Each gig afforded us more time to see friends – staying with Bob Streetteam, and Mike Roe was great – and to play lots of fine music to lovely people. The Espresso Garden show was sold out, with lots of people unable to get in (fortunately they were able to stand by the door and listen, but still…)

Then, the long drive back to LA, introducing Trip to the delights of Prefab Sprout on the way, back to see Doug, Vida and Dani, out for Doug’s birthday, a trip round socal delivering gear back to its rightful owners, and a deep sleep.

Sunday, departure day, started with a dance class – no, I didn’t dance, much as I’d have liked to – I was part of the percussion section, which was more fun than one should have on a sunday morning. Doug dropped me at the airport, and after 74 levels of security checking, got on the plane, and fortunately sat next to a fascinating woman called Gael, and chatted for most of the way home, pausing to watch ‘Whale Rider’ and ‘School Of Rock’.

A great trip – possibly my fave trip so far to the states. some great gigs, new family, catching up with old friends, fun at NAMM, great contacts for the future, and a sense that all is not lost with the world despite the crapness of so many things from Dubya to the Dean Girls.

Doug, Vida, Dani, Rick, Jessica, Elias, Trip, Michael, Kelly M, Dan, Wally, Mark, Suzy, Bob A Kelly A, Mike, Kofi, Ned, Kerry, Bob L, DT, Seth, Becca, Jimmy, Anderson, Gael, Keith, Muriel and any others who’ve slipped my mind momentarily – many marvellous friends old and new, thankyou all. (good lord, three weeks in LA and I’ve come back an unreconstructed hippie…!)

And now it’s 5.23am, I need sleep. badly.

more on Tuesday’s gig with Theo soon…

Soundtrack – Muriel Anderson, ‘A Journey Through Time’, Mike Roe, ‘Say Your Prayers’, Luca Formentini, ‘Subterranean’ – three lovely friends with three lovely albums.

home, home on the range

I’m back, after three weeks of fun gigs, fun people, fun travelling, cd sales, namm schmoozing, masterclass teaching, phone dying, car renting, album recording, world domination scheming, cattle rustling etc. and now I’m exhausted. But can’t really collapse until tomorrow cos I’ve got a gig tonight at the National Theatre in London, with the wonderful Theo Travis – after that, I’m sleeping for 36 hours.

After that, and only after that, I’ll start telling some california tales.

Thanks very much to everyone who came to the gigs and bought the CDs – please feel free to post reviews in the ‘interact’ section of the website…

Soundtrack – nothing.

Musical Friends…

…are keeping me happy…

so sang Bruce Cockburn in 1970, and indeed it’s true in my life too.

The latest installment in musical friendship began on Friday when I went to see Lifehouse play at Shepherd’s Bush Empire. What a fantastic band!! I’ve got both their albums, but the live experience is even better, and the new guitarist is amazing. I met Sergio, Rick and Jason a couple of years ago in LA, and have seen Sergio a few times since (he came to one of my gigs in LA), so had to go see them play when they were here. Great to hear them, great to get to hang out here in London rather than in LA this time!

part 2 of musical friends was Julian’s wedding on Saturday – Julian’s a former student of mine from Drumtech, who’s now doing big business on the session scene, and deservedly so, he’s a truly brilliant drummer (he was when I was teaching him too, so I’m not taking any of the credit for that!) – anyway, his wedding was naturally full of musos, lots of whom I hadn’t seen for ages, so it was great not only to see my friend get married, but to catch up with so many old aquaintances. Add to that the full on gospel choir hymns/worship section of the service, and some fantastic food at the reception, and you’ve got a magical day.

part 3 – meeting up for a beer on Sunday afternoon with Steve McEwan and Nick Paton. I’d not met Nick before, but he was in Friends First’ – one of the bands I’ve listened to most in my whole life (their album ‘We See A New Africa’ soundtracked about three years of my life in my mid teens). It was great to meet him, and be able to give some advice on indie promotion to someone whose music has meant so much in my life.

part 4 – Denison Witmer is a singer/songwriter from Philly who played at Greenbelt this year, and was fantastic. We chatted a bit at the festival and swapped CDs, and he was playing in Brixton on Sunday night, so The Cheat and I went down to hear another stunning gig from the man. Also gave me a chance to buy his other CDs, and go for a curry with Denison and The Cheat.

Then today, met one of my occasional students, Nick, for a coffee, and had a marvellous afternoon chatting about life, music, politics and everything in between.

So, music friends have indeed been making me happy, which got me thinking, and I came up with the notion of the Pillow Mountain Records extended family – a list of artists who are good friends, and whose music I endorse wholeheartedly, and will encourage as many people as possible to check out. So anyway, so you don’t have to go rummaging through the PMR site for the list, here are the links for you to peruse. All these peoples are amazing artists, and lovely people worthy of your patronage.

www.altruistmusic.com – Andre LaFosse
(turntablist guitar)
www.petermurray.ca – Peter Murray
(singer/songwriter)
www.denisonwitmer.com – Denison Witmer
(singer/songwriter)
www.kerry-getz.com – Kerry Getz
(singer/songwriter)
www.manthing.com – Michael Manring
(solo bassist)
www.johnlestermusic.com – John Lester
(solo bass singer/songwriter!)
www.nedevett.com – Ned Evett
(fretless guitarist)
www.tripwamsley.com – Trip Wamsley
(solo bassist)
www.unguitar.com – Luca Formentini
(unguitarist)
www.calamateur.co.uk – Calamateur aka Andrew Howie
(singer/songwriter/foundsoundist)
www.julielee.org – Julie Lee
(singer/songwriter)

there you go – check ’em out!

soundtrack – right now, Julie Lee (see above), ‘Made From Scratch’; before that, Denison Witmer (ditto), ‘Safe Away’ & ‘Philadelphia Songs’; The Choir, ‘Wide Eyed Wonder’; Bruce Cockburn, ‘World Of Wonders’; Nik Kershaw, ’15 Minutes’; John Lester, ‘Big Dreams And The Bottom Line’; Joni Mitchell, ‘Travelogue’.

Essential Reading…

following on from essential listening, how about essential reading – a by no means exhaustive 5 essential books for musos – feel free to email me with other suggestions…

  • Beyond The Bass Clef – Tony Levin (stories, tips, anecdotes. Genius)
  • The Inner Game Of Music – Barry Greene (probably THE most important. A life changing book)
  • Effortless Mastery – Kenny Werner (tonnes of great advice here, in amongst some new age waffle. Enough top quality wonderfulness to more than warrant the cover price)
  • Improvisation – Derek Bailey (his writing is way more exciting than his music, IMHO – a fascinating book)
  • The Jazz Theory Book – Mark Levine (much more nuts ‘n’ bolts that any of the others, but pretty darn comprehensive!)

There you go.

SoundtrackPrince, ‘Sign O’ The Times’; Joni Mitchell, ‘Travelogue’; King Crimson, ‘Discipline’; Stevie Wonder, ‘Songs In The Key OF Life’.

SLOPS…

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

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…

Normal Service Has Been Resumed

Apart from a slight residual sore throat, it seems life is back to normal… or maybe touring is normal, I’m just not used to normal yet…. who knows. Whichever, I’m settled back in at home. The last couple of days have involved a fair amount of teaching, some tidying, though not much, lots of cuddling the aged feline, who appears to have pretty refined taste in vegan food – mushroom pate, Quorn sausages and vegan bacon to be precise!! Today I’ve been sending out CD orders, which keep rolling in, reassuringly, then went down to the Gallery, originally to see Martin Peterson who makes the Sei basses, but he’s away, so I spent some time chatting to Alex, who now runs the shop there – very nice chap, who used to work at the Bass Centre. Nice to see that they’ve got a Lexicon MPX-G2 in the shop (the same effects processor that I use, in case you were wondering) – so if you’re looking for one, that’s the place to look!

My E-Bow has broken! I mean, it still works, but the catch on the battery compartment has gone, so I’ll have to keep the battery in place with an elastic band. What with that and my mobile phone, which has the battery gaffer taped in place, it’s a bit of a heath robinson life I lead…

It’s nice to be back playing a four string bass again – on the US tour, I borrowed a 6 string fretted bass from Modulus, and has my own 6 string fretless with me, so coming home and playing my four string is like picking up a toy – it’s so easy… and what’s more, I’ve been doing loads of tapping stuff since I got home – a technique I almost completely dropped about five years ago, but one that I’ve been showing to a couple of students recently, and which has been presenting some fun musical options… watch this space to see where that ends up!

Was reading ‘Further Along The Road Less Travelled’ by Scott Peck on the train, which is a fascinating book. Basically, it brings together psycotherapy and spirituality. Scott’s a christian, but arrived at where he is now on his journey via 20 very valuable years as a zen buddhist, and his zen thinking still informs much of his life and writing, leading to a fascinating take on where his training as a psychiatrist and his spirituality meet. Reading this follows on nicely from a great section in Frank Skinner’s Autobiography that the small person read to me the other day, where he talks about his Catholic faith, and a very very powerful experience he has at a Catholic church in Japan, which lead his to talk about the strangeness of being a person of faith in contemporary society, where most people cringe if you mention God, and also have a pretty skewed view of what it is to be a christian… I tend to avoid the label, for the most part, at least on first meeting people – primarily so that people’s experience of me will inform their thinking of what a christian is, rather than their misconceptions of what a christian is prejudicing them against me… This can be particularly a problem in the US, where much of what happens in the name of ‘the church’ is pretty seriously f-ed up, and where ‘christian’ is synonymous with a certain type of right-wing, republican, moral conservatism that doesn’t really reflect anything of what I perceive the life and teaching of Jesus to be about… always seemed a lot more radical than that to me… Anyway – the point being, it’s always interesting to read stuff -be it Scott Peck or Frank Skinner – by people who are struggling with the same questions about integrating faith and life that I, and just about every other ‘normal’ christian that I know is dealing with… It’s hard not to end up embarassed by the horse-shit that happens in the name of God – poor thing, She’s got the worst PR of anyone in history, and it’s our fault…

Er, where was I?? oh yes…

Soundtrack – been listening to Dave Pomeroy’s ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’ album – all bass and voice, very good indeed. Dave was playing at the NAMM Bass Bash, and was brilliant. Also been listening to Mike Watt, another guy who played at the Bass Bash – his CD, ‘Contemplating The Engine Room’ is stunning – like a punk Tom Waits. Great story telling, some amazing guitar playing from Nels Cline, and Mike’s bass and voice doing baritone duets with eachother. outstanding.