I’ve often pondered as to why I never made a success in the music industry. Lack of fashion sense, inability to keep my mouth shut, an earlier obsession with the guitar before the the music, all played their part. But I like to think that the biggest factor is just plain dumb luck ;(
I played with the Comsat Angels (and recorded) for six months in the 80s and was all set to tour the States with them when the record company pulled the finance, insisting the band write some hit singles before coming back to them. It’s a short & sad story, but by the time they toured again, I was no longer involved.
Much more recently, I’d been jamming with Mik, Andy and a superb bassist called John Prideaux. Totally improvised and nrestrainedly jazz rock in the “Billy Cobham” mode, it was sounding, to my ears, pretty darn good. Words cannot explain how inspiring it is to be playing with three such superb musicians!
Then Mik suddenly reached that time in his life when a “man’s gotta” and has decamped to Whitby to settle down as an old drumming sea-dog (or pi**-poor Goth). The end of yet another dream-team ;(
I recorded one session and shot a few low-fi vids on another. Since it’s unlikely to happen again, I thought I’d share some of it, a video on youtub and a longer recording on soundcloud. The latter sounds more coherent to my ears, but then the video is only the second half of an equally long bash.
As detailed in another post, I played a set at a local Festival – Josh Dawes has lovingly been rendering footage of almost every act onto youtub and it’s now my turn.
Slight sound distortion here & there, but it’s always interesting to hear the set in the cold light of day, it’s often better than you thought at the time!
At 31 minutes, probably my longest ever online vid! Two pieces, including my first ever keyboard looping (Terry Riley has always been a favourite) – I bought it for the controller features, but since the keys are there, I may as well press them from time to time 😉
I played a small festival in Meersbrook Walled Garden recently, during one sunday lunchtime. The weather was excellent (for England!) but a couple of niggles got on my nerves. Frstly, the band that were following me did a vocal soundcheck whilst I was playing – “one two’ing” and so forth. Totally inconsiderate.
The second issue was that the lights on my Line6 M13 (the minimal looping hardware I use for smaller gigs) were totally invisible due to the strong sunshine. Using this pedal requires instant awareness of what lights are on, whether you’re in looping or effects mode etc. and I ws stumped! I got by with a deal of bending over and squinting, but it wouldn’t have made for a very relaxed visual experience!
With bright LEDs freely available, I’m amazed manufacturers don’t make the lights bright enough to see by daylight.
Just heard the sad, if not totally unexpected news that Andy “Chicken Legs” Weaver has died. He’d been battling cancer for some time, although last time we spoke, about 3 weeks ago, he was “up” and had plans to play in Sheffield soon. The fact that I heard nothing from him since then spoke volumes. Tragically, Jane Howden, his erstwhile bassist, also died of the same illness a while back. Next time you see someone raising funds for cancer research, dig deep for the memory of these two amazing people.
I knew Andy for a long time – my mate Norton Lees used to play double-bass for him and later Mik Glaisher from the Comsats occupied the drum stool. Andy never had what you’d call real success, despite producing truly extraordinary music, so I was delighted to host & run his website to help things along. I’ve set up a tribute page there, (which will stay online) – please leave your thoughts there if you knew him.
Martin Archer is a leading light in the Sheffield and UK improv scene, with many releases to his name. He’s the same age as I am and our paths have occaisionally crossed (I supported Bass Tone Trap at the Leadmill in the 80s and we both played with Chris Meloche’s Outward Sound Ensemble in the noughties) but it’s curious that we’ve never actually played together as a duo, until now.
Our musical paths have been quite different, he following a challenging, some might say extreme approach to music, whereas I had a far more conventional “band-based” approach, although my solo looping has been an important strand since the 80s. So, it’s wonderful that we find common ground after all these years.
We had a single warm-up session the night before, but otherwise went into the performance with few structured ideas. You can judge for yourself how the meeting of minds went – I’ve split the video into two parts so as to ease your pain somewhat. Despite the visual evidence to the contrary, I *was* there!
Meson at the 3 cranes 2013 – photo Richard Webb Wood Gledhill
There is, a pub, in Sheffield
They call the Three-ee Cranes
And it’s bin, the venue, for many a band
And god, I know I’m two.
Yes, the TRaMpOLinES festival organised by Bo Meson, Rob Tarana and a horde of volunteers turned the 3 Cranes in central Sheffield into a festival of Woodstockian proportions (kind of). Frankly, I’d forgotten that pubs like this were still open near the Sheffield city centre – most have been turned into diners or wine bars, essentially full of twa*ts.
This pub is cosy, friendly, welcoming, good nosh, has a pool table you don’t have to queue for, and they opened up to allow musicians, poets and performers of all kinds to “express themselves” over three days (and nights). Punters of all kinds and predelictions mingled amiably.
I played on Saturday night as part of the legendary Meson collective, this time with Rob Tarana on drums and Roddy McMillan on bass with the initimable Bo hisself. The mood of the evening was that of “fecund jazz” and so I strayed into atonal territories now and again! Sunday night saw me on my lonesome, looping away with my laptop. As ever it crashed during the soundcheck, then behaved itself for the rest of the night. I was even inspired to add a section of Riley-esque looped organ, for good measure.
The festival was judged a success by all and I hope will be returning before too long.
My annual jaunt to Burton On Trent was yet another wonderful evening of music from the Ambient Live team. I played first, followed by Neil Fellowes (and son Callum) and the truly wonderful AirSculpture. The audience was slightly larger than usual, with an unexpected smattering of (gasp!) women to be seen.
The temperature indoors was unpleasantly high, not helped by the rigid seating (I forget every time to bring a cushion). Complaints about “noise” from a local resident meant the doors had to be closed during performances, although not for mine, being so gentle on the ears 😉
My laptop had it’s daily crash during the soundcheck, so performed impeccably for my 35 minute set. I’m still struggling to make effective use of the controller, largely due to the faff of selecting control map sets using a rotary controller and pressing another key to switch the active channel on ableton. I’m sure this will get easier with practise, but I probably need to find another controller. I resisted the temptation to use the keyboard itself!
One feature of the Awakenings gigs is that you can buy a “virtual ticket” and receive an audio file of the complete evening – this is a wonderful idea, recognisijng that ambient fans can’t be expected to travel the length and breadth of Britain for their fix. I look forward to reliving the evenings performances in due course.
Spotted this fabulous video by Gareth Whittock on a facebook looping group – it’s just wonderful! Expressive and amazingly, doesn’t sound at all like an e-bow to my ears! I’ve tried it on various guitars without luck – maybe my ebow isn’t charged up enough to vibrate the string whilst touching it, however gently. I may need to scour ebay for a lappy now
An eerie sounding scale, Bill Walker (check his superb looping work on youtube says it’s arabian minor. R, b2, maj3 ,P4, P5, b6, maj7. This *will* work its way into my set at some stage – truly ispirational.