29.9.05

Stickwich


More Stick activity tonight - mostly brought on by inspiration from Art Durkee's podcasts. The photograph is of Saturday's night's venue in Ipswich. It's going to be a long night.

Invisible Worms

I've just had one of those truly enjoyable work experiences. An hour and a half 'teaching' poetry to a group of adults. We discussed limericks and then poems by Blake and Larkin. Everyone had something relevant to say and we were able to have a grown up approach to whether Blake's "invisible worm" was a penis, some sperm or just a worm falling off a flower; and whether this was important.

I've been feeling physically quite low this week though. I'm probably fighting a cold. If this is a war some of the skirmishes are not being won by me. Last night, while teaching, I just wanted to teleport myself home and sleep. Maybe I'm anxious about this weekend's gig, which is in Ipswich. It is going to involve hours of driving (boo), lots of playing (hurrah) and then lots of driving again (boooo). Staying over isn't really an option. Hmmmm. Grumble, grumble.

I've been listening to plenty of Fripp soundscapes this week. Each listen reveals something new, an experience not unlike reading a good poem.

25.9.05

23 seconds to eat a doughnut


Saturday was great fun. Richard Guitarist and I spent the day in London, working our way through Denmark Street, where the wandering musician can find guitar, bass and other instrument shops aplenty. For the first half of the day we sounded like croaky old men, thanks to the previous night's excellent gig in Oxford. We struggled from not having had a full band rehearsal but we still managed to sound like a proper band. Most of the comments I picked up on afterwards and in the break were to do with how tightly we played. It was particularly good to see an hear Richard Drummer again. He had been spending the past weeks tour-managing Marillion on their West Coast USA mini-tour. He brought back the requisite tales of the road and played like a demon, despite still having jet lag.

Richard guitarist and I need to be getting on with our new music project. The Stick seems to have found a place in this. Also vying for attention will be my new pedal. A Boss DD-20 Giga Delay (with an incredible 23 second delay function). This was a generous gift for my role as best man at Rich's wedding; next to my own, this was the best wedding I have ever attended and the idea of getting such a cool piece of kit as a thank you really was the icing on the doughnut.

Talking of which, the photograph is Saturday's second doughnut - the New York Cheesecake Donut (sic) from the masterful Krispy Kreme people, now available at Paddington railway station.

22.9.05

"...a skunk juggling dead hamsters"

If you are a fan of Red Vs Blue (The video game Halo meshed with comedy) I should recommend this week's episode. It is probably a lot funnier if you've been following the story up to this point but I'd like to think Episode 61 will inspire you to go back and find out why Caboose needs a tetanus shot.

21.9.05

Poll

Just for a laugh I entered some songs into the Walkman poll for the top 100 songs in the world. It seems to be totalled up by nation first then, at the end of the month we see what truly rocks our world.

So, out of three entries I decided one had to be the tune (not a song) 'So What' by Miles Davis. Possibly one of the most inspiring pieces of music I've ever heard. So far it ranks 4016. The world's most popular song to date... 'Smells like Teen Spirit'.

20.9.05

Knitting


Almost a perfect day yesterday. Some day job work in the morning with interesting and (hopefully) interested students. Then home early to pick up J and head to the local market town for light shopping and a snack at the museum. While there we pick up the two framed photographs from their previous week's exhibition. The lady in charge suggests we could wrap them up in one of the decorative quilts which form the current display. My face must have fallen just before she started laughing.

Last night Richard Guitarist came over and we rehearsed for this Friday's gig. I got to play some Stick again and it seemed to suggest ways of fitting in to the new music project. It was a satisfying way to spend an evening.

J has taken up knitting. Strangely, when I mention this to colleagues they all assume she is pregnant. Not so. In the photograph she is explaining either a) how to knit, or b) what she might do to me if I take more photographs of her.

House guest


House guest
Originally uploaded by Roostar.
Yesterday the house seemed to fill with Daddy Long Legs. This one, resting on the front door, is trying to avoid becoming lunch for some other representative of the great food chain.

Home


Home
Originally uploaded by Roostar.
A phone call today (from the estate agent) took us even closer to buying our first house. It's a good time to be sorting out what will come with us and what will go to the charity shops... or eBay if I was clued up on all that.

17.9.05

Charlotte

I had a new musical experience today. One of the things I get to do occasionally is to record other musicians. Richard the drummer and I will turn up with 16 track recorder, mixing desk and a whole big bag of leads and make decent quality recordings of bands. Today, since Rich is still in America with Marillion, I took the 16 track out on my own. My job was to record some songs of a little girl called Charlotte.

Charlotte is staying at a local hospice. She's in a wheelchair and has very limited mobility. One of the things that makes her special is that she writes and sings songs. She has a musical partner in the shape of a professional music therapist who plays piano. I met up with them both in the very modern and welcoming music room at the hospice. I put cables all over the floor, miked up the piano and set up the very professional looking vocal microphone lent to me for this occasion by Richard the guitarist. After a few test runs we recorded some of Charlotte's songs - brilliant little pop gems sung with gusto, if not perfect pitch and now just a mix away from being on CD. The finished product is going to be used to raise money for the hospice's music room.

This is all very heart warming, but the thing I took away from it was that Charlotte is very much the pro musician. She knows what she wants, how to get it and how not to get it. If she wasn't in a wheelchair (and a hospice) you might decide that she was a rude and pushy little madam. But she is in a wheelchair, and probably doesn't have as much chance of reaching old age as I do. So I let the bad manners go and once again count all my blessings; one of which is snoozing on the sofa next to me while I write this.

Later: some thoughts on knitting. Really.

14.9.05

The day job... at night

I have two good reasons to be very happy tonight. The first is that J witnessed a serious accident but was not part of it. Typically she helped the people and the scene. She had seen their car flying through the air before it slid down an embankment. Astonishingly they both survived with only minor bruising.

The second thing was an inspiring night doing my day job. OK, that's a bit confusing. Teaching is my day job (most gigs and other music activity is at night). Today... um, tonight the day job was an evening shift of people returning to learning to take their GCSE English. Each year has its own character with last year's being a difficult but interesting combination. Many fine individuals (are you there Mr P) making an enjoyable way to do my job. This year I feel a very positive vibe right from the start. A wide age range, mix of races, balance of the sexs, combination of abilities. I love it.

All this excitement and a gig next weekend.

A good piece of advice from Moose in a comment to yesterday's post. I listen to a lot of music in my car but because of the acoustics I loose all the bass. As a bass player this has it's advantages, allowing me to make up my own lines to whatever is playing. It would be good to hear more of that most wonderful set of frequencies though. Perhaps I should get a car sub-woofer.

No, probably not.

13.9.05

Yer tiz

Hurrah! The evils of comment spam are no more.

I've just been reading Robert Fripp's latest diary entry (for August 31st). Now, there's a man enjoying his work.

11.9.05

Events

Well the evening is drawing on. After J left I turned the kitchen into a makeshift recording studio and attempted a soundscape. I know now that soundscapes, like brain surgery and poetry, are not to be attempted by amatuers. I'm still happy with the result but I doubt anyone will ever hear it.

It is, of course, September 11th and I'm drinking a toast to those who lost their lives on that terrible day, as well as those that lost their lives in the awful blundering mess that is the aftermath. Four years ago I was drinking wine and chowing down with an eclectic bunch of people at Sting's Italian house. I have some odd momentoes of that night, but still the most powerful one is the feeling that someone destroyed part of my growing up. New York City will always be the place I associate with waking up and getting some perspective on my life. I was 17 and ready for a change. The city, its people, those buildings, gave me the jolt I needed to figure out what I really wanted.

Headphones


Having sorted out the comments fiasco I have now started receiving spam emails in response to an online advert for my double bass. At least with these people I know they are trying to scam me out of my money and I can therefore have guilt-free pleasure at their expense.

I'm supposed to be writing lesson plans for English Lit. A level classes but have instead been collating my humble collection of King Crimson related recordings onto iTunes. I say humble but the totaliser tells me I now have just over a day of Crim music. Hmmm, a full day... could I manage 24 hours? Is there that much coffee in the house?

A recent post on Robert Fripp amused me. It mentioned a trip to a John Lewis shop where Toyah (his wife) was getting asked questions by customers as she was wearing something resembling the staff uniform. J has had a similar experience as she occasionally wears a fleece in 'Sainsbury Orange'. Maybe J (and Toyah) should be angling for staff discount.

I'm getting the house to myself tonight so, assuming I can get work done, and also assuming that cooking dinner isn't too stressful, I plan to try out a homemade Soundscape experiment with the Stick. Pity the neighbours, I can't face wearing these daft looking headphones for much longer.

10.9.05

Comments

I've just had three comments on the last post. These have arrived suspiciously quickly after my posting and contain suspiciously similar wording. I know not many of you leave comments but for those of you who do I'm apologising now for switching on the word verification option. This means that you have to type in a given word before your comment can be excepted. To me this means that spam comments won't get through and anyone who wants to advertise their product here (who do they think is reading?!) will have to do it the hard way.

Saturday

It's been a good day (and it's only 8:00pm). I got up at seven and played the Stick for a while. After J got up we went to the nearby town to get supplies and have a cup of coffee in the local museum. This is a fine place, run by volunteers but which also boasts a small gallery. We spotted some excellent photographs, one of which was of the Dragon's Hill road; close to where we will be living soon. Despite being a bit hard up we decided this would be a suitable thing to have in the new place and put a deposit on it.

J went to work and I set to work recording something with the Stick. I have promised my folks the first full solo piece (It's written but I can't play it well enough yet) so I worked with some drum loops. The rhythms suggested a lyric, the lyric a melody. I then wiped the singing, put down a bass line and started layering up a piano part, a synth pad (sustained whooshy noises) and some naff soloing. I then rerecorded the vocal and immediately wiped it again. Normally I can't stand my lyrics but this one seems to work - I just can't sing it yet. Apart from the loops this has all been accomplished on the Stick, with the help of an attached Roland Guitar synth. The rough mix of the backing track is now on a CD which I've been playing at volume in the kitchen and have finally cracked the vocal part. That can be recorded tomorrow if there's time. I'm quietly pleased with myself for getting as much done as I have.

The last night of the Proms is on telly. Having done the ironing to a DVD of King Crimson in Japan, I'm now enjoying odd sound of a Counter-Tenor singing a piece by Handel (imagine the BeeGees singing classical - no, don't, stop now... ugh).

The new house, by the way, will be the first home of my own that I haven't rented. It's being held up slightly by an issue with wording (you've got to love the mentality of mortgage companies) but we hope to be moving in the next few months.

Next week I'm taking part in an unusual recording session which I tell you more about nearer the time.

9.9.05

Sticking

Lots of playing on the Stick these past few evenings. While being a bass player has been, and will certainly continue to be a rewarding part of 'who I am' the Stick is allowing me to open up musical ideas otherwise difficult to accomplish.

Having said that, picking up a the four string bass that sits forlornly behind my office chair and playing it (the bass, not the chair) felt so easy and immediate. One day I hope to feel that ease with the Stick.

If anyone is reading this before the (UK) evening kicks in, can a suggest you listen to tonight's Prom on BBC Radio 3 (streamed on the net). I'm saying this because Mark-Anthony Turnage has a new piece being premiered. A Turnage piece can often be a moving and powerful experience. Give it a try.

6.9.05

Mercury Music Prize

I've just been watching the Mercury Music Prize. It's chosen by critics and is a showcase for the current talent in the British music scene. A small selection at any rate.

This year, unlike previous ones, it has been almost completely inspiring. With one exception (a band who sound was just on the wrong side of amateurish) the music and performers on show made you proud to hail from these shores. The winner was never going to be the jazz group, the folkies or the big stars (Coldplay this year) but when was announced as the overall winner the whole hall got up to applaud. Antony and the Johnsons. Difficult music with heart and soul - about time.

The Queen


The Queen
Originally uploaded by Roostar.
Meet the new guest on my desk. Far right - The Queen. She's from the Lewis chess set but, as I've promised not to buy any more chess sets for a while, she is appearing on her own. Not quite her own though. She is seen here with Mr Pickwick, the Three Monkeys, a plastic elaphant and the incredible pull-apart wind up dog. And some CDs.

And yes, if you were wondering, I do have a lot of paperwork to do and it is possible this blog entry is just a way of avoiding it all. I'll play the Stick instead.

4.9.05

The Lost Weekend... oh no, here it is

A good weekend. I got to play the Stick at volume with Mr Brough on suitably loud electric guitar. I'm feeling my way with the instrument and sensing where it will sound best. This rehearsal session also allowed us a chance to check out the Coldrooms' new recording studio. It's an excellent place which will be getting used by us later in the year. All very exciting.

Saturday night J and I celebrated the news that we had the mortgage we were after. This was the last major block to becoming first time house owners removed. So, a place of our own - coming soon. The actual celebrating was done at Herbs restaurant in Faringdon. This is a very friendly establishment with top notch cooking. For some reason I felt too full to finish anything but made a manly attempt on three courses and quite a sizeable percentage of a bottle of Chianti. We finished the meal nearly an hour before our taxi was due and walked around the market square of Faringdon, which felt surprisingly mediteranean. And no, I don't think it was just the Chianti that made me feel that way.

Today, we made, or tried to make, a quick trip to Oxford for a book. The annual Saint Giles' fair was setting up when we got there and we enjoyed a walk through the huge, brightly coloured rides and vans selling terrible (but rather nice) food. Home to do more preperation for work and to start working out an arrangements for a new piece of music.

Tomorrow: back to school... ugh.

3.9.05

Advertising rules

I have a great fondess for advertising. It creates a world that doesn't really exist (a bit like English folk music) and these might well be the rules.

1.9.05

Katrina

If you want to do something to help those in or from the New Orleans areas (and god knows that area has given a lot to music over the years) go here. I understand one of the missing is Fats Domino, who I saw at the Royal Albert Hall many years ago. Any man that can bounce a piano across stage with his belly should be able to survive a hurricane - shouldn't he?