Linda Smith

Linda Smith, one of the funniest women I've ever heard has just died. Jeremy Hardy was quoted today as saying she 'hated her cancer' and didn't want to give it a public platform. Good for her. All the more shocking though to hear of her death.

As well as her achievements with stand-up, radio and television she was also president of the Humanist Society. She will be greatly missed.


Bass Station

I've been lucky enough to listen to some great music this week. In some recent re-arranging of the house I found a box with the selection of CDs I'd set aside for listening to in the house when we arrived here last November. Amongst them was Thelonius Monk live at the IT club (LA 1964) and Weather Report's Black Market. Both wonderfully inspiring; the latter helping me make a decision about what to do with one of my basses. I have a fretless Fender Jazz which I was going to trade for a Godin fretted bass. The logic was that I need a back-up bass for the fretted Jazz bass I use in Soul Beaver. The logic doesn't quite work though when the bass you should be trading in is so beautifully made and sounds so good. The Godin bass sounds very good but just isn't in the same league. After you've owned (and more importantly, played) an instrument for a while it seems to become part of you. I have no trouble selling them to get something better but, when I heard Jaco playing his fretless Fender Jazz on two of Black Market's tracks I knew that this bass was staying.

Also, I've been listening to some new music which has moved and inspired me in a different way. I'll hopefully be telling you much more about this soon.

While I'm writing the Winter Olympics closing ceremony is on the telly. I Will Survive, played by a big band. Ouch!

In other news this week my parents have gone onto their very own wireless network so they could (if they wanted) surf the net in the shed.

Next weekend is my birthday and I'm looking forward to catching up with some good friends for food, walking and, who knows, maybe some music?



And what was I saying yesterday about podcasts? Today I heard the excellent Stickworld podcast which has plenty of heart and, as it turned out, a piece of mine too. If you're visiting after hearing it, hello. There will be more, and it can only get better. I should also credit Arthur Durkee, who put me onto the thOnk software that featured prominently in the tune.

I've had a twelve hour shift on the day job today. Very little sleep too, so I'm going to sign off now and regale you with a seriously techy post soon. Zzzzzzzzzzzzz.


Sticks and Podcasts

A rush of new ideas on the Stick has been a satisfying surprise this week. I've been recording them on a tiny four-track device and hope to turn them into full-blown pieces this weekend. After a few months with this instrument I'm beginning to find using it a much more fluid way of getting musical ideas down.

I've also been trying out a variety of podcasts recently. Two very highly rated podcasts turned out to be quite disappointing. Ricky Gervais, who can do little wrong on the telly, came over as irritating (or rather his format of bullying know-it-alls and idiot did). The other top ten podcast was by Bam-Bam. Not the Flintstones character but a computer voiced person talking about their hassles with daily life. I know I go on about my hassles with daily life, but I like to think there is some editing at work. Bam-Bam just drifts without any obvious focus or sense of getting anywhere. The best podcasts I've heard are the ones with heart. Not necessarily the slickest and certainly not the ones that appeal to the largest audience. It will be interesting to see how things change (if they do) in the world of podcasting over the next year.

Time to practise.


Wind and strings

Yesterday morning J and I went for an unplanned stroll around the surrounding countryside. Rather than walk up the White Horse Hill we went in search of the Blowing Stone. For years we've been able to find a local pub with a similar name but, for some reason, never felt motivated enough afterwards to find the stone itself. Today - success.

In the evening I drove to Little Missenden to meet up with Roderick Soundman. We found the village hall and watched Guy Pratt's show 'My Bass and other Animals.' Inside tales from the world of rawk, some grade A gossip and a few tasty bass licks too. Support for Mr Pratt was a stand-up comedian called Hal Cruttenden. Very funny, even though he did sound unnervingly like Tony Blar in places (a similarity he played upon). A long drive home to the sleeping J, who is back at work now. I'm off to practise.



PRM Floor
Originally uploaded by Roostar.
Today J and I went to see my parents to celebrate mum's 80th birthday. If I have half her humour, strength and wisdom when I (hopefully) reach that age I'll be very happy. My dad is very cool too.

But you may be wondering what the photograph is of. Well, on Monday we went to Oxford for a museum crawl, forgetting that many of them are shut on Mondays. Luckily the Pitt-Rivers Museum was open. It is a treasure house of oddments collected by a Victorian military gentleman, all housed in a beautiful building and accessible through Oxford's Natural History Museum. The Pitt-Rivers inspires people (objects from it show up in Phillip Pullman's Dark Materials trilogy) and on this day I was inspired to take a photograph of the floor. Which I happen to like.

One visitor though, left a note which said "this place makes me feel sick. Like Wales."



Originally uploaded by Roostar.
A few hours later and I was up to see this beautiful sky from the kitchen door.


Originally uploaded by Roostar.
Blurry yes, but the only shot of the band from Friday night. OK, not the band but our steadfast guitar hero Colin. Col works for Marillion and their singer and drummer were in attendance as well.

It was very cold when we finished but the adrenalin was in my system long enough for me to get home without feeling too tired.


Originally uploaded by Roostar.
This was on the wall of the wedding venue. It was labled 'VI' and the photograph doesn't do its scale justice. It was very big, and fake. Thank goodness.

Friday Night

Originally uploaded by Roostar.
On Friday I had a gig with Soul Beaver. We played at a place near one of the Rothchild's places. The venue was called the dairy but it was a purpose built conference and events building. At first glance it was all rather grand; flaming torches, cobbled courtyard, lots of glass. Looking a little closer we noticed the brickwork was fake and many of the grand looking objects not so grand.

The wedding party made up for this however, by being interesting and original in much of their procedings. The cake was a good example of this. Amazingly, I missed the chance to pick off one of the many cup cakes. Food doesn't usually get past me at weddings.


The Gibbon reveals itself


Just in case you thought I was making it up.

Now zen, now zen...

On my desk at the day job I have a calendar. It's a Zen themed one with a variety of Buddhist and buddaesque comments, aphorisms and quotations. I don't pretend to be spiritually enlightened but I do enjoy a daily dose of inspiration or a fresh thought. Many of these pages have found themselves saved and wedged into my copy of Blake's 'Songs of Innocence and of Experience.' Some go in the bin (too wordy or too self-righteous). Today's however, sets a new standard. That is, complete bafflement.

Here it is:

Icy wind
cuts through deep night,
missing only
the gibbon's howl.

My first (admittedly facetious) interpretation was 'don't leave your monkey in a drafty corridor.' After that I was incapable of shifting the image of a chilly monkey and all sensible thought stopped.

I don't usually invite feedback but, seriously, any ideas?


Comings and goings

A good rehearsal last night despite having no guitarist, keyboard player or trumpet. It was pointed out how 'lounge' we sound with no guitar in the mix. A frightening thought.

Some balance (of sorts) was evident. Gary and Richard had been to the funeral of The Drug Squad's Steve. He died far too young. The funeral apparently ended with a rendition of Jellyfish Polka (a recording I was involved with in a small way). This is a wonderful, exuberant track which featured Steve's bass playing and left the mourners with something positive to remember. Alongside this sad departure we learnt that one of our group is about to become a dad for the first time.

I have an exciting week coming up. J has taken most of the week off and I'm enjoying half term so we can see each other for more than a few hours. As well as this there is a gig on Friday (in a dairy), Valentine's Day will be an excuse for some shameless romanticism, and my mum will celebrate her 80th birthday. This last is the most unbelievable since she has the energy of someone decades younger than her years.

A public Soul Beaver concert seems to be getting more likely. Details will be posted here and at the Beaver's web site as soon as we have sorted it out.


Colonel Mustard

If any of you have spent more than a few days in Oxford you will probably know about Colonel Mustard, the tap-dancing pensioner, usually seen sporting a fez and shuffling to the very loud sounds of a ghetto blaster. His real name is Alastair MacDonald, although he's also known as George Pirie but as Colonel Mustard I think of him as a true eccentric, and part of the fabric of the city. He's also 95 and missing, so let's hope someone is keeping an eye on him. The BBC news item is linked in the title.


Grass drinkers

Grass drinkers
Originally uploaded by Roostar.
Here we are then, enjoying the delights of wheat grass juice. There is a good reason why this picture was taken before drinking.

Green juice

Green juice
Originally uploaded by Roostar.
A close up of the juice. Mmmmm.

More grass

There has been a lot of laughter this week. In the Soul Beaver rehearsal a delicate secret became the impetus for the calling of themed songs. This doesn't sound very funny because a sense of propriety won't allow me to reveal the details. Suffice to say there were a lot of bum jokes.

Also, last night J and myself tried to turn several swathes of wheat grass into a healthy juice. We slice off layers of wheat grass, ground it up in a device resembling an old meat grinder then juiced some apples to make the resulting wheat grass juice taste a little better. I think the whole operation took us nearly an hour and a half. During this time the front room filled with bits of grass, mush, apple remnants and a bemused cat. When we finally lifted our glasses it also became evident that we had been asphyxiating ourselves by shutting the door while the fire was roaring. So, with pounding heads and a little fresh oxygen coming in from the hall we drank down our first full batch of fresh wheat grass juice. Photographs will follow.

And finally, did anyone else read/hear/see the debate about performers miming and the possibility of labels to warn the public that this is happening. I would like to know if a so-called live performance is mimed, but I'm less bothered about television. I think most people can tell whether someone is miming or not and they can make up their own minds about the 'performer's' reasons for doing so. More live music on telly would be greatly welcomed though. One quote from former Steps mimer Faye Tozar summed up the attitude of (I suspect) a large part of the music business. She said, "for a band like ours that were very much a TV-selling band, it was great for us and we could get our product out there." Mmmm, product. That's what music is all about.



J and I are celebrating the arrival of several trays of Wheat Grass. No, you don't smoke it, you mash it up and drink it. Even the books on the health benefits use easily translated euphemisms for the taste of this stuff. We are both optimistic that it could do us good though. I will report back.

Soul Beaver rehearsed last night. I've been so Stick obsessed recently that I hadn't checked the bass gig bag before leaving home and so, instead of my fretted bass that I normally use I was greeted by a fretless, with no strap. For this reason I got to spend the whole night sitting down and playing. I don't think non-musicians appreciate how tired your feet get after a gig (or several hours rehearsal for that matter) so, despite not being able to bop about it was a pleasantly relaxing way to play. This may have contributed to the more relaxed vibe of the evening.

In the brief space between getting home from the day job and rehearsing I found 'Comma' by Warr Guitar man Bill Burke on iTunes. I listened to that on my drive out, and the iPod's random selection on the way back. iPods are never really random though. I suspect they have a chip in them which attempts to reach out telepathically to its owner and supply appropriately inspiring or sympathetic music. Mine manages this more often than not, only very rarely throwing up some late period Coltrane when I'm trying to be slow and thoughtful. For times like that, the off switch is always your friend.

Grass juice then. Good or bad, you'll know soon.