31.12.11

With twenty minutes to go...

It's nearly the New Year and just before the internet crashes I'd like to wish you all a Happy New Year. According to the stats page on Blogger people are reading this in America, Japan, Germany England and Scotland. I hope all of you have a positive and rewarding 2012.

I have some goals for the year ahead. I want to improve my chess, read and write more poetry, take better photographs and, above all, play more gigs. I was pleased to finally complete my Recall album this year and get to play bass on some interesting and challenging projects. I got to see the incredible band, Ronin and meet the delightful Sid Smith. I've played a lot of Scrabble, written plenty of new music and helped the ECM label stay afloat for another year. I've enjoyed supporting good causes and doing my little bit to fight corruption and injustice.

Love to you all. See you in 2012.

26.12.11

It's all uphill from here

In the increasingly fun battle to find fun and inappropriate things to read to Jude in the evenings there is a new revelation. Yes, it's Dante's Divine Comedy, part two - Purgatory. Reading it quietly to myself never got me more than a third of the way up the mountain, but reading it aloud has helped bring the language (superb translation by Mark Musa) alive, reinvigorated my interest in the story and sent the little one off to sleep. Win!

25.12.11

Merry Christmas

After attending the panto yesterday we walked back to the car, carrying bags of extra goodies from the local supermarket. We also stopped to talk to a Big Issue guy, who told us he was lucky enough to have somewhere warm to stay for the next few nights. Some years ago I was teaching a GCSE English class and, during a discussion on charities, I discovered many of the teenage students believed homeless people thought the homeless were sleeping rough because they wanted to. A disturbing number also believed the solution to the problem of homelessness was "to have them all killed." I remember standing there, speechless, listening to the views of parents coming out of the mouths of children with no idea of the realities of how harsh a life can be. Anyway, I resisted the urge to rant.

But today, on Christmas Day, I'd like all you reading this to enjoy the holiday in whatever way you do. And don't forget to count your blessings.

http://www.shelter.org.uk/

24.12.11

Bells

It's Chiristmas Eve. We've been to the panto and now, while the adults are watching the singing from Kings College, Cambridge, child 1 is running from kitchen to front room wearing a pink dress with a string of bells around her neck, singing Santa Claus is coming to Town. Child 2 is toddling from front room to kitchen, carrying the remote control and randomly changing channels. I love Christmas.

23.12.11

Christmas Present

It's the 22nd of December and, finally, I have all the presents bought, cards sent and possibly a few minutes spare tomorrow to get some wrapping done. Three whole days before Christmas! Wow!

Meanwhile the family seems to be playing tag-team illness. One of us has a cold, the next person picks it up, then adds an infection or head injury and passes it on. There is, frankly, a lot of sneezing and coughing going on. At least we've all got back on track with the chocolate/advent calendar discrepancy problem.

As the Christmas themed telly moves up a gear and the seasonal bad tempers flare, I'm trying to keep things simple; playing a little music, losing at chess, remembering people I've lost. There may be some alcohol involved soon.

22.12.11

This Post Is Only For Bass Nerds - You Have Been Warned!

After much plenty of years searching for my own sound on bass, I finally found it with a signature bass from Ibanez and Gary Willis. Thankfully, the excellent Mr Willis understands the irony of this and, on the latest version of this fabulous instrument his name doesn't appear on the headstock. So, now I have my bass and don't feel the need to buy any other basses. I know! It sounds crazy, especially if you're a fellow guitarist/bassist. Who would ever expect to get to a place where you don't lust after another instrument? I was as surprised as anyone.

This year I found myself doing quite a lot of recording and suddenly my otherwise excellent Boss multi-effects unit began to sound less effective. It's great for live work but on tape (well, digital recording media stuff) I could hear the tone on the bass being sucked out. So, I put the Boss on the shelf and set to work finding a replacement that would work well live but also cut it in the studio. After huge amounts of research and hours spent in music shops trying out devices I have come up with the following. Eventide Pitchfactor into MXR Bass Envelope Filter into the MXR El Grande bass Fuzz. No compressor as I play fretless.

Once or twice I have played the bass plugged straight into the amp and had just as much fun but in 2012 I hope to try out the full, new rig more often.

21.12.11

David

Many years ago I used to regularly visit my uncle in Kent. I come from a Kentish family and, although my uncle was a Londoner he was extremely proud of his routes, which is why he chose to work and settle there.

After he retired he moved to Tenterden and The Vine pub became his regular. The main appeal of this place was the friendly atmosphere created by the couple who ran the place. David and Sheila extended their hospitality to my uncle and even his confused visiting nephew. When the power went down in the town one terrible winter, it was David and Sheila who called my uncle and got him up to the pub for hot meals and company. They bantered with him, introduced him to other characters in the neighbourhood and opened their doors to the many people who attended his funeral.

This week I discovered that David had just died. He was a good man and will be much missed.

20.12.11

Progress? What progress?

So much going on at the moment. Christmas shopping, fighting off illness, stopping tired children from crashing into furniture, that sort of thing.

I've had a small musical project on the go, with the intention of making an EP to come out before the holiday. But while I'm happy with the ideas and work so far, it's obvious that to get it out in the next few days would be to rush something that doesn't want to be rushed.


The new Spingere album is going to take a long time to complete, and will probably give me space to finish this odd and dislocated collection. Some new musical instruments are coming into the house soon, so we'll see what they bring to the mix.

12.12.11

Twinkle, Twinkle Little Parrot Fish

The weekend before last Freya, Jude and I had a great time at the Pitt Rivers museum in Oxford. This is the parrot fish lamp Freya made. Downstairs form the room we worked in was a lamp made form a real parrot fish. It's that sort of place.

6.12.11

Soup and Malt

Yesterday I was in a terrible mood. I hid it quite well through the day but it leaked out after I got home. Today it was as if the world decided to cheer me up. A fabulously untypical morning was followed by a pleasant surprise at work. My colleague had made me some pumpkin soup, which I then had for lunch. In between my normal dayjob work I finished a poem and started another. On the way home shuffle mode picked a great Talking Heads track. Now, where's that lottery ticket...

Just in case this makes me sound smug I'll tell you another little story. This evening my daughter asked for some honey on her yoghurt. I picked up the jar, spooned some on and gave it to her. Some time later I was made aware that I'd missed the jar of honey and accidentally picked up malt extract. D'oh!