27.9.13

Foley

For as long as I've known of their existance I've been quietly in awe of foley artists. These are the people who create sound effects for movies. They use anything and everything to create the illusion of all the sounds you hear that aren't music or speech.

This week a friend, who is directing a play, asked me to create a soundtrack of noises to accompany the opening and certain other scenes.This is as close as I'm ever going to get to being a foley artist and I'm going to have some fun with it.

26.9.13

Circus

Earlier this year I was faced with a chance to go camping. I’m not a natural camper but I said yes out of a spirit of trying something new. It was awful.

More recently we decided to go to a circus. This is something else I’ve avoided so far. Clowns don’t scare me but they, along with white-face mimes, make me uneasy. The use of animals in circuses also put me off.

Unlike camping though, this was a success. We took the children and arrived in a field to find a tent encircled by beautiful old fashioned vans and trailers.


 
There was a mobile pizza parlour serving up delicious food and a pre-show entertainment to introduce you to the evening’s story. This wasn’t just a random series of acts but a thoughtful narrative played out through the acts. That’s a bit grand but fairly close to what I experienced. And yes there were animals: one goose (on stage for about a minute), a chicken (two minutes) and a horse, happily running around for just a few minutes. I later found out this circus has an excellent reputation for animal welfare.

The evening flew by (literally in the case of the acrobats) and amazingly even the children stayed focussed and entertained for the full two hours. I haven’t experienced such a fun evening out in years.
 

It’s also worth mentioned the music. Original music played by real musicians who also formed part of the entertainment in other ways. In some parts of the evening I had to crane my neck around to watch the musicians because their playing was so good they were distracting me from the action in the ring. This is where you can find the circus we went to. I highly recommend them.

25.9.13

Pedals

As a bass player I tend to use effects quite sparingly. My pedal board contains a harmonizer (which plays with the pitch) an overdrive (for moments of aggressive fuzziness), an envelope filter (the 1970s in a box) and a reverb pedal (which expands the sound in a nice spacious was for solo or melodic moments). Each of these gets used for no more than a few bars of music but, to my ears, makes a significant difference.

I have moments, usually when plugging all this in, when I just want to plug the bass into the amp and keep things simple. Doing this has a long and distinguished history amongst other bass players and even with me.  I’ve played hundreds of gigs with nothing fancier than a tuning device attached to the bass. When I mention this urge to my guitarist pal he nods in an understanding way and murmurs, “boring.” So I stick with the pedals.

The dangerous thing is that my pedal board has a space on the left hand side just big enough for one more pedal. “I don’t need another pedal,” I say to complete strangers. They give me funny looks. I like the way this gap suggests I am not driven to just buy gear for the sake of it. That I am in control.

So I celebrate the empty space and it’s symbolism even as I start researching small, powerful delay pedals which I don’t need. I pat myself on the back for not giving into temptation after watching demo videos of such pedals. Then I stare with disbelief at the jiffy bag that has just arrived which contains my new pedal. Sigh.

24.9.13

Eclipse Trio – Stages

The Eclipse Trio, which regular readers will know I play the fretless bass for, are almost at the end of a journey.  Having met up for a four day recording session earlier in the year we have spent the intervening time adding minimal overdubs, doing rough mixes, listening, mixing again , listening again, having the album mixed properly by someone who knows what he’s doing (thank you Alex Bilney) and more recently, having it mastered by someone else who knows what he’s doing (hats off to Lee Fletcher). All this alongside work on another album and the preparation of artwork, audio commentary and liner notes.

So, we are now a day or two away from having the final version of the mastered album in our hands so all the parts can be assembled. The CD needs to be duplicated, covers printed, downloads uploaded and, somehow, a marketing plan devised. My ideas for marketing involve something pretty simple. Gigs, and plenty of them.  We’ll see what happens.

More news on the album shortly.

6.9.13

Just whistle a happy tune (with the appropriate tone)


I used to think my daughter might become a drummer. She enjoyed playing on her cousin’s kit and took up a chance to learn African and Samba drumming. But now I’m not so sure.

After a year or more of trying, last night Freya found she could whistle. Setting aside all the horrors we’re facing of yet another family member wandering around the house whistling aimlessly, this was a big thing for her. She has come up to me on numerous occasions and asked, “Is this whistling?” and made a blowing noise that is closer to the sound you make when blowing up a balloon. But last night a pure, musical noise emerged and once again we proved the point that insane amounts of persistence usually pay off, even if the reward is something that will, eventually, drive you nuts.

This morning I challenged Freya to whistle again. She puckered up and then said, “Wait! I’ve got to get the right tone.”

That’s when I knew she was going to be a guitarist.