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December 18, 2009

Brrr...

Those of you in London know... KNOW... that it's BLOODY FREEZING here right now.

As I was walking home from The Stabilisers gig last night, driving snow burning every exposed appendage, I realised that I've not really indulged in an Allmans kick this year. Usually, as soon as the weather turns a bit nippy I break out all my old records (okay, okay, mp3's) and I re-acquaint myself with The Good Stuff.

It's almost Christmas, I guess I've been snowed under (ha-ha) with stuff lately. Just for fun, here's Brother Gregg bashing out a solo acoustic version of "Come & Go Blues"...

December 8, 2009

Just Add Water

So, I had Jam #2 with my new "Blues Band" last night. I don't want to blog specifically about the band, other than to say i think session number 2 went really well.

The line-up this time around was two guitars, bass, blues harp and... and... well, that was it. Our drummer was poorly, so the skins just sat there, unbashed.

Now, in my old age I've become something of a technophobe and I don't like to over-complicate things with kit. I'm not terribly keen on computers and I hate mobile phones, social networking and reality TV. On the music front, I don't even like pedals, though after struggling to get a decent sound out of the studio amp last night, I think I might have to consider investing in one. Any suggestions for a (reasonable) blues tone? Anyone? Anyone???

Last night, much to my surprise, technology came to the rescue. Not only that, but it was technology that I've been carrying around in my pocket.

Those initiated into the not-so-secret society of iPhone users will doubtless already be sporting a knowing smile. Drummer not able to turn up? There's an app for that.

More accurately, there were two apps for that. The first one, iDrum, I've mentioned before. iDrum's strength is that in real time you can quickly build up a beat and modify hits whilst it's playing. Last night, iDrum was the app of choice when practicing specific songs.



The second app, which I've not mentioned before, was "Instant Drummer, Heartbreaker" which is a set of acoustic drum samples that you can play back, varying such things as intensity, number of fills etc.



The beauty of Instant Drummer is that, when jamming in 4/4, you can just hit play, set the tempo and you immediately have a 'realistic' sounding drummer. Okay, so the drummer's never going to react to the band and speed up or slow down, but for a practice session, it's good enough.

The downside of both apps is that they don't swing. I'm hoping that the 'blues' edition of Instant Drummer will be more flexible, but for now you're stuck with regular time.

Neither of these apps are any substitute for the real thing, obviously, but for the first time since getting it, I really saw the potential of the iPhone as a usable tool and not just a flashy toy.

December 3, 2009

Let's See If This Works

I'm sure the quality will be terrible, but... here goes nothing!
video

December 1, 2009

15 Minutes Of Fame...

Okay. That wasn't too bad. So I said "phallic" on BBC1 but, hey, it was an arts show...

It's frikkin' weird seeing yourself on TV.

Red looked lovely and you couldn't really see the stain on the sofa!

November 30, 2009

MultiTrack For iPhone



I'm curious to know whether this is any good.

Not that long ago I accidentally snapped my old mobile phone in two (yes, really, I'm that hard) and I gave in to the inevitability of eventual iPhone ownership.

The iPhone is a great toy... not a great phone per se...

Anywho, I came across this "app" today. I've seen 4-track recorders on the iPhone before, but never a 16-track. Right now it's a pretty simple program, but it looks like it has potential to be pretty cool. Right now it's just a low-latency recorder with import and export functions, pan, track volume, mute/solo etc. Future enhancements (apparently) include a metronome, effects etc.

I have a number of music apps. Most of them I got for free (usually on sale days). Some are decent. Some not so much. Almost universally, though, the GUI leaves something to be desired in terms of functionality. Because the iPhone screen is so small, most programmers have opted for teeny-tiny buttons which, well... they're fiddly. This one seems to have adopted a more practical approach. Touch a control and it pops up to fill the screen, making fine adjustments easier. Developers... learn from this!!!!

Of the music apps I have, I think the most useful to date has been iDrum, a pocket drum machine. The pros for iDrum are that it's easy to control and it sounds great. The downside is that exporting beats isn't as easy as it should be. As far as I can tell, all you can do is export 40s of a beat via the 'Ringtone Sync' option. So once you've painstakingly generated the drums for a whole song... well, you're f**ked. The only workaround I can think of is to use an audio cable and a desktop recorder on your 'puter to create a 'live' copy.

The other app I like is iSequence. The user-interface on this one is way too small, though. It has loads of sound banks etc, but its biggest failing is that you have to generate chords via individual notes and until the last release there were only 4 tracks... when you have three notes in a chord? Um...

So, I'm curious about MultiTrack. Apparently, it's possible to import drum tracks etc from PC/Mac. I wonder how easy it would be to use this little device to record home demos, or moreover, when not at home, whether it's functional enough to be a decent pocket recorder. Now that winter's well on the way I'm already looking forward to the summertime... I want to be out there in the sun, jamming, writing songs... creating.

November 24, 2009

It's Not My Bag

I need to dig out my gig bag.

In the run up to Chrimbo I decided (or rather it was decided for me) that I should hit the gym really hard, ably assisted by a trainer. I've had one session with him so far and he nearly killed me! I ache. All over.

To add insult to injury, I'm not sure where I've shoved my gig bag. I know it can't have gone far. Our place isn't that big!!! As such, when I'm heading off to a jam (like today), I have to pack Red up into his hard case. After trekking to work by public transport this morning I now not only ache all over, but one arm is significantly longer than the other. D'Oh!

What else... oh, I suppose if anyone's still reading this then you deserve a giggle. The BBC show we're going to be on (unless the footage of us hit the cutting room floor) is due to air next Tuesday, December 1 at 22:35. It's the arts show, "Imagine", hosted by Alan Yentob. We've not been allowed to see a preview. It's going to be so embarrassing. The BBC just rang Tim to ask whether they can use us in the publicity for the show. I don't know what that means!!!! I hope they don't mean that we'll have our faces plastered on billboards across all major cities in the civilised world...

November 23, 2009

Jam Imminent

It's the first blues jam tomorrow night. Am I prepared? Nah. Do I care? Nah!

I just want to get in the room and feel these guys out. The first sesh always goes to rat-sh*t anyway, doesn't it?

I figure that as long as I grab the amp that goes up to 11 I'll be fiiiine!

(Plus I MUST remember to take my guitar with me tomorrow!!!!)

November 17, 2009

Jammin'

Went along to support Mr Furtheron of the "Guitars & Life" blog (here). He was performing his debut solo acoustic gig for the Rock Til You Drop crew (here). A very good Sunday afternoon all round. Beautiful music, good company... polite conversation [cough].

Furtheron did a great job and says he'll be back for more sets at the Libertine in Borough. For a more detailed write up, check out the Rock Til You Drop blog.

For myself, I'd set aside this evening and tomorrow night to go over the tunes I've selected for the jam on Tuesday, throw around some ideas... basically, get a handle on everything so that I don't walk in looking like a numpty. Why today and tomorrow? Well, Tim's out of town and while he's away, this cat can play.

Erm...

Anyway, that plan's out the window. Got a call last night from my other jammin' buddy, asking whether I'd be so kind as to sit in on a jam tonight. I was a bit torn, but I figured that getting in a pre-jam jam would allow me to blow away the cobwebs and, well, there's always tomorrow, isn't there... [cough].

I can see myself doing all the stuff I should be doing at the 11th hour.

November 10, 2009

Proposed Song List For Jam

So, here it is... the playlist I've proposed for Blues Jam #1. The idea is not necessarily to learn all the leads etc for a particular version, but to get the rhythm down and have a play around.

I think I mentioned, the line-up is 2 guitars, bass, harmonica and drums. For the most part I've shied away from straight 12-bar blues stuff. I figure we can fall into that as and when we want to have a laugh.

Here we go!

"Smokestack Lightning"
"Key To The Highway"
"Strange Brew"
"Stormy Monday"
"Nobody Knows You When You're Down & Out"

On top of that, I've asked the bassist to learn the groove from Donny Hathaway's "Voices Inside (Everything Is Everything)" for us to have a loose jam on. For simplicity, he's transposing it up from Eb to E.

November 4, 2009

Jam Update

So, we've not jammed yet, but here's where we're at.

Influences have been exchanged and I think I'm coming down to a shortlist of songs to get the ball rolling. I'm not thinking that we should be learning covers note-for-note, but I do think that having some basic song structures in place for our inaugural jam would be a good thing.

My top three shortlisted tunes are:

"Stormy Monday"
"Nobody Knows You When You're Down and Out"
"Smokestack Lightning"

Those are the ones I plan on putting chord charts down on paper for, along with maybe a few riffs etc.

In addition to that, I'm getting our bassist to learn the groove riff from Donny Hathaway's "Voices Inside (Everything Is Everything)". The original's in Eb, but for simplicity he's going to transpose it up to E. I think we may have to hike the tempo, too. He's looped the bassline and I'm planning on circulating it tonight for the guys to have a listen to/play with.

Plus, I'll tell the guys that if they turn up with a riff, groove or beat idea they want to work up... well, they'll get brownie points!

October 26, 2009

Concert Review: Indigo Girls (Shepherds Bush Empire)


I suspect I may get some hate mail for this one... hey ho.

First off, I'm going to accentuate the positive: The Girls are fantastic singer-songwriters. Their back catalogue has so many amazingly crafted and executed songs in it. They manage to capture so many emotions in their lyrics that, often, I'm moved when I listen to them.

Even the occasional lack-lustre tune is so wonderfully harmonized that the interwoven lyrics knock the song out of the ballpark.

I love their music. I really do. I think they're under-rated, often overlooked musical geniuses.

Okay, so now here's where I'm going to get into trouble. Please be gentle. I'm just telling it the way I saw it!

Last night I experienced the Indigo's perform live for the first time. The line up was just the two of them on acoustics and, occasionally, a smattering of keys or accordian was thrown in from stage right.

As you would expect, the music was perfect. The interlacing of voices and guitar parts was right on. So much so, that if you closed your eyes you could almost imagine you were listening to the record.

Do you see where I'm going with this?

Their recorded music is perfect. So much so, that when playing live last night, what they were doing was recreating something I already knew off by heart. Don't get me wrong, the crowd loved it, so much so that they sang along perfectly to many of the classics. I enjoyed watching and listening but rather than feeling like I was at a concert, I felt that I was part of a celebration of the music.

Does that make sense? It's not really a negative as such. The music was great... as it's always been. With the exception of "Chicken Man" (which totally rocked), I felt like I'd heard it all before, note for note. For me, there wasn't really anything new added to the mix.

I guess when I go to a concert I want to be given an experience that I'd only be able to recapture through imagination and memory. As wonderful as the songs were last night, I couldn't help but feel that if I went to the next show I'd be treated to another note for note recital.

I know, I know... I'm a bad man. C'mon, though, I've dissed a Derek Trucks Band concert before, based on the fact that the acoustics in the venue sucked!

October 23, 2009

A New Beginning?

So, how did the meet go? Pretty well, I think. Both the other guitarist and the harp player put in an appearance. We drank beer, talked music and politics. Nobody threw a punch. Nobody died.

Not too shabby.

It sounds like we're all in pretty much the same place, musically, both in terms of influences and aptitude. I texted the guys this morning to say it was nice to meet them and, somewhat to my surprise, they both texted back!

Why surprise? Well, I've had meets before which seemed to go really well. We've parted with enthusiastic handshakes and promises to get back to each other with dates and times for a jam. Then what? Well, they've basically ignored my emails and I've never heard back from them. You can't get too precious about rejection, though. It's just not worth it.

So, I don't put too much stock in the first meeting. Musos are flaky. I should know, there are times I've been flaky myself.

I'll admit to a quiet optimism, though. I'm optimistic enough that tonight, when I get home, I'm going to pull Red out of his case, dust him off, set him on a stand a plug him up. That way he'll be ready to go whenever I get the urge to wail.

What I need to do now is to keep the ball rolling. Momentum is key. I've asked the guys to think of songs that they like or songs in the style they'd like to play, if that makes sense. I'm going to pull a few standards out of my behind and send them across. I'm thinking stuff like "Key to the Highway", "Stormy Monday" and so on. Other suggestions welcome, loyal reader! I may throw in some Black Keys and Cream for good measure.

Hey, maybe I'll steal Col's "Monkeyphonics" progression for a stoner jam... you don't mind, do you, fella? Hey, maybe "Melissa" if I can remember how it goes!

I don't want this to be a covers band, unless we do covers but in our own style as opposed to homages. I don't see the point in trying to emulate what other people have done. Having said that, we do need a starting point, even if it's just jamming on a I-IV-V.

If there's something I learnt from my last band it's that you need both a driving force and motivation. If people get bored due to lack of progress or lack of new material to play around with, well, they start thinking about quitting. We don't want that, do we? If I can get us making a noise that sounds like music then that should keep them fired up, no?

October 22, 2009

What's Up?

Been a while, hasn't it?

So, what's been going on?

Well, before I start, I'm going to plug the Rock-Til-You-Drop show at the Libertine in Borough on Sunday 15th November. Fellow blogger, Furtheron, of "Guitars & Life" is joining in with an acoustic set. Good luck to you, G. Hopefully we'll be able to stagger on down to applaud, rapturously!

What about me? What am I up to? Well, due to extreme distraction… circumstances beyond my control… I've been off the radar lately. Putting it mildly, the sheet hit the fan. I don't think I've picked up Red since the last time I blogged about 'picking up Red' the last time. That was a while ago, eh?

I met and jammed with another guitarist who's influences definitely didn't match mine and who, in terms of talent, was a technologically advance space alien to my caveman. Nevertheless, he's keen for us to play together… but not now. He got a new job which is quite rightly taking all his attention at the moment. I can't say what it is, but, well, it's a great opportunity for him.

Anyway, in-between my doldrums and his unavailability, we've not been playing and I've been getting itchy fingers. I do want to play with him in the future, but if I do, it's not going to be down-home bluesy stuff. So, what to do? Well, out of the blue I've had some responses to an ad I posted ages ago and so I'm looking to meet up with some folks (tonight!) with a view to trying to get a jam going in the near future, assuming we click.

Now, 'the near future' isn't going to be next week. Oh no. Next week, at the grand old age of 40 [cough] I'm having to have my wisdom teeth out. It's not going to be pleasant. I've only booked an afternoon off work… everyone I've told have snickered and said I might need a bit longer than that to recover.

[sigh]

If it's not one thing, it's another, eh? Still, onwards and upwards. Can't dwell on stuff like that!

I'm looking forward to meeting someone new tonight. I definitely have a guitarist coming along, possibly bass and even a harp player, if he can make it. We shall see, eh? I'm quietly optimistic. At this time I need this. I need to shake off the musical apathy of the past few months and bring this sh*t back online.

September 22, 2009

Life's A Beach


So, I was lying on a beach the other day with my iPod on shuffle, trying to get into a groove. The night before, circa 4am, I had been dancing on a table to boom-boom music. I fancied something more laid back, more relaxing.

Ever the Instigator of Insubordination, the little black device selected a track from You Am I's "Sound As Ever" for my listening pressure. Pure grunge-rock tinged with punk sensibilities. It grabbed me by the balls and held tight. Next on the playlist was a Black Keys number, once again raw and exciting.

I feel a direction coming on...

August 21, 2009



This is a photo of the coffee I made myself after Auntie Beeb had left the building.

Pretty, huh?

Some people go for really intricate, clever patterns when they do so-called "Latte Art". Me? I prefer the more entropic approach... hiss, slosh, see what happens. I like to think that the coffees I pour somehow capture the essence of the universe, or at least a fragment of it.

Enough bollocks!

The BBC? What happened, eh?

Well, it was an interesting day. Somewhat contrived, but interesting. The camera crew were on a tight schedule. First off they did some external shots. All very 'who lives in a house like this'. Had I known they'd be doing some kind of outside-inside camera sweep, I'd have cleaned the windows!!!!

Following on from that were stills of our 'art', stills of 'us', videos of us 'looking at' and 'talking about' the art and what it meant to us.

I should point out, for those who accidentally catch the prog (part of the next "Imagine" series on BBC1, airing later this year) we were not allowed any preparation beforehand. We didn't have a clue what they were going to ask. We may well come across as complete no-nothing knobs or giggling schoolgirls. Who can say.

Then onto the interview, which was a range of questions loosely based on what we'd discussed in our original chat with the director. She'd picked up on a few subjects and basically framed questions so that she could stitch together a storyline.

Following on from that, there were more videos of us pointing, looking, laughing etc.

Anywho, at this point, we were supposed to have about half an hour in hand to film me playing Red... which was what I was dreading, somewhat. Didn't happen? Why? Well, during our interview phase we'd alluded to a number of other pieces we'd purchased by relatively unknown artists and they felt that the programme would be best served by including shots of these.

I was off the hook.

Okay, so in some ways I was a bit relieved, but at the same time I kinda wanted to crank Red.

Next stop was the gym. They wanted to film us doing day-to-day stuff and it seems that us 'pumping iron' [cough] would do the trick. Now, here's the thing. Tim. Love him. But he's feisty and playful. Just for shits and giggles, two days before the show he decided to bite me. On my neck. Hickey-ville. This isn't something he would normally do. His timing was impeccable. I'm pretty sure that unless they tastefully edit it out, in the gym shots I'm going to look like I've been savaged by a vampire.

D'Oh!

Can't be helped. The film is in the can. Postprocessing will take 6 weeks. The show will air sometime in the Autumn season.

I'm not confident that we've acquitted ourselves well.

Oh dear.

August 14, 2009

D'Oh

I picked a bad day to wear my Fender t-shirt.

August 13, 2009

Wolfgang's Vault On iPhone



So, if you thought the last post was short. Try this on for size! Ages ago I found Wolfgang's Vault, a repository for a buttload of classic concert recordings, posters and so on.

For those of you lucky enough to have an iPhone, search for "Concert Vault" in the App Store. It's only bloody streaming Wolfgang's Vault! Plus, you don't need WiFi. The App senses your current data speed and adjusts the bitrate of the stream accordingly.

I've tried it in a really dodgy 3G area and it worked perfectly. It's also a really nicely designed program. Don't believe me? Check it out here.

August 12, 2009

Pick It Up... Pick It Up...

PICK IT UP!!!!!

Okay, so I jammed on Red for about an hour on Friday night and I've been strumming my heart out from time to time over the weekend. We have a houseguest at the moment, which complicates matters somewhat, but I'm trying to get my fingers and ears back on the mojo train.

Watch this space (if you have nothing better to do!!!!)

August 4, 2009

Zero To Hero... To Zero... To Instant Hero!

Right then, here it is.

I've been in a slump. I admit that. I got close to Hero, but recently have been slip-sliding back to Zero. I have a few more miles on the clock, a few more licks in my library. A few more strums down cold.

Now.

On the 20th August of this year, in 16 short days, I will be 40 years old.

Wait, stop clapping. I haven't finished yet.

Coincidentally, on the 20th August of this year, in 16 short days, the BBC are coming round to interview us about our art collection. For those of you who haven't been paying attention, it's part of the BBC1 documentary series "Imagine". Previous guests appearing on the show include David Hockney and Rufus Wainwright.

We're in good company, eh?

No, we're not International Collectors... well, we are, but in a small way. When we see something we really like, in whatever country, we try to find a way to buy it. We've used the Arts Council's Own Art scheme (interest free credit) a couple of times to finance British stuff. Own Art is the focus of the TV show, which is intended to show how the scheme has made art accessible to 'ordinary people' [pah!].

See, here's the thing. To demonstrate how 'ordinary' we are, the crew are going to film us going about our daily lives, doing what we do. They're obviously going to miss out the exciting stuff like podium-dancing and other nocturnal activities. Instead they want to film us at home, at the gym, riding our scooters around with their big red Loser plates. Stuff like that.

Helpful as ever, my Dearest Darling Tim made a point of insisting that as I'm a guitar nut I should play guitar for them. On camera. With sound and everything. They agreed. They're keen.

"You'll be fiiiine..." He says.

"Suuuure..." I reply.

Sixteen days and counting. Best get my Hero back on again!

July 31, 2009

What's The Frequency, Kenneth?

Right then, what's going on here?

What is the frequency?

I keep asking myself that question and keep coming up empty. "The Project" was the driving force behind me getting out there, playing with other people, getting in a band, the whole nine yard, and, AND, if I don't finish off this sentence sooner or later I'm going to...

Okay, so the other day Tim said something to me which I took issue with, though, on reflection, there was a core of truth to it.

I mentioned what a cheeky sod Col, over on Axe Victim dot com was for linking here with the tag line: "Kenny’s lame old blog that he can’t be bothered to keep up."

[...you gotta love Col's directness, eh?]

Tim said that he agreed with Col and that the difference between him and me, apart from the CHASM between our ages and waistlines (sorry, Col, couldn't resist!) was that for him, music, playing, writing was a serious business. For me [here comes the sucker punch] it's just a hobby.

Now, I'm a Leo. Whilst I don't subscribe to all that horrorscope (sic) crap, I do admit that I have a bit of a stubborn streak and I don't take criticism well.

[...especially if it's justified]

I don't see it as a hobby. I see it as a path. A path that, recently, I've wandered off. Now I'm staggering around, lost in a desert.

So, at the end of The Project I was in a band, or at least playing with other people. I was having fun. I was starting to feel plugged in. Air was moving. Then along came politics and incompatibilities and it all went to ratshit, as these things do, I'm told.

After that, I decided to take a break from 'other people' and concentrate on my own 'material'. Didn't happen. Itchy fingers. Click-click-click... Gumtree... Party Sounds... the lot. I ended up meeting a few people. Nothing clicked 100%, though.

So, that didn't work out. My fault, not anyone elses. Life happened. Shit, meet fan. Splat. I haven't touched Red in ages. I haven't found... made the time.

It's been a right old pity-party at Fillmore Heights lately.

That has to change.

That will change.

Just wait and see, eh?

July 30, 2009

Balls

I need to dust off my guitar and amp.

The Beeb are coming around to film us 'at home' doing 'what we do'.

Luckily they'll be around late morning as opposed to late night. That might get a little too 'Channel 4' for most people.

It's this Own Art thing. They think we're 'interesting'. I bet they ask me to play something on Red.

F**K, F**K, F**K, F**K

Damn you, British artists
Damn you, Interest Free Credit
Damn you! Damn you! Damn you!

Does anyone want to babysit a Les Paul for a few weeks? That way I can say I'm not sure exactly where it is... [insert churlish giggle here]

As an aside, I'm 99.9% certain I'm starting a new job soon. Hopefully I'll get more time to pull my finger out. I'm not certain yet but I may have a new project coming on.

July 17, 2009

But Is It Art?

Right then, after a couple of delays, the Beeb are definitely sending a researcher/director combo round to our flat this evening to have a chat about our use of the Arts Council's Own Art scheme.

We do collect a bit of art here and there. We're not exactly Satchi & Satchi, but we have a few pieces, two of which were financed through the AC's scheme. The one that the Beeb are interested in, primarily, is by Kuldeep Malhi. We were initially drawn to his 'Poldactyl' series, but ended up getting selected ceramics from 'Blush'. If you want to check out his stuff, he's exhibiting at the Steps Gallery in Pimlico right now.

So, what's this got to do with The Project? Well, one of the items purchased through the scheme was Red, my Les Paul. Interest free credit! As such, he's currently on display in our flat, rather than being hidden away in his protective case. I have to say, though, that I feel like a bad father. The stand he's on has neoprene buffers which could, over time, damage the nitrocellulose laquer. Whilst I doubt a period of a few hours would make any impact, I'll admit I'm not comfortable with it.

Please god, don't let them ask me to play him! Apart from setting him on the stand I've not touched him in a month. As I did pull him out, I noticed he's badly out of tune, too. Must fix that!

July 14, 2009

Another Post

Will this be about music or more whining? Let's find out.

First off, a little whine. Indulge me. So, we got back from hols all tanned and exhausted (too many late nights) to find our builder had pulled out of the house mods we've been planning forever. Not a good situation as we were all gung-ho to get moving.

Surely nothing more could go wrong?

Well, yes, there is one thing that could go wrong. Our architect just emailed (nice) to say that she's exhausted her list of builders she's willing to work with and hence she has no option but to withdraw from the project, too! Now, I've heard about clients firing their architects, but have you ever heard of an architect firing the client?

We do like to be different.

Advance to Old Kent Road, do NOT pass Go, do NOT collect £200.

Not fun. We're feeling a little shafted.

Fortunately for us, the BBC crew who want to interview us about the Own Art scheme postponed. We're now only in partial chaos. Lots more work to go before the place is habitable. Marigolds at the ready.

At 11pm last night, after an evening of tidying, I picked up Blackie (my Ovation acoustic), played briefly, then put it down again. I was amazed to find that I remembered where the notes were! Amazing. Thank god for finger memory, eh?

We have (much) more cleaning to do. I think the BBC are now coming on Friday. I think. I'm not sure. The place is still a pit, but at least it's not the disaster area it was.

Music? It's not very rock 'n' roll, but here's the playlist on my iPod right now:

"Work", Kelly Rowland (Freemasons Radio Edit)
"I Kissed A Girl", The Real Booty Girls (PH Elektro Remix)
"Jai Ho!", Pussycat Dolls
"When Love Takes Over", Airi L (Ronnie Maze Club Mix)
"Release Me", Agnes (Extended Mix)

Okay, so there's more, but I'm going to stop there. What we're talking is a whole buttload of Big American Vocal dance music. Summertime fluff for booty-shakin'. Kenski the sun-lovin' podium-dancer is in full force. Lasers and strobe-lights at the ready.

As they say in the Jerry Springer Opera... I Just Wanna Fucking Dance.

One day I'll get Red out again. One day I'll plug him up again. One day I'll WAIL.

But not today.

July 7, 2009

Virtual Insanity

Alright. You asked for it. You begged for it. Now here it is. A post!

Life. What's that about then? How do you quantify chaos?

Okay. Holiday? Good. Very non-relaxing. Returned home exhausted from seeing the sun come up too many times. Musical news from the trip? I like the new Placebo album. It's a grower. Michael Jackson died. We were told at 4am outside a club, by a drag queen of all people. We thought she was joking! We had tickets for one of the O2 shows. Might still go. You never know, do you? MJ has a habit of turning up when you least expect him.

I haven't touched a guitar since my last post. I'm not sure I could find one in our flat at the moment. We have so much washing to do but our machine exploded. Need to find time to go to a launderette. When was the last time anyone did that?!?!

Both under and on top of all the clothes is a thick layer of dust and grime. Two weeks before our vacation we stopped cleaning. Why? We thought we might have builders in, demolishing the place. What happened? We got shafted. The builders pulled out, deciding to take on a more lucrative job, probably.

We're living in chaos. The place is a dump. I wouldn't house a homeless person in there.

And...

In a strange twist of fate we have the BBC coming round next week to interview us about our use of the Arts Council Own Art scheme! We've used the scheme for a few purchases, including my Gibson, Red. I hope to god they don't bring a camera crew.

Who is going to clean the flat before then? No idea.

Who is going to turn the garden from an overgrown jungle into something resembling order? No idea.

Who's going to figure out which packing case the 'Own Art' stuff is in?!? That's a damn fine question!

Don't get me started on work. Before our trip I was offered a new position. I turned it down. Not certain why! It would probably have been a good move but the timing was bad.

I need another vacation.

June 2, 2009

Da Bluze

So I finally got to plug Red in last night for the first time in a while. Things have just been crazy and, well, I keep the Gibson packed away when I'm not using it, which adds that extra level of effort required if I get a spare moment.

I spent about an hour running through riffs and chords for 'the new band', but found myself in a bit of a funk (no, not that kind of funk). I didn't want to learn, I just wanted to play.

After a few minutes of googling, I dug up some decent blues backing tracks and let rip, channeling BB and Albert, but not Freddy. I'm not really a Freddy officionado. A gap in my knowledge of the blues.

Suddenly, everything was feeling the music. It flowed from me. Everything was good with the world (if potentially not the neighbours!)

May 22, 2009

Stress

Stress sucks.

Stress bites.

Stress... GRRRRRR!!!!!

My current mantra is:

In three weeks I'll be in Greece
In three weeks I'll be in Greece
In three weeks I'll be in Greece


I can picture it now. Crystal blue waters. Sun, sea, sand. I can't wait. I need this so much.

Last night I had another jam session. Right from the start I sucked. I tried to relax but I couldn't. Stress has me tied up in knots. I can't relax my hands enough to fret anything without grinding the strings into the fretboard. My strumming is Mr Roboto, not Sly Funk.

No Loosey Goosey here.

Even the trusty ol' pentatonic eluded me. It seemed awkward, alien.

Beach.

I need a beach.

Three weeks
Three weeks
Three weeks

May 15, 2009

Fade Away



This is not fun. This may herald the end. IT are clamping down on non-work-related sites. Blogger is still up, but more and more pages are disappearing day-by-day. It may not be long.

May 11, 2009

Placebo @ The Bush Tomorrow!

Hey all, long time no post. Been doin' band stuff lately, which means that I've had to invest more time drinking beer and pontificating in public houses than blogging.

Real life, man.

Got a brand new stretch target. It's unachievable, but hell, I'm going to have a shot.

Hooked up with another guitarist with some very cool ideas. Need to get some songs together and find a rhythm section. The plan is to put 5 songs together, consisting of 2 revamped and rocked-out covers and three originals. A small local pub is looking for bands to play short sets throughout August and September. If we can get all the elements together then maybe we can scrape in under the wire for one of the late, late summer shows. May be no hope, but I'm fired up about music right now and plan on giving it a shot.

And TOMORROW NIGHT we get to see Placebo play a warm up gig at the Shepherd's Bush Empire. We all know that I hate 'The Bush' but hell, it's an excuse to get all gothed up and part-ay!

If anyone knows who the support are going to be and when the band are likely to be onstage, please, please, leave a comment with that info here. I've been bashing my head against the wall trying to find out. We're likely to be a bit late, but don't want to miss a thing!

April 27, 2009

Derek Trucks, Beyond The Bush

Briefly:

Derek Trucks band:

New Orleans: Fantastic
Shepherd's Bush Empire: Awful sound, couldn't hear a thing
Manchester Academy 3: Bloody brilliant

I actually feel truly honoured to have been witness to Derek and the band's evolution since 2002. Back in the day, Derek's slide work was phenomenal. It's now even better plus his work without the slide, in alternate tuning (!) is more than it's equal. Amazing.

The Manchester gig was fan-bloody-tastic. There were a couple of technical issues which, if you didn't look closely, you might have missed. Mike's earpiece didn't seem to work right for the first couple of songs, so they broke from the setlist, went into an instrumental, off went Mike for a conflab then back onstage and bingo, everything was fab again.

It was interesting to see the band showcase each player. Most noticeably was on "Soul Serenade" where the band really reeled it in and Mike's vocals took centre stage. And he 'owned' the song, as they say these days (don't they?)

After the major disappointment of the Bush, Man 3 made up for it.

Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant.

April 20, 2009

Celluloid Burn

Before I start, I'm going to confess that there's absolutely no point to this posting. As of two minutes ago I really didn't have anything in mind to say. Since I started typing I've had a couple of things pop into my head, though.

First off, check this out...



No reason. Just because. I don't have a decent graphics package at work and these days I don't seem to make the time to screw around with images at home. I've never considered myself an artist, but I used to enjoy sketching, generating computer images and so on. Somehow that got lost in the mists of time. I made this one in about 5 minutes using an online package called FotoFlexer. It's not exactly Photoshop, but it's got some interesting features. If you're stuck for a digital manipulator on the move, you could do worse. There's a link to it here. No download necessary!

What else? Well, on Sunday I actually made time to stretch Red's legs. I could feel the old girl calling to me, so I pulled her out of her case, plugged her into my Blackstar and let rip. Despite the fact that I've not had much time for music over the past couple of weeks I was bang on form, sounding good. I'm so ready to get back into a band that it hurts. Ready to ROCK!

After a few hours of solid bluesing I decided to give the neighbours a break, packed up and headed into town. I had a couple of errands to run and it afforded me the excuse to do something that I've not done for ages. I went into a record store! Yes, they still exist! Not everything's online these days. I treated myself to 3 albums by The Black Keys. I've been really getting into their sound lately, listening on Last.FM. I knew I'd be paying over the odds for the privilege of going to a real checkout, but I didn't care. Yes, I price checked them on Amazon and yes, I could have saved myself a tenner or so, but I wouldn't have had the Old Skool experience of actually 'shopping'.

Last but not least, Summer's coming! Top tip, if you're going to barbecue burgers, go for the lean mince, eh? Not only healthier but much less of a fire hazard! I nearly smoked us out of house and home last night, grilling up a couple of those bad boys!

April 15, 2009

Need sleep...

...or "Damn this club-lag!"

Not much to report. Got back to the gym. Lifted weight. Ouch. Why, oh why, oh why do I have to buy into this whole body-fascism thing? Wouldn't it be easier just to say "I'm old. It's my time to just let it GO!"?

Actually managed to practice guitar for almost an hour for the first time in over a week. Not good. Not good at all.

Went to bed fairly early. Couldn't sleep. Kept waking up. Club lag, I bet, bolstered by overcompensating with the ol' coffee during working hours.

Not good... again...

Doorbell rang at some god-awful hour of the morning... THE POSTMAN! Special delivery! Whaaaaa? He never arrives before 10am! What "special delivery"? Bizarrely turns out to be a piece of sculture, addressed to us, but with no real explanation. The compliments slip just reads "thank you".

Eh?

Some kind of good-will guesture? Wrong address? Gift from anonymous benefactor?

Who can say!?!?

No, we're not going to just keep it. Tim's going to phone the gallery and find out what's going on! All I care about is that it cut last night's sleepy-time by an hour and I was NOT HAPPY THIS MORNING! Grrr...

April 14, 2009

Long Weekend...

...short post!

Weekend summary:

Friday: Ikea, pub, kebab (but a good one), club

Saturday: Coffee, pub, another kebab (still good), club

Sunday: Coffee, more coffee, pub, internet, bar, club (no kebab)

Monday: Coffee, eggs, pub, pub, bar, back to pub #1, Chinese, DVD.

It's Tuesday today, right? Still waiting for fog to clear... from head. Beautiful ride into the office on the bike. Blue skies all the way.

Time to get serious about stuff again. Music, gym, eating properly. The whole shebang. Not ready to pull a Madonna-eque macrobiotic trip, but it's time to hop back on the rails.

Oh, and the Sunday night clubbin' was the Freemasons dee-jaying at our local. All good, though they did surprise us by playing lots of their old stuff. I suppose they had to get the crowd going somehow. They came on for a 2 hour set, starting at 1:30am. The dancefloor was absolutely heaving. Spent quite some time dancing with a pair of top-notch lesbians, dressed identically in skimpy bikinis and not much else. Had I been straight, I'd have been in heaven! As it was I spent most of the time protecting them from being crushed by all the gyrating shirtless muscleboys. It's a tough job but somebody's got to do it. Mother would be proud.

April 9, 2009

Today, I Blog...

...about everything and nothing.

I met up with Col and the Magic Ship boys for a beer or two last night. Also got to meet and chat with Toby Burton of "Rock Til You Drop". Check out his ever expanding social networking site here). A fun, relaxed time was had by all. The topics of conversation were mostly unrepeatable!

Oh, and coming off a link from the RTYD site, here's Toby's own site. Very neat. Check out his paintings and his band Pocket Rocket's songs!

The subject of blogging came up once or twice and I confessed that really, these days I haven't got much to talk about on here. Oh, admit it, it's true. C'mon! Ever since the end of 2008 and hence the end of 'The Project' I've not had much to say for myself, particularly music-related.

So, what you get today is a series of blurps to give you an insight into what's running around inside my head RIGHT NOW!

First off, before running off to the pub last night I had a go at learning "Thickfreakness" by The Black Keys. It's not a hard song to play by any stretch of the imagination, but it sounds GOOD! There's a link to the tune, here.

For the past few months I've been trying to solidify my 'musical direction' and that-there-song actually gives you a basic idea of what I'm thinking of. It's in A minor and is based around a very simple, but neat bluesy-sounding riff. Moreover, the riff is the rhythm part... not strummed chords... riffing. Okay, you're not getting my point, are you? Take other songs like "Strange Brew" (Cream) and "One Way Out" (Allman Brothers). They don't use a strumming pattern for the rhythm. They use a riff. Let me see if I can find links... hold on...

Here you go: "One Way Out" and "Strange Brew".

"Strange Brew" is probably the better example. It follows a basic blues chord progression but gets the groove going by using riffs. Make sense now? Cool.

That's what both sounds good to my ears and also what gets me off when I'm playing. Bring The Black Keys back in. They're using a similar idea, but with a grungier sound. Me likey-like. Me stealy from them! You wait and see!

What next? Non-music! MY TITS HURT! Why? Well, we've just made it back to the gym for the first couple of times since Mardi Gras (yes, I'm still going on about Mardi Gras! Deal with it!) and it's bloody hard. Just walking down the stairs at work is agony! Going back tonight. Why, why, for Christs sake WHY do we do this to ourselves?

The flip side of getting back to weightlifting is that I'm STARVING all the time. Break body, body needs food to repair! I'm hungry when I wake up. I eat. I'm ravenous again by 11am! What's with that?

This weekend (we've changed subjects again, in case you didn't guess) we have a couple of friends coming in, which probably means we'll be out clubbin' a bit. I don't mind so much. One of the clubs we go to from time to time has The Freemasons dee-jaying. If you like upbeat, big American vocal remixes then you'll love the Freemasons. They basically wrote the soundtrack to not last summer but the summer before and their tracks from 2007 are STILL being played pretty much everywhere. To date I don't think I've heard any new music this year or last that made me run to the dance floor, rip my shirt off and jump on a podium.

Some may say that's a good thing. Like I say, we've not been going to the gym!

Okay, you want links to Freemasons' stuff? Okay, you get the remix of "Beautiful Liar" (Beyonce/Shakira). Picture lasers and a big ol' Boom-Boom room. Fab! You wanna know what that feels like without stepping foot inside a club? Go to Cyberdog in Camden Stables market. I can't go in there on a Saturday afternoon and then not go out dancing.

Anywho, the last time we went to a club where they were guest DJ's it was heaving waaaay before the pubs closed.

Okay, so we've covered music, weighlifting, dance clubs... food... what else? The weather? Forecast says 'light rain'. I think it's going to be SUN, SUN, SUN!!!! It's Easter, after all, the day Jesus ate chocolate and set all the bunnies FREE!

Oh, and that's it! I FORGOT! We got tickets to one of the Placebo warm up gigs before their summer festival run! YYYEEEEEESSSSSS!!!!!!

Does that call for a video embed? Huh? Yes, I think you're right, IT DOES!



AND... AND...!!!!

On Saturday night, top-notch youf guitar genius stroke blues boy, Oli Brown, is bringing his own brand of shuffle to the Half Moon pub in Herne Hill on Saturday night. Check out Pete Feenstra's site for details, here.

April 6, 2009

Concert Review: Jason Mraz, Hammersmith Apollo

Right, I'm not going to make any friends with this review on the following basis: Mr Mraz fans tend to be devotees (I should know, I'm one of them) and really, what did I expect, given that he's promoting his latest album which is more melodic than poppy.

The positives: Jason was on fine form, vocally and banter wise. He's grown as a performer and you really couldn't fault him at all for his stage presence and presentation. The band were tight. The addition of the horn section was surprisingly cool, even though (in my book) adding horns to pop music is usually the kiss of death. Not so in this case.

Okay, so shoot me now, I'm going to give the show a somewhat negative review, but get this, it's because the last show he did at the Shepherd's Bush Empire was just so much better!

It basically comes down to material. Whilst there were some upbeat tunes, like "The Dynamo of Volition", there were far too many ballads, one after the other, to keep me, personally, interested.

THAT'S MY OPINION!

I feel slightly bad saying that, as, looking across the sea of adoring fans in the audience, it was pretty clear that I was one of the few that didn't have their hands in the air. Now, don't get me wrong, I love his stuff, but when you're at a Jason Mraz show, you expect more show, if you know what I mean?

And, to be honest, that's down to the latest (which isn't particularly new, per se) album. It's a more laid back, love in the sun, kind of affair. More... mushy. That's not a bad thing when you're listening to the CD and in that mood, but when you're standing in a steamy crowd of sweaty (and not very pleasant-smelling) teenagers, well, you need a little more action to keep your excitement level up.

Okay, so the show did start off well, and the encore lifted things at the end, but the bulk of the show was a little too snoozy for me. I did not pogo once!

I feel bad saying that... but, I ain't gonna lie to you about how I felt after the show! I didn't leave the venue with a smile on my face, buoyed by all the high-energy vibes. I just wanted to go home... to bed. The irony is that, with J on such great form vocally, just two or three more upbeat tunes would have turned it around for me. Oh well. Maybe I'm just getting old.

April 2, 2009

Tool Alert

Okay, so I do firmly believe that if you're going to become the bestest-bestest jazzer on the planet you really need to know all the different chords in all possible locations.

However, some days we all find that we just want to frikkin' look up a chord rather than working out all the possible options. I found myself in that position last night. I had about 15 minutes to figure out the best fingerings for a number of chord shapes from one of the Rockschool pieces.

I used Google.

I'm soooo ashamed. (NOT!)

I found this tool! I've not really delved too deep, but on the surface it looks really cool. It's called "Chord Guide" and can be found here.



It's a handy little chord chart generator. You type in the names of the chords you want then you can choose which fingering works best for you and add it to your chart. When you're done, just click on the print view and bingo, you're good to go!

It's cheating, I know, but hey, no brain cells were harmed!

So, for a demo, my Rockschool piece included the following chords that I wanted to see my options with: Bbmaj7, Dmin9, Fmaj9.

Navigating through the screen is pretty easy. I click on "Bb" which brings up a myriad of chords with that root. Information overload! However, I then select "Bbmaj7" and the page brings up 4 suggested fingerings.



So, I pull out the guitar and have a go. Which one suits me best? Hell, for shits and giggles let's choose #4. I check the tickbox on that one, hit "Save Chords" and I'm ready to go on the Dmin9. Same procedure... onto the Fmaj9!

When I'm all done I can go to "My Sheet" and click on "Print Version" and here's what I get:



Bingo!

What's actually cool is that the chord chart actually marks what the different notes in the chord fingerings are.

Me likey-likey! No have to thinky!

April 1, 2009

G20 Protests... Fact Or Fiction

Okay, so I had to pass through the supposed trouble spots to get to work this morning. Traffic was light. Didn't see any police or protesters.

Went out and took a look down towards Bank at lunchtime. Again, didn't see anything, though my x-ray specs are broken and I can't see around corners. I guess even angry rampaging anarchists need a break.

I'm beginning to think it's all an April Fools Day prank!

Nevertheless, I'll be skirting the hotspots on my way home tonight, juuuust in case.

As you've doubtless guessed, I have nothing of interest or note to blog about today.

[Picture tumbleweed rolling across the screen]

Tum-di-dum-di-dum-di-dum...

March 30, 2009

Please Call Home: Movie Review

Okay, what's the 'movie' about? Well, it's supposed to be about the Allman Brothers band, circa 1970-1972 when they used to hang out at 'The Big House' in Macon, Georgia...

And it is, mostly.

The movie's basically a series of interviews with some of the surviving band members, roadies, family and friends. At times the interviews are conducted to camera. At other times you're treated to a slideshow of band photos (and occasionally snippets of film) taken at around that time.

This one's definitely for the fan-boys. There are no explosions, no sex scenes... nothing garish to grab the attention. Much like the various books written about the history of the band, there are some stories that are told, some that are missed out. I can't say that I learned much more, but it was a pleasant trip down memory lane.

For obvious reasons, the bulk of the show concentrated on Duane Allman and Berry Oakley. I was surprised how little time was spent on Dickey Betts, who split from the band in 2000, but who was arguably as intrinsic to the Allman Brothers signature dual lead guitar sound as Duane was. About all that was said was that he was 'mean'! Hey ho...

I'm glad I watched it, but it's not going to be on weekly rotation in my DVD collection. Maybe once a year...

March 29, 2009

Watchmen: Movie Review

Whatever!!!

Really... not the best movie! Pretty to look at but ultimately, well, whatever!

March 26, 2009

Ow, Ow and Thrice OW!

More eye problems. Another trip to A&E. More time off work during a period I can ill afford it.

I'm used to the drill by now. Left eye starts feeling funny. Vision goes a bit squiffy. Start getting increasingly photo-phobic to the point where any bright lights make me want to run away screaming. Accident & Emergency doctors get ready! I'll be seeing you soon!

This time around the on-call doctor took more time with me, possibly because it was my 5th... 6th... trip to the hospital in under a year. Methinks they're getting tired of me. I KNOW I'm getting tired of the routine. After sucking in air over her teeth for a good 15 minutes and asking me to look up, down, left, right (fight, fight, fight) and scanning through the notes from my umpteen previous visits she said that she thinks the root cause of my issues is some corneal scarring which has dodgy edges and which might keep being lifted and then infected by the bacteria living on my eyelids.

Cue a few more minutes of air-sucking and she went in.

Now, I can actually believe her diagnosis! The problems are always with the same eye and the pattern of redness always seems to be the same, consistently starting off in the region she did her thang. Based on that, I'm happy she did what she did. I do, however, wish that she'd at least have warned me that I would be off work for a couple of days.

Pretty much, she said that the scarring on my cornea had dodgy, sticky-up edges. To 'correct' that, she attacked me with some foreceps (tweezers), stripping off bits of cornea around the problem area to smooth things out and to hopefully give me a nice flat scar instead of a jagged one, I guess.

What she waited to tell me was that the local anaesthetic she used would wear off in about an hour, at which time I'd be in a WORLD OF PAIN. I managed to go back to my office and stay there for about two hours before my thresholds were totally eclipsed and I headed back home to find some darkness for me to scream into. My journey home was almost comical. I could just about make out buses, so I took one. Taxis were far too small to register! Needless to say I didn't make it into the office yesterday.

I'm hoping that this will be the simple cure for all the problems I've been having... and not just the start of a saga of "oh, it still didn't heal right, let's have another go..." That would SUCK! I can't afford any more time off work right now. The perils of being contract scum.

I guess we'll just have to wait and... see... or not!

Oh, and do you want to know what really sucks? My DVD copy of "Please Call Home" arrived and I've not been able to watch it (for obvious reasons!)

March 20, 2009

Spring Sprung!

Spring is here! Spring is here!

Gorgeous weather here in London today (and for the past few). Looks like more of the same for the weekend!

First order of the day. Magic Ship gig in Brentford tonight. Right now it's not looking good for me making it, but I'm trying to figure that out! Anyone who wants a (free!) good rockin' time, get down to The Globe and support the band. Details on their website, here.

Did I mention it's free? What I didn't say is that they're doing 2 sets, including new material. Should be a good time with a few beers.

What else? Jamiroquai's made a new album. That came in under the radar.

Going to see Lyle Lovett tomorrow. I have no clue about his music so I'm going in blind! Fingers crossed, eh?

On the Rockschool front, we had a lesson yesterday and I told Teach that due to time constraints I was finding myself spending more time practicing the performance pieces than the techniques, which is a bad, bad thing! I'm not 100% sure that I'm even going to bother taking the exam, so really what I want out of school is to maximise my improvement. Teach suggested that maybe what I should do is switch to the Grade 4 pieces for the exam, which should free up practice time for the stuff that really interests me. I think I agree with him! I had a look at some of the Grade 4 pieces on YouTube and I reckon I could nail each of them in a matter of hours. They still contain all the techniques that I want to practice, but they're just a little less challenging. Ironically, I also think that some of the Grade 6 pieces are easier (for me) to play than the Grade 5 ones!

Anywho, that's about it. Looks set to be a beautiful weekend! Maybe I'll put in some 'garden strumming time'.

Oh, and here's some gratuitous guitar porn for y'all on a Friday. I'm not in the market for a new guitar, but if I were I'd definitely be checking one of these out: the D'Angelico New Yorker solidbody. You can get one with a Bigsby tremelo, but, y'know, I hate tremelos, so I think I'd save $100 and stick with the basic...

March 18, 2009

Demos, Demos, Demos...

I realised today that I don't really have any decent demos to point people towards as and when I post/respond to band-member ads.

D'Oh!

Around a year ago I promised myself that I would record some stuff but then never got around to it. I was going to have another crack at some before I started my search again, but, well, I have the self-control of... someone without much self-control.

What to do... what to do...

I still have my book of 101 unfinished song ideas that I need to get back to... along with my head full of 101 unstarted song ideas. Need focus. Joining the band and attending Rockschool really took up all my spare time and creativity. Now that I'm band-free I guess I should force myself to get back on track.

Actually, what I need is a month off work, somewhere sunny, with a (metaphorical) tape recorder and my guitars... oh, and a beach (if I'm dreaming I might as well dream, eh?)

And a drum machine... and a bass.

I suppose I could download some backing tracks and just jam over them. That'd be a start, at least. I'd prefer to work up full songs of my own devising, but that takes time, which would be a luxury at the moment.

What's a boy to do, eh?

Don't answer that.

March 13, 2009

Bish Bash Bosh

Okay, considering I was going to take a break from blogging, I seem to have been posting rather a lot lately! I have 10 minutes, so I figured I'd grab myself a coffee and bash out a couple of things.

First off, news to me today was that Placebo have found themselves a new drummer and are in the studio recording a follow-up to the most-wonderful "Meds". They're playing loads of non-UK festivals, but fingers crossed for some tour dates in Blighty over the summer!

Next up, Wacko Jacko at the O2. We have tickets... along with a significant proportion of other Londoners. I wasn't going to go, but Tim insisted. I WILL HAVE FUN (I've been told!)

Thirdly, I was back at Rockschool last night. Just 4 of us in class. The focus of the lesson was on muting, both in terms of using left/right hands to mute non-struck strings to stop them from ringing out and also karate-chop muting with the right hand as part of a strumming pattern. I'm useless at the latter, so I need to practice. We had been told that there would be no Ritual Humiliation (ie performances of the songs we're supposed to be learning) but Teach pulled a 180 with half an hour to go and we had to stand up and do our thing. I have to say that in the three weeks I've not been to class, the other guys have really improved. I've definitely fallen behind. At this point I'm supposed to have 3 songs down and be working on a 4th. I reckon I have 3 half-songs down and no clue about another. Joy, joy!

What else? In 'product' news I've ordered myself some 'Fret Doctor'. Red's fingerboard is really drying out and needs some TLC. Damn high-end guitars! Apparently you just use your finger to smear on a dab here and there, wait, wipe off the excess and bingo! Fingerboard perfection! We'll see how well it works. I'm not one for using too many products like this, but I've heard good things about Fret Doctor and historically I've shied away from 'the other solution' of using lemon oil as I remember reading somewhere that the unfinished Les Paul necks don't like it... I may have misread that, but it stuck in my mind for some reason, freaking me out.

And finally, I ordered an amp cover for the Blackstar HT-5 Combo from Silverstone. Don't want to risk getting dust in my pots, do I?

Hmmm... must be coming up on concert season, too! Lyle Lovett next weekend, followed by Jason Mraz then the Derek Trucks band in both London and Man-chest-er! Good times!

March 12, 2009

What Am I Like!?!?

I told myself that I was going to wait a few months before looking for new bandmates... I was forming a plan. I was going to write out starter notes to give me direction and to get everyone aligned from the get-go. I was going to have everything mapped out.

I've already posted an ad!

I have absolutely no self-control these days, I tell ya.

Please Call Home - Update

I noticed recently that this site gets a lot of hits from people looking for the movie "Please Call Home".

"From 1970 to 1973, the Allman Brothers Band called the Tudor-style mansion on Vineville Avenue in Macon, GA, their home. “The Big House,” as it came to be known, quickly became the communal hub for the band, their family and friends, and that magical era is brought back to life in the long-awaited DVD release of Please Call Home: The Big House Years. This wonderful film, shot in stunning Hi-Def, captures all the joy and sorrow, triumphs and tragedies that the Allman Brothers Band experienced under the roof of the Big House."

Allman Brothers, new footage, me wantee! Until now I've had difficulty finding out what happened to the movie as it seemed to just drop off the face of the planet. Given the number of "Please Call Home" related hits I was getting I did some more digging and I just found out this morning that the film is available for purchase on region-free DVD.

For those interested, follow the "Buy DVD" link from the movie's website, here. I've placed my order already, so hopefully I'll get to finally see it soon!

March 10, 2009

For A Friend

Not meant to be lyrics. Not meant to be poetry. Just something that came as one, unformed lump into my brain when thinking about one of our friends, Andy.

"Southbound on the Westside Train"

Andy, where are you going to?
What treasure do you hope to find?
A long and lonely one way trip
Southbound on the Westside train

It's too, too late for an Uptown boy
You'll never find your way tonight
Lay back down and rest a while
Hold on for the morning light

Three warm days and three dark nights
A beggars banquet of desire
One last plea to hold on tight
One more time before the dawn

Andy, who fills up your dreams?
What memory is now most dear?
You hide your eyes and ride the rails
Southbound on the Westside train

State Of Play

This is where I'm at.

The band EXPLODED whilst we were away for Mardi Gras. I'm not too cut up about it as I really enjoyed playing with everyone, but I could feel each of us pulling in different direction. I knew, pretty much since before Xmas, that either we had to get our crap in a sock straight away or it just wasn't going to happen. Politics to one side I had a damn fine time. We didn't make it to the gigging stage, but that's okay. All round it was great experience.

I'm not going to actively look for another band right now. I'm also not going to be putting too much effort into Rockschool, though I still plan on attending. My guess is that sometime after the summer break this year I'll start looking at putting a band together again. In the interim there's lots going on at home and work to keep me fully engaged.

I actually feel like my playing has come together pretty well. The new amp, coupled with Red, is inspirational. It sounds so good. I feel optimistic about all things musical. I want to get back to basics and, when inspired, write new material that I can bring to a new band. Musically I have a direction. I know what makes my heart sing and why. I'm not planning on doing the 'solo project' thing, but I don't want to be constrained by other band members' input. I feel like a psychadelic seed pod that's ready to burst. I'm all 'texture and tone'.

I still want to write (words, that is), but this isn't the right place for such scribblings. My head is full of life and love. My mental boing-o-meter is vibrating on 'Spring'.

Does any of that make sense? Ach, it doesn't have to.

March 9, 2009

Almost Back...

...in the land of the living.

I'm not actually certain whether I'm going to continue writing this blog. When we got back from New Orleans I'd decided not to. Why? I guess the 2009 Mardi Gras Madness got hold of me like a hurricane and tore the roof off my world. That's not a bad thing. Revisiting New Orleans gave me the slap in the face I needed to say, Ken, time for some changes! I'm still bewitched by the Crescent City and all its surreality. My head is spinning like the needle in a game of naked twister. Paradigms are still shifting.

I can't tell you 99% of what happened over Mardi Gras, not because I can't remember (!) but because, well, Mardi Gras is like Vegas... What happens there stays there. I will relate one story to you, though, to give you an idea of the weirdness that fills my world when I find myself South of I-10. In some ways it's relevant to the continuance (or not) of this site.

The scene: upstairs at a balcony bar. Fat Tuesday. Alcohol. It was getting on for midnight and all the good beads had changed hands. We expected the street cleaners to make their pilgrammage down Bourbon, lights flashing, brushes scraping the pavement. You know that when the street cleaners come, Mardi Gras is over. The drinking doesn't stop, but the MARDI GRAS drinking does. As it happened, this year the street cleaners never made it as far as Cafe Lafitte. A tradition broken in 2009.

So, it's getting on for midnight and I'm amongst friends, drinking, partying, having a damn fine time. Through the crowd I see a ragged looking black (African American) guy staring at me. I smile at him and he starts shuffling his way through the crowd towards me. No biggie, we're all having fun. I strike up a converation with him and he seems grateful of the attention. I'd have put the guy in his 80s, but as we talk he starts in with his story, letting me know that he was born and raised in New Orleans and had lived there for 46 years. 46? If he's 46 then it's been a rough road.

Needing to get back into the scene with our friends I wish him a happy Mardi Gras and give him a hug. He hugs back then deliberately presses what feels like a quarter into my palm. In a low voice he whispers, 'Keep this. Don't lose it. Don't give it away. It'll take you wherever you want to go.'

So, I thank him and give him another hug, pocketing 'the quarter'. You have to understand that this wasn't the strangest thing that had happened to me that day. If you're good I'll tell you about the naked spitting guy with the mouse up his butt... or not... I remember thinking that being given a quarter by a New Orleansean was pretty cool and that I shouldn't get it mixed it with my change so that I could put it in Red's case for good luck.

When I awoke the following morning(ish) I remembered what had happened and fished the thing out of my trouser pocket. It wasn't a quarter... it was a cool-looking transit token from the Westside Transit Company, with the letter W cut out from the centre. On one side it had the operator name and on the other were the words:

"Good For One Fare"

Now, I don't know what posessed the guy to single me out at midnight on Fat Tuesday. I don't know why he felt I deserved to be touched by this mojo but boy, to me the moment that he pressed the thing into my palm was 100% pure Mardi Gras Magic.

February 19, 2009

45 Minutes To Go...

Not that I'm counting or anything.

Damn, I'm tired. I'll definitely sleep through most of the flight out!

44 minutes to go...

43 minutes to go...

Oh, must check the inflight entertainment! Best to see what I'll be missing!

February 18, 2009

One More Day To Go!

Just got to get through one more day of work, finish packing, deliver the cat to the old folks' home, find our stash of beads... maybe fit in one more trip to the gym and WE'RE AWAY!!!!

I forget what the exact flight times are, but it's something like 10 hours to Dallas, then immigration and a short hop (90 minutes?) over to New Orleans.

I reckon that if all things go smoothly we'll be arriving at our hotel room around cocktail hour... whenever that may be!

A couple of our friends will already be there... probably waiting for us in the lobby! Another arrives on Sunday... just in time to miss the Derek Trucks concert the night before! Yay!

This may be my last post before we go, so... TTFN!

February 17, 2009

Rockin' Rollercoaster

Okay, so obviously our return to New Orleans after an absence of 4 years and 1 hurricane is going to bring with it a mixture of emotions. For selfish reasons I'll admit that I've been trying to keep sight of the good times rather than dwell on the tragedies of the past.

I first set foot in The Crescent City in 2002, but I already knew that I'd fall in love with it. I had an idea of what it would be like, based on books, movies and the music, but I also saw the truth light up in Tim's eyes whenever he spoke of his pilgrimages to Nawlins during the decade before we met.

I still remember the first hurricane to pass close following my first visit. I was absolutely terrified that something bad would happen. Ever since then I put myself on hurricane watch, tracking storms through the Gulf using the National Hurricane Center website.

At the time of our wedding in February 2005, right in the heart of the French Quarter (not even a block away from Bourbon Street) I'd racked up something like 5 of my own pilgrammages, including two Mardi Gras'.

I was so proud that we had got to that point, that our family and friends were there to share it with us. I was also proud to play tour guide for my folks in the town that I'd come to see as a mirror of my soul. In my dreams I hoped that someday Tim and I would retire to New Orleans, buy a house with a back porch or a balcony and that I'd pick away my dotage, bluesing it up for the passers-by.

I still remember vividly the moment that my Dad stopped in the middle of the street, halfway down Royal, put his hand to his head and muttered, "This is crazy. I'm sorry, son, but this place is a disaster waiting to happen. It's not going to be around long!"

It was the day before our wedding and, really, I just blew off the comment. New Orleans had been around for a long time. It was steeped in history. It had survived storms and flooding in the past. It would prevail.

If there's one thing I know about my father, though, is that he's a superb engineer and he knows a hell of a lot about coastal construction, erosion, defences and so on. I already knew that in principal he was right. New Orleans sits in a basin below sea-level and a direct hit from a hurricane of sufficient magnitude to break the levees would flood the entire area. I knew that in principal he was right. I simply didn't want to believe that fate would be so cruel.

It was.

Seven months later, along came Katrina.

I don't even want to go into the emotions that swept in with the hurricane. Even on the other side of the planet the plight of the people caught up in the storm was felt as a sucker-punch to the gut.

For days I watched the drama unfurl. I watched the waters rush then creep in, ever closer to my beloved Vieux Carre. Miraculously, the flooding stopped short of the boundaries of the 'old' town and even left the Garden District broadly untouched.

The toll of the storm in terms of loss and human misery was immense, but I clung to the single ray of hope that New Orleans could come back as long as its precious heart was still beating. In my mind, as long as the French Quarter was there, there was still a chance for recovery.

I still don't know whether New Orleans will come back, and if it does, what form it'll take. A huge part of its soul was in the people, and the people were scattered far and wide. Many... most, even, have not returned.

The Big Easy is still there, and in three days we'll find out how much of her spirit remains intact. As I said, I'm trying to set my sights on the fun side of this trip. The Good Times. This morning, though, I was listening to Susan Tedeschi's new album, "Back To The River", which includes the track "700 Houses". It brought a tear to my eye so I figured I owed it to everyone who loves New Orleans to share the song with them.

Here you go...



Lookin' out my window
What do I see?
700 houses
Scattered in front of me
Silence all around me
Deafening the air
Not a sign of anyone
I just had to stare

What is this madness?
My hopes and dreams are sand
All the signs that led me home
Are scattered to the wind
I'm searching for my friends
And shaking in my skin
Where have all of my Saints gone?
Will they come marching in?

What can be done?
Another storm to overcome
What can be done?
What can be done?
Another storm to overcome
Now...

Let's pick up the pieces
From this tragedy
You and I must come to terms
With this reality
I'm lost and I'm looking
My city's washed away
But you know that I'll be back
I'm coming back to stay

What can be done?
Another storm to overcome
What can be done?
What can be done?
Another storm to overcome
Now...

Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out!



Check this out! Click on the picture above and you should get a new window with one of the 'live' street cams on Bourbon Street! You can change cam by clicking on 'Cam 2'. So, at the time I typed this it's 4:15am over there on the Tuesday one week before Mardi Gras day! Not too much happening right now. Things should start to heat up on Thursday as the tourists hit the town. We get there on Friday night... and the party will start-ey!

It's all down hill from there, baby!

February 16, 2009

Countdown To Mardi Gras



It's a coming! We still have to dig out our old (prized!) beads from storage, pack, book a taxi to the airport... lots of things! BUT, the countdown to Mardi Gras has started. In just 4 days we'll be on a plane, headed west to Dallas then back east to The Big Easy.

Woo-hoo!!!!

First stop hotel room (to be decorated appropriately with a selection of beads!)

Next stop Bombay Club for a martini or two, perhaps rendezvous with friends old and new

Next stop? Maybe a parade... maybe a bar!

Next stop? Rebirth Brass Band at the Howlin' Wolf!

Wooooo-hoooooo!!!!

Meanwhile back in Guitar Land, UK. Teach from Rockschool suggested that a good strategy for improvising was to follow the changes and to try to emphasise the chord notes within the framework of, say, the minor pentatonic.

Now, I've had decent success with pentatonics in the past, but I've never really put any effort into targetting chord tones for emphasis. SO! I made a map! Do you want to see it? Do you? DO YOU?!?!

I started off by plotting out the minor pentatonic shape (G minor in the example). I then overlayed the I, IV and V chords along with the root note for each case. The idea was that I wanted to split up the big 'across the fingerboard', 2-octave boxes into smaller chunks which could then be used over each chord.

Here's an extended pentatonic pattern that I tend to use:

  0   1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9  10  11  12  13
e |---|---|--R|---|---|--O|---|--O|---|--O|---|---|--O|
B |---|---|--O|---|---|--O|---|--R|---|---|--O|---|--O|
G |---|---|--O|---|--O|---|--O|---|---|--O|---|--R|---|
D |---|---|--O|---|--R|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|
A |---|---|--O|---|--O|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|
E |---|---|--R|---|---|--O|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|

The I chord overlay would look like this, where O represents notes in the chord and ':' represents a non-chordal tone which you would try to use as a passing note only.

  0   1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9  10  11  12  13
e |---|---|--R|---|---|--O|---|--:|---|--O|---|---|--:|
B |---|---|--O|---|---|--:|---|--R|---|---|--O|---|--:|
G |---|---|--O|---|--:|---|--O|---|---|--:|---|--R|---|
D |---|---|--:|---|--R|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|
A |---|---|--:|---|--O|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|
E |---|---|--R|---|---|--O|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|

Okay, so the I chord has lots and lots of options for mini-boxes to make licks out of. You're pretty much sorted as all three chord notes are represented within the minor pentatonic.

For example, a good box might be:

  0   1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9  10  11  12  13
e |---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|
B |---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|
G |---|---|--O|---|--:|---|--O|---|---|---|---|---|---|
D |---|---|--:|---|--R|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|
A |---|---|--:|---|--O|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|
E |---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|

Where you can do a 5-7 bend or slide on the G-string.

The IV and V chords are a bit more problematic, as the minor pentatonic only contains two of the three chord tones.

So here's the IV chord mapping:

  0   1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9  10  11  12  13
e |---|---|--R|---|---|--:|---|--O|---|--:|---|---|--:|
B |---|---|--:|---|---|--:|---|--R|---|---|--:|---|--O|
G |---|---|--:|---|--O|---|--:|---|---|--:|---|--R|---|
D |---|---|--:|---|--R|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|
A |---|---|--O|---|--:|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|
E |---|---|--R|---|---|--:|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|

Hmmm... slim pickings, eh?

If we wanted to stay put on the fingerboard we might stick with a similar box to the I chord, but with a different emphasis, for example:

  0   1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9  10  11  12  13
e |---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|
B |---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|
G |---|---|--:|---|--O|---|--:|---|---|---|---|---|---|
D |---|---|--:|---|--R|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|
A |---|---|--O|---|--:|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|
E |---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|

Or perhaps we might move up an octave to the following:

  0   1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9  10  11  12  13
e |---|---|---|---|---|--:|---|--O|---|---|---|---|---|
B |---|---|---|---|---|--:|---|--R|---|---|---|---|---|
G |---|---|---|---|---|---|--:|---|---|---|---|---|---|
D |---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|
A |---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|
E |---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|

Starting to get tricky, eh? But sometimes limiting yourself means that you have to be creative with what you have!

Let's do the same for the V chord.

  0   1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9  10  11  12  13
e |---|---|--R|---|---|--:|---|--:|---|--O|---|---|--O|
B |---|---|--O|---|---|--O|---|--R|---|---|--:|---|--:|
G |---|---|--:|---|--:|---|--O|---|---|--O|---|--R|---|
D |---|---|--O|---|--R|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|
A |---|---|--:|---|--O|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|
E |---|---|--R|---|---|--:|---|---|---|---|---|---|---|

Hey, maybe that's not to bad. Again we have a box right back where we started on the A, D and G strings, then another similar to the second, higher box for the IV chord. We also have a pretty cool box up around the 12th fret which looks like this once it's been extended up to the 15th fret:

  8   9  10  11  12  13  14  15
e |---|--O|---|---|--O|---|--R|
B |---|---|--:|---|--:|---|--O|
G |---|--O|---|--R|---|---|---|
D |---|---|---|---|---|---|---|
A |---|---|---|---|---|---|---|
E |---|---|---|---|---|---|---|

So, we can get some great repeating licks from the root note on the G-string to the 11th and 13th on the B. We can bend the 13th on the B-string up to 15 to get up to a chord tone. Pull in the 13th on the high E with your pinky and you add a touch of country twang. Hell, as long as you don't dawdle between the 13th and 15th on the B-string then you should be golden.

Instinctively I know that this stuff should all work as penatonics are so generic that they generally work in 90% of cases anyway. I need to actually sit down with them and listen to the tension/release they generate over a I-IV-V, though, to see how practical this approach is for effective soloing!

UPDATE!

Teach just emailed me a couple of points to ponder. Consider thinking about the chord shapes themselves when soloing, so in this case the G would be an Em-shape barre, the C (IV) would be an Am-shape, but then the D in this position would be a Cm shape! Also, obviously you're not restricted to the Gm pentatonic, you could also add in Gm blues and G natural minor scales, all of which work just fine.

February 13, 2009

Rockschool Blurp

No time for a real post so you'll have to settle for a blurp!

Rockschool last night. Improvisation 101. Nothing major (or minor) that I didn't know here. Really just scene setting. Chords in a key. That kind of thing.

Touched on places where you either have to change the scale you're using or at least miss out notes that are going to clash when you come across chords that don't actually fit into a key but which have been substituted.

Need to lay down some chord sequences and practice targetting notes within the chord then using the other scale notes as passing notes. Putting the right EM-phasis on the right syll-AB-le.

That's your lot! No Rockschool next week, then after that we're in New Orleans. Time for a break but mustn't get lazy and fall too far behind!

February 11, 2009

Mardi Gras Memories

In the run up to Fat Tuesday I can't help but think back on times gone by...

Here are just a few Mardi Gras Memories from my scrapbook!

Solo Mojo

My thoughts on learning to improvise:

A B A B A A A F...

AA AAB BAAF DAAA...

IF PLAT ME TUNE SOLO MEL MEL ODY...

ME PLAY SOLO LOUD FEEL NOT...

PAPA, CAN YOU HEAR ME...?

HELLO? IS THIS coming THROUGH?...

One must learn to use notes, phrases, accent, VOLUME and, above all, timing to create a mellifluous sound!

February 10, 2009

Down On The Corner

We're starting to really look forward to Mardi Gras! Just over a week to go before we fly out. Can't wait!

If you find yourself out and about in the Vieux Carre, here are just a few of the places you might be able to track us down, courtesy of Google Maps' street view!

First off, let's start the day right with a hearty breakfast of biscuits & gravy at Deja Vu!



After an hour or two on the streets, it's time for a quick cup of chicory coffee at the Cafe du Monde...



If that caffeine jolt gets you flying, there's nothing better to help gravity regain its grip than a plateful of red beans and rice with andouille sausage from Coop's Place!



So those beers you had over lunch are starting to kick in! Keep that buzz going until it's time for the Derek Trucks band show at the House of Blues...



Woo-hoo! That was a great show, wasn't it? Time for a few more cocktails before settling in for a 4am hub-cap burger at the Clover Grill! Yum!



A couple more beers to wash down the snack and it's time for one last stumble down Bourbon Street before bed...



Laissez Les Bon Temps Roulez!

Oh, and today I seem to be on a 'let's see if it's on last.fm' tip. Inspired by a posting on Pribek, I got to thinking about guitar players who actually sound like they're playing guitar, so for your listening pleasure, here's Duane Allman lending a hand to Boz Skaggs on "Loan Me A Dime".

But don't think I'm gonna let you leave New Orleans without a bit of Rebirth! Check out their totally second-line-tastic cut of "Do Whatcha Wanna". Yeah, BABY!

Please Be With Me

No reason... just because...

Upon my word what does it mean?
Is it love or is it me
That makes me change so suddenly
From looking out to feeling free?

I sit here lying in my bed
Wondering what it was I said
That made me think I lost my head
When I knew I lost my heart instead.

So won't you please read my signs
Be a gypsy
Tell me what I hope to find deep within me
And because you can find my mind
Please be with me.

Of all the better things I've heard
Loving you has made the words
And all the rest seem so absurd
'Cause in the end it all comes out I'm sure.

So won't you please read my signs
Be a gypsy
Tell me what I hope to find deep within me
And because you can find my mind
Please be with me.


From "5'll Getcha 10" (1971) by Cowboy
Scott Boyer & Tommy Talton

Do your soul some good and check out the non-album cut featuring Duane Allman (taken from "Duane Allman - An Anthology") by clicking here.