Monday, November 29, 2004

Weekends take it out of you...

... and needless to say, with cleaning (ah, the venerable institution of quarterly visits from the agents - at least Lane Fox are interested in how we're doing rather than the house :) and CBT (which I passed - I can now ride a 125 with L plates, which is really useful for me with a 981cc monster classic virago!) I didn't pick up a bass all weekend - apart from showing Chloe from Lane Fox the Ashbory. Which doesn't count.

Cap it all off, I've got problems with time available all this week, with it being the end of the month. I'll have to find some somewhere... just not sure where.

CBT was fun - a morning in a very cold carpark near Thatcham Station, but getting great thrills having a bike under control for the first time, then changing gears and stopping.

In the afternoon, went out on the road in Thatcham and Newbury - talk about your baptism of fire. Fire would have been a welcome addition, as it was 1)cold, 2)wet 3)windy and 4)dark! - but I managed to persuade Steve the instructor I wouldn't kill myself just yet if I was out on the road.

Tell you what, if that's what a 17 year old has to go through to get out on the road, no wonder they seem to want to kill themselves out there - although it's a good few hours of riding, I had never even got on a bike before I got there, and by the end I'm told I can fly about at 60 to 70 MPH (which you can manage on good 125s) with L plates on for 2 years. More than enough time to have a final argument with an oak, I'd say...

So now it's 3-hour sessions on 125s and moving up to 500s until I can take my test, at which point I'll be qualified to actually ride the virago.

Got all the leathers too. Spent nearly as much as I did on the bike, but they look the part, and I invested in a 150 quid Caberg helmet with a fold-up chin piece, so it's a full-face helmet where you can pull up the chin piece if you wish (it's good for petrol stations and the like).

Saturday, November 27, 2004

Dillinger escape plan tear a hole in the oxford zodiac!

Ow, I've just been sonically slammed by 3 acts whose choppy time changes and terrifying energy brought me similtaneously back 15 years and forward to the present day. Anthrax used to chop about a bit occasionally, but these guys were truly spectcular.

First act on were Ephel Duath, who we missed a small part of in a cool pub just up the road (where we decided to wait with an excellent hoegarten) - these guys were tight as anything, with an excellent drummer who was on a click all the way through and looked totally chille all the way through. Top drummer. Great bassist, mad vocalist (all 3 bands tonight had the napalm death style of vocals in common) and a trombone player who used several great effects, including delay, pitch shift and distortion. Really complex songs, with intricate guitar and bass interplay overaid on some very shifting rhythms. Dream theatre meets Slayer meets Snuff? Eek!

Second act Poison The Well were even more brutal, and the pit got frantic after the mixture of space and light/shade in their dense and (again!) complex tight sound whipped the nutters into a royal tribal frenzy. Some great full-on Brent-esque moshing.

Dillinger were the most impressive 5 person machine I've ever seen, I think: they broke 2 guitars and a bass during their set with sheer force of playing and the stagediving (one of the guitarits took to leaping from the bassists' 8x10 Ampeg goliath cab!) so the guitar tech with the maglite clamped between his teeth gave us some extra light effects. Nice.

I don't know any Dillinger tracks, but I'll be finding some soon. It's a trite thing to say, but this is a band which seemed right on the edge of falling apart in several songs, only to pull back into another brutally heavy tempo change. Some of the most complex rhythms I've heard in this genre: at points I actually heard some stuff which really reminded me of Rush. Honest!

Music Update:
I've had Joost's track on constant rotation for the last couple of days, nice slow funky slick triplet version of superstition by stevie wonder. Now all I need to do is sit down and learn it properly so when it comes time to record next friday I can really impress. Could be tricky to find any time this weekend - but I will. Nothing should stand in the way of my music, otherwise there's no point in continuing.

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

"Acid Wit"

I'm getting increasingly concious of my demeanour during the day. The gut reactions I have to situations are seeing me lash out quickly and repent later (if at all, as I was surprised to find yesterday).

It's interesting how subjecting yourself to something (say, a crap day job) day after day which on some level you find repellent in its lack of imagination, lack of direction, lack of focus and lack of energy can in fact whittle your sense of humour to a rather nasty point.

I'm worried that staying in situations like that makes you a smaller person, and that's self-defeating. Is sticking around for 6 months while you wait for a place to inevitably shut down so you receive some form of payout a wise thing to do IF in the process you become so jaded, so conditioned to believe that only those who are least qualified to lead end up doing so?

Why is it (particularly in the UK) we have such appalling managers? Such spineless, spiteful, mentally decrepit, report-obsessed spacks? It's an old addage, but in the world of engineering, those who can, do, those who can't get put in charge of a project and ultimately get promoted.

Don't think, for a minute, that I'm interested in heading up some fatuous project. My ambitions lie on very different paths. Like the one that goes over a cliff (I don't have any ambitions)... I used to dream of being famous for being a bassist, but I wonder if there's any point now. Music is as throwaway as the Maccy D box in the gutter, and wraps just as many products. When was the last time you registered good pop or rock as it was played like some form of lift music behind another BBC or ITV trailer? It's sad, really. Only live music can now really satisfy, which might indicate partly why so many acts are going back out on the road....

No Citrus Waltz mixing done yet...

.. and there's another project on the horizon. Joost, the enthusiastic young demon skinsman, has dropped the CD of songs to learn for recording at his college (for his course), and I've got to digest, learn style, etc before the 3rd of December so I can record it. I think I'll be working late on this stuff until then... there's a house inspection next monday to cope with as well (Rosemore is a BIG house) and the windows are all mouldy with the weather turning... argh!

Mind you, I realised on the way home last night what an opportunity getting digital multitracks of citrus waltz down actually represents: I can take out the fluffs in the bass parts, fix the bits where Smurf's temperamental amp chopped out (apparently, according to a guy in the music store where Smurf took it in to try to get it fixed, these Marshall Valvestates don't like gigging!) and apply VST effects to my heart's content. I could even record some extra instrumentation/effects/vocals... although those'd definitely be well in the future!

With nearly all the band having Cubase now, I think a DVDR of the stuff we've recorded in it's original Cubase form would be a great starting point for something more demo-like - and not the sort of demo we used to make to get university hall of residence balls in St Andrews (oh yes, gentle reader, I used to play in bands in St Andrews University where Prince William's presence has rendered the place culturally sterile and rich at the same time - spent 9 years plying my bass skills in various bands...) - this demo will be something much more enduring, and a tad easier on the ear :)

I read yesterday an editorial where an ol lady said "you never feel much older than 28 inside anyway" - I'm starting to wonder if it's actually younger than that for some... I still can't bring myself to clean entire houses out of habit, still need someone to be coming to look around the house with a (reasonably) critical eye to get me started on the oven :)

Not the houseproud type, clearly.

Oh, and it's CBT on sunday: the first step to getting the virago into gear, so to speak. I did run it on sunday before everybody left so they could hear it. It never fails to disappoint me... just noticed this morning though, the cover for the left hand side supplementary fuel tank is missing! Must have fallen off somewhere down the line. I'll have to get a new one of those, although I have a suspicion it'll be a yamaha dealer job :)

Still haven't cleaned the left hand side yet!

Monday, November 22, 2004

What a weekend...

Well, the great Citrus Waltz Rosemore Session went with a multi-coned and heavily amplified bang!

The results (6 Cubase live multi-track recording projects) will not be carefully pored over to polish them to a previously unthought-of quality for CW recordings.

I'll be burning the projects onto DVD and sending them out to the guys as well, so they can tinker.

Smurf's Marshall misbehaved a bit though, it keeps "popping" and dropping out, like the mosfet is overheating for a split second, then it rapidly evens out and continues along as if nothing happened. I'll have to do some fly editing to the recordings of his guitar (the Peavey SM58-a-likes do a fine job of getting a good sound from his amp!) and use good sections to paste over the pops.

Greg seems to have adjusted to rubber drums really well :) Perhaps a little drive on his drums will warm them up a bit.

I was stunned at the effect (no pun intended) when I applied a little VST "tube" drive to the bass track. I was unimpressed by the top end I was getting on the G string snaps in STD, and couldn't really get any life into them using the VST channel parametrics. Apply a little tube warmth first, and BANG! I can hear them popping out really nicely!

Pity we didn't have more time, doubling the guitars would make the sound much much bigger. Maybe Smurf can work on that once I distribute the recordings!

I now realise I really do need a PA as well. Having Pete essentially sing through my HiFi (although it can take the heat) was a little disconcerting. Something not too high powered, just a power amp and a couple of 12" cabs.

And emptying the crap out of the corner of the studio made me realise how much the room needs reorganising!

All in all, a nice little musical weekend. We even worked on a new track which I had thought before didn't need drums or bass - but once the 4-way magic lemon mojo got working, I was convinced we can do this track some serious justice! It's not what I expected at all... and fretless to boot!

Comedy musical moment for me was playing the Chili's "Can't Stop" on the Ashbory (which is minus a G string until I get the sets from Germany!)... and also playing a funked-up ad-hoc version of "I will survive", which Greg rose to splendidly (splashy pop hihats ahoy)


Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Citrus Fun!

Well, spoke to Petey C (erstwhile crooner and fellow Citrus Slice) last night, and it's all on: the clan will be reunited on Saturday morning, to much noise and fun. Smurf's amp is coming as well, and may work(!) - if it doesn't, I'll have to think of a solution :)

There will be new music (gasp) so it's a good job I just realised it was wednesday and not thursday. A little more time to think up something interesting. I quite fancy some really cheesy rock basslines, maybe even with a pick(!) - a canadian rock parody perhaps?

New year plans
Pete also tells me he's got some fireworks that didn't get used Nov 5th as they were too big for the garden: so they're making their way to us at new year! Decided it'll be a great idea to get even more and have an impressive display. So that's at least one thing organised. heh! Looks like it'll be a real val doonican new year, with the house hopefully full of people who don't want the clamour of a huge street party this year.

Bikey bikey
Been cleaning and polishing again! It does come up nice. You can see your face in the air cleaner cover on the RHS!

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Jazz - too much like hard work?

I read an interview (in bass guitar magazine) with the bassist who used to play with Kajagoogoo (OK, I'm going off subject, you think, but bear with me, gentle reader) - Nick Beggs (, a man who always has something to say.

One idea of his which I've thought on recently was that it was a great idea to learn jazz for the chops, but there's no money in it.

Now I've been metaphorically flogging myself for quite some time about my lack of jazz acumen ( not least because I've attended a few open Jazz nights in Newbury) but it's such hard work... you really need to have some analytical brainpower left at the end of the day to try to squeeze some of this theory into your head. Ideally, I'd love to go back to college again, but hey, this is the one life I have to live, and unfortunately I am now supposed to be a paying member of society, so there you go. Night courses don't sound like they'd do any justice...


Monday, November 15, 2004


What a weekend.

Jools, he who gave me a pillion fairground-style ride on his Suzuki (imagine those boat rides you can get on holiday which seem to get too close to the cliffs but never have you in any real danger) came over saturday night. Much beer, wine and whisky was consumed by yours truly - sunday got off to a slow start.

A truly stunning sunny day (frost!) and Nic, Jools and I decided Sunday Roast was in order. So Jools, who had helpfully brought his spare helmet with him, kindly agreed to take the Virago for a spin into Newbury (just as well, it's SORN city for it soon until i get the license) so we could pick up a chicken, etc at Tescos. Very domestic.

The thing really is a monster, even from at the back. Feels so cool when it leans over, real easy rider stuff. Goes well with two on - can't wait to try it on my own.

One tank top-up later (under a tenner) and we're on our way back, with nods from other bikers (the sense of community is infectious) and it's a slap up meal and the Rosemore Oven Baked Orange/Lemon Chicken House. Niiiiiice.


Got all the resources I can muster together to plan out scales regimen: something more structured than the hastily scribbled table of keys, spacing scale types out over a week so I don't get piss bored running through major scales.

I'll be adding arpeggios as well, this is an area I've criminally ignored. Arps are built from chords. Want to make more interesting basslines? Want to manage walking jazz and move around more?: work on your arps.

Did I mention the top string's already snapped on the Ashbory? Tch! Typical! Now I have to source strings from somewhere. Oh, and I still haven't bought that talc.


Friday, November 12, 2004

(Actually from yesterday)

well, it's late and I've been tinkering with the Virago!

I've isolated the indicator problem, I reckon: it's actually the ignition key barrel. I had the seat off, which didn't take too long. This exposes all the relays, which I don't think had been looked at in ages.

After working out which one was the indcator relay ( the biggest one ) I carefully cleaned the contacts, which were a little corroded. Aha... They worked once I got it all hooked together again, but then stopped after the next turn of the ignition key.

After a little WD40 iin the general area of the ignition, things have improved. The only way to make it a full 100% though is probably going to be a proper stripdown and cleanup of the ignition area. luckily I've got a can of servisol contact cleaner which is right up to the task.

It's going to be so cool! Next I need to get a fuel carrier and bring home some Shell Optimax to top up the tank and keep the small patches of rust inside the tank. Hopefully those can be kept at bay: I don't fancy putting a new tank in!

I've even found retrofit heated hand grips.
Dylan Moran - self loathing genius
Just seen this priceless gem in London - his solo show is a total sidesplit. He's even got a beautiful Bernard-style rant about mobiles prepared for when the predictable Nokia "Trigger Happy" grande valse pipes up.

Almost got the indicators on the virago working last night: got the seat off and started cleaning things (lots of oxidised connections) and WD40ing others. Seemed to help for a bit, then they returned to abnormal intermittent working. I suspect it's time to dismantle and clean the ignition key barrel.

It's going to be a quiet weekend, which means, gentle reader, I shall be working on scale exercises and finally formalising the study regime to be run through. Not sure if I'll do daily or try to space things out over a week: thinking about it, the latter is probably a very good idea. I'd like to not get bored.

The ashbory has broken the top string already! typical, it's probably my fault for not having spent more tme stretching the little rubber bugger. Good job strings are cheap, but ehy're also damn hard to fnd.

Online shopping tp of the day: if parcelforce deliver your dabs parcel to "a local post office", make sure you get info out of them about the EXACT one. Currentlydabs are apparently waiting to hear from parcelforce the results of their interview with the driver about where the hell he has left my stuff.


Favourite song listened to today: jackson cannery by Ben Folds, who just postponed his UK tour by 7 months. Grrr again!

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

For the love of Warwick...

Dear lord, I love that bass. Every time I pick it up, it begs to be played in a way almost none of the others do! I think it's something about the chunky neck, which is quite different to any of the others.

It's a FNA jazzman ltd edition 2002 model, with a stunning swirly bubinga top which apparently came from a stock of woods saved for 10 years. Built to celebrate the Warwick anniversary, by the master bulder himself, it's a stunning instrument. In fact, it's strung 2 guages heavier than my other basses, but those warwick cores make them so flexible I can play anything on there.

In other news... I hope my latest acquisition doesn't impact my playing too much. I bought a motorcycle! A 21 year young Virago XV1000. It's in pretty good nic, starts nicely and came with a workshop manual by an amercan company named "clymer" who totally rule - Haynes would piss in their pants if these guys got their act together over here!

I started it myself for the first time last night. I sounds superb, not too loud but with a wonderful thoaty roar from the 2 coke-bottle sized cylinders!

Something to clean and tinker with mechanically. Nice.

All I have to do now is get my licence... Started that, got to find a date for my CBT, in a weekend somewhere. Then it's direct access (as I'm over 21) over what sounds like about 3 days and then I'm qualified. Classic bike insurance is available, and I could get it for about 200 quid with limited milage (not a problem - I'd be surprised if I manage 3000 miles a year, its's a fun thing and tax is only 33 quid a year at the moment. Don't know a thing about how much MOTs are though!

Rabbit rabbit rabbit... Did I mention the 20th is set as a citrus waltz reunion? Greg wants to try to record "no one knows"...
More musical thoughts.
Well, it's going to be notalgia city on the 20th of november (a conincidnce given my brother's birthday is on that day and I'm headed for his wedding as I type) - for it is..

Citrus Waltz Reunion Recording day (which may be retitled "the john peel sessions" in honour of the great man we lost last week).

Yes, the four horsemen of the prolapsys are getting together again.

And, in the style of some almost-forgotten 80s supergroup, we've had to find a covergence of dates when we're all free :) Hopefully it'll be great fun. Nic will be away at Maria's hen night, which is happening at a center parcs somewhere. It's best not to know where your wife is all the time!

I'm stuck as to what direction to jump in next, musically. Jazz is proving to be great fun and very challenging, which can only be good for me I suppose, but at the same time I can feel that urge for less brain-taxing musical genres which lend themselves to ecstatic audience participation - i.e. The stuff I've played in the past like Funk and Rock. I'll admit the Van Halen-esque good time feel of Mike Tramp's support act the other day left me wanting to get on the stage as part of an instrumental 3-piece rock act and really shock the audiience with a funky, dense, danceable but in-yer-face style of music which never seems to go away (if the VH guys were anything to go by) - the american music market is interesting in this respect: if you're a truly talented rock act, there still seems to be plenty of interest in the genre, and plenty of places to play - especially on the west coast where Nic and I were earlier this year.

The music papers there are crammed full of live music: there doesn't seem to be the same, almost conspiracy-lke complex between these DJs and remix houses and the music press resulting in huge elite "clubs" which cost a fortune to get into and they cut off the mains water at 11pm so they can charge triple for the bottled...

Or then again, maybe the marketplace for musical entertainment in the US is so different, so huge, that it can support that level of diversity: the americans can also be far more loyal to something that they like, not so prone to fashion paranoia as dictated by the music press in the UK and europe. There's a refreshing simplicity, a lack of pretentiousness, about the crossover rock acts in the US, which probably explains why they don't do that well over here.

But getting back to me... Joost, the 17 year old jazz drummer prodigy, will head off to a music college at some point: that's his ultimate aim.
When that happens, I'll be back to square one - looking for someone I can gig with.

This time though, I'll really throw my weight into the finding: I might even advertise and scan ads in Ealing - birthplace of Acid Jazz! Jamiroquai (the original line-up, not the lazy coke-fuelled solo act it is now) and the Brand New Heavies hailed from there.

I suppose an amalgam of Funk (which I adore) and Jazz would be good for me, perhaps with more emphasis on the Jazz aspect - first developing and then working out my theory muscles while actually writng songs.

Sunday, November 07, 2004

6:30pm, friday 5th
Finally! I'm on a flight to Aberdeen with Nic. Think BA have problems due to:
- news story which says they've been auctioning off spare bits of Concorde (ooo, two rollsroyce Avons for £50,000? A toilet cubicle for £5500?) - talk about being strapped for cash.
- Our flight being cancelled - first excuse, "not full enough", then seconds later, "aircraft shortage".

So we wait good-naturedly at a costa for about 2 hours commenting in middle-class ascerbic wit style interjections about Tony B's thoughts on stuff following a loss of 3 men from the 850 british soldiers of the Black watch that 150,000 Mercan (USA) gun-toting blockheads so desperately need.

Honestly, you'd think the US never had to indulge in urban pacifiation, would you? At least northern ireland gives our troops some perspetive: one of the black watch senior commanders was reported as saying they'd be back out on the streets tomorrow: "they can't all be bad", he said. That's the approach that has UK forces in the south patrolling without helmets - although I'm sure that is probably a gross oversimplification, I guess where they are now is more of a hotbed of "insurgents" (which still sounds like a washing powder ingredient to my engineers' ears).

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Old Orleans - non smoking!
Fan-tastic! smoke free dining as i sit here, having enjoyed a starter without any fag smoke drifting in the air like some whispery lung-eatng ghost. Ever seen a bar before the people come in, then been there for clearup at the end? it's not pretty to consider what you were breathing...

Music stuff...
The rebirth is taking a while ;) - the ashbory rubber bass finally came through. Class! takes ages for the strings to stretch in, but that's fair enough, they are made of silicone rubber. Much like this keyboard... guess I'm getting more rubbery.

Drummer boy should be free after this weekend, so normal abnormal funk should recommence at that point. In the meantime, its warmup, scales and bits of Jaco to keep nimble as usual. AND I'm trying to lose weight. Eveything takes so much time...