Monday, December 26, 2005

Snowboarding again!

Well, it's that time of year again. Thanks to Snow and Rock doind another nice service job on the ol' board, it's off to verbier 7th January for some boarding with:

1) No broken bones
2) The right size bindings!

I'm hoping this time around will see me totally burn upbthe piste-and what a piste, Inghams use verbier as their photoshoot place for their brochures. Not since Val D'isere (where I broke a rib, oops) will I have had the opportunity to come down such spectacular slopes. Huge wide open spaces, and the knowledge that finally I'll have the board secured to my feet perfectly. Those last few days in Canada with new SIZE L not XL bindings were a revelation: ankles not burning, front edge work a dream, turning a piece of cake, even though I was nursing a broken wrist!

I'm resolute: I'm going to have a spectacular time. I'm even going to take the ashbory bass and the new korg pandora so I can perhaps have a jam somewhere!

I'l keep blogging to this blog rather than starting a special one like I did last time, I think the URL for that one was - the diary of a broken man, arf arf ;)

Xmas stuff:
Best pressie this year?
I got a dalek and some really nice oakley snowboarding goggles from Nic. Top stuff. Also iPoddery gadgets a gogo. I do love Nic.

I got myself a half decent acoustic, a polycarbonate backed Crafter, stunning stuff!

Right, more food!

Thursday, December 22, 2005

The christmas break! Interesting new year...

Well, a few things are a-changin' for the new year I guess...

First, the Panasonic gig went well - the guys from the PA company and the rest of the band pretty much got there before I did, despite coming down from Oxford to the newbury racecourse, and me coming across from windsor... good PA too, good sound - loud, and seemed to fit the bill.

It's wierd seeing people you see during the day really have some fun - lose their usual external appearance and go for it!

And I'm happy to say the amp survived and sounded great, both at that gig and at the gig we did at the Jericho tavern the other week. I've consulted a few people and there's a consensus emerging that the problem was most likely a dodgy solder joint: my repair should hopefully see the amp be more reliable in future. I'll wait and see before trying to find another one.

It's a christmas break now, with January having a weeks' worth of snowboarding during which I shall NOT be breaking anything.

Y'see, on my return (well, a couple of days later) we're off to do some recording with Andy Chatterley of Skylark in London. Should be fun!!!

Oh, and if I'm lucky (cross fingers) I might get made redundant from the day job, with commensurate redundancy package which will really help Nic and I to stop renting houses, finally. I really need to build a studioroom with all the trimmings, and you just can't do it in a place that isn't yours... a good basement would be ideal ;)

Gotta go.


Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Mr Fixit

I've got this habit, see.

I tend to try to be ready for the worst when it happens. Nothing so grey suit as life insurance, etc - I'm far too busy trying to make sure the active years of my life are spent enjoying it rather than worrying about the output of the Great Financial Experiment that is Pensions and the financial markets (see, they've got you over a barrel: create something so hideously over-complex you HAVE to hire accountants and managers to "look after" you money.... paranoia? No, it's just the way things turn out with humans.....!)...

No, I tend to carry tools and spares. I heard this is something bassists do instictively - we've always got the soldering iron, the gaffa, the spare cable, etc.

Maybe there's something about being that sort of person that means you play bass - not instinctively a risk taker, OK at the back, enjoy your moment in the sun every so often but can go back to the obscurity of keeping everything running smoothly....?

Recently though, I've started fixing just about anything Janeiro related ;)

Van won't start? I'll have a go (not completed that one yet, the van needs the preheating circuit overhauling as well, no doubt about it)...

Need cables in 10 mins flat at a gig? I'll just solder some up....

3 Microphones busted? Hang on a tic.

Precious in-ear monitors need foam casing in a flightcase? No problem.

And last night, I found out that Jake's MOTU (a firewire recording interface module his Mac is plugged into) has been crashing a lot. After some brief perusal of the menu structure ("hang on, that menu there - see that - it's not meant to do that flashing with random "*&£^%$ characters thingy") I found the Master Reset menu and lo! It's reliable again!

Once again, embedded software which hasn't been tested enough. Sigh! I wish I could get into that if I have to stay behind a desk! At least the freebies would be cool ;)

To cut a long story short, I must remind the guys occasionally that I can't fix everything, or a) they'll get pissed off when I don't fix something (I have my limits, I'm just a hacker and cleaner in the end) and b) I'll start feeling like I have to volunteer all the time!

Sometimes it's a right pain in the arse being a dweeb. I always like to know how things work, it's like some form of compulsive disorder, and when they don't work? Well, that's worse, because then I want to know how it _should_ work, so I can fix it, and... well, you get the picture.

Anyone else reading this drivel get the same sorts of impulses?

Whee! Something else to fix! My brain!

Monday, December 12, 2005

Week? What week?

I'll try to remember what happened.... Tuesday's big meeting included the decision to change name AGAIN.... so we're soon going to not be Janeiro any more, which (in this very private forum!) I'm coming to terms with. I like the name, but it's not my shout alone wether we keep it or not. So that's that!

The van broke down again, so we couldn't get the stuff back to the studio for a full rehearsal: Terry wisely ducked back home as he'd been at the studio all day working on stuff with Jake (there is some great stuff in the pipeline). I stuck around as I wanted to test the newly repaired stack for longer than a few minutes, and besides I'd lugged that damn thing around! So we did an acoustic vocal workshop, which was actually quite cool and fun.

Wednesday was actually a day off. Just as well, I wasn't well!

Thursday was a gig night, I had to be careful what with the cold and all. Jericho tavern, no less, in Oxford: Amy, sound wunderkind and general top person was pretty blown away by us (literally - the venue is, I fear, more used to solo David Gray style acts!), and it was a good gig. Bit crowded with 8 people on that tiny stage!

Friday was the Panasonic Xmas Party, and also the day Panasonic decided they couldn't stop Reuters from releasing this story so they'd have to tell us that it's the second year there will be redundancies. Who knows, this time it might be me! Joy.

The party was good though. Late one, and it's wierd having guys you work with in an office see you in your "real" guise: Lots of good feedback though.

Gotta scoot, it's monday night and that's recording night! Parasite tonight.

Tomorrow night... Ben Folds for the second time this year! That'll be a hoot.

Last night was fun though. Although still shattered from the Friday night fun, we went to Dan the Drummer's place and had a Turkish Food Frenzy in honour of his 22nd. Nearly the whole band turned up and Jasmin and kids! Top stuff. I've never seen anyone dance like that to Underworld...

Cheerio peeps


Friday, December 02, 2005

Of Warwicks and Meltiness... and Franz

Well. A few things to tell you about...

The Warwick Saga
Well, I worked out what happened to the Pro Tube IX last night. After revealing the innards, I discovered that the earth cables from the poweramp stage back to the main enormous toroidal transformer (these are solid-core cables, mind: REALLY thick, and designed to take a LOT of juice) had, in fact, unsoldered themselves from the board.

No kidding. They'd melted their connections off. And were drifting around in the case! Thankfully no harm has come to any components, and the board is OK.

However, the construction of the amp in this critical area is frankly sub-standard: there should be binding posts with BIG surface area for the current to flow through: soldering to a pad on the board with not-enough-solder will not do!

I've managed to fix it myself (no chance I'm sending the poor bastard to be kicked around the floor by TNT again!) and it seems fine now, but I don't think I'll be holding onto it for that long. Although it is now an absolutely fine piece of equipment, sounds great, fantastic routing, bi-amp and effects capabilities, I can't rely on it to run close to flat out without unsoldering those connections again - I reckon the gigs we did recently where I had to use the stack to provide all the bass for the Bridge gigs were the ones that did the harm. Even if it was (god forbid) a manufacturing error (not enough solder put in) I still don't think I can trust it entirely, even after my repair, which is undoubtedly better than it was when I got hold of it from new.

So, at least I have a working stack for the next gig, which is cool. But I also have to research gig-ready amp heads with the capabilities I need. Which is frankly a pain in the arse. I am not a natural shopper :)

What was the other stuff again... oh yeah, Franz Ferdinand. That last posting was put up before they came on (actually, it was uploaded before the second support act came on - and to think, we thought we were late, they opened the doors at 6:30pm (who does that, fer heaven's sake?) but no band at all went on until 7:30!

Anyhow, when we got there I ended up being interviewed by a swiss TV company who were there: they wanted some pithy and enlightened comments about why I thought Franz were a great act. While blinded by their cameras and slightly in awe of the situation, I blarted out some stuff about their being "new-old" and having punkish energy. Nic interjected (thank god) by pointing out they'd got art college background, which was a nice touch. Thanks hun!

Well, this got me thinking about the kind of band Franz F is: we saw them at a small student venue in Leicester, and to be honest they totally blew me away. I actually became a Franz fan that day, their raw, focussed energy suited their music perfectly and they got a huge feedback from the packed small venue.

That got me thinking - Alexandra Palace is titanic in comparison, and the ticket prices were much higher. Different audience, bigger venue: would their music stand the change? I expressed this to Nic before they came on and said that I couldn't ever see them playing Wembley Arena: wrong type of music, too angular, too "indie", too.... something I'm reaching for here and can't find.... too "arty"?

As it turns out, I was right. Their music didn't fit very well that night. Plus, to be honest, a lot of the energy seemed to have vanished! Their new album is a great album: the songs are all strong, in fact it feels like there's less filler than the first album. But onstage on wednesday night, Alex the vocalist looked and sounded exhausted, and they all seemed so much more static: that could be because they've been hard at it for 2 years, or maybe because it's harder to look like you're giving it everything on a larger stage (ever seen Mick Jagger trying to cover a football pitch sized stage? It's like watching a couple of twigs trying to start their own fire) - either way, they just didn't set me on fire like at the leics gig.

But that's just my opinion. Nic agreed with me though, so we actually left before their encore (gasp!) - along with, I might add, an awful lot of other people!

Honest people, in places they almost sounded so tired that they might not have rehearsed enough. That can't be right!

I've posted a review on WhatsOnStage about it.

Oh well. It was worth it to try out the TomTom5 navigator, which chose a great route from Nic's work at Amersham. A404/M25/M1? Cool!