Saturday, January 28, 2006

Shaftsbury Avenue nights...

OK, this is yet another non-musical post. But I've just come back from London (I did buy a bottle of lemon oil for the cleaning of oily skin deposits off bass necks, just used up the last of my stock) where Nic and I saw "Who's afraid of Virginia Woolf?" at the Apollo in Shaftsbury Avenue, following a light snack of burger king in leicester square. Bad, I know, but it was one meal between two and we really needed it - as it turns out, the performance lasts 3 hours(!) and you need to be able to follow what is at times fast paced dialog, and some twisting and twisted tales :)

Seriously, I'd recommend it to anyone - great cast, some real belly laughs.

Afterwards we had chinese down chinatown, really good crispy duck and a top chicken and salty fishbits fried rice. I'm stuffed!

I will now return to practising my arse off. Tomorrow I'll be posting a few megs of rehearsal bootlegs to the website for our new drummer to download, so he can get a good reminder of structures! Plus, it'll be some stuff for people to download.

They may well be bass-heavy though - I tend to record these for my own reference, so most of them have bass only in the left or right channel and a mic pointed into the rehearsal room for the other stuff. Does the job!

Speaking of which, this rehersal place we're going to be using looks pretty good: prices top out at £10 odd an hour on sundays, but during the weekdays the day rate is £6.75 an hour(!) - when I used to rehearse at Stage2000 in dundee the rate there was anywhere between 8 and 12 pounds an hour!

And having just checked their site it's still exactly the same!

I dunno, I just expected rehearsal rooms to be more expensive in london: after all, you're ripping off people with dreams here, they'll pay... and the gear at Panic Music is nice too: ashdown rigs in most of the rooms, and trace gear in the others!

So I won't have to take my rehearsal rig with me, which is a real bonus. We won't have to set up PA systems either, which is cool too. Hopefully Jake will have more time on his hands (depending on what job he ends up with in london I guess) as he won't be trying so hard to pay rent on a studio space at industrial unit rates. I'll miss the space at Witney, but I can see good reasons for moving to london (most of which must be obvious to anyone who knows the biz)...

Wish us luck. I think it's going to be an interesting few months... actually, I saw something on a poncey record review slot on GMTV the other day that made me think. They'd just finished singing the praises of Arctic Monkeys (whose rise I followed a bit in the music press) and then they mentioned the Go Team - who I read about a couple of years ago. Their gigs were supposed to be insanely energetic affairs, real fun stuff - they obviously kept plugging this whole time and now they're making waves. If they can hack it for two years, I can!

Now to get the 6 string hooked up to the pandora.

C ya l8r

Friday, January 27, 2006

First Janeiro rehearsal with different drummer...

Well, that was interesting!

I suspect because we haven't met up in a few weeks we were in the mood to do work (despite the best efforts of Richie's car going flat 'cos he left his lights on at work - oops!) - and plenty of it. Some arrangements have changed subtly, and here's a lesson to anyone reading this who rehearses regularly - always take some form of recording device with you, those little discman things from Sony are great, get a little stereo condenser mike if you can and record the whole rehearsal on one disc using ultra-long-play-mode (I can get 6 hours on one disc). Then review later to make sure any changes are there in your head for the next one.

I was in a distinctly negative mood when I left the house this morning, so I didn't grab the discman - wish I had!

The new drummer's name is Jamie, and he's pretty good: you'd expect that seeing as it's how he makes his living in London. His swing is good. his kit is small (he does a lot of jazz gigs), his snare is deep and his timing is excellent. Great sense of humour as well!

We all got on pretty well - those vocal coaching sessions Jake has been putting the vocalists through (which thankfully I don't have to do any more) seem to be working - a couple of times my eyebrows shot up with the accuracy of the backing vox.

George has a job in Covent Garden to go to when she, Jake and Jake's other 'arf move to London - they're pretty far north but thankfully Jake is not expecting us to hare around the north circular (a bit of an oxymoron I'll grant you) - there's a rehearsal space called Panic Studios which isn't far off the A40 so hopefully this means I'll be able to get there OK - although perversely getting there from Newbury will be a pain in the arse, getting back in the evening will be a LOT shorter.

So things are maybe looking up for Janeiro after moments when I had a couple of real worries. Mind you, I'm a worrier. I just don't tell people I'm worried.

See you in A&R after my first coronary!

Sunday, January 22, 2006

First rehearsal of the new year next weds!

But, in an ironic twist (either my life is a string of ironic coincidences or I don't understand irony properly, which might make me american. Gulp.) it will probably be the last at the Witney Studio. Jake has handed notice back in on the industrial unit, it's proving to be too expensive.

So... Jake's moving to London! "conway rd, southgate,london n14" to be precise.. this should make life more interesting :) Especially as he's actually north of the north circular... argh, that road's a total nightmare - evening rehearsals ain't going to be easy (or possibly even possible)...

I guess the advantages are we'll start gigging in london, which will mean it feels like we're moving forwards with Janeiro again - the tail end of last year felt a little static - but on the minus side the rehearsals might (another irony!) be harder to get to - plus, there'll be fees to pay. We'll have to see how it pans out, esp after I find out what this new drummer's like: if he's half as good as he should be, I think I'll need to raise my game a bit to keep up with him :)

We'll see next wednesday I guess.



Tuesday, January 17, 2006

One last Snowboard post.

Then I won't post any more about snowboarding, promise.

Overall impressions of verbier!
Had to make sure I got these in. Nice resort village, very pretty and with PLENTY to keep you occupied for a week or two - good clubs, cool bars, PRICEY drinks(!).

However, the piste arrangements aren't what I'd call totally inspiring: felt like you spend a lot of time on buses (to get to Savoleyres) and too much time on lifts (to get to just about anywhere interesting) - and the piste down into town is hellish for intermediate snowboarders (although all credit to it for getting me to become a speed demon on narrow twisting traverse tracks, something I was crap at in Canada!), with long twisting blue runs coming down into town which deviate WAY out of town.

Here's a piste map of Verier's 4 valley area.

In addition, a lot of the runs in the area covered by your pass are inaccessible unless you can get down from Greppon Blanc - trust me, those buttons will kill a snowboarder! - there's a great deal of nice runs in Thyon but they're hard to get to , even on the organised 4 valley challenge.

I spent a lot of time on the blue run which runs down to the end of the Chaux Express - a great little run with a fast last section up to the lifts, great slopes further up and lots of off-piste availability. Nice n crusty while I was there :)

Savoleyres has great slopes on the dark side(!), but got really icy towards the end of the day down at the bottom side of La Tzoumaz - then again, we were on 10 day old snow, and they've just had a dump (typical!) - but the upper slopes were great fun, again with great off-piste fun.

Speaking of pistes, the piste marking and signposts are AWFUL in Verbier: piste markers regularly end up in the wrong places holding up various bits of netting, totally confusing you as you zip by onto an unpisted track while trying to stay on a blue run(!) and we found red markers on a blue piste for no apparent reason as well!

Signposts are rudimentary, and sparse. Canada was spectacular in comparison, with numbered pistes and piste markers at VERY regular intervals - then again, they regularly have total white-out so you need to see where you are motorway-style. And they're catering for americans, who have to be spoon fed!

All in all, a great week - but I can't wait to get to Val D'isere with some skills under my belt and have a whale of a time on their resort slopes where things seem a bit more "joined up". Less time on lifts, more on the pistes.

OK, that's the last of it!

Back once again to the desk-rage master...

D for damage, power to the people..... well, nearly.

I came into the office yesterday morning (the M4 was less than kind, another 1-hour commute with stop-start for 5 frickin' miles) and on walking in, realised the enormity of the decision Panasonic have made to keep me. I wanted to leave. Now.

So I went into a sort of psycho-loop, exploded at my department head like some form of mental patient and went home to calm down. I really needed to be made redundant, it would be a useful meeting of circumstances that might get Nic and I into our own house - but no, the cosmic joke that is my unfulfilled existence at Panasonic continues, probably (oh, the irony) because I've been on so many dead-ended projects in the last few years, making me look flexible. Arse.

Although, if I'm honest, I'm still VERY ANGRY.


Saturday, January 14, 2006

And so the journey home.

OK, it's bus time. It's been great, and as I predicted I didn't break anything-in fact, I hardly fell over and made a lot of great recoveries, especially yesterday on Savoleyes mountain. Nic and I came down the big sweeping blie run as a final treat having gone up to Mont Fort for the view (no way we were coming down the sheer face of muguls!) - looks great at 3330m.

So we took a cable down to the floor of the valley below and made our way down the prettiest piste I've seen here, down to siviez: sweeping turns, scenery to die for.

My only problem yesterday was when Nic and I decided to come off Savoleyes though: we were below the 200 lift off the mountain and had to pick out way down a red run to - gulp! - a button/t-bar back up to the top. I wanted to conquer my fear of buttons after the greppon blanc incident so I opted for one of them, only to be foiled by a narrowing track full of ski ruts. Nic got to the top 1st time and I made my way rapidly down to the bottom to take a t-bar which I now prefer. All the way no problem! Nic, bless, rang my phone on the way up and, as it is wont to do when Nic rings me with this phone in my pocket, it auto-answered, so I was at least able to tell her I was OK and on the way up. Muffled she was, but I was glas to hear her from my pocket!

Pity I left my gloves on the gondola-d'oh! J-P is chasing those up for me.
Mike the chalet man got a nice present from all of us which should replace the watch he lost this week. His card was a giggle thanks to June's handwriting which turned 'keep up the good work' to something entirely different!

Well, it's back to music for this blog.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

The 4 valleys challenge...

God, I'll say. yesterday could be made into a Disney DVD.

Basically, the challenge is to get from verbier to Thyon and have some fun on the lifts and slopes out there; fun is definitely part of what happened!

Everything was going really well, I was tinkering with my bindings when we got to the top of lifts and the results were starting to impress me a lot: more control, more stability, more fun.

We had a brunch of chips at a really nice mountain cafe, then set off for a pair of terrifyingly long button lifts called greppon blanc: I've done button lifts before so I was fairly confident. Got the button, moved off, cool. I was even ok with a humpback bridge in the middle (who put that there?!?) but the problen started with the final ascent; the button started to slip quietly from between my legs. argh. I tried to hold on but eventually I was being hauled, still upright, up a sheer face, by my arms, and I had to let go, ending up in between the buttons. After a climb of maybe 50 metres at 2700 altitude (i'm a desk worker, for gawds sake) which took about 30 minutes with pauses for frantic breaths, I made it to the top.

Only to discover my right binding had shed a couple of clips which held a peg in place, and the clip which holds the back of my binding was flapping about. Eek! After some serious bodging using bits of red bull can, I came down the mountain carefully trying not to stress the binding, and managed to move one of the clips off the left one in veysonnaz by borrowing a pair of pliers.

The rest of the day was fun, but I still didnlt want to stress the binding as it was on half-clip strength.

At the end of the day we all congregated at this cool bar at the bottom of Mayens-de-lours which is basically a wood and perspex igloo! Very cosy.

I got a good tip on a specialist snowboard shop which might be able to help, and to their credit No Bounds had exactly what I needed: clips installed, board good as new, 1f please. I gave him 2 and told him to keep the change (with good humour!) which raised a smile.

So, a full day of fun and frolics. Biggest wipeout of the day was being wrong-footed on a traverse track by deep rutted ski tracks and ending up on my arse sideways at speed. Ouch! No permanent damage to anything.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Lift 200? yes please!

Lift 200? yes please!
Lift 200? yes please!,
originally uploaded by Spammy Spamton.
Superb day. After an early low-slope funtime including some hysterical off-piste action cutting corners while trying to get to savoleyes, I came down la rouge and hiked up the hill (doh!) to the base of the lift to the top of savoleyes mountain. Massive! the pic is out of the window of the lift.

Great slopes, some top carved up soft stuff: I came back to meet up with Nic and go out for food. after some comical misunderstandings trying to meet up the rest of the guys, Nic and I ended up paying about 30 quid for what was essentially a single course(!)-very swanky joint, 5 star hotel and haute cuisine ahoy.

Poor Nic. Yesterday she had some kind of local cheese, ham, potato and onion thing: made her VERY ill. I was up with her until 1 am while she basically flushed out this vile stuff from her system by alternating water and toilet. She was very determined though, real 'bridge over the river quai' stuff, and after she finally fell asleep she was much better today. We've go a suspicion se might be lactose intolerant of smelly gruyere. All the right signs, especially the bent-over-the-loo one.

Now it's showers and snoozing before dinner!

Sunday, January 08, 2006

A morning's punishment!

... and an evening's stunning red sunset over the mountains (click the title link!). This place is just stunning: last night turned into an apres-ski tour de force, which is ironic given we hadn't been on the pistes yet! I've got some video of all of us in the pub having a riotous time, after all-the-wine you can drink over dinner. Outstanding!

As I type I've been flumping around the chalet this afternoon following 2.5 hours of solid boarding this morning. After a little initial wobbling I was off-piste an hour later, and it was an intended off-pisting!

Seriously tired now, but not mentally; just a physical leaden quality in the bones. Good training for tomorrow: I plan to try to get a full day in.

The pic is taken from the balcony of the chaperon rouge, our chalet here in Verbier.


Saturday, January 07, 2006

On the buses...

Apart from Geneva's attempts to conceal our ski and board gear (took a while for it to appear) and watching Jason whassisname fro Lock, Stock etc and the bloke who was Jekyll in League of Extraordinary Gentlemints (who were sat in front of us) it's been uneventful and easy so far.

The piste map of verbier's 4 valleys looks outstanding: so much skiable area! like Val d'isere where I broke a rib, they run free shuttle buses about so you can get back down to your original starting point.

I'll email the first pic soon: unlike canada I'm not keen on taking pics of boring stuff!

Friday, January 06, 2006

Last night's rehearsal...

That was a little strange. I really should start asking Jake if they're going to be actual rehearsals, because although it might be a quick 10 minutes down the road for him to get there, I have to collect my gear together in the morning, get it into the car, drive to the office (about 35 miles) bring the bass into the office, then go up to Witney from here in Thatcham (about 50 miles), then set everything up and discover that I'm the only one who has, so we all chew the fat for a while about the name, and the new setlist... the atmosphere IS wierd because Dan is missing, and then I break all the gear down again and drive home (another 50 miles ish).

I wonder if this is what having a close loved one pass awway feels like? I suspect that once I have a chance to scope out this new drummer (although I do still have misgivings about rehearsals getting even less frequent as he's a session guy from London) I'll know how to feel but right now I'm a constant mix of numb, confused and slightly perplexed.

I must talk to Jake about the setlist as well. If I remain totally silent then I've no leg to stand on if I don't like particular tracks, and I'm feeling a bit invisible at the moment anyway - that wont improve if I don't talk more!!! I really want more uptempo funky tracks to play, where I can really dig in with a drummer.

We'll see what happens... it's all about the Ressurection, after all!

Thursday, January 05, 2006

[ How big can a webcam go? Try clicking here! ]

The link is for the BIGGEST webcam I think I've ever seen at a ski resort. How on earth that one works, I don't know: it updates fairly regularly though. I wonder if it's sweeping, then creating the image, or if it's a fish-eye with correction?

Either way, the view is simply stunning. I can't wait to get out there!

The board is sitting in the bag waiting to be let out... the new bindings, with only a few hours use in them... my faithful and ultra-comfy boots, which are on their 3rd trip... it's so cool to have my own gear, well worth the rib I cracked in Val D'isere that time that paid for it all (insurance y'ken).

Music News
Well, Janeiro lineup changes aside, I've joined [ The BassWorld Forum ] which has some excellent players on there. It's been a long time since I've indulged in gear discussions, but I find myself enjoying it a little, especially as now (as distinct to then, of course, when all I had was an unreliable Peavey TNT) I have some good gear to discuss!

Rehearsal tonight... hope the atmosphere isn't too strange. I'm determined not to fall out with anybody over what's going on, I still hold tight to the belief that provided I can be straight with everybody about everything, and I don't contribute to ill-feeling directly, I can navigate a way to make sure I don't lose anyone's friendship, because we're all nice people :)

Ooo - and I get to dig into my EMP strings on the 6 string (I'm travelling light this evening, no warwicks on me!)...

Wish me luck.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Counting down the days.... board board board board



It's that time of year again! See, it's a bit deep and crisp and even somewhere and I really need to go slide down it on a tea-tray.

Not content with last year's magnificent efforts to end my bass playing career prematurely (see [ here ]) I'm off to Verbier (with correct size bindings and a good feeling) for a week of snowboarding on the 7th: wish me luck :)

The snow reports look good, and I've got a couple of good webcams in there as well -


I reckon this year will be cool.

Music news
Sigh. It's with great sadness I report of personnel changes within the band... but you'll have to see the Janeiro Webpage for more details when they're available.

Sucks a bit, this does.

In more positive notes, I finally bit the bullet and restrung the Tobias with slightly heavier strings (the 20s custom gauge I put on there were just too soft for my gig-hardened hands, I was pulling the strings everywhere!) - medium Warwick EMPs, a first for this bass (I usually use Stadium Elites). I took the oppotunity to modify the setup as well, bringing the action on the top 4 strings right down, and...

It sounds superb!

Oh well, gotta go. See you here with postings from Verbier! I did make a separate blog last year, but I've decided to keep it here this time around. Normal service will resume :)

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Politics, fear and loathing in vas deferens

Honestly, it's 2 days after new year (happy 2006 btw) and all I've heard on TV and radio this morning is that I'm supposed to be depressed!

I feel slightly evil for having a spring in my step, I can tell you.

I've got a theory though (as usual)- I reckon the life of a GMTV or 2-10Fm host is so empty 359 days of the year they want to drag us down-so sod em, let's smile in their stupid, dumbed-down faces! ha!

Geeky new yr, used streamsicle 2 mp3 the whole house: then got the radio stream out to Manchester, then sweden! I'm a dj! arf arf!

The 4 hour poker marathon until 430am on new yrs day was fun though. Texas hold-em!

The 6 string is now strung with Warwick emps which rule. Worth the cash. Also set up the poor thing, now it's really flying compared to the warwicks.

Hope u had a good one people!