Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Urgh! Still got his crappy cold!

I wanted to get up the mountain again today, but this wierd sore throat / sneezing sometimes thing has left me feeling really flat... I got up at 3:30pm this afternoon! Must have had about 10 hours sleep...

On the music front the 6 string Tobias is sounding fantastic on stage. he guys rearranged things last night on stage so Steve could have a monitor of sorts. We've got a pretty good PA here, 3 x 1.5Kw amps and a three-way crossover to split out the low, mid and high into separate channels, then 4 4x10 ( 4 x 10 inch speakers) cabinets for the low and mid and 2 1x15 peaveys on stands for the top end. What they've done is taken one of the midrange 4x10 cabinets and put it at the back, moving the marshall wall of noise up to the front and putting the mixing desk / poweramps cabinet at the back too. The stage sound at the back is much better, Steve can hear more of his own drums and the guitars are forward of him so he's not going deaf with it.

Unfortunately, with the rewiring came a small problem, but it made me giggle :) during the soundcheck we did of this new setup, Steve came to the conclusion it was much much better, which is cool. Then at the end of the first set he declared it was worse than ever! I thought maybe the crossover needed adjusting, so I had a small fiddle but while I was working out if I was making a difference I noticed that the cabinet Steve had beside him was getting no signal at all! The XLR cable from the crossover was knackered! :)

So perhaps perception is 9/10ths of the law? heh heh

The gig was OK but I'm feeling a bit lacking in evergy at the moment, and I've sort of been demoted to the back beside Steve. Seeing the silver lining in this (it's pretty much the same "hired hand" feeling I often get at o'neills in Oxford) I've started singing less and playing better bass, which I find very satisfying.

I've also decided to try to write something for Pussycats up the hill - they apparently play some pretty hard RnB and House late on in the evening, so maybe with the massive stock of drum loops and noises I've got on here I can come up with a pussycat theme tune for them :) It's the object of my myspace music profile which I'm trying to ramp up as the Janeiro thing ramps down. That's on and I'll post the results of my noodlin'. I'm hoping for something with huge slap bass on it but a massive beat as well.

Sitting here in the Aspen I've currently got one of the crappy Sky channels raging in my ear and my god, the UK really is a hotbed of paranoid advertising isn't it? It's all about missing out, going downhill, what happens when the worst happens, Dell say they build PCs "just for you" - what a pile of unadulterated shite. As for Carol Vorderman... don't get me started!

Christ, do I really want to go back to the country that watches this shit? ARGH!

I should end this, the cold is warping my words. Or maybe it's helping my honesty gland.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

And now, the end is near...

And so I face the final couple of weeks.... :)
Overall the experiment has been fun, but now I find myself starting to think about what will happen when I get back (apart from being totally blissed out to be back with Nic and the mogs). My last CV is on this laptop so I can work on it while I'm out here, and there are a couple of agents who want it asap (I've been naughty and haven't brushed it up to send to them yet).

Trouble is, I'm not sure which sector I want to work in. I do enjoy software testing, and the background in mobile telecomms is useful (not that many people have done the kind of work I have done)... as ever, it's probably more useful to take stuff out of the picture than to try to come up with a whole new picture from scratch.

So I suspect ( I think I mentioned this before!) I won't be working with mobile handets again (although I have decided I won't say I'll never go back to Panasonic, this is probably a fallback position!) - software testing is becoming more and more of a squeezed afterthought in that arena!!

It would be fun to test software that was to do with something i was really interested in - like music, say. Wonder if Steinberg have any labs near me? I should do some research.

I should go and set the studio up again in my room: maybe I can get some big beats to congeal into something interesting...

Quick personal feeling note - it's wierd, but with Richie here essentially it's Breeze+1 (and guess who's the +1?) so I'm feeling a little lonely at the moment. Luckily I'm used to doing stuff on my own, so I can keep myself amused... but even so, it's a little bit of a comedown to the norm where I'm at the front of the stage. I'm compensating by singing less and enjoying some technical playing on the bass (I've even started playing the 6 string in the Aspen, not donw that before!).

Looking forward to getting back to the 5 string Warwick Fretless!


Monday, February 26, 2007

Andy goes Myspace too...

I remembered I had a myspace profile this afternoon. Not feeling too well tho, woke up at 7am with the dreaded sore throat and headache. Don't think it's a big one though.

Oh yeah, my myspace profile. I'll integrate it into when I get back, but it's on and I've just got a half decent looking skin on it.

Now to write all that interesting music :) I'll get this laptop hooked up when I get back maybe... got a lot of samples and beats I can try. Maybe I can get Noel from Sugarhouse Lane to give me some squeals, pinched harmonics and whammy dives a la prodigy to make atmospherics.

Anyone else like that stuff?

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Geeky but Cheeky :)

Just another quick posting. The Aspen where we have our residency is across the road from the Brussels where I do all this internettin'.

Just found out their aerial is way powerful enough to reach across the road and into the Aspen, so I'm sitting in the bar typing this :)

Cheeky, but boy do I love wifi :) And Skype - listen, if you can get skype, do it. Not only is it free to call other people on skype (you're paying for your internet access of course, unless you're blagging it off an unsecured aerial!) but the calls to landlines are really cheap. How else could I call Nic at work during the week from Andorra for 1.7 cents a minute???

Great technology enables: it doesn't befuddle. So far, Skype have kept the front end clean (they have added tabbed panes with stuff on I don't use in the relentless western quest for making things more profitable though) so it works like it says on the tin. Apple style logic - I admire that - high tech should not have to be terrifying!

Mind you, with my background I probably can't take an objective view of what someone else would find technologically terrifying! All this typing should mean I can still get a secretarial job when I get back lol!

Losing your temper (a bit) on stage is never good...

Don't worry, I didn't do anything I regret apart from throw a few harsh words. Last night's gig was fun, Richie has arrived and we're playing as a 4 piece - the sound is huge! - and Steve, bless him, has managed to move his drums so far right there's plenty of space for me to stand with a mic (so still able to sing - did Dani California last night no probs) and play, but I can't jump about quite so much :)

During the first set some Irish lads (much boozed up) - I say lads, they were red-faced middle aged men really - got a bit carried away. In hindsight, they weren't lairy or violently inclined, they just didn't know where the lines in the sand were, so to speak. Smiley fellas, but causing a bit too much disruption, which really peaked when one of them managed to somehow throw a shoe at the stage. Luckily it was low, and only knocked over Rich's pint, but Jamie immediately asked over the mic who threw it, we brought the music right down, and at that point I spotted the git who had one shoe off. Jamie told him to leave, and I spat some rather ill-advised invective, punk style, at him and then the whole group, telling them in no uncertain terms they should all get out. Nothing kicked off in terms of bad blood, I think we rather scared them as the bar staff then started asking them to leave. There's no security staff in the Aspen per se, but Neil (a fine scottish mountain of a man, gym-trained and over 6 foot!) was basically telling them to get out in gentleish terms. James the bar managed joined in too. We finished one other song, then went for our break.

During the break I stayed on stage to protect the gear (a good idea, 2 of them decided to invade the stage separately while it looked empty) but the guys were basically telling James we wouldn't play until they left. A couple of the younger Irish fellas made some lame excuses to me about it being a bit harsh (which didn't get any sympathy from me) but we went on for our second set while they were still there.

Then the most remarkable thing happened: I suspect they thought the pub was being entertained by them in the first set (which was, of course, patent testicles) and they realised in the second set that most of the other people in the pub thought they were a bunch of arseholes. I saw what had been a small (what, 6?) group of rather rambunctious gits turn into a smaller looking group of people who had the wind totally sucked out of their sails by our 2nd song. They dribbled out of the front door as we played looking pretty sheepish :)

After that, the set was fantastic. We had a great time playing tracks we only usually play as a 4 piece, including some Pink Floyd which sounded enormous. Scissor sisters too!

Overall, no danger of anything ever happening, but it was an interesting study of how even over-zealous annoying idiots can be totally defused by realising they really aren't funny at all. By the end I found myself having a bit of pity for 'em, which is without a doubt the worst emotion you can feel for anyone :)

Cheers all!


Friday, February 23, 2007

Ski Calbo servicing guys are top!

Nice P-tex work on the Custom X, and only 4 euros. I can recommend them, and they're all around andorra apparently. Wicked.

Dropped Nic's skis off as well!

Fri night gig tonight... I hope the school hols crowd can be as kind to us as they were to Elvis on Wednesday night!


Thursday, February 22, 2007

What a day! And it's my day off as well...

Wow, I've been everywhere on the mountain today. Well, not every single run, you understand.... but I've taken to that Burton Custom X, really I have! A great board, and now with bindings I can finally ride it... and I got out to Pas de la Casa! The snow out there is great, the pistes were still really fresh just after lunch, even the steep ones. Some great wide open pistes too with lots of room, so even though there were plenty of people on there today no mishaps due to packed pistes.

It's funny to be on the other side of trying out the board now, this morning as I walked up with the dusty (I kid you not!) board with shiny new bindings on I thought "what if it's so different I can't ride it???". My worries were dispelled after about 10 minutes as I headed down towards my first lift.

A big shout to Tom Watt - also a custom X rider - I can see why you love that board mate, it's fast, responsive and when the middle cuts into the piste on a turn it really responds.

In fact, I had so much fun I managed to put a deep gouge into the board which is getting p-texed to fix it in time for tomorrow morning. I will take Nic's skis down to get them serviced then...

I've been thinking more about what sort of job to go for when I get back to the UK - I suspect it will be in mobile comms, but I really don't know wether to try handsets again or not... I've beaten enough doubts about the economic pressures handset makers are under into my head to think that none of the handset manufacturers are even remotely interested in Quality. Can this be true? Logic says they can't just churn out awful handsets forever, nobody would buy them in the end. But my observant half notices that modern nokias and motorolas are basically plastic cack with software so awful that people actually hate their phones (the classic line is "I bought it because of the adverts but I really hate it").

And this came home yesterday when I spoke to a guy who owns a P990i - a phone I am intersted in getting to replace my (perfectly working!) P910i. He said it's cack - unreliable, prone to crashes, he's on his 3rd operating system upgrade...

Is nothing safe? Even symbian seems to be creaking at the seams (wether series 60 "how many keypresses to send an SMS?????" or UIQ with the apprently unreliable P990i)... no hope for those of us who want to keep one phone for 2 years or more?

We get the handsets we deserve. While the UK average consumer clamours for another version of the razr with some half-arsed metallic reflective finish, we will get handsets with crappy user interfaces and a software shelf life of 8 months.

So there!

Then again, I do know how handsets work and you can only change the system from the inside... d'oh I'm arguing with myself again.

Decisions decisions.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Today I'll mostly be recovering from yesterday

Apologies to Fast Show fans :) I think the sheer amount of work I did yesterday wiped me out! Feeling very odd today, sort of disconnected... it's not entirely unpleasant, but it's that old "cotton wool in the head" feeling. I suspect if I get back to the flat and set up the studio for a bit of noodlin I'll feel better.

I should work on "shyboy" some more. Although I don't really like Billy Sheehan's solo stuff (to be honest, the last album of his I bought, "compression", was just wierd - you can't actually hear the bass on it, I suspect Billy may have dissappeared up that grind tone of his entirely) the stuff he has done in the past with Talas and DLR / Steve Vai is spectacular - the dual bass / guitar work on eat em and smile and ( to a lesser extent ) skyscraper is still a technical marvel and probably some of the more complex 2-hand tap ( in a guitar style, not hamm-ish ) you can try to learn.

Couple this with Windows Media player 11, which now has a speed control function with pitch correction, and you get something you can train phrases with! Very useful when you're stuck out between france and Spain :)

Big shout to Ed Buckland who just sent me a possible linkedin recommendation. To say I blushed is an understatement. More people should have mates like Ed, he's a top bloke.

Last night's gig was pretty quiet, and the Aspen was like a sauna... hey, that gives me an idea, maybe I should go blast the crap out of my head at the spa...

Final decision on the burton bindings.... it's a no. I will save the board for next year's excursion, wherever that turns out to be, and ride the burton with good friends on a 6 day pass (who knows, 2 weeks again?) and do nothing but board and enjoy their company (hi Tom, Ingy, Jim, luvly wife Nic and maybe Ed!) - none of this working business that keeps you up until 2am!

No gig in the Alba tonight, so a quiet night which is much appreciated. Time indeed to get Cubase out and have some fun with it! Wish I had bigger speakers to mess with... I'll stick with the sennheiser cans I've had for the last 17 years :)

Cheers all. BTW, are there any panasonic guys still reading this? Has the company finally been closed? It's gone real quiet....

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

A great day boarding!

Well, I didn't get up the mountain yesterday like I wanted to, but the snow stuck around for me to get up there today - and there's been enough to open up the valley at the back of soldeu to the north, so I got onto some pistes I haven't been on before! I even found one or two little areas of fresh powder and wiped out lovely in the deep stuff, sending up powdery smoke signals and laughing lots! Shortly after one of those I found a natural half pipe to wind my way back to the piste again, looking like a greenish yeti :)

And now it's winding up to tuesday night gig time, and I'm chatting with my gorgeous wife Nic thanks to skype, for nowt! lovely!

Mind you, I now know EDF energy are asking £400 for gas from 30th Nov which sounds insane... oh well, silver linings!

Cheers peeps!

Ps - anybody from panasonic still alive out there?

Sunday, February 18, 2007

A cautionary tale....

Ah, yes I've been quiet of late haven't I?

There is a good reason... I got caught out for not having done my homework, and trusting people too much! I'd rather trust people too much than not at all...

Before I left for Andorra I knew I needed a police report, sealed in London at the FCO with an Apostile seal confirming the document to be authentic. I got this information from Jamie but what I didn't do was dig any deeper myself, so I assumed all was well. As it turns out, this wasn't the case... we gigged hard for the first 5 weeks we were here together, it was great fun. Nobody made mention of my certificate so I assumed this document needed to be produced on request, as it were, and consituted a document of character and identity. Andorra isn't a "full" EU member but it subscribes to some things (for instance, it uses the Euro) but not others. I didn't realise the EU right to roam and work was one of those things!

Before anybody panics (I'm thinking of family members here!) I should say right now that everything is fine, it's all OK - I'm just telling the story and there are no really dramatic bits!

Anyway, we were playing the Alba apres-ski gig on the 10th and it all went a bit wierd - the owner asked for jamie to come around the back and chat a bit, so Steve and I carried on regardless with a funky drum and bass thing which went down quite well. Eventually we heard we'd have to stop and made our way to the lobby where some plainclothes police were waiting to take us to Andorra La Vella for not having green cards! I was calm enough, realising my mistake in taking things as read straight away. The police guys were genial, friendly and let us pack up our stuff before we left. We spent a couple of hours in a comfortable office answering the occasional question through the owner (who spoke good catalan and could translate) and then signed a document each saying we had to stop playing and get our affairs in order within 8 days. Then we came home to a village of paranoia with all musicians having stgopped playing and all chalkboards wiped clean! As it turns out, very few musicians actually have green cards, and in fact you can only get one by being sponsored by a business (in this case, the bar). This appears to have been the status quo for many years, with no musician ever under any threat of being busted - as I pointed out to people, this is actually a good reason for the immigration guys to finally decide to do something about it!

There are other hypotheses (god knows, there's been plenty of speculation about it all!) which have to do with the owner of the Alba which I won't go into, but suffice to say it's made Soldeu a strange place, with no live music at all really for the last week save the solo acts in the hotels.

Now, back to my personal story. Since I had my certificate here, it was off to Andorra la Vella the next day with Virtu (co owner of the Aspen) who filled in all the relevant forms (and there were plenty of them) to apply for the card. My stunning wife Nic came over at the end of the week and helped out by bussing me in and out of La Vella for the small tasks necessary (which include a blood test and medical interview) and I now have a smart little green card which I can produce.

But to get back to the title of this posting, you've got to find out everything you can for yourself people. Take some stuff on trust, but watch out - if you think you need to know more, you're probably right - so go find it out! I should have twigged when nobody asked for my police certificate at any point in the first 5 weeks - why would you spend money on a certificate, then go to london to get it sealed, if nobody needed it?

A valuable lesson I won't forget in a hurry. Mind you, I had the certificate... the other guys didn't bring theirs to the UK and Nic acted as courier (a very very good coincidence!!!) when she came out this week. I can recommend the Wellness Spa by the way - we spent quite a few happy hours getting wrinkly in pools, saunas and jacuzzis!

As Virtu put it in a text when I told her I had the card - you can breathe again now :)

Chin chin

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Nic gets here tomorrow! And...

Really looking forward to seeing Nic. Music comes from your heart (well, original music does, when you play covers your enthusiasm and drive comes from your heart!) and Nic is all of my heart (slush alert, and I ain't talking the snow out here)....

oh, and she bought a pool table. Full size, slate top, what a nutcase - but a really cool thing to have! :)

Certainly beats some of the other mad stuff she's bought in the past. Which includes...

- two pianos for £10
- several stone of fresh fish when we didn't have freezer space for it (bless!)

Actually that's all of it :) I think this is her best buy though. Apparently it looks wicked, and came from who came and set it up ready to go. She's now looking at sparkly spot and stripe balls for extra cheesy look :)

Cheerio all! BTW, it's snowing here in Andorra! Yay! We'll have snow to ski and board on while she's out!

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Of radio packs etc....

I finaly repaired the NADY radio pack Jamie uses for it to last 2 gigs! Seems like it has now decided to keep working - he got all the way around the bar and came back onstage from the very back last night and the signal JUST kept itself up OK. Those hot sweaty dancing gyrating heaving bodies can block the radio really well... :)

It's getting around to string boiling time... the Warwick has 35s on it again (elites, no less!) so after the 45s on the Hohner they're going to feel like putty in the Alba tonight!

Must dash. Got to repair (or have a look at) Sugarhouse Lane's bass this evening. Top two strings sound to be out of phase.... no volume!

Bleargh! (as they used to say in Kerrang)

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

The pub crawl night extension theory

Jamie's got a nose for knowing when a night is going to be good - he predicted we'd be able to do another set last night when James wasn't so sure. By the time we finished the place looked like another crawl had come in!

Good night last night, but the trace V4 combo definitely needs looking after - the biasing is definitely wrong and I'm wondering if a couple of the tubes are on the way out, it seems to start loud then get quieter!

All I need is a voltmeter.

Oh - and I repaired the radio pack AGAIN, this time hopefully permanently, and Jamie said if it messed up he was going to smash it to pieces (I begged him not to!) but my repair seems to have done the trick, it did well all the way through his bar-jumping histrionics (it looks pretty cool when he gets the JD poured into his mouth while playing and leaning backwards onto the bar from behind it!)... so the pack has the right to live, for now... :)

Wonder where I can get that voltmeter from...

Monday, February 05, 2007

Great night last night!

Suundays are usually quite quiet, we do a half-gig (meaning only one 45 minute set) but last night was the exception! Great gig, receptive audience of newbies who got into the spirit of things (and there are a few instructors in training who keep shouting "shots!" after every song - sometimes it's like being a zoo animal, I tell you! Fun though) - Big shouts to Bern and Amanda down from Oxford, especially Bern who got the shots to the stage most of the time - the bar staff were too busy!

And Virtu - you little devil - we can tell when the shots are lemonade! The bubbles are a dead giveaway.

We have hazy cloud today, I'm hoping the forecasts for snow flurries will come to something. Must find a good weather site with good sattelite shots I can look at. Sometimes you get the feeling you might be able to predict the weather better than the professionals... but you're probably just kidding yourself.

Counting down the days to Nic coming over on the 9th! I'll have to straighten out the room a bit, it's full of drying laundry! In the typical batchelor style, I have taken on a clean if crumpled look (a signature style I admit is not all my own) as we don't have an ironing board. Steve (to my surprise) religiously irons everything including jeans - this is the man who looks to be allergic to washing up! C'mon big guy, get yours hands wet - worried they won't be so soft? ;-P It's good to have a little friction occasionally heh heh but let's not get to the police side of things eh? Sting and Copeland were not good chums by all accounts... which makes it wierder that the police are actually doing some gigs this year!

I think I'd like to see that. London and Paris, I think they're doing. I wonder if they've shaken hands and made up? Reading on good ol t'internet a bit I see that it's 30 years since they formed this year, a good excuse to release a compilation and do a bit of a reunion tour to back it up. Wonder if they'll be any good? I'd like to see them, didn't get the chance while they were still togther, I was just about getting into iron maiden at that point :)

Cheersh all!

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Hullo all!

Just a quick one. Got the apres ski gig this evening followed by another Aspen Angst Session (last night was hectic, good sound though, pleased with it) - I need to wax the warwick again, it's hard hard work up there.

That reminds me, I must find some tab for "Country Music, a night in hell" so I can get the tap bits right - I can do the slap, but not the tap (well, not all of it, I can get the end - it's the really fast arpeggios I can't hear out).

Fingers holding up well, the nail bed on the middle finger of my right hand is recovering from the annoyance it received following the fixing of the van by gaffa (which reminds me of another thing, must check the coolant level in the van before we set off this evening to make sure it hasn't been losing as much as I think it might heh heh time for a couple of good clips I think!)

The weather here is still far too warm - there's some predictions I've seen of snow in a week, but rain before then(!) as it's so warm - this is just bonkers. I've seen snow reports for Val D'isere and they do have snow, but not a huge amount and not all runs are open: however, Banff appears to be having a great year, and by the looks of their snow history (going back to 2001) they really do get consistently good conditions every year. I'd like to go back and get some fun boarding in without a freshly broken wrist to keep me slow :)

Toodle pip!

Thursday, February 01, 2007

2 nights off, 50 euros down... oh well :)

Last night's apres ski gig was cancelled due to lack of power(!) - the Alba had a power cut and when I last heard they had a small army of people trying to get the place reconnected. Pity, we look forward to those gigs, they're really intimate, easy to set up and I've got used to playing without an amplifier... it's nice to play a laid-back set after the insanity of tuesday and the coming storm of friday nights!

Pity about the cancellation too because I was chatting to some nice lads who work for Cisco in the UK (you can take the boy out of the tech company.... but....) - we had a nice long chat here in the Brussels about all manner of stuff technical, I was telling them this was my little break before trying to get a job on the other side of the mobile fence, as it were, in networks (which have to be stable, therefore software testing is taken more seriously - I hope ). When I told them we were gigging in the Alba Stone Bar in the evening, they worked out their evening schedule to make sure they came to see us and then see the football afterwards, which is a pleasant change from the Aspen where we often set up our gear with Sky Sports showing premiership matches over our heads!!! We end up watching the last half hour of the game before we go on, but it hasn't sparked some interest in the beautiful game in my head, it still leaves me a bit cold... I'm too much of a middle class white kid I guess.

Kid?.... one of the nice things on this trip has been meeting guys half my age and actually having good conversations with them, where we actually talk, not those nightmare scenarios where you realise you've lost touch with the dizzying pace of teenage culture (i.e. you end up talking like their dads and looking like a middle aged faker!)... there's some really good people out here, friendly, enthusiastic. Big shout to the guy I was talking to last night, he was great fun and a blade skier as well - kudos there - with a green streak in his fringe which was apparently 5 or 6 washes old! I must admit I'm not a loreal advert watcher but I got the point.

Right, I've got to do some tinkering with the Janeiro site ( and then I can get togged up and go up the mountain. I want to see how the top of Solana looks in the streaming sun! Guess I won't need so many layers as I had last time heh heh!

Cheerio punters - SHOTS!