Friday, December 12, 2008

Andy is...

Totally bopping to Pat Martino doing Stevie Wonder’s “Too high” from “Blue Note plays Stevie Wonder” – a miraculous piece of Jazz guitar insanity with an infectious drum groove which always gets my toes tappin’
Oh, and I’m wondering if I should be doing Facebook and Myspace style “is….” Updates using Blogger.

Tilehurst Jam Night last night

The plough in Tilehurst has a wicked jam night on thursday nights. I've never ever (in 20 years of jam nights!) found a place with so many musos with so much talent and life about them. At last, a jam night which feels more like a gig - these guys have charm, wit, talent and they actually know most of the songs!

Come on along, you won't regret it. But do remember your earplugs - it's not a huge venue and the sound is BIG.

Big shouts to the musos in Tilehurst!

Scottish Jokes - Aye Right

Just got sent these by a friend who is also from North of the Border (you know, where people have pride in their nationality without being branded thugs....!). Make me chuckle enough to want to post them here!

Mail me at if you like 'em.

Jokes only understood in Scotland

A pregnant teenage girl phones her dad at midnight and says:
'Can you come and get me? I think ma water has broken'
'Okay,' says her dad. 'Where are you ringing from?
'Fae my knickers tae ma feet. '

A Glasgow woman goes to the dentist and settles down in the chair.
'Comfy?'asks the dentist.
'Govan,' she replies.

What did the male Siamese twins from Glasgow call their autobiography?
Oor Wullie.

A guy walks into an antiques shop and says: 'How much for the set of antlers?'
'Two hundred quid,' says the bloke behind the counter'
'That's affa dear,' says the guy.
'Aye yer right!' replies the bloke

Did you hear about the fella who liked eating bricks and cement?
He's awa' noo.

After announcing he's getting married, a boy tells his pal he'll be wearing the kilt.
'And what's the tartan?' asks his mate.
'Oh, she'll be wearing a white dress,'

Ten cows in a field. Which one is closest to Iraq ?
Coo eight.

Three wee jobbies sitting on the pavement.
Which one's a Musketeer?
The dark tan yin.

A Scotsman in London is having trouble phoning
his sister from a telephone box. So he
calls the operator who asks in a plummy voice:
'Is there money in the box?
'Naw, it's just me,' he replies.

While getting ready to go out, a wee wifie says to her husband:
'Do you think I'm getting a wee bit pigeon chested?'
And he says: 'Aye, but that's why I love you like a doo.'

What was the name of the first Scottish cowboy?
Hawkeye The Noo.

What do you call a pigeon that goes to Aviemore for its holidays?
A skean dhu.

How many Spanish guys does it take to change a lightbulb?
Just Juan.

'What's the difference between The Rolling Stones and an Aberdeen sheep farmer?
The Rolling Stones say: 'Hey you, get off of my cloud.'
And an Aberdeen sheep farmer says: 'Hey McLeod, get off of ma ewe.

'What do you call an illegitimate Scottish insect?
A wee fly b*****d.

Did you hear about the BBC Scotland series that features the queue for the toilets at Waverley Station?
It's called The Aw' Needin' Line.

Why was the Chinese restaurant so bad?
Because the chef was Lou Ping.

While being interviewed for a job as a bus driver, a guy is asked:
'What would you do if you had a rowdy passenger?' 'I'd put him off at
the next stop,' he says. 'Good. And what would you do if you couldn't
get the fare?' 'I'd take the first two weeks in August,' he replies.

Two negatives make a positive but only in Scotland do two positives make a negative - 'Aye right.'

A Glasgow man - steaming and skint - is walking down Argyle Street when he spots a guy tinkering with the engine of his car!
'What's up Jimmy?' he asks.
'Piston broke,' he replies.
'Aye, same as masel...

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Snow this year?

From Home Pics

Well, it's winter season again. I'll probably dust off the Tea Tray Times to give me something to post to while I'm out trying to break more bones!

In the meantime, this pic is from last year's brief snowfall at the Dairy Homestead.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Nice gig. Nail the funk to the floor!

If you're thinking of a night out in Reading, I'd recommend overshooting the noisy overpriced fred-perry-n-violence of Brannigans at the Oracle Consumer Temple (henceforth referred to as the OCT disorder) and punt up the hill opposite until you come to RISC on the left hand side. Quirky, with old sofas and an addiction to world cuisine, by night this place rocks.

And last night Jacquoda ripped the bar a new funk-hole. We tore it up. Armen's solid on the click, so our backing tracks from the (now pro flightcased) 16 track recorder sounded excellent, including the synth lines I recorded over at tony's the other week.

We have arrived. Gigging feels fantastic, there wasn't any room to roam though, we were so packed in Matt our keyboard player ended up facing US at the front of the stage!

Come and see us on the 2nd of dec at the Jazz Club in Reading - formerly known as the arches - where we will make sure that blisters on the dancefloor are the scars that chicks dig.


Friday, November 07, 2008

Bass synthery

Had a wicked time last night which reminded me how I can be effectively ressurected by a good creative session.

I left work exhausted at about 6.45pm, having had a fairly good day messing about with things. Drove over to Uncle Tony's on autopilot, with an emerging headache telling me I needed to go home and rest. I had thought I would pop my head in, listen to a couple of mixes and limp home. As it happened, I did listen to a couple of mixes (rough, but improving!) and then set up the bass synth, as we were looking to get some backing tracks for live work with click together, specifically some synth work.

I had a ball! Wicked keyboard patch on 15, very jamiroquai, good enveloped squidgy thing. far from not being able to find the chord partials I wanted, I got some really nice little triads together. And the more I played, the more cool stuff I sound.

Btw, hate to talk politics, but this talk of the brown bounce - robert peston loves the phrase - cracks me up. I just can't help thinking it sounds like a sexual deviancy. Apologies. But if you smile every time you hear that tired useless soundbite from another uninspired journalist who can't express something without using the latest 2-word oversimplilfication (credit crunch? Piss off!) then my work here is done for the day.



(playing 5 string warwick)

Saturday, October 11, 2008

AVOID iTunes 8!!!!

Yeah, I know, it's more geekery - but I just had my music collection nuked by iTunes 8. It corrupted a whole load of MP3s, some were just deleted. I'm guessing it had problems with the collection (it's pretty large) being on an external drive and being asked to update the album artwork. Either way, I'm overjoyed I backed up the lot last week.

I've uninstalled iTunes entirely and I'm downloading 7.6 as we speak. I will not be enjoying genius playlists as I'm not going through this crap again.

I'm speechless about Apple's installers as well - I didn't realise I'd enlisted Bonjour and MobileMe automatically, despite only having an iPod classic.

Why can't software companies TEST THINGS PROPERLY????

Thursday, October 09, 2008

From the mists it rose...

Hello again!

Well, it's been an age. Thankfully, it's the usual excuse - summer was full of music and geekery. The new band is progressing well: we've got a demo recorded (!) before we do any gigs - it's wierd to do this shit in the right order - and the songs are pretty good.

I've been performing uber-geek stuff in the day job. Ever used realVNC on a laptop over Wifi to remote control a server in the house which was running a virtual windows PC under virtualbox which was using a VPN client to get onto your company network and then used RDP to control your machine at your desktop?

I have. And it worked really well.

Music wise, I've got Bass Synth!!! The Roland system is installed on the 6-string, and it's truly brilliant. The tracking at the very bottom of the low B is a little slow, but if you're ready for it, you can compensate.

The band are rehearsing in a cool rehearsal space on a farm in the middle of nowhere outside Wokingham. It's pretty cool, the gear is pretty good (I'm using the stack though, good to crank it).

More later if you're listening and you're good.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Floppy Music

Just caught this through google video. It's musical geekery.

Insane! I love it!

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Customer service or bad luck?...

Something just occurred to me. Since march, I've bought three things by credit card, either over the phone or on the internet, which I've had to get refunds for. These were:
  • A headlamp for the car (scrapyard job - they sent me a bumper instead and I had to invoke a chargeback to get my money refunded)
  • Mario Kart Wii from Amazon (waited an entire month for it to be shipped, they did their usual crap with the website, stringing me along while they kept my money)
  • Some gear to turn one of the basses into a synth bass (this one really hacked me off. I did a bit of research, realised the bundles usually only come with the guitar pickup, not the bass one, so I went out of my way to confirm at every stage of the ordering they knew what I needed. They shipped the *&^# guitar one anyway).
It just struck me that I've never had such a lousy run of luck before. I'm going to stop shopping at Amazon because their JIT oriented user interface lies through its' teeth about the status of your order so they can get the cash out of you and give you the impression you can't get a refund when you can (what sort of strange state for an order puts it "pre shipping" for god's sake?). The scrapyard was a joke, but then again every time I rang them (5 times) apart from once I got someone who sounded like their skull was shaped like a frisbee. The time I got an intelligent guy he just didn't bother ringing back.

But somehow synth gear bums me out the most. I tried my best. I did all the hard work. All they had to do was check their stock, and send me the right thing. I found out since they don't even have the bass pickup, so it's refund time again.

I'm starting to think shopping in shops is actually a better idea. Online retailers are starting to take the piss and the pinch starts to bite (to mix my metaphors).

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Quick geek post.

Sorry, this just made me laugh out loud. It's been about... oh... 30 years since I looked up rude words in dictionaries. The internet just gives you so much more scope.

So I typed "wiener" (a favourite crap american slang term of mine) into Wikipedia (as I knew it would return a lot of high-intellectual-value matches which I could snigger at) and the first link I clicked on was this one. Frankly the concept of an Extended Wiener Index makes me giggle uncontrollably but then I haven't had enough sleep!

Incidentally (on this blog???) I've got a new musical project! It's looking well funky, I've been writing loops with the guitarist at his (well equipped) studio on the edge of Reading, and he's got some bandwidth (no pun intended) to organise stuff. Good PA too.

Watch this space for links when we've got songs together - it's looking like an all-original setlist too, which is great. Drummer's no slouch, he's got good chops and he's very keen to work on the stuff, having been tied down to a covers band for too long - he wants to explore (and so do I!)

pip pip!

Monday, May 05, 2008

ReBirth of a ReBirth...

Well, the bad news is it's been a long time since I gigged. This doesn't mean I've been idle though - I think the last time I spent this much time working on technique I was still living in a shared flat in St Andrews: net result is I've got very strong hands, and Chromatic Fantasy is coming along very nicely (I've started learning page 3!) - I'm not having to warmup before playing Bach suites.

This stuff is really esoteric though, it's not something I would ever gig. And that's where music lives - playing live to real people - so the lack of gigging is chafing pretty badly.

Hopefully this will change soon! The open night I used to go to in Windsor died on its' arse following some rather shady machinations (not least that the venue location sucked, unless you enjoy getting lost is a building site underneath the railway in windsor), but Tony, who was running the nights, is a great guitarist, and he's keen to start something with the sort of funky vibe I enjoy playing. He's got a great vocalist already, and percussion is lined up - we need a good drummer, and I reckon keyboards will be vital too (Terry was a huge part of the Janeiro/Tempa Tempa sound).

It's nice to be there on the ground floor - at the start - and I want to make this something special. I've got gear which hasn't been gigged itching to sit behind me on stage, and at the moment there's a lot of lines jumping out from under these well exercised hands every time I start playing. It's time I got out there.


Saturday, March 15, 2008

A spot of politics. Sort of.

Anyone who knows me knows I hate politicians. Well, modern politicians anyway - you know the sort, the ones who make it to the front bench, the eton/oxbridge/etc educated career politicians who dabbled in law before they "heeded the calling" and decided they'd prance about in a gothic craphole getting pissed on our taxes...

But the recent budget has me slightly hot under the collar, and not because I'm some telegraph reading twat who's concerned about the residuals on his mondeo ( - "Families to suffer" ) - but because ( I should mention I'm under the heathrow flight path) of the brutal hypocrisy of the government with regard to air travel.

Nearly everybody who lives in this area thinks the third runway is a pisspoor idea - in Slough it's apparently 100% (dunno how they managed that one) - and it appears that the department for transport is also in deep deep collusion with BAA to try to push this through ("Heathrow runway collusion denied" but then they're not going to admit anything, are they?) and besides, some of the original figures used to justify the expansion are massaged ( "BAA rigged figures to hideairport delays" ) - and Ruth Kelly actually supports the expansion of Heathrow with a third runway(!) - there are voices of dissent in higher places, thank god ( "Report attacks heathrow expansion" ).

This doesn't stop the CBI from spreading the usual pinstripe hysterical blackmail - "Richard Lambert, director-general of the CBI, recently said major financial institutions would desert the City if Heathrow was not expanded." - and the quotes from some self-interested conglomeration of parties whose livelihood is intertwined with air travel have suggested that 500,000 tourism jobs would be lost without airport expansion(!)... what a load of sensationalism.

So. Cars = bad, planes = good. Because we all know planes run on carbon dioxide and spew out oxygen! Oh yes...

I see in some of these stories that other bodies than groups of citizens are objecting to BAAs relentless lobbying. NATS and the CAA have concerns, and if your air traffic controllers reckon there isn't enough room in the sky, I'd listen. Before a 747 falls on your precious houses of parliament after crashing into another 747.

Seriously, we have to rebase how we think about "progress". It's not economic growth. Economic growth brings us, amongst the good stuff, some really bad stuff (I'm using this mode of speech deliberately). Gordon Brown went to China and wilfully ignored how they treat people as he wants their cash injected into our economy...

We have to slow down. We've only been running this hot as a species for a hundred and fifty years, maybe. If we don't slow down we're going to come to an abrupt halt.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

The arts as a business

I confess I'm a little cynical about this, but it might be to do with the total lack of support I had from any official sources to admit that talent and hard work in a "creative" field would get me anywhere - no, when I met with careers advisers, they were all obsessed with "good jobs". God help you if you fancied doing something creative.

so is an interesting development. Perhaps Gordon is gradually coming to the realisation that 1) we ain't competitive in making anything tanglible, 2) the square mile and legal crap working out of london is responsible for far too much of our GDP, and 3) we do actually have a reputation in the world as a country which makes some decent music.

God knows why though - perhaps the endless self-flagellation of shit jobs, crappy pay from gigs, and exhaustion trying to persuade fat gits in suits you're worth a punt makes the music better through hardship :)

I'll leave it there...

Sunday, February 17, 2008

When techie-diagnosis bites back

Recently I took a really long car ride with my wife, about 12 hours in total. We were heading for a winter hol and had covered about 70 miles on our way to the chunnel when we heard what sounded like static coming from the windscreen area.

I quickly flipped into techie-diagnosis mode and started examining the aircon, fan, proposed that it might be the roof box noise coming through automatic cold air vents on the front etc.

It perplexed us (and at one stage we caught some taxi talk too) for the next half hour, with nic saying it was coming from her left, and me saying it was on my right, and it sounded like the sort of "flat noise" you get which is often hard to place.

Nic then suggested it sounded like static on a radio, at which point I remembered I had a walkie-talkie in my pocket. It had switched itself on against the centre console!

A sobering revelation. The WT was in my pocket as it's the orphan of the one I lost: I'm hoping to find another pair to go with it, and had been looking earlier in the day.

Sometimes though, occam's razor really ought to be applied early. Consider my forehead slapped. :)

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Studios and an old lesson re-learned

Funny how some old addages can help you out, eventually. In my case the last few days have been a righteous return to "RTFM, idiot"... if you're not sure what that means, I'm sure the web will provide.

I've got a fairly old (but plenty powerful) athlon machine with cubase SL on it, and a cool software-driven mixing desk with MIDI out. I've been trying on and off (most off, I got frustrated) to get the desk to control Cubase as a control surface. I'd tried using my Innate Sense Of Technology but this was tricky... the desk has various modes of control, including direct control of ADAT machines, etc - so you have to choose your mode of operation carefully. Hence reading the manual. Once I worked out that the desk could transmit everything as MIDI messages, and read the cubase manual about configuring the generic remote control, I soon had the whole lot talking nicely.

I do suspect I need a newer version of cubase though: the desk is fully motorised and it would be useful to have the desk controlled by cubase, restoring fader levels, etc...

On the live music front, it's still quiet at the moment... there's a lot of interesting stuff coming up on StarNow, but I don't know if I want to pay the buggers so I can respond to the want ads :) I suspect the first thing I should be concentrating on is making my website a better advertisement for my talents... so the studio it is then.

If you're out there, Jamie... give us a shout mate :)

Sunday, January 20, 2008

StarNow leads in London

I've got some interesting looking leads to follow up which the RSS feed from StarNow is sending me - I'm currently looking for a new original act to join, or help form.

You could say that this is in fact another rebirth!

Incidentally, I've really rediscovered that Aria of mine. A cracking passive bass!

Oh - and the studio PCs gone tits up, but in a moment of serendipity, my dad returned his old PC as he has a new one - same mobo! So I have a donor... and, bless, more memory for the PC.

I've also found a Victor Wooten book I forgot I had - and I'm working on the transcription of Sinister Minister in there. Wacked out! Got to be careful I don't become too virtuoso though: it's the easiest thing in the world to slide into playing fantastic solo bass, but that's not what I'm about. I need an act with some creative and happy people to bring out the best in my playing. Music is pure playfulness, pure quality!

Friday, January 11, 2008

Hello! Blimey... closure?


I used to work for a fairly major Japanese electronics company, in their handset division. I was there for 7 years all told, far too long to hold a post really but I suspect I just got too comfortable. The last 3 years there were pretty bad apart from a great automation tool we worked on, which worked rather well.

They had 2 rounds of redundancies while I was on the employee forum: both times, I participated in the process, working on the definition of what would decide who stayed and who got paid off. Both times I was left in the company: and the second time, it hurt rather badly and I'm ashamed to say I behaved like an asshole for about 6 weeks. Ultimately I recovered a bit but eventually it just became too much to wait around for the final axe to fall, so I left almost exactly a year ago and spent the three months in Andorra playing bass with Janeiro in the Aspen bar in Soldeu (wotcher peeps).

I heard today that the final axe fell: I stayed in contact with the guys I used to work with ( a great team - we had a Xmas meal this year, and more than 20 of us turned up - remember, this is an EX-system test team) and now I'm trying to help throw jobs their way.

And it feels pretty good. Not gloaty good, I'm not grinning because the place is shutting down, I feel good for the guys who are still there as this will a) give them a healthy payout and b) give them a chance to work somewhere where they will feel really valued for the talents they have (Darren, Sean, et al - you are wasted on those dumb ineffectual bizarre Japanese idiots at head office: you care about quality, they care more about losing face and honour!)

It really feels like some form of closure: like something let go of properly. It's good.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

A Fine New Year!

Mad couple of weeks. Hope you had a great christmas and new year.

Nic, bless, got me a mega iPod (giving me a total of 200GB of iPod space when you take my 4th gen clickwheel into account!) so I've been spring cleaning my music collection and converting some DVDs using some wicked freeware I found out there. Bourne ultimatum actually looks pretty good.

In the last 3 days I've stashed loads of stuff in our lofts for long-term storage, built a tabletop out of 12mm chipboard and 33mm profile wood batons which fits on top of the pool table and gives us a dining table which will comfortably seat 12 (possibly 14!) but which breaks down in about 20 minutes to give the pool table back for after-dinner gaming. The jukebox started misbehaving shortly before Xmas, but once I got around to fixing it I did several component replacements and connection cleanings on the wallbox and now it's perfect, and did a great job last night during our meal (nice 5hr stewed beef bourginon) where it provided excellent background music.

Good friends, good food, and Ravin Rabbids 2 on the Wii with 4 controllers. Ever seen 4 people trying to run away from a big rolling rock a la Indy? Hysterical!

I may even have some video of it :)

And in addition, my studio now has good square footage to walk around in. I'm feeling good about 2008 - I think it could be a very creative year. Certainly I'll be finding something local to do...

----- Today's Practise Diary -----
Something original in the STUDIO