Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Bloody snowy hell! It's like childhood out there!

I've been working from home for 2.5 days now, it's been rather productive. The valley we're in still hasn't had its' road treated, so I'm stuck. In fact, I pushed a Peugeot and a Porsche up both sides last night to rescue the poor idiots.

Today according to the met office things are supposed to get better; the sky looks bloody grey to me, with gathering darker clouds on the horizon. And it's getting colder again.

The view from the kitchen as I type:

I think we'll be walking to the supermarket and laying in a whole shitload of grub very soon. :-)

Merry Xmas to all. Especially the poor humps who abandoned their BMWs in Whitley wood and went to retrieve them only to find them minus alloys an radio. Jeez, that’s low.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Have to post a wintry pic.

I was forced to walk a mile or so today to get some milk, as our road didn't get gritted or cleared (still lethal!). On the way there I got some really picture postcard shots.

Who'd have thought anywhere near Slough could look nice?

New equipment.

Under-keyboard CAT add-in. Complete Audio Triumph.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Killing in the name of... Reality TV

There's a lot of talk about the race for Xmas no 1. I've bought my first online music by purchasing a copy of Killing in the Name Of by Rage against the Machine, as prompted by a facebook group, starte by a couple who got tired of preprocessed pap from Simon Belt-navel Cowell.

I thoroughly endorse their approach, but all the news reports I've seen on this seem to be missing the salient point with the UKs population now so tired of reality TV that they are willing, whenever possible, to subvert them through voting strategies, and now by deliberately pushing a reality TV "winner" (let's face it , long term his outlook isn't great) off the top slot.

Mr cowell's public annoyance will turn into something else a la the Jedward 180, I bet.

So buy a copy of the RATM track and be a rebel; be different; and actually recapture part of the spirit of Christmas by telling the prepackaged hypnosis-fest which is the unholy alliance of TV and music industry to "F@&£ you, I won't do what you tell me"

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Breeze at the Flowing Well, Friday night

Good to see them again. Sounding awesome with new keyboard player who can get in there on bass and guitar as well. They do Queen now! And it's getting like the osmonds up there with Steve's nearest and dearest doing drums and vocal guest slots!

- Posted on the move

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Last toms of the season

Yay! Before the frost sets in, look what was on the plants... And now rescued! I see lots of salsa. Mmmm!

Now, where's me fretless and the ashbory. Have a rap track to work on.

- Posted on the move

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Alan Carr - chatty tw@t

I've never really seen this latest of our great British tradition of camp humourists before, but I just caught a few minutes of his show on BBC1. Bit tragic. I thought mercilessly taking the pee out of that slightly mentally fragile bint off x-factor last year who has "White horses" out on single was last years' tired character assassination based humour?

Seriously though, is this guy actually gay? Gay people are often naturally funny I reckon. The audience sound like they've been beaten around the head with applause cards. It's like listening to a giggling bath tap.

Not funny.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

November. And it's tomato harvesting time, still.

Madness. But they are perhaps the hardiest tomatoes we've ever grown. They are just leaning against the house, user the deep eaves we have, and they get a fair amount of sun.

Weather looks okish this week. I reckon well still be cropping next week.

Got to love growing your own. Next year hopefully we'll get our patch up the hill working. Currenty it's all brambles!

Incidentally, anyone want to buy a green Xantia? I just got another one and I think I should at least pare it down to one.


Sunday, November 08, 2009

The tyranny of push

I just turned off nearly all the email stuff facebook sends you, and turned on the SMS notify stuff, but only for messages, not wall posts, etc.

Apart from the annoyance having to look through about a million emails with one damn comment each, it was filling one of my inboxes with utter junk, making it hard to find actual messages.

Why can't facebook do a daily digest with it all in?

It's a bit academic anyway. Since I got this phone I tend to check facebook when I've got a free minute, and the support on it is great, so you soon catch up.

Anyone out here use Twitter? It sounds like a great place to meet up and discuss topics with other near-psychotic disillusioned thirtysomethings.

- Posted on the move

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Output to rise

Nothing political. I have decided to take time out from playing live. All the recent stuff with stress has forced me to confront some ideas I have cast into stone, and question them properly to find out if they are as important as I think they are.

Recent advances on t'web mean I can collaborate far more easily with people, and the studio has had its' recent makeover. My inability to find time to practise and write properly within a band setting became another source of stress rather than the glorious experience it should be, so I'll be working solo and collab for now.

Hopefully this will mean more output. I hope so, this is an experiment.

- Posted on the move

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The power of the web

Wow. Just got an email from the guitarist, he's already mixed down a live recording of our new track (and his studio has a bloody excellent live sound) and he's sent us out download links already.

How different is that to when I started, swapping tapes of rehersals. He's done a pro sounding recording already!

I love tech when it's useful, truly useful. That's why I'm not using windows any more. It's useful alright, but it's gone too far and has become a bewildering array of features accessible from a thousand areas (usually unintuitive ones). Top that off with vulnerability and instability and I'm finally off to unix land (prob osx).

Weird. No more windows, apart from supporting the ones left in the house.

His studio is osx now as well!

- Posted on the move

Monday, October 26, 2009

Ableton live

Wow, this feels odd compared to cubase. Very strange.

Some similarities but mostly damn odd.

Looks the part though.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Rehearsal notes

Note 1; Get here on time. My bad, but Burnham and it's fantastic random a4 backup mechanism at j7 did
NOT help.

Note 2; soundproof my own studio. Since tony did his the recordings in they are just spectacular. He can seriously just stick a couple of mics in for ambience and get something which sounds fantastic!

- Posted on the move

Time trouble

I've been trying to get some arranging done on some tracks for jacquoda but there doesn't seem to be enough time. It's probably half "blank page disorder" an half masses of other stuff to do. But it got to get done; I need to get some kind of creative output going or I'm going to go insane (there's a grain of truth there, I'm actually having stress counselling at the moment!).

It's a rehearsal this afternoon as prep for a gig. Long one I reckon.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Saturday, October 24, 2009


I capitulated in Italy and bought an iPhone 3gs. It's excellent. I wish I'd been part of a company which had wanted to produce a device like this when I was working at Panasonic. They would have dismissed the ideas present on this device so quickly, the Japanese simply didn't want to listen to gaijin ideas.

Well now the gaijin have beaten them on the usability front!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Perception: reality: new media: mini-breakdowns?

High minded title, eh? I’ve been on a short break recently, and anyone who reads my facebook drivel will tell you I needed one.

I came to realise something while I was out there though. I’ve been far too stressed about both things I can’t control, and the lack of control I exert over the things I should. It’s affected my sleep, my work, my music and the way I view people. So, I’ve been conducting experiments on myself for the last couple of days to see if I can recognise and nuke the stress responses (usually by avoiding the stimulus).

In recent times, I seem to have become increasingly obsessed with researching, defining and quantifying how and why western society will ultimately tear itself to pieces, in a far messier and nastier way than communism did. While this was entertaining initially (it’s fun to trawl using google news) ultimately it’s self-fuelling and doesn’t achieve anything, except adding a little more to the stress fuel tank. Avoiding news media entirely is now my immediate goal – I’m not keeping track of MPs expenses (but mark me, if a sitting MP turns up on my doorstep I may spit in their face), I’m not following Obama-wan, I’m not concerned with Gordon Brown. Or I’m not trying to be.

Just the act of writing that first sentence in the last paragraph kicked in my new experimental “stress watchdog” reflex, which I’m trying to cultivate. Doubtless there are plenty of exercises in the Cognitive Behavioural Therapy arsenal which describe this in better terms, but I’m attempting to better realise the things which place me under stress, and actively take steps to stop my mind spinning off into the strange rants that have characterised my recent behaviour. Please bear with me during this transitional period, but do feel free to try out my new reflex with the odd good natured prod!

Those of you who are already naturally possessed of this talent will probably roll your eyes and think “get a life!” – that’s definitely the kind of mindset I’m after.

See, I’ve seen some old friends on facebook who are definitely going down a bad path to a place where I’m afraid only chemical solutions will bring them back up to “normality” (that’s a whole other debate – are we declared insane when we fall outside societal norms of defined sanity, and is this necessarily bad? Ah, Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance). I’m not into posting a continuous stream negative stuff about how I feel for the public to consume: some things should be kept private – but definitely shared with actual people, face to face, so the human touch can actually take hold, instead of the horrible spectacle of watching someone trying to gain sympathy and self-confidence through the pity of others: that path can never work. I should say right now that I believe firmly that people have to reach a nadir, a low point, before rebuilding and recovery can take place. I sincerely hope that everybody I see feeling down or bad can reach this point and build the ramp back out of the hole.

I think I hit my stress limit in the last couple of weeks, and I’m actually feeling pretty good that I now recognise this and I can move on to take the steps to increase the proportion of my life which I feel in control of and enjoy, and strip out the meaningless stressful “prophet of doom” crap. I’m just not built for it, and it’ll kill me if I keep trying to persuade people we’re all shafted. I’ll have to keep a close eye on myself though: I recognise it’s because I care about things being “right” (morally, scientifically, personally, emotionally, etc) that I get so stressed, but I don’t think I’ve ever thought about what happens when your stress water-butt gets full J

I’d encourage anyone who is torturing themselves as I did (I don’t even know how many people are?) to do your best to let it slide, to forget about it… to get a life.

Hope that wasn’t too self-improvement-manual. Normal service will resume, promise.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Duxford on the buses

Fantastic place, duxford. Not been here since I was a child; it's grown a fair bit and no mistake! There's a hanger containing nothing but american aircraft, including the truly gigantic stratofortress, which is awe inspiring.

But I have always had a thing about the SR71 blackbird, it's a bonkers testament to cold war paranoia when it met scientific insanity. A mach 3 monster, this thing was a spy plane that flew at 80,000 feet with surfaces that could get to 500 degrees and more, they had to wait half an hour before servicing it on the ground to let it cool down!

Awesome ;-)

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Face bar: First band on, and the insanity of thursday nights..

Not bad: their vocalist has some presence, a curiously country and western feel. The bassist is a hired hand, he tells me, and he ought to ensure he knows the songs back to front! I hear the odd missed entry note...

Wierd gig, this one-not played this venue before, 5 bands in one night: tony is providing PA and his guitar amp, I'm providing the CCL plus 4x10 cab as bass amp. Apparently tony volunteered his system after having heard the system oin face bar-it is a little older, I guess-and the sound in there is pretty good as a result of Tony's system.

However, the guys here wanted us here at 3pm! Now, I am still a wage slave at the moment, so to speak. So this was def not possible! ;-)

Anyway, it'll be 930pm before we're on. junkyard scientists are on after us: I hear they're great, and I do like their sound. Coolio!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Another gig, but LOUDER

Tonight, it was Milestone Centre, Northbrook rd, Caversham Park. And it was a wicked gig. Tonight was definitely a lesson on two fronts:

Z) spend more time through the full stack and work on the sound through the multitude of signal processing stuff to try to make sure levels are the way you want and the Q-tron is actually going "whah" in the way you intended

€) don't have more than one drink. ;-)

Schloop) while playing, ensure you are shorter than your drummer

12.5) start your gig with the theme from FilmXXXX (tonewheel jackson rules!)

Great gig. Loads of fun.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Jagz: not been to this venue before...

I'm in ascot, at Jagz, a bar and restaurant complex type thing opposite the station. Upstairs they have a long, barrel-ceiling room with a huge stage at the end.

We're on after a couple of acoustic acts: the pic here is of a fella who has really nice songs and a cracking fingerpicking style on guitar: a little like newton falkner, and he's got a great sense of humour. "if i am a biscuit tin, you are a bourbon" :-)

He's even sharing about the perils of carbonated drinks and burping mid-lyric. Love it!

Today I got really hacked off at a lack of summer, lack of 2 week break and, indeed, total lack of a complete break at all: so I booked NEXT year's summer hols, at Metochi Cottage in Crete. This place is magical.

And now I'm suddenly happier: visualising the future pleasure of a familiar 19th century stone built cottage with a nice small pool of your own, tree coverage that seems to be perfect all day long and a local lidl with wicked cool beer.

Good times to come. And italy in a month where I buy my iPhone!

And a good gig tonight. I'm on the stack, and the sound is wicked out front.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Sunday social at the Bang Bar

What an odd wee venue! It's right in the middle of Basingstoke's own "central LA" skyscraper zone, but all the offices look like they're empty and a good portion of them look broken into! A long, deep bar, it's got odd colour schemes and reasonable acoustics.

Not come along to a "sunday social" before, I found out about it through Loz Lozza, champion of inependent music.

Trouble is, they had a big gig around here last night, and apparently the afterparty is still going. Elsewhere. So there aren't many musos here at all, which is a little sad. Not having a solo repertoire, I suspect I might manage a pint and then head back, but we'll see.

With a few people in it could def be interesting though. Bang Bar, it's at. Google for address.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

A reply to an email from a recruitment agent...

I don't usually like posting non-music stuff (although it happens a lot) but I got an email from a recruitment agent whose subject quoted a BBC news story: "recession is "coming to and end".

I don't believe this one bit, so I had to pen him a reply. After my thoughts gelled, I was quite happy with their summation of my thoughts so I thought I'd post them here so I don't lose them. I hope you'll indulge me.

Many thanks for your email XXXXX.

However, my opinion is that the BBC is reporting on another “mass self-hypnosis” (with the last being, in all quarters, both public and financial sector, that the financial boom was sustainable).

Our last 10 years of growth were generated by financial magic, which turned out to be borrowing from the future in an exponential fashion.

Right now, people are buying cars, houses and plasma TVs by borrowing money which has been borrowed from the Treasury in the form of gilts. This has now caused those who have access to the media to start reporting that people, and now businesses, are feeling better about themselves. However, until we all wake up and realise that the money has to come from somewhere, and that organic financial growth cannot be in double digits (which is what the stock market and fickle day-traders have come to expect), we are heading for another cliff after what might feel like a small plateau, when governments and central banks finally realise they simply cannot hold up the edifice which we have all contributed to in the last decade.

I had to respond to your email – I do apologise if this is an odd reply to get!

I too saw the BBC report but it simply doesn’t ring true with me at all. I’m not paranoid enough to believe that central government is seeding stories like this – I don’t actually believe in sinister top-down management, frankly the management I see tells me that most people who rise to the top of the tree are struggling to control their own small empires – instead, I believe humanity builds complex systems which it cannot hope to control (or even understand – economists being a case in point, they really ought to be called Economic Historians), and which often blow up in our faces due to forces within them which align (usually on the basis of simple human instincts). In the case of the last decade, we’re looking at a financial system out of control on its’ own drunken binging on wholesale capital markets, with individual human greed in investment banking arms (bonuses et al) and a lack of oversight on the part of governments who just loved all the tax that came in. Collective hypnosis and an unwillingness to listen to those who tried to warn the system of its’ own lack of foundations led to where we are now. The people at the bottom just loved being able to buy all those new cars and plasma TVs.

I see no underlying changes either in the mindsets of the participants or the system itself which can make me believe that the recession is coming to an end.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Fwd: The butler - tiny venue, loads of character!

Well, here I am at the butler in Reading - a pub saved by the locals, I'm told - where they've decided to take a backroom which still has BSH calendars on the walls, about the size of a normal living room, and put live music on, including us. Mad! I just moved about 10 chairs off what looks like an old railway cart to put my bass amp somewhere!

It's 4 acoustic acts and then us and the venue feels really nice, actually - small enough to feel like a gig in your living room. This could be a great "underground" venue.

The pic is of the first acoustic act: they're pretty good, like the waterboys actually, nice sounds with guitar, bass and mandolin/banjo. case Hardened, they're called.

On my front - I bought a powerball for exercising and warming up and it ROCKS! i can seriously recommend these if you're a musician: I did about 5 minutes 20 mins before our soundcheck, and when I started playing it was like I'd been playing for hours-totally warmed up!

If you're a muso, get one now. Low impact, high strength, and no loss of dexterity. Sweet!

Friday, July 31, 2009

The butler - tiny venue, loads of character!

Well, here I am at the butler in Reading - a pub saved by the locals, I'm told - where they've decided to take a backroom which still has BSH calendars on the walls, about the size of a normal living room, and put live music on, including us. Mad! I just moved about 10 chairs off what looks like an old railway cart to put my bass amp somewhere!

It's 4 acoustic acts and then us and the venue feels really nice, actually - small enough to feel like a gig in your living room. This could be a great "underground" venue.

The pic is of the first acoustic act: they're pretty good, like the waterboys actually, nice sounds with guitar, bass and mandolin/banjo. case Hardened, they're called.

On my front - I bought a powerball for exercising and warming up and it ROCKS! i can seriously recommend these if you're a musician: I did about 5 minutes 20 mins before our soundcheck, and when I started playing it was like I'd been playing for hours-totally warmed up!

If you're a muso, get one now. Low impact, high strength, and no loss of dexterity. Sweet!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Apple admits iPhone supply issues

Apple admits iPhone supply issues

Well, that vindicates my final capitulation to Cupertino... truth is, all the other manufacturers, who've had years to create something as compelling as the iPhone, have frankly pissed away the time creating overly complex bits of kit. It's the classic PC vs Mac scenario, only in your pocket this time. I've had enough of pisspoor UIs and knowing the internals - time to get stupid! :)

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

118 800 – the exploitative company that leaves really nice comments on your blog posts

Anyone who reads my rants will remember my posting a few days back where I was pointing out that their company are a bunch of shysters making money out of your private number. OK, they don’t give your number to people, no, they SMS you the contact details of the person who made the enquiry!!! Apart from being an utterly pathetic sop to privacy, this business idea has several flaws:

  • While most people hate cold calling, they also don’t like receiving spam texts either, and will make themselves X-directory as soon as they receive anything from 118800 (don’t forget, kids, 118800’s website is permanently down right now and their x-directory service is offline so keep trying until they’re back up – don’t lose interest, that’s what they want you to do)
  • You know what your friends’ mobile numbers are, or you ask them for their number to put on your phone – the whole concept of a mobile phone directory enquiries is utterly last millennium, and only really applied to landlines anyway. Who is going to ring 118 800 to catch up with someone they haven’t seen for years???
  • They don’t have up to date lists. All the major UK mobile operators told them to p!ss off in no uncertain terms. 118800s response? They threatened to enact some legislation which apparently gives directory enquiries companies legal rights to lists of subscribers. Well done to the UK mobile companies for standing up to them and telling them that they didn’t think their subscribers would want their numbers given to 118800. They are right. In the end, 118800 was forced to buy lists from market research companies. So they’re starting with bad data, which will dwindle as millions ask to be made x-directory.
  • As millions apply to be made x-directory, the service will become less and less useful and not worth the money. So nobody will be calling them anyway.

These are further points garnered from some excellent thoughts from friends and colleagues.

However - my original post seems to have been picked up by an employee of 118800! How nice! You’d think they’d be more concerned with trying to get their pathetic website up and running so we can all apply to be made x-directory, wouldn’t you? But no! This comment appeared on my last 118800 rant…

Hello, Joe from 118800.co.uk here.
Our service on 118 800 and 118800.co.uk was being tested in June. There are now developments we want to make to improve the service for our customers. But due to the high levels of enquiries we are getting, we are simply not able to complete the technical work required whilst the service is live. We are sorry for inconvenience and will be up and running again as soon as possible.
Just to reassure you that we’ll never actually give out anyone’s personal details. When you search on 118800.co.uk, we’ll send an SMS message to the person you’re looking for, giving them your contacts details and it is then up to you if you wish to call them back or not.
If you have any questions or concerns, please contact us on

I do love the stipulation that high levels of enquiries are keeping them offline. “We are sorry for the inconvenience!” – if you’d read my post, Joe-Bot, you’d have noticed I think you should be offline permanently.

And my only concern at this time is with the poor bastards who have backed this company with capital. You won’t be seeing any return dudes, this one was a turkey from the start. Who thought this could work???

Monday, July 13, 2009

118 800 - the company making money out of your mobile number

No doubt you've heard of this company - they pitch themselves as directory enquiries for mobile phones. Although they don't give people's mobile numbers out, what they represent is an agglomeration of available information (trawled and bought) on people's mobile numbers, which they are then leveraging for profit.

What I didn't realise is that this miserable commercial proposition is based here in Reading. I'm not that surprised though, this is, after all, the home of a bridge design company who bribed governments and violated the oil-for-food scheme in Iraq when Saddam was still in power.

118 800 has to be eradicated. I suspect the public in the UK are doing a good job already: the company is very keen to be seen to be compliant with data protection so they have handily provided ways to declare yourself x-directory (like you should have to!!!) - either through their website or by texting a capital "E" to 118800 (you should receive a reply).

The problem is, their website has now been down for the best part of a week as thousands (hopefully millions) of angry mobile users deregister themselves.

I'd like to form a campaign to make this information as available as possible, and for every last active mobile number they have to declare itself x-directory: hopefully we can put these bastards out of business. How dare they buy our mobile numbers and then give them out to people we don't want bothering us - no matter what they claim, this "service" is not required. Your mobile is a very personal form of communication - you know who your friends are, their numbers are IN YOUR PHONE ALREADY - so why would anyone need this pile of crap from a bunch of sharks based in Reading, craphole of the universe?

Get yourself deregistered as soon as you can: keep an eye on the site. If it comes back up, I'll post a message.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Another post? Man eating robots!!!

Lots of non-musical posts. Sorry about that. I'm getting distracted by funny stuff at the moment.

Speaking of which, the Register is a geek site I visit a lot.


the way this is written cracked me up!

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

The M25: I don't use it. Thank god.

Roadworks threaten M25 traffic jams for three years

I have a trafficmaster oracle system in my car, which talks to you, telling you the major issues ahead and on adjoining motorways. Sometimes it's a judgement call ( 5 mins, 10 mins, could be nothing... ) but since the M25 started to get widened (and the cones went out months ago now, they have only just started work on the road itself) as I approach J7 every evening (6-7pm) it barks in a female Stephen Hawking style that clockwise from J15 (the M4 interchange) the M25 has "stationary traffic for 17 miles. Severe delay. AVOID."

Wow. That, for three years? Who the hell would continue to live in this insanity? When they widened the stretch between the M40 and M3 I noted that what this did was create a pressure vessel between 2 pinch points. Hey presto, it has now got so awful trying to get north and south from the M4/M25 junction they're going to try to take 3 years to improve just the northbound side to the A1!!!

Time to get that horse I think.

Sorry about the rash of headlines.

There's just too much comedy about.

Governments 'must prevent suicides during recession'

I think one of those strong catch-nets under the No 10 staircase would be a start. Oh no, hang on, just leave that one off.

Governments must try HARDER not to COMPLETELY BALLS-UP EVERYTHING THEY TOUCH would be a slightly better rebuke, I suspect. Their lack of long-term planning and foresight, combined with a suicidal fawning worship of city suits, got us here.

My only hope is that those who decide to take their own lives do so in front of a cabinet member, preferably Mr tripartite regulation himself, Gordon Brown.


I believe I can fly!

... straight to B&Q to get some anaglypta to go over this lot - talk about giving everybody nightmares...

Get your Michael Jackson tribute wallpaper says the tearaway Sun. Solvit with Solvite? Eek.

Talk about non-geek. They mean COMPUTER DESKTOP wallpaper.

Today's best King of Pop (tm) headline

This in from the Times Online - Michael Jackson's family may await return of brain before burial.

So they have one between them? What are they, mormons?

Monday, July 06, 2009

Reshaping society - "commuting" is pointless

I just got a small online survey to complete regarding commuting. Here in the Glorious (i.e. shitty) Thames Valley, everybody uses cars, and hates each other. I got a bit philosophical (surprise surprise) at the last page of the survey - you know, the "any more points to add" bit where you can type some free text in - here's what I wrote.

It's not about how you get here (meaning work), it's where you live and how that relates to your mode of transport. The last 20 years have lauded mobility (e.g. politicians references to our wonderfully mobile workforce) and the ability to live somewhere other than where you work. Net result, clusters of glass and steel boxes where people work, away from their homes. Clusters of steel boxes out of town where they shop.
The only solution is to either make workplaces smaller and locate them in pleasing buildings near where people live, or to tell people to move close to where they work.
Undoing 20 years of social trending regarding car-centric behaviour patterns will take more than "why don't you use the train" type surveys.
It will require the demolishion of our current workplaces and shopping centres and a return to smaller ways of life.

I really do believe this stuff. I think anyone who wants to drop out of the rat race but keep some technological job, would do well to move to Devon or the West Country, where there seems to be a high-tech cottage industry if what I hear is right. Live near where you work: in a beautiful location: work in a nice building (you hope) near where you live.

And drop out of this tragic excuse for an existence in the Thames Valley.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Short breaks, long days, and giving in to the Jesus Phone

It's been a few days since I last posted - I'm making this one from my desk job in a 5-minute "eye break" as I've been flat out today with several different things as usual. I've realised my work-life balance may not be as good as it could be, but mainly because I'm pushing myself a bit too hard during the day. I'm not really doing enough musically in the evenings and I've had a lot of cold type stuff recently (I suspect allergies too, I'm a scottish coastal boy, not this inland english NO2 laden humid hell!) so I've been remiss on the practise side, which I have just started really ramping up again.

The "Jesus Phone"? It's a term often applied to the iPhone, an item recently upgraded to the "3Gs" model which finally sees the iPhone having capabilities which catch up to the 3-year-old P990i I'm still using. In version 3.1 of the iPhone operating system they finally get voice dialling, something I suspect Apple have put in pronto because the new Android handsets don't have it.

This raises an interesting observation for me. I was in mobile phones for many years, and I used a long succession of SonyEricssons, from an old brick 768 (my first phone!) all the way through
to my current P990i. I liked the SEs because their feature set was larger than Nokias, and the user interface seemed slightly more intuitive to me (probably because it built on earlier SEs) and more comprehensive.

I've kept a weather eye on mobiles recently looking for smartphones which I thought I'd be interested in buying: the P990 firmware does crash quite regularly, and it's a little slow. Plus, the browser really doesn't handle sites very well.

Everything I saw left me feeling a bit "meh". A bit "so what?". A bit "Well, that doesn't do much beyond my P990", and the iPhone was a total turn off because 1) it's locked to O2 here in the UK, and you can't buy it anywhere else, and O2s network sucks, and 2) it was a "dumb" smartphone - no cut and paste, feeble camera, etc etc.

In addition, Nokia's utterly dismal smartphones (bad physical design, a version of Symbian which is falling apart at the seams and has an AWFUL UI) - their recent N97 is a case in point, it's already being criticised as a missed opportunity - just turned me right off. SE have pretty much stopped making UIQ smartphones (the P1i being the last), although some WXXX badged walkman phones are still running Symbian / UIQ.

Anyway, SE are about to release some new sparkly things, but the OS is... symbian, which is now entirely owned by Nokia (albeit under some form of "open" guise) - so I'm right off Symbian.

Android ain't looking bad, but no voice control for dialling! I've had that on phones now for 4 years! So no dice there.

Net result? I've been looking again at the iPhone, which I've had a certain amount of respect for, with Apple pulling their usual act of releasing something unique, well-formed and compelling into a market full of the above-mentioned miserable hacked, patched, ancient or not-quite-complete mobile OSs. Until very recently OSX on the iPhone fell into this category (no cut and paste? Dinosaur!!!) but with v3.1 they finally surpass my P990i. Bravo!

Now, I'm thinking I want an iPhone. But I'm on vodafone and I want to stay that way (they have a good network - it's all Ericsson - whereas O2 have got mixed-manufacturer infastructure and a rather poor comparative coverage. But I don't want to jailbreak an iPhone, I can't be bothered knowing internals anymore: I want something that "just works" (to borrow from Jobs).

Up pops Pete Stewardson at work and reminds me that in Italy phones HAVE to be sold UNLOCKED. I'm popping over there later this year - so I'll buy a PAYG from TIM and have a totally unlocked, feature enabled iPhone! Woohoo!

Addendum: I'll also not have the first hardware iteration - I hope - the iPhone 3Gs has been getting some rather dodgy press for overheating (although this could be gimps who left it in the sun while using it as a GPS device) and poor battery life. Here's hoping it's all good by the time I buy one!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Damn! It’s hot!

DSC00057 Metaphorically AND literally – last night’s gig was seriously hot. The gig last night at the South Street Arts Centre in Reading (nice venue, by the way – slightly out of the way but it’s a good space and they arrange tables at the front!) was a reminder of how hot things get on stage when they’ve got decent lighting going (and the lighting guy does good work – a mixture of blue and purple front and back gave some really nice contrasts on Armen’s kit, and the stage looked nicely “set” before the audience came in – I was impressed by that detail – check the pic!)

I arrived pretty much on time – 5:30pm, yet! – and Fatima Spar and the Freedom Fries were just finishing their soundcheck. Lovely guys, great double bass player who reminded me of Cooter from Dukes of Hazzard – lovely sound from his bass, despite having to use an old TNT 150 (I had one of those about 15 years ago!). They’ve got a great sound, it’s a real summery infectious experience.

Once the main act were happy with their sound, I did my usual routine of waiting for Armen to work out where his kit would go – he takes up the biggest amount of room onstage so it makes sense to see how the stage looks when he’s set up. To my delight, the Freedom Fries had no problems with moving pieces of kit away a little so we had good space to set up – far more space than any of the other places we’ve played in Reading – and I found a useful spot to place the Monster Stack, on top of the subwoofer for the PA.

My amp does hiss on the tube channel a bit (it’s the tubes, it’s what they do!), and the sound engineer noticed it – he dived in with a DI box (I didn’t mind!) but it was switching to channel 2 which really cured the problem I reckon. I also got a good reading from the engineer on balancing the synth sound for The Vibe with my live bass sound, which sounded great on the night.

A wide-angle view of the stage shows how much kit there was up there! Apologies for the focus, when I upgrade my phone (finally – the ones on offer are all shite at the moment)


I was really pleased with the setup (you can see my W as a blue smudge on the far right!) – you can see Tom’s stuff on the left and Jacquoda got centre stage which is ideal – as it meant I could dismantle my stuff and get it offstage ASAP.

The gig went pretty well – I had spent all day doing mouse work at work, and my right hand was oddly stiff – took ages to loosen up – and that’s my excuse for the cack bass work on Turn me On. And I’m sticking with it :).

One thing though: as we’ve played a lot of small venues so far, we’re really not used to be spaced out across a stage: we needed better monitoring, but this isn’t easy in a short timespace (we only found out we were supporting 10 days ago!) – we’ve agreed that we need to rehearse in some bigger rooms, and some in-ear monitors for Jacquoda would definitely really help I suspect, she’ll be able to hear the whole band and we can tailor levels of different instruments so she gets the best mix.

Me? I don’t need no stinking monitors! I’ve got 900 watts of Warwick Neo POWER! And a very loud drummer.

Before the last track (turn me on), Jacquoda seized the initiative and did the band introduction bit, which was great – we launched into one of our patented jams, which funked up quite nicely, and when jacquoda ran through the names we got great rounds of applause and some cheers from the audience. Very gratifying. I was actually pretty pleased with the audience reaction, we reworked the set with a lot of the quieter numbers early on to “bring them up to Funkerton” – they had, after all, come to see Fatima Spar and her Freedom Fries, who aren’t quite as LOUD as we are when we get going…

All in all, a good evening with plenty of learning curves all round :)

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Ill wind?

Well, I’ve felt pretty crud today but at least something good came out of it – I revamped loads of stuff on my own website and got a facebook ad out for our gig on friday, supporting Fatima Spar and the Freedom Fries (wacked out stuff, find them on MySpace and listen to the maddest Vienna people I’ve heard in a while) – the ad’s turned out like this -

facebook fatima advert preview

this time around I paid per 1000 presentations, so we’ll see how it pans out.

The Jacquoda Site got some attention as well – now it sports the right logo and some blurb I concocted telling the start of one deflated music fan’s ride back to the high ground of the funky mind :)

Monday, June 15, 2009

Shout to Tom

Big shout to Tom Johnson (that’s his facebook account there) the skin-slappin funktor who hits things to give us some seriously infectious grooving capabilities. He’s the man for your conga needs. And car parts.

Rehearsals, colds and headaches…

You know, sometimes you just stretch it too far. You know? Like when you work hard all week to try to fix stuff, don’t get the time at home with mental energy to do the stuff you really want to NAIL in the evenings, and then find yourself wiped out at the weekends… such it was this weekend!

We had a great time on Sunday, it was something of a writing session – at least two great new grooves, with some structure emerging already, and quite nicely too. I love it when a band gets the sort of interpersonal feel where one person can suggest some kind of lick, groove or motif, get someone to play it, then sort of “fashion” the idea as it’s played by everybody, as they start throwing ideas into it. It’s like listening to plasticine being aurally moulded, as it were.

Armen had a nice simple idea, a pretty laid-back groove, a rare gem which has great potential for a whole chilled-out track with some scratchy samples from old black and white movies in it. Very smoky, end of the night, almost ambient. He just sort of “dah dah dah dah daaaaah dah – no, like chocolatey bass, andy – yeah, that’s it” and before we knew where we were we had a smooth feel rolling along.

In order to ensure our set has shade and light as well, we got a fastish thing going which I called the Duck (for some reason) – much Q-Tron in evidence, in my fave squishy driven mode. The bass in “another story” on “return of the space cowboy” in the fast parts – I love that sound – and the 6-string running through that GR-20 just gets so much boost to volume it can really drive pedals nice and hard.

Funny thing was, I was feeling more and more tired as things went on – dog-tired, like I was going to have to lie down before driving home or something. I loaded the car up, got back, and then promptly fell asleep for about 12 hours(!!!) – I did move from sofa to bed after Nic suggested it might be a good idea – but I woke up this morning with a headache like you wouldn’t believe. 400mg of ibuprofen isn’t touching it, and I’ve been like a zombie all day, with a dribbling nose and sinuses like rocks! urgh! I haven’t ruled out tree pollen yet. Could be the old allergies I used to get really bad in the summer coming back? Seems like they vanished a few years back.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

The Riviera comes to Slough

Holy cow, it’s actually hot enough to sunbathe!

So I’ll be the one setting up outside to record some new ideas :)

In the meantime, and it’s at least musically related – check this youtube vid out. It’s the best parody of Kiss I’ve ever seen.

I almost fell off my chair, it’s that funny!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Night after the Night After

Good gig, that. Bracknell has a very well hidden basement venue in an arts centre we played in last night, alongside the first gig by some rather talented guys called The Stellar Thieves – great energy live and – thankfully – their music sounds great in a night where we’re playing as well. We found someone to gig with! So nice to have a friend…

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Tuesday night gig!

We’ve got another gig at the Cellar place in Bracknell – weird venue, and last time we had a very odd band playing after (the guy before was wicked, solo acoustic) – thrash punk. Good drummer though.

If you come along, bring earplugs just in case!!! I’ll be bringing the stack so the bass will def be up there :)

Big shout to Paul Harckham, hope your Gorillapod arrives shortly mate – one tip, use one of the newer SD card or hard drive camcorders, I was using a MiniDV cam and the tape mechanism got well upset by the vibrations at points :)

Hope to see you in Bracknell on Tuesday night.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

When Digiboxes tell the truth

You have to laugh. Nic and I often have a giggle at what the program guides throw up on the Sky box – and we’ve got a Bush terrestrial digital box which gives some great comedy:


Poor old Britney. Even the digibox is out to smear her personality.

Heroes’ Bar, Maidenhead – stylish and full of FUNK

Last night, great gig. We definitely still need more material but last night was the first live outing of the new track we worked on based on the heavy vibe from a synth line I pulled on the 6-string: the track flowed pretty well last night, but it needs some sax and vox in the bridge before the chorus I reckon. Otherwise it sounds great!

I did get a bum steer from a clamper last night though – you can park round the back of this particular venue, and we did get a message from the bar owners saying that if we had a sign in the window saying we were playing in Heroes we’d be OK, but I saw the clampers freeing a poor git when I arrived, so I asked one of them what the deal was: “you can’t park here mate” got I. So I used the multi storey opposite and got all my gear down 2 sets of stairs (lifts out of order, of course) – 6-string, gear bag, pod and CCL combo – and trundled it (thankfully I didn’t bring the Monster Stack with me, god, I’d have killed meself) through maidenhead to the venue.

Good stage area – backlit with odd LED panels, cycling through colours – and some decent overhead lights. Definitely not your average pub gig. Mind you, it’s more of a trendy bar in the bit of Maidenhead with block paving and the cinema. It’s a little like Dundee – except Dundee has gentrified more of itself in the city centre.

Good gig though.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Seriously. He’s gotta go.


I’d encourage anyone who reads this to visit this site and stick your name on there. As I’ve mentioned once or twice (thoroughly abusing this information vector which is supposed to be about music) I think Gordon Brown is a naive gimp who, while chancellor, was stupid enough to think that the Banks would reign in their own excesses.

This petition is gathering pace pretty quickly, but you’ve got until October 22nd (I think) to sign it – while I’ve had my laptop on another 80 have signed up, and in the last 4 hours it’s gathered another 400 signatures.

Ideally I’d like to see it reach millions – we should be using this pathetic politicians’ attempt to use electronic media to shout “YOU STUPID GOBSHITE” in his ear!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Summer Nights… Tony feels shite!

But uh-oh the summer allergies (a wella wella wella OOH)

Bummer – we were going to be playing the Arches in Reading tonight, but Tony’s had a massive allergy attack (I’m not surprised, I saw the oilseed rape on the outskirts of town and it’s in full yellow smelly bloom) so it’s all off! Bummer.

I guess I’ll have to use the time to work on chops. Ah well, all in the name of live work eh?

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Oxford Gold and Random Rhythms

Wicked. I've been jamming to random rhythms from a steinberg loops CD and having a blast with some patches on the GR20: now a well-deserved rest. Made a latte for the first time in ages after the kitchen yielded gadgets we forgot we had (the gadgets that time forgot) and now it's Oxford Gold time.

Looks nice. :)

String Cleaning Advice

Up until a short while ago, I’d save a few quid (well, 30 odd per set!) by cleaning Bass strings in a saucepan, boiling them with some washing up liquid, rinsing and drying. While it worked quite well, the strings predictably objected to being boiled in water, and eventually the core would give up on the thinner strings.

Well, recently I came across a new way to clean bass strings online – I suspect it was via the BassChat bass forum site somewhere – using methylated spirits, available from B&Q and other outlets.

In a nutshell, just take the strings and immerse them in meths, at room temp! I leave them for as long as possible (they get a lot of oil and skin in them over time, especially the way I play) in a large plastic pot which I vapour-sealed, and it works really well. The strings come out bright, but not too bright (sort of “ready played in”) and they’ll last 3 gigs or so before they need doing again.

By far the biggest advantage is that the metal isn’t corroded by this: the only thing I think might limit the life of the strings would be the wear of the frets (so I guess the fretless will do well!) and a gradual weakening of the core through age and stress.

I’d recommend it to anyone. With the price of a set of Warwick black labels at nearly 40 quid for the 6 string, it saves me a fortune – and I now have loads of spare sets as the lifespan of the strings has been increased.

Incidentally, we’ve got a few gigs coming up:

  • Sunday 19th April – “the Arches” (or the jazz club underneath the railway line near the fire station on the IDR) in Reading
  • Friday 1st May - “Heroes” club in Maidenhead
  • Weds 13th May – Fiddlers Elbow in Camden, London
  • Tuesday 19th May – Cellar Bar in Bracknell

Good job we’re writing more material, eh? :)

Sunday, April 05, 2009

The process of writing.

DSC00145 Don’t let anyone fool you, writing songs isn’t easy. It’s the easiest thing in the world… except it isn’t. If you’re like me, and you tend to over-analyse and criticise your own work, it can be hard to persuade yourself you’ve created something of enduring quality.

This might help explain why, when I’m in the right mood, I do come up with the odd funky line, idea, motif, theme… but the arrangement is harder, and the ideas don’t come easily when you’re trying to find the middle 8, or a better bridge, or some useful rhythm device…

So today’s little session at Da Cube studios just goes to show that I can do some of my best work when I don’t have to write the song – alone!

This tune is a cracker. It’s come out really nicely. When it’s available somewhere… I’ll let you know. As a taster, it’s got a hard start which could be P diddy’s if we mix is right. The ending is totally different though. Wicked grooves.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

How fitting.... the eagles???

Well, I've got Long Road out of Eden playing at the moment - it's a bit saccharine in places, this double album, but not bad fare for having been out of the limelight for a while.

However, the lyrics for Long Road out of Eden itself seem very VERY relevant right now.

Moon shining down through the palms
Shadows moving on the sand
Somebody whispering the twenty-third Psalm
Dusty rifle in his trembling hands
Somebody trying just to stay alive
He got promises to keep
Over the ocean in America
Far away and fast asleep

Silent stars blinking in the blackness of an endless sky
Cold silver satellites, ghostly caravans passing by
Galaxies unfolding; new worlds being born
Pilgrims and prodicals creeping towards the dawn
But it's a long road out of Eden

Music blasting from an SUV
On a bright and sunny day
Rolling down the interstate
In the good ol' USA
Having lunch at the petroleum club
Smokin' fine cigars and swappin' lies
Gimme 'nother slice o' that barbecued brisket!
Gimme 'nother piece o' that pecan pie!

Freeways flickering, cell phones chiming a tune
We're riding to Utopia; road map says we'll be arriving soon
Captains of the old order clinging to the reins
Assuring us these aches inside are only growing pains
But it's a long road to Eden

Back home I was so certain
The path was so very clear
But now I have to wonder; What are we doing here?
I'm not counting on tomorrow
And I can't tell wrong from right
But I'd give anything thing to be in your arms tonight

Weaving down the American highway
Through the litter and the wreckage and the cultural junk
Bloated with entitlement; loaded on propaganda
And now we're driving dazed and drunk
Been down the road to Damascus, the road to Mandalay
Met the ghost of Caesar on the Appian Way
He said, "It's hard to stop the binging, once you get a taste"
"But the road to empire is a bloody, stupid waste"

Behold the bitten apple-the power of the tools
But all the knowledge in the world is of no use to fools
And it's a long road to Eden

To re-iterate: Gordon Brown was responsible for the light touch which helped make sure we got into this mess. He is now trying to spend us out of it.

When are we going to get the chance to wake up?

Saturday, March 07, 2009

The modern smartphone: a quick tip

GULP! Wish me luck. My trusty P990i (a little paint rubbed off on the corners, but otherwise doing very well indeed) has started acting up a bit, like an old windows machine does. It’s probably been a good year or so since I backed it up, etc so I’ve decided to do a sort of “sweep and clear”, by doing a complete backup (as an insurance policy), then a partial one where I only back up the contacts and calendar data but nothing else.

Then I’ll perform a master reset, followed by an internal drive format (making sure I back up anything in the internal drive folders, which isn’t much), and get stuck in reinstalling the apps I have on it. Effectively, I’m hoping to essentially “reinstall windows”, so to speak. I’m sure afterwards it’ll return to “as new” speed of operation, etc. Not that it’s slow, but it’s been rebooting a bit recently since I tried to get Doom working on it… I guess it may have become slightly compromised in the process. Who can tell? :)

I managed to find a 6-string set I didn’t know I had the other day, which means I now have 4 sets in Meths rotation, which is great. I think I’ll buy another 2 new sets to bring me up to a safe 6.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Politics meets music :)

I'm sitting here listening to my favourite Muse album, "Absolution", and a song remided me of our resident unelected useless bastard Gordon Brown (Kircaldy gimp that he is), a man of 10 years ignorance and big business forelock tugging:

I think I'm drowning
I wanna break this spell
that you've created (well, he is blaming everybody else)

you're something beautiful
a contradiction
I wanna play the game
I want the friction (oh, you've got it now mate)

you will be the death of me
you will be the death of me (god, I hope so - politically at least)

bury it
I won't let you bury it
I won't let you smother it
I won't let you murder it (sorry mate, your light touch regulation already did)

our time is running out
our time is running out
you can't push it underground
you can't stop it screaming out (the unsayable truth - the banking system is still sick)

I wanted freedom
bound and restricted
I tried to give you up
but I'm addicted (cheap credit, anyone?)

now that you know I'm trapped sense of elation
you'd never dream of
breaking this fixation (except for when the world realised it was printing money through recycling and repackaging of debt obligations)

you will squeeze the life out of me

bury it
I won't let you bury it
I won't let you smother it
I won't let you murder it

our time is running out
our time is running out
you can't push it underground
you can't stop it screaming out
how did it come to this? (touche)

you will suck the life out of me

bury it
I won't let you bury it
I won't let you smother it
I won't let you murder it

our time is running out
our time is running out
you can't push it underground
you can't stop it screaming out
How did it come to this? (never a truer word, you stomped about with a smug look on your fat face spouting about abolishing boom and bust, and contributed a massive amount to the world's ultimate hangover through your inability to see through the greed, lies and sharp suits of canary wharf, you moron)
ooooohh (to be uttered with a good broad Fife accent, imitating Frank Spencer)

Gordon Brown, you are a useless tosser. Dave "davo" Cameron, you are a useless empty tosser. Lib Dems, you are useless tossers who still haven't grasped that this could be your moment.

It's time for total political anarchy, a new party to wipe the floor clean of these miserable self-interested, disconnected arsewits.

Then I might vote for the first time in 20 years.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Last Night's Gig... surprise new track

After a long night watching a procession of Reading Rock (TM) we finally had the chance to go on and do our thing.

At the moment the set is still short (we've got new tracks coming through but it does take time for them to mature and no mistake!) so when we'd done the 6 tracks in the current set we got asked to carry on - so we did a new one!

New keyboard player Tony did a nice job with some really chilled soulful keys.

The revelation of the night was that we did it all without our usual backing tracks - this meant things definitely got a little more smokin' and I suspect now we have a full sized reliable line-up (fingers crossed) we can probably look at playing everything without click (although I suspect I have one or two tunes up my sleeve which I'd like to put some samples behind - I may look into foot pedals for that).

And, big kudos to Dave, our new sound engineer (and a fellow Xantia driver to boot - top stuff) who spotted the elephantine bass tendency of the room and gave me a nudge to look out for it. A quick cut at 120Hz and a boost elsewhere and the bass sound was one hell of a lot more rounded, and no mistake. I'll be taking more time to look out for that in future.

The new track got extended by a few bars by Armen, and all of us had the same idea and came back in "slight return" style: Jacquoda grabbed the opportunity to give the audience the "goodnight" speech and plug the CD, which was very entrepreneurial of her.

All in all, an enjoyable evening. And my bass pod survived a bit of a tumble, which showed how solidly it's built. Excellent.

I'll be in the studio for an hour this evening working on an arrangement, I hope.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Of mismatched bills?

I tell you, people, it's damn hard being funky in today's reading. Sure, this town aspires to become the next motown, or san francisco, but the hooded tops and lager have worn down the 'macho man' vibe and this place just isn't doing its' bit to funkifize, man. Tower of power would have ended up on a triple header with nirvana, the pixies, skunk anansie (kid not, the band on at the moment just launched into 'weak as i am'!) and jack jones. Eek.™ what to do? You gig in reading, you play on the bill with rock. Bum. And to top off my thoughts, the band have just launched into heart shaped box. Who with the funk in their soul is going to still be here?!? ARGH!

After the soundcheck, before the gig...

The limbo, before anyone comes in, when you hope you'll play to a busy venue. It is sunday night, but I've tried out facebook advertising for the first time, and it seems to work a bit like adwords from google.

I elected pay-per-click and about 100 people have clicked through to the event page for the gig. I wonder how many will come along?

If you read this on the jacquoda facebook page and you're looking for some live music this evening, come on down the the jazz club on the caversham road (i.e. The IDR) in reading. It's just down the road from the station!

If you read this in the million other places I syndicate this to, then come on down and see us. You'll boogie. Promise.

Big bass in the cavern under the trains!!!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Gig this weekend in Reading…

Jacquoda have a gig this weekend in Reading at “the Arches”, also called the Jazz Club…

The facebook page for the gig is here!

Should be a giggle. I may take some more footage but it won’t be from the headstock of the bass, the camera didn’t like the vibrations. Must be too funky in here, say it again, too funky, funky in here…

Anyone know where I can get a good set of 5 string jazz pickups?

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

A new angle on things...

I've been messing around with a old-ish Sony MiniDV camcorder recently, following some fun I had with a small SD card one (low res, that one was). Ages ago, Nic's mum got me one of those camera tripods with the totally poseable, wrappable legs on, which you can stick around fence poles, chair legs, etc etc.

I thought it might be fun to attach it the the headstock of the 6-string during a rehearsal, and got footage from a couple of songs, including "witch bitch". The playing's a little shaky as I was getting used to the extra neck heaviness!

The poor camera got rather upset at one point with the deeeeep vibes coming from the bass on the Low B so I won't be mounting it there again - I'll get hold of another SD card based one at some point, maybe a high def one? They're pretty cheap now.

Enjoy the video. Good rehearsal - we had a fantastic little session working on new tracks, one of which is going to be quite different :)

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

A quick missive – keeping your hands strong when you haven’t got time to practise properly

It’s important! I use one of those hand exercisers which can do the fingers independently: very useful, when you come to practise the following day – you can feel fresh and warmed up much quicker.

Don’t use it for longer than a couple of days though, as your hands will stay strong but you might lose some dexterity in the process, esp with stretches. Try to perform some kind of tai chi for your hands if you can!

Camcorder update – I now have a 4-pin iLink to iLink cable which works perfectly with one of the laptops in the house with built-in Firewire – so be warned, the PCMCIA Adapted combo card I was trying to use was the weak link (I tried it in more than one laptop) – it couldn’t hack the pace of the firewire stream from the DV camcorder. Tch!

So I’m now happily ripping footage from times past – including a full set from Janeiro/Breeze playing a legendary last night set in Soldeu’s fantastic Aspen bar!

I’ve also got some great footage of Steve playing slide guitar. Oh yes. heh heh

Sunday, February 08, 2009

A little Jacquoda experiment…

We’ve got material with IndieStore, and you can embed the preview player in lots of places. I’ve just put it on my website, and also on my MySpace page. Wonder if it’ll embed here?

That’ll be a “yes” :)

Sony MiniDV camcorders and firewire – and how Google can be counterproductive

*** One of my geek interruptions. Apologies. ***

I’ve got a Sony camcorder (not recent, but good enough) with USB 2.0 and firewire (iLink) streaming output. The USB 2.0 is useless for grabbing video, it can’t handle the stream amounts, but iLink should do it OK. I’ve got an Adaptec combi USB 2.0 and firewire PCMCIA card I’ve been using for hard drives for quite a while, so I got the cable (big 6 pin firewire to tiny 4-pin iLink) and had a crack.

Unfortunately, while the camera is recognised wonderfully by Windows and can be controlled and captured in Nero 6 (which I’m using) the video has small pink blocks every few seconds. Damn.

I looked into the firewire drivers windows installed and found microsoft had patched XP (labelled SP4, no less) for those drivers and unpdated them yesterday: still no dice.

After a LOT of googling – this was a hard one to track down, I finally used the search terms “mini dv streaming blocks” and found a forum entry with some solutions – I think it may be to do with the speed of the PCI bus, or possibly the cardbus, in the laptop.

This is the first time I think I’ve come across hardware limitations in the machine I want to use for a specific task: pain in the arse!

So I’ll go and look for better drivers for the lower subsystems now. Gulp – do I want to go down this road???

Backup time I think!

Saturday, February 07, 2009

One man, one bass, one mind.

Nah, not a slogan - although it could be. This morning we had a really nice lazy lie-in (believe it or not, I’m sat here in a dressing gown playing bass) watching and laughing at Saturday Kitchen as usual (call that an omelette?). I trolled through to the studio, thinking I’d like to have a bit of a scroff around on a bass, and picked up the fretless, taking it back through to the bedroom and watching a little more TV (“meteor” starring Sean Connery – argh, that doom tritone noise for the approaching rock makes me cringe!) and I trilled way merrily for about 15 minutes before coming  back to the studio as I wanted to plug in and hear myself properly.

So the sound of the Warwick wood mellows me out, and I decide to change basses for my trusty fave, the 4-string Aria Integra which has been with me for 18 years now. I don’t play it as much as I used to (not least as it would need refretting if I did – talk about jumbo profile at the moment!) and I keep it strung with very very light 35s (blue label elites seem to suit this bass best).

Then I dug out a Jaco book I haven’t looked at for about a year, and actually got stuck into what might be termed “proper practise”, working on Chromatic Fantasy phrases which were rusty (i.e. all of em). This piece is a tour de force, it’s magnificent for getting your hands stretched out and flying.

There’s some great footage of Jaco playing a solo with the piece in at about 4:00.

As ever, there’s loads of guys who’ve posted attempts to play it – I’ve seen some great ones, but they all mask the hard transitions with a rubato approach to timing :)

I doubt I’ll ever post my attempts online! I’m definitely not up to speed on it. It’s more of an exercise piece for me.

On with it!

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Anybody else got this head cold?

The sun would say “what a stinker” – I’ve had this since Sunday afternoon when it came on strong, and on Monday and Tuesday I sat wrapped in layer upon layer of clothes, sweating profusely with cold feet and hands watching the snow fall like a small child who has been told he can’t go out. Poo.

Right now I’m still suffering from the sort of congestion which leaves you sleepless and dizzy (despite several remedies!) so I’m off to the doc this afternoon for what will probably be my second dose of antibiotics this year for sinus infections. Grr.

This leads into a feeling I’ve had for a while about living down here in the south east of England, especially having spent the first 27-odd years of my life living on the east coast of Scotland, and most of that in an agricultural corner of Fife.

Up there, and I’m not being romantic here, the people are nicer to each other. We’re not talking about people cringing and fawning over each other, just small things like giving way in doorways: driving manners: smiling. In Edinburgh, Nic and I got directions to a wedding we were trying to find from a random man across the street who noticed us and gave us a shout – he’d seen everybody else headed for the reception venue. That touched me.

Down here, there’s a simple human truth: there is increasingly intense competition for resources. Roads: healthcare: supermarkets (yes, those shelves are empty for a reason): jobs. Colds and flu spread like wildfire in densely populated areas through the vectors created by schools and poorly air conditioned workplaces where people work the longest hours in Europe due to the paranoia of job security they’ve brainwashed themselves into.

All this results in a mental state which is becoming increasing strained, irritable and easily annoyed. I’d wager it also helps explain some of the insanity of the house market in recent years: how many people caved in to the “you’ve got to get on the housing ladder” jibe? I think this also results in the comparatively high crime rates down here.

Anyway, this makes the southeast (well, certainly the Thames Valley where I live and work) a miserable shithole to live in – you have to psychically “fend off” daily little displays of petulance, bad manners and short temper. And the truth is, I’m going that way myself. My shopping trolley etiquette is something to behold – I can’t put up with anyone who isn’t trying to shop at a million miles an hour, and while I don’t glare at people (yet) I do show my impatience. I’m on the cusp.

If you read this, and you’re considering moving down here because you think the jobs are here, you may be right – but you will notice that once the lustre of the cash fades, you’re left sitting in an overpriced brick shoebox, not knowing anyone who lives anywhere near you, paranoid about the chavs and the tinks you keep reading about in the local paper (the reading chronicle is great if you want to read about drugs, rape, murder and death on a daily basis!), and wondering why the hell you moved here in the first place.


I’m not quite that bad yet. But how long?

Just to emphasise all the above about Reading in particular, as I think it’s the biggest ugliest mirage to ever “big itself up” -

That little selection took me 3 minutes to glean. Yuk! I’ll go back to musical stuff after I get back into the studio – this post is the result of feeling like crap, promise!

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Recent Jacquoda Gigs

We’ve had a couple of gigs recently – first one this year was at a cellar place in Bracknell. Hard to find (Bracknell is like a rat’s nest of dual carraigeways) but great once we got going.

I took the stack as I didn’t know the size of the venue – it’s a small price to pay for making sure you can be heard, but I think Matt the keyboard man may have gone deaf again – I dunno, it’s either him or Armen who gets it in the ear heh heh

Anyhoo, there are pictures and videos of a couple of gigs I can think of posting right now

Reading Deja Vu bar

That was a good gig – the venue’s a little strange as you play on a stage on the left as you walk in, playing directly to a few seats and a wall! Fortunately the CCL combo had way enough power for that night. We got matched up with another Reading Rock band though – this is getting to be too much, who comes to live music to see a mixture of funk, soul, jazz and get blasted by Reading Rock(tm)? It’ll definitely be better once we’ve got what might be called a “full set” – i.e. an hours’ worth of material.

Bracknell Cellar Bar, South Hill Park

Yet another gig where we end up billing on a wierd list of acts including a fella on solo guitar who was spellbinding, and a totally flat out rock act with overtones of My Vitriol. Mismatched again! Grrrrr!

The sound on the video isn’t bad – I think we need time in a large-ish space with acoustics similar to a venue to record our live sound from the audience point of view and try to perfect the mixing a bit so we can get a clearer idea of what to listen for during soundchecks. Time for me to revisit the way Breeze mix – long cable, and get out the front to listen to the sound!

Wow, my nose is blocked. Amazing head cold, this. I’ll leave with a pic of me. Like the hat?


Righteous Justice?

* Warning! Property price based rant ahoy! *

Heh heh! I’ve just read that one half of the “location location location” property-gimp act who have done a fine job of stoking the public half of the 10-year obsession with equity (the banks did fine on their own under Gordon’s “light touch”) has a business which – get this – hunts for high-price property for rich buyers (ooo, he counts Kylie Minogue amongst his past clients).

This miserable bastard’s speculative “uber estate agency” is now possibly on the rocks – something which my schadenfreude gland has wished for for so long, especially after he and Katie Allsop were so bullish recently and defended themselves against widespread allegations that the recent “property porn” TV revolution had helped to get us into the mess we’re in. I have no sympathy for these peddlers of the mirage – in tandem with estate agents (who need no qualifications or previous experience to set up, and have sod all mandatory regulation – and who probably get a percentage of sale price), a banking sector which was effectively printing money by recycling debt into collateral (financial BSE, anyone?) and finally, the public – whose greed knew no bounds.

Watching it all unravel is great fun if you’ve been locked out of property (initially because we couldn’t afford to, then because we basically didn’t trust the market long term). Here’s to an overall 50% drop in house prices by end 2010!

* Rant ends – normal musical service will be resumed, promise *

Monday, February 02, 2009

Windows Writer?

Well, this is new. Decided to try out Windows Writer as a method of posting to the blog. The front end looks OK, and it’s apparently now linked to my live space on MSN somehow (although I think it’s only updates).

This still doesn’t look like it’ll post to every blog I have though – I’m talking facebook notes, Myspace blogs, blogger and MSN all at once. I don’t care how they look that much, just that the text finds its’ way onto all the sites. Maybe it’ll do it…

I think I found a way – I’ve got an RSS feed reader on the front of the Myspace profile, and the RSS feed from Blogger is already posted as new notes on Facebook. I’d like tighter integration on myspace, but what can you do?…

BTW, yes, we’re snowed in at Dairy Towers. As I type I’m sitting here in the studio wrapped up to the nines (I’ve got a cold) about to do some work on a track I think might be adaptable for Jacquoda as we need new tracks :) I’ve got a fat rap loop which I think might work as a funk thing to lay down as well.

And it’s started snowing again. We live opposite a cow field with a nice incline on it – I’ve just seen someone trying to snowboard down the hill on a wakeboard. Needless to say he failed horribly!

Were I not ill I’d dig out my old snowboard and have a go (not sure what the edges would do when they bit on grass), but I’m totally wiped out at the moment.

Back to bass! Here’s a pic of ours at the moment.