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.