Hi folks. Come along to the Half Moon in Putney, London on the 21st of this month. Take a break from the madness of living in the UK and join me in my madness. It’s a more entertaining experience and fun. New songs and stories from life. Folk songs for NOW. Come along and say hello.
Hi Folks It’s been a while. I have spent most of the last six months recording and writing. I think I am more than halfway through a new album. Long way to go though. I’ve also played some very enjoyable gigs. We just got back from Clam Rock in Linz, Austria. This was an extra ordinary setting in a castle grounds. Barracuda who promote the festival, provide the best back stage experience for artists I have ever seen. The half hour massage after my show was sublime. It’s nice to be spoiled a bit., once in a while. Misprint. I hate it when a screw up is down to me. If it’s what I describe as external then I can live with it. The massive anxiety, that used to play a large part in my performing experience, abated over time as I have learned to accept what I can’t change. So this down to me. Some time ago I posted new gigs on the site. I mistakenly put the date of the Summer of Love fest in Kent as July 2nd when it should have read August 2nd. Sorry for that. I intend to begin posting here on a regular basis very soon but I am very busy trying to finish recordings right now. Take care. Be happy.
Well here we are again. Almost the end of another year. The gigging year ended very nicely for me. A trip to Haugesund for the Haugaland Prog and Rock Festival in November turned out to be special. I did a few songs with new friends Arabs in Aspic during their show, and I had a great time hanging out with them. It is likely we will collaborate on a recording project next year. It was nice to have the roar of a band behind me and I really had a great time during my solo set at he Record Fair on the following day. I bumped into many old friends and made a few new ones. John and I had a really good time and John has a high opinion of Norway and the people. Last gig was at the famous Band on the wall venue in Manchester with Focus. I enjoy playing their gigs and I like their audience a lot. I seem to be able to connect with them although my music is very much of a contrast with Focus. It really helps that the band are very friendly as well as interesting. Apart from this I have been recording and recording. I seem to have become quite obsessed with the entire process and I am pleased with it all. I guess I am almost half way through toward the finished product. Luke will be heading this way soon to help out with some vocals and orchestrations. Certainly writing posts here has taken a back seat to the recording but so has the fishing so you know I am very serious about my next release. COMPETITION The winner of best caption for the cartoon above will receive a special mystery package in the new year containing a few goodies. Please write your captions in the comments section below. Have a fun holiday. Be safe and well and have a massively satisfying new year. peace
I should first explain why I have been
so long writing about the Basel adventure at Oli and Angelika's skate
boarding park. When John and I returned I had to get back into
recording. I am currently working on nine songs at this time and they
are all in various states of completion. I'd had a small confidence
dip. I love playing live and that is all going as planned but I began
to worry about the details of the album taking shape.
Working on my own I had expected to
find a few blank days along the way and a little self questioning is
grist to the mill. Then some thing extra ordinary happened. I was
working on a song called Eulia which is a combination of the word
eulogy and the name Julia. I knew the song was important which is not
a word I use with regard to my own material. Any way I had been
listening to the song and others when I decided to turn the vocal up
a good deal more than I usually would. I was astonished. Small
imperfections in guitar parts disappeared and as I did this with all
of the songs so, they all sounded much better. I was very pleased and
all my doubts vanished.
People have commented that they could
not distinguish words clearly enough in the past but I guarantee this
will not be the case with these recordings.
So just before my annual, seriously
obsessive fishing trip, I felt happy with all the hard work done on
the recordings and I felt I deserved the coming adventure. All good. Dorset, South Devon and the Norfolk Broads were the venues for the
best fishing ever. The trip was a mega fishing adventure with
beautiful scenery and decent weather. It was blissful. So many high
lights.There was time to write a new song and complete the lyric for
another. This is the life.
John and I arrived in Basel on a warm
late afternoon. It was unusual because I was to play on the same day
we flew in which I dont usually do. We drove directly to the skate
board park where I was to play for Oli and Angelika and their
friends. It was Angelika's birthday.
The skate boarding park was built by
Oli and Angelika and the skating community, on land provided by the
local authority. There is a few years left on the lease deal after
which they will move to another site, again provide by the local
My first impression as we drove into
the area was the warmth and friendliness of every one around. Some
people were already skate boarding around the tracks and jumps. It
was fascinating to me, as some one who has never been on a skate
board, to see the ease with which they seemed to float around
effortlessly with the odd unavoidable glitch.
After some wood fired pizza and some
sparkling water I was ready for action and feeling good. The skate
boarding park also housed a variety of small buildings and caravan
like structures that reminded me of the recycled/upcycled dwellings
John and I visited in Trondheim. Music floated out of one and some
one was playing keyboards with a north African wind instrument. It
was like a fragment of Free Town Chritiania, the community in
Denmark. It was very nice to see a place for artists and others
together in a great space. There was a small bar and some food was
available in a couple of small cafe areas. As it grew dark the lights
on the skate board park added a fiesta effect and the music playing
for the skate boarders was very cool and appropriate for the
activity. A great atmosphere, very nice people. I was very relaxed.
Angelika, yours truly and Oli
I was to use the PA system provided by
a local punk band who were really hot and nice guys. They played
before me in a container. I was astonished to hear how loud they
played in a metal box and I pulled out wanting to protect and sustain
my fairly good hearing after years of massive volumes of sound abuse.
Even more astonishing was how good it
I was ready. It felt a little strange
at first but I got into my stride and had a great time. It ws so hot
with every one packed into the container. Some one opened a side door
and cool air rushed in. It was magical and I got lost in it all. I
poured it all out and I was exhausted at the end. The bottle of cold
water that John handed me at the end was like manna from heaven. It
was a long way to go and I am always the guest of the best kind of
hosts so I have to try very hard to touch people or it fails. Job
Oli dropped us off at our hotel after a
couple of cognacs and after a well earned sleep we met up with Oli
and Angelika who drove us to a superb family restaraunt just over the
German border. We ate a fine lunch and then headed back into
Switzerland to a magnificent Roman amphi theatre.
The semi ruined
structures have been cleverly restored and the ampi theatre is used
for a variety of performances. Nearby there is a museum which depects
how dwellings were laid out and it houses some extra ordinary
artifacts and fine metal work in bronze, gold and silver.
A very fine gold roman plate. probably
a gift to a person of importance
It showed a
good deal about the Roman way of life in very accessible way. We also
looked inside a a nearby Roman baths. There was good information about
the way the baths were used and who used them. It was a fascinating
little tour. John and I are both interested in history and the
landscape it lives in.
the roman baths
We'd had a great time. I'd enjoyed my
gig and playing for my hosts. It was a great pleasure to meet Oli and
Angelika. They are very cool people and are making a positive
difference for folk while enjoying their sport. May they flourish. It
was a strange and happy coincidence that our hosts in Norway were ski
jumpers and our next hosts were skate boarders. Thank you Oli and
Angelika for a very special time. peace
On the 8th
August my tour manager John and I checked into a hotel at Gatwick the evening
before our flight to Trondheim in Norway via Oslo. We had intended to chill in
the hotel, eat some dinner and sleep. We had only been in our rooms a while
when we came to the conclusion that it might be cool to go for a drive rather
than sit for a couple of hours in the Travel Lodge. Last year when we stayed at Gatwick, before a flight, we
headed for Brighton where we had fish and chips on the beach. For a change I suggested we
head for Devils Dyke not far from Brighton. This has many memories for me and was the site of a free
EBB gig that landed us in court long a go.
We drove along the lumpy road that
leads to a very ugly 60s built pub. It is a monstrosity which seems so out of
place in the surrounding beauty of the landscape. John loves his geography so I
knew he would be blown away by the huge expanse of chalk hills that rise up and
then down abruptly to the valley below the hill we stood on. A skilled operator
was showing off his drone which looked quite spectacular against the fading light and dramatic vista. After the intense heat we had all been suffering from the wind was cold and so we left and
headed back for dinner at the hotel.
to Oslo was fairly uneventful though delayed but we made our connection for the
flight to Trondheim. The waiting around and delays grow ever more irritating
and debilitating so I won't bother recording the details here.
The flight to Trondheim passed over some of the
wild countryside I love and as we landed I felt already at home in my favourite
foreign country. John had not been to Norway before and as always, he was
devouring the sights and scenes with great relish. Our meeting at the airport
was made extra special by the wonderful VW van that was to convey us to the Smeby
the edgar mobile
At this stage
I want to tell you something about our hosts. Both Jostein and Helena Smeby
were Ski Jumpers who competed in national and World championship events and
at the Winter Olympics. This was very interesting for John and myself because
John is an all round sport fan and I have always watched ski jumping in awe. It
seems to me, to be a ludicrously beautiful and dangerous thing. Jostein, who has coached Helena, says he
misses the rush and Helena is quite determined to make a return to to the
sport.Meanwhile Jostein is a teacher at
a local school and is the leader in the band Arabs In Aspic. Helena is a lab
technician at a nearby milk supplier. They have two of the happiest little kids
I've ever seen. They are Wilma and Felix.
One of the
special things about this trip was that we had been invited to stay for a few
days. This is always special giving the opportunity to really engage with folk
and get to know them. The next day was supposed to be about sightseeing or
fishing but the rain poured down and we became more concerned about the concert
in the garden which was to happen on the following day. I felt quite tired so a
day lounging around in good company was very welcome.
of Jostein and Helena's friends came by and it was very convivial and very
interesting. They all love 70s music and especially if it is on vinyl. A couple of the younger ones seemed to like some of the music since the 70s so that was cool. At one point it seemed like every one had ski
jumped or was ski jumping. One of the younger jumpers had named his son Edgar.
I could never have jumped myself but I like the thought that there might be a
ski jumping star of the future, named after me. I wish him health and happiness what ever he does. After consuming considerable amounts of good cognac and good conversation on the previous evening and into the early hours, John and I cut back on the following evening
before the day of the performance and retired a little bit earlier. The rain
held off in the morning and by mid day in spite of the odd shower, the sun came
out and it seemed we were set to have our gig in the garden as planned.
A pig was
roasting and the garden was a hive of activity. Everyone was working flat out as they had been for many days planning
and organising the event. After a sound
check with Jostein at the mixer we were ready to roll. The weather stayed warm
and bright and I played and sang my heart out. Simple as that. There was
nothing left after one encore. The audience was as good as it gets. They
understood me and that is the key. These people had only really known me
through the EBB catalogue but they embraced the re invention with warmth and enthusiasm.
Most importantly Jostein and Helena were very happy and satisfied so job done.
Later we all
piled into transport to take us to down town Trondheim to a small club in a
cellar where Arabs in Aspic were to
perform a free show as a rehearsal. Most of the equipment was set up when we
arrived and Jostein set about getting his guitar gear together. Soon they were
knocking out their contemporary version of 70s prog rock. The songs are sung in
Norwegian as well as English. They have a tough core with tight arrangements
and screaming keys with some great vintage style organ licks and impossibly high backing vocals. The drummer and
the bass player have obviously been round and round their parts until they seem
effortlessly smooth. The whole is not smooth. It has jagged peaks and fat blocky dynamic frequencies at the centre. The percussionist while new to the band has moments which
are spell binding. With a little refinement it will be special and unusual.
Josteins guitar playing is unusual in that he
rarely plays a double speed part. Actually I get very quickly tired of so much
prog guitar that runs around at top speed with no emotional content what so ever.
The guitar work is very studied, heavy and some times sweet and melodic and there is an emphasis on precision. This is true
of the band in general but not to the exclusion of playing a bit loose in a good
way. The lead vocals don't seem to be so importantly stated as the music but that works and the overall vocal delivery fits like a glove with the music. In many ways their music would not usually be among my fave genres but the Arabs are not just another flabby prog covers band but are a well drilled outfit who love prog and believe in what they do. Back in the day I
winced a bit when the term prog was mentioned in the same breath as the EBB. Having said
that I can admire such commitment to a time and a vintage sound that stands up today, especially when so
much hard work has gone into it all and it rocks. Arabs in Aspic rock.
It looks like we might be rocking together if
plots and plans come together for a festival appearance in the winter where it
is intended that I sing a couple of songs with them.
The next day we
went on a boat trip to a little island that used to be a prison holding the
more notoriously dangerous criminals. From the fort we could see where the old
viking strongholds had been situated and why they were there. The rain fell a
little on the way back but it was a pleasant change from the excessive heat of
recent weeks. The buildings along what is essentially a canal are beautiful and
protected by law.
along the canal
After the boat ride we went on a guided tour of an alternative
community in a largely industrial area.
An old German submarine pen dominates
the scene on the other side of the community by the water side. Most of the
housing in the community is built from re cycled/ up cycled materials. There is
a communal garden and a free shop where people take stuff no longer needed and
others take it for their own use. There is a cycle repairer who fixes up and
build bikes from bits and pieces. The local authority planned to trash the
whole area including some old workers housing with a view to housing more
industrial facilities. This was overturned and the community arose out of
the decision. Can we have more of this please?
After some refreshment at the community pub we headed off to meet
with Jostein for dinner at the top of the rotating restaurant that dominates
the sky line a mile or so from Jostein and Helena's house. This was so cool
watching the city go by as we ate. Eventually we could see the island we had
visited by boat earlier. The light is special as the evening wears on. It never
really gets dark in the summer unless it is very cloudy.
in the rotating restaurant
Julia is a
Polish woman who is an accomplished artist. She had been visiting for the
concert and is working on the sleeve design for the new Arabs live album She
has made previous art works for Arabs records and is a good friend of Jostein and Helena. Julia was always asking John and
me if we needed anything so often that she decided she would be our new "Mom".
She was concerned when we told he she could have a day off and then we decided
it would be Mothers Day so she could have a day off with a good conscience. It
was all great fun. Late one
night she began to tell John and I something of her life as a child in Poland and
then she told us the story of her grandmother who survived Auschwitz. I have
been working on a song and now I had a story which inspired a lyric. We
discussed a series of paintings that Julia might make around the story and we
both agreed we had provided each other with something to make as creators. Win
I mention this because this is an example of how travel and engaging
with new people can bring great creative possibilities. I have a couple of
ideas about re working some of Jostein and the bands work and if all of it
comes together in any form this will have been a very productive as well as very
We had spent
some great days with lovely and clever people. The kindness and hospitality shown to us by everyone was overwhelming
at times. Of course our special thanks go to Jostein and Helena for inviting us
into their home and for looking after us so well.
Helena, yours truly and Jostein
in Aspic are Jostein
Smeby: Songwriter/composer, guitarist, vocals and mixing Eskil
Nyhus: Drums Stig
Arve Jørgensen: Keys and vocals Erik
Paulsen: Bass and vocals Alessandro
Thanks to Julia for being Mom. Thanks
for the boat trip to Boatowners: Thor Erik Larsen and the man with the lamp,
logo and everything, Otto Johnsen.
for the great welcome at the airport with the man with the van local drummer
and teacher Trond Bernhard Olsen, who is also the drummer for 5 local bands.
forward to the next episode of our adventure. The Switzerland adventure post will follow in a day or so. peace
I think I
have found my current favourite gig and it stands high among the truly great
venues I have played. St John's church in Farncombe is a working, living church
and well loved judging by its condition both inside and outside.We arrived in good time for a sound check.
The sun had been punishing in the south for days and only now did a little rain
begin to fall from the leaden skies promising some cool relief from the
grinding heat. This was another support gig for Focus who I am really warming
to, both as performers and people.
As soon as
we entered the church it felt very welcoming and it was obvious that the assembled
crew and helpers were well used to putting on gigs here. Julian, the promoter
has been putting on shows here for 11 years which amounts to over 200 shows. That says a lot for the church and
relationship between the organisers, church and community. There was absolutely
nothing wrong with this gig. Everything was well honed and my sound check took
little time at all. I was very happy. As soon as the sound check was finished
it was outside in the cool air in the midst of a soft cool shower. Getting a
little damp was a pleasure. The high temperature began to slowly drop a little
and I think all in attendance were thankful.
room was the vestry in the church and was filled with the trappings and garments of
the clergy. This was an indication of the kinds of acts playing at St John's
and the respect and trust shown by all to all. I must admit I have come across
a few acts who might not have shown the same respect in such an environment. Perhaps I am being a little harsh. No I am not. I have just thought of one hooligan
band I would be reluctant to share any space with.
pic by dave randell
soon filled and what a delightful audience they were. There were a few of my fans
there and a few more who might have heard something of me but I soon realised
most had not seen me before. This always presents something of a challenge but
one that I embrace. It is a good opportunity to test new songs as well as the
few old songs I still play.
The sound in
the church was simply perfect and I revelled in it. Everything sounded so clear
and the natural reverberations in the building were exquisite. I played for 45
minutes and I think my only error was not playing The Sound Don't Come. The
audience was so nice to me and I left the stage buzzing all over. Job done.
pic by dave randell
followed and they were on really good form. The crowd loved it and I could see why.
Actually they are a class act and better than all the other prog acts I have
supported in the past few years. Most of them are like pale cover bands of
themselves and one band I played with last year was just an hilarious parody of
So time to
hit the road and back to London with Ramblin' at the wheel. It rained some more but as we entered London
it was clear no rain had fallen and another boiling humid night was coming.
enjoyed this gig so much. It doesn't get any better and if you ever get the
chance to get out to Farncombe for a show don't pass it up.
gig I have been mostly recording and trying to keep cool. The recording is
going well but I get blocks every so often and lose faith in things. It doesn't
last. I know it is part of the process, for me, so I quickly get back in the stream of things.
I'm off to Norway at the end of the week for a few days and the from there to
Switzerland for a couple of days. I must admit I am starting to look forward to
everything these days. I don't want to miss anything.
Thanks to Dave for looking after me and for the photos.