Wednesday, 4 July 2018

tantula



tantulas in bloom

Hi all. I know a few folk have been concerned about the lack of blog posts and why they have gone away for a time. I can assure you all is well with me. As always, thank you for your kind consideration and support.

I decided to take a break from my usual activities including writing here. A change or two is as good as a rest and feeds the musical brain and connections with the muse. Sometimes I come to a point where I am doing what I am doing because I've been doing it, not because I am developing something. The development is important along with new things to know and assimilate such as how to propagate the tantula (see above).  

I have been recording the new album and not doing much of anything else. It is going well if a little slowly at times.
Early on  I realised that this album will be a first, in so far that this is the first time I am making exactly what I want. That presents a new challenge around the responsibility for the end result. It is some times daunting but also exhilarating. I think and hope the result will be surprising in some ways. While some of the songs will be familiar, others will be new and very different from my usual music. I'm having a great time playing with technology and exploring new toys. It is a lot of fun and I do get lost in it all at times. It is a great place to hang out, somewhere in an unfinished song. 

Even fishing has taken a back seat to recording time. Actually the weather hasn't been great for fishing and now it is too hot but I am not complaining. When I look around me today I see every reason to be thankful for my lot. I seem to be increasingly more able to accept the relatively small inconveniences I experience, without complaint. 

I'm off to Switzerland tomorrow with my mate John Bradshaw to play a private gig which promises to be very special. So life is good. When I get back I will resume here with a post about our trip.




peace

Tuesday, 23 January 2018

on the road again


bridge fly by

It seems a long time ago when my friend and road manager John picked me up for a mini tour of the north. He drove from Cornwall on Wednesday morning last week and we drove to a Travel Lodge near York where we holed up until Thursday. It was a couple of hours drive to Newcastle for the next date of The Roger Chapman family and friends tour. I had already played Leicester and London the week before. Two thoroughly enjoyable shows for me. I've decided the Shepards Bush 02 gig is my favourite UK venue. I love the sound in there and the Edwardian interior that still looks fabulous.

The weather forecast for our journeying for the next few days looked a bit rough with snow and ice predicted on all sides. As it turned out, for the entire journey, we some how avoided driving in snow. It threatened to fall in Newcastle but didn't. We'd booked a late leave time so it was around 2pm as we headed for Newcastle on Thursday. We had a great gig there and set out for Kinross in Scotland immediatly after my set. We arrived at around midnight. By now a good few inches of snow had fallen but the roads were clear. The Green Hotel in kinross is home to The Backstage venue. It is a cosy 120 seater with a unique, museum like collection of rock memorabilia put together by promoter Dave Mundell. Dave is one of those guys who brings some thing special to the music scene because it's obvious that he really cares.

After a decent sleep John and I hung out in the rather plush if tired hotel. It is huge and rambling with nearby golf greens and a trout lake. Next time at the gig I shall get some fishing in. We sound checked at around 6 0clock after a splendid lunch. John had fish and chips and I had Scottish mussels in a chilli sauce with chips and delicious bread. They served a very nice pint of bitter so I was very happy. So nice to be able to eat and sleep so close to the venue. In this case the door of my room opened onto a staircase that lead down one flight to the entrance to the venue. This was perfect on a harsh wintery day when the venue would usually be a distance from the hotel. So, my very large bedroom was a very luxurious dressing room.

We were wondering if any one would make it on such a wintery night but we need not have worried. The lovely enthusiastic audience were a delight and it was very different and enjoyable for me to play a full set of material as distinct from a short support set for Chappo. Don't get me wrong. I really enjoy playing a support role. I like the lack of pressure and I enjoy playing a short set also.

The show went very well and I think I moved it it all forward during this one performance. Like having an extra gear. I played the sequel to Evening Over Rooftops for the first time and that was well received. The song is called A Bowl of Flowers. I also played In The Half Light which I hadn't played for a long time. I've decided to include it more often. I was determined to utilise freshly discovered possibilities at the next gig at the British Rock and Blues Fest in Skegness. We had a day between the Back Stage gig and Skeggy so that was good. We would be staying in Skegness at the Butlins Holiday venue the night before my afternoon performance next day.




in the half light


The weather forecasts were still a bit grim but still our road was clear as we drove out of Kinross. The miles flew by and after flat acres of grim, desert like agricultural Lincolnshire country side we arrived at Butlins. After struggling to find the block our apartment was in on the Butlins site, we eventually found it. The apartment was a pleasant surprise once we were installed. 

An early night was order of the day with a 9 am alarm to get to an 11 am sound check. It is not my idea of fun but it is different and I like different. The night before John had scouted the venue and returned with news that it was a cavernous room that would need 800 folk to make any kind of atmosphere. That was a bit daunting but I don't let things like that worry me these days.We arrived at the gig in perfect time and within ten minutes i was doing my sound check with a top pro crew. It took minutes for a big grin to grow on my face as the lush sound of the big rig filled the stage. 
In this cavernous cold place the heating was only just coming on but the dressing room was cosy. The time flew by and soon the very nice young woman who was stage manager called me with five minutes to go. As for the previous, recent shows I had no nerves, just the desire to sing and play.
I peeped through the side curtain and there they were. An audience of about 1800. Now I really wanted to play. I walked out onto the stage and into my second home where I think I gave the best solo performance so far. I feel sure the audience got it and they got me. Enough said.

It was 1.45pm and the rain outside the venue was turning to sleet. Should we stay to spend our artiste food allowances or hit the road. A combination of leaving for every where as soon as possible and a semi intelligent SAT navigation system had served us well so we decided in favour of covering miles as soon a possible. The sleet turned to snow as we drove but didn't settle on the road. It calmed down as we approached Boston and cleared for a while. Driving rain seemed acceptable given all the snow we had managed to avoid. By the time we were in London the rain was gone and that boded well for John's trip home to Cornwall. I guess the total mileage for this trip was around 1500.

Thanks to every one who came and made it a buzzing time. I really had the best time. There were no problems worth a mention. All good. Now a few days off with a little first fishing of 20018 and then I will be recording through February and much of March. 


Peace






Thursday, 21 December 2017

Toys or tools for guitar


the vox MV50 AC and a typically sized effects pedal to show scale.

a pencil on top of the speaker cabinet 
to show the miniature scale of the whole set

I am not going to go on and on about the above. I just want to say this is one of the most extra ordinary pieces of work gear I have bought for many a year.
The MV50 comes in three flavours, Clean which is an American styled sound and it is very clean. Then there is the Rock version which is self explanatory with a good modelling of the British rock amps like Marshall. The one I chose is the AC which is a version of the famous Vox AC line. probably the most famous of these amps is the AC30 made famous by the Shadows and the Beatles. Brian May of Queen uses eight Vox AC30s.

The MV50 AC has a lovely sustained chime and a very useful overdrive with lovely over tones. The amp has a 50 watts rating with two speakers and 25 watts with one. It has a headphone / line out which is great for recording and a new kind of valve set up. Portable and well built this is a great tool.

Enough to say working with this amp is addictive. I think it offers high value for a low price and provides a solution to what to do about an on stage spare amp, what to take to the pro studio that doesn't need a transit van and two roadies or what to use in your bedroom studio.  I am teased with getting the extra cabinet for work on my new album.

By the way the pedal in the photo is the JOYO JF-02 Ultimate Overdrive Guitar Effect Pedal. At the price of £39.43 it is probably the best value overdrive pedal going, It is alleged to be a clone of a very expensive US pedal. With the MV50 and my 71 Fender stratocaster it gives great results.


peace 

in the bleak midwinter





The UK Christmas spend has been estimated to be more than £78.69 billion in 2017.

A new NHS hospital in the UK with 210 beds cost £75 million plus another £15 million for roads, equipment and infrastructure. That's £90 million.

UNITED KINGDOM achieves a Happy Planet Index Score of 31.9  and ranks 34th of all the countries analysed.

Latest official figures show an estimated 5,174 people were forced to sleep outside in UK in 2016.

The lives and futures of millions of children are in jeopardy. We have a choice: Invest in the most excluded children now or risk a more divided and unfair world.

1 in 10 young women in UK cannot afford to buy sanitary products.

It is estimated that 20% of all Christmas presents are unwanted and unused.

Why don't we protest more? Why don't we care enough to stop austerity?

Leaked report on mental health crisis in UK indicates a rise in suicides and that 75% of people needing help / treatment are not receiving it.

The Trussell Trust is the largest food bank network in the UK, and it handed out around 41,000 food packs in 2009/10 compared to 1.2 million in 2016/17.

Every year we are warned that if the High Street Christmas spend is not enough our economy and therefore our quality of life will suffer. How mad is that?

"I am not dreaming of a white Christmas" - Homeless young woman aged 19.

Why are thing such a mess? Could it be that it is because we want the wrong things.

Why does the UK government increasing appear to be a reactive body that can only see a problem when it is critical to their re-election. Then they act too late with too little? Perhaps it is because they don't know what to do. When questioned in the House of Commons by the opposition leader about the recent UN declaration that austerity had seriously harmed the well being of disabled people, May replied - "There are more employed disabled people than ever before".

While so many are with out essentials, Christmas is a mostly indulgent, bloated festival of self interested greed that doesn't extend to the poor and dispossessed though, it is claimed to be a time of love and good will to all.

Will things have improved by next Christmas? It partly depends on what you want. Time for real change?


peace



Tuesday, 21 November 2017

update


photos by SD photography


A week ago i was packing and checking my guitars in preparation for the HRH Prog Fest in North Wales. Next day my friend and some time roadie John, set off from North Cornwall to pick me up in London and drive me to the gig. We set off at about 2.30pm and arrived at around 7.30pm. With one brief stop we made good time.

Our chalet on the Holiday camp site was quite large and well appointed. It didn't take long to get the place warm and get ensconced. John had intended to catch the last act of the Thursday night show but never got around to it. By 1.30am we were both in our rooms and ready for bed. I knew John would sleep after his mammoth drive from Cornwall but I was surprised when I woke up feeling refreshed and ready for action at around 9.30am. Well, ready for action, might be a slight exaggeration. It takes me an hour to wake up ideally.

I was due to play at 2pm so it was the breakfast shift as far as I was concerned. After getting ourselves organised for the day we made our way to the venue and after a smooth and quick line check, I was ready to go. Last time at this gig I went on after a couple of bands so I was a little concerned about how many folk might be in the venue as i was starting the proceedings. I needn't have worried. There was a large crowd when I began and they were so nice. They listened and responded positively to every thing I did and said. It was lovely. Always determined to finish on time, I keep an eye on the passing time but I found myself unusually, with two minutes left at the end of the song The sound don't come. The stage manager thought it hilarious as I proclaimed " Shit, I'd better leave it there then. The audience laughed, I said my farewell and left the stage. It had flown by as is always the case when it's going very well.I have to say technical support at the HRH gigs is excellent. Quick and effective technicians providing great sound and lighting.





After the show I bumped into Mick Box and Bernie Shaw from Uriah Heap. We keep meeting at gigs recently. It's always nice to say hello. I think back to the days we first met on a German tour. None of us could have guessed we would still be playing at the age of 70. Mick reached 70 in June.



John and I left the gig at around 4.30 and drove back to London with just a short break. John dropped me off and set off for Cornwall arriving at around 4.30am. He has amazing stamina. I am very fortunate to have the best people looking after me. I am spoilt. My very good friend Rambling will be taking me to the next and last gig of 2017. I'm playing Southampton Uni with Carl Palmers ELP Legacy so that could be interesting. 

I have some more gigs on the Gigs page in 2018. I'll be playing with Roger Chapman in Leicester, London and Newcastle. After that I will be playing the Kinross Green Hotel and Golf Club and then Skegness British Blues and Rock Fest. I'm taking all of February and most of March off to record. I plan some bass fishing in the Spring with the Bradshaws in Cornwall and a trip to the West Coast of Ireland for some bass fishing with guide Henry Gilbey who I have always admired. I can't think much past the Spring right now and Winter is far from done with. Thanks to all for your kind birthday wishes and greetings. I have had the best year so far and I shall milk it to the end ha!

I have a few days off now until the Southampton show so I will be writing and recording the album. I began to think about possible titles a few days ago so that is always a good sign that things are finally, properly under way.

Christmas looms and in my next post here I will be having my seasonal rant with a few seasonal statistics that I think will give pause for thought. Meanwhile I have to declare that I will be spendng some of Christmas with my brother and other family members this year. A family gathering is some thing Steve really wants so it would be churlish to be missing. I have a caveat or three though. I won't be playing any party games and there will probably be a few other rituals I may have forgotten and am not willing to re visit. That said i will play my part and try not to be the grumpy old man ha! Only joking!




Look out for my next post - In the bleak mid winter.






peace









Sunday, 29 October 2017

70 still buzzing

the wreck of the Brighton pier

The photo above was taken by Alan Obee in the evening before the show at the Real Music Club some weeks ago. I really like the photo very much. Thanks Alan. It was lovely to see you and Jude.

Quite a lot has happened since I last posted here. I went up to Leicester for a couple of days to hang out with Luke. Oxfam put on a series of pop up gigs across the UK and Luke had elected to play the Beeston gig not far from Leicester. After a short rail journey we arrived at the pub in time to see a young woman already playing her set. She was quite good but hardly any one was listening or paying her any attention at all. She battled on in a way that showed she is used to this. I am always slightly shocked by the volume of the loudest noise makers at these times. The people who, four pints into the evening, are speaking loudly enough for people to hear across a room. When the song is a little louder , sure enough the noise maker ups the volume to maintain the annoyance felt by any one trying to listen.

Luke followed a singing uke player who was not good but who had a weird factor that was interesting if just one small, unintentional step from being comedy. I stood watching Luke with a group of guys who had been at the Focus gig I had just played in Nottingham. To our right a group of people sat chatting very loudly as Luke went through his first couple of songs. I leaned across at one point and asked "why don't you make some noise". They calmed down a little and some left. Three remaining women sat still chatting but then Luke played his heart rending version of the Kate Bush song Running Up That Hill. The whole pub was silenced and from then they listened in near silence to the rest of his set and the applause grew with each song. A very satisfying evening and well worth the time spent.

Next day was Luke's gig he'd organised for the landlord of the Western Pub in Leicester. This was a great success on so many levels. Along with some very polished singer, song writer friends of Luke, I was the guest artist. I played just before Luke and had a great time. The pub was full and there were people in the beer garden that couldn't get in the room. I think Luke was at his best and played a longer set than usual, to a crowd that know his material and get where it's coming from. Some of us sat at the back singing along. That made me proud. All good.

Next was the Focus gig at the 100 Club. Sound check was a joy and they gave me longer than I'd had in Nottingham so that was cool. I had a chance to say hello to the Focus guys who seem to be a very friendly bunch. I got the chance to hear a bit of their set. Very clever but a bit lacking in emotion for me. I love the flute playing keyboard wizardry of Thijs van Leer and the other guys are very good but it's not for me.

I had a very nice time with a very European audience. Most listened and others chatted. Some how it didn't seemed to matter. Its always like that at the 100 Club even when you are the headline act. It's cultural. Ha!
There were quite a lot of Dutch people come to see their heroes and that gave things a nice flavour. It was my first solo performance at the 100 Club and it was nice to see a few friendly faces such as Shoreham Steve and Oxford Pete and co.

Next a trip to see Blade Runner 2 at the Waterloo Imax cinema. 
Grim, bleak, cold, cruel and raining. Gone is the exotica of the street markets with noodles to die for and creatures made in Labs. It snows or rains forever. It's so desperately sad when every one is a victim and essentially slavery, unfettered greed and it's wider philosophy are the causes. 

Visually stunning and dripping with class. A sound track that is almost minimalist but with massive dynamics and full of emotion. I have some criticisms of the sound track but I'll keep them to myself. You judge. Go and see what must be one of the great films of our time. 

Back in the room......I am working hard on my new album and enjoying having uninterrupted time to do it. I am really enjoying fitting together the pieces I have been working on for the last few years, since By Myself. 

I am also working on two online projects where the musical parts, vocals will be performed by several contributors remotely. The parts are individually recorded, at home for example, and then posted online from where the separate parts can be downloaded and combined into a finished piece. It is something I have wanted to do for some time now and to be invited onto some one else's project is very exciting and challenging. 

This year is nearly over already as the clocks go back and winter settles. I've had and survived my 70th birthday so now I look forward to the next adventure. 

Look after yourselves and each other.




peace